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An Interview with A. J. Roberts

I am delighted to welcome my friend and fellow author, Andrew J. Roberts to the blog today to discuss his new book, Homecoming and all things writing. Thank you for your time today Andy, it is always good to talk to you.

What inspired you to write your most recent book?

The Homecoming was started as one of my second-year university assignments and intended as a continuation of my ongoing series featuring Kestrel and Scar. With Kestrel returning to his old hometown, a lot of it was inspired by the university summers when I was back at home and not particularly wanting to stay due to the local politics and not having many local friends.

Being a mature student meant that most of the people I went to school with had finished university long before I started, so they were living further afield. Those who were still around were two towns over, and most of them were working full time jobs. Some of them even had kids. Bottom line, summer got lonely (especially in my second year, during lockdown).

I applied some of the feelings to my writing, having Kestrel’s homecoming in which it’s revealed he came from polite society but was disowned after a scandal which forced him to leave.

Who is your favourite character in this book and why?

Scar. While he spends most of the story recuperating from a gunshot wound, he’s still fun to write because I love the challenge of making him convey thoughts with minimal dialogue. In this particular story, we also get a chance to see his caring side.

What was the first piece you had published?

My first piece was a novelette called Gentlemen of Fortune, which was the first adventure I wrote for Kestrel and Scar. I started writing it in 2015, and it went through several rejections and re-writes before I finally self-published it for a university assignment in 2021. It was being considered for publication by an American pulp magazine, but they’d taken too long to get back to me and the copies I’d printed for the Book Room at Swanwick had sold well, so I pulled out and self-published it on Amazon.

Do you have another story planned or in progress? When can we expect to see that?

I’m currently compiling the three Kestrel and Scar stories I’ve already published – Gentlemen of Fortune, The Pirate King, and The Homecoming – into a single collection for a physical release called The Lady’s Favour (which was the original working title of Gentlemen of Fortune). That should be ready by the end