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Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Guest Author: Robert Fanshaw

Tell my readers a little about you Robert.


 Robert liked the idea of being a writer from the moment he saw his poems in print in the school magazine. For years he combined his employment in healthcare businesses with writing columns, articles and non-fiction. Then the writing bug took over completely, and he turned to memoir and fiction. The result has been the Shameless novels, describing the crazy romantic adventures of ‘his wife’ Caroline; and now The Catch, inspired by a sports-mad mad Englishman who met his Australian future wife at a cricket match. Robert lives in England with a wife who insists she isn’t called Caroline and wasn’t born in Australia.


Q:  Can you tell our readers a little about your writing? What genres do you enjoy writing?
My aim as a writer it to entertain and I don’t think too much about genre. My books are full of action, and contain humour, good and bad sexual behaviour, a hint of crime, and a certain amount of mystery. But at the core of the stories are relationships, loves won and lost. So I can happily say I write Contemporary Romance. The plots, characters and settings are central, and I don’t usually go into the detail found in full blown erotica. But the characters go to some hot places by accident or design.

Q:  Do you write on a schedule or when the Muse decides?
For me, writing is like running. When you start, you can only manage a few minutes before you’re out of breath and everything hurts. Writing can be really painful too. But if you keep at it, your stamina increases and it becomes a good habit. I write every day I can (like most writers I have to juggle responsibilities) and aim to get a thousand new words added to the current work-in-progress. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes less. Even now that I’ve increased my writing speed and mileage, it can still be really tough at times. And then, boom, it all comes together and the words spill out without any real effort.

Q: Can you tell us about your writing process, for example, do you write an outline first?
For me, the process starts with a contemporary subject I am interested in. It may be triggered by a newspaper article or a conversation. I start asking ‘what ifs’ and a fictional story sometimes forms around the idea. I make longhand notes and put them in a clear plastic folder which I add over a few weeks to if the idea has grabbed me. The characters start to fill out as I think about what they did before the story starts. If after a month or so the project is still exciting to me, I might write a synopsis. Then it’s just the small matter of writing the first draft which takes me about five months for a novel.
Q:  What qualities do you instill in your heroes?
My heroes and heroines have flaws like the rest of us do. They are larger than life, behaving more extremely than most people do, so their flaws are bigger too. I try to make them attractive enough to retain the sympathy of the reader, and that’s not just physically attractive. Of course they are faced with unusual temptations and challenges. Kurt Vonnegut said you have to be cruel to your characters to show readers what they are made of. I admit I find that difficult; it feels like being horrible to people I know. I want to soften the blows.


Q. Do you write about the places you know or prefer to take your readers to exotic places?
My books have a variety of locations because the main characters travel around a lot. On the face of it, Caroline, the central character, lives a high-powered, glamorous life. The second in the series, Shameless Exposure, takes place in Scotland, London, and Rio de Janeiro. In the third, which I’m writing at the moment, Caroline goes back to Rio because of the football World Cup finals. Her business trip starts at a fashion show in Italy and moves to a finance directors’ conference in Singapore. There’s always beaches and water, hotel pools, luxurious bathrooms.

Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
I can tell you when I get my inspiration. It arrives when I’m walking the dog, a golden retriever called Jerry (after Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead). I don’t deliberately try to think about the next scene in the story, but half way through the walk ideas pop into my mind. When I get back home I scribble notes down quickly. I rarely get ideas sitting at a desk or at a computer. Plot lines often come from contemporary events, and the characters are composites of people I met while working in business.

Q: Would you change anything in your life to make writing easier.
I would turn back the clock on Windows 8.

Q: We have all suffered submission rejections. How do you cope? Do you have any advice to other writers on coping with rejection?
I learnt about rejections a long time ago, and I’m grateful I did. I wrote lots of articles for magazines in the days before computers and began to realise you win some, you lose some, and most things can be re-shaped and re-targeted. Persistence is the key. I’m in an informal group of writers and can see what a huge hurdle sending stuff out can be. If you get any kind of feedback, even if it’s a ‘no’ with an explanation, that’s useful. I suggest walking the fine line between believing in your work and listening to suggestions. Other people have good ideas too. Rejection is a sign you have taken a risk, and it’s good to take a risk with your writing.

Q: What do you like to read and who are your favourite authors?
I’m one of those people who have ‘the readies’. I read anything; labels on jars, newspapers, paperbacks, ebooks, and 800 page biographies. My favourite author is often the one I happen to be reading at the time. I am a big fan of Doris Lessing who died recently. I like deep stuff too. Does anyone remember Herman Hesse? Alan Watts?

Q: Do you write one novel at a time or do you move between works in progress?
I try to finish a complete draft  of the work-in-progress before I start writing the first chapter of a new project because the most important thing for a writer to do is to finish a piece, which might mean several drafts and rewrites, however long or short it is. Even being strict there is a bunch of different things going on at any one time; final edits or promoting the last book; improving the first draft of the current project; starting out on the next novel; keeping up the My Wife Caroline blog and visiting other fine blog establishments, like this one; and reviewing other people’s books. All writing counts.

Q: Do you have times when the Muse is away on holiday?
The muse went away on extended leave when I was pre-occupied with earning a living. At present, I have more ideas in the queue than I have time to turn them into books.

Q. What motivates you to write?
I like writing better than I like talking. A good story is its own motivation. I get enthusiastic about it and want to keep going to the end. Fortunately, money and fame are not my motivation (though I love having people read my books). I try to make each book better than the last one. There is always so much to learn in writing fiction, new ways of structuring a story.

Q. What advice would you give to unpublished authors approaching an e publisher?
My advice would be to take a risk and write what you want to write, even if it doesn’t obviously fit into one genre. The ebook global audience is big enough for all kinds of work, as long as it’s well written and finished.
Q: Is there anything you would like to share with us about upcoming releases?
Next year will be the year of the World Cup and the year of Shameless Corruption, which tells the story of how Caroline infiltrates a match-fixing gambling syndicate and loses everything (not just her clothes).
Q: Can you tell us a little about your current novel? What inspired you to write this story?
 My current book is a shorter work called ‘The Catch.’ It’s quite different from the books in the Shameless series, though still has the fast-paced style. Steamy at the edges, it’s a proper romantic tale of love and cricket. It was inspired by people I know, and is in many respects a true story; apart from how the England team play.

Blurb: The Catch is a sizzling romance which takes place during the five days of the Melbourne Ashes test. The rivalry between Aussies and Poms builds up on the pitch, in the crowd, and in the heart of Alana Carragher.
Excerpt:
The rivalry on the pitch was mirrored by a raucous dialogue in the crowd between representatives of the opposing nations. The English, a mixture of tourists, ex-pats, and fanatical barmies, had turned up in sufficient numbers to make it a real contest. Daniel and Merv, Alana’s older brothers, rose to the bait dangled by the lone Pom in the row behind. Louis confidently announced that the Aussies would be out by lunch. Alana scoffed and Louis had to pay for his bravado throughout the afternoon and evening sessions as Australia piled on the runs. But the Carraghers’ jibes were water off a duck’s back. A grin remained fixed on Louis’s face. He was having the time of his life. A year in Australia doing post-grad research was, he explained to Alana, his idea of having died and gone to heaven.
“I admit your captain knows how to hold a bat,” conceded Louis soon after tea. “But we’re only letting you get a few runs to make it more interesting.” The Australian batsman illustrated Louis’s comment, confirming he knew how to hold a bat by hitting a powerful six, which soared towards them. The crowd roared, but Alana could still hear a low whistle as the ball cut through the air. Her brothers leapt up and stretched to catch the ball but it was over their heads. Louis stuck up a hand and the ball smashed into his palm. He couldn’t hold it, but he knocked it skywards.
Alana jumped from her seat, fixing her eyes on the bright red cherry. She stretched out an arm and completed the catch just before the ball was grounded. The plastic seats, vacated by her brothers, cushioned her fall. She stood up and cradled the warm hard ball in her hands for a second, running her fingers over the rough seam. It felt like a message from her hero. She threw the ball strongly to the fielder on the boundary. The action was captured by one of the many cameras positioned around the ground, and replayed on the big screen. The crowd cheered. Alana took a bow, and that was replayed too. She high-fived with her brothers and turned to Louis.
“You English guys need more fielding practice.”
“I’m seriously impressed,” said Louis. “That was some catch.”


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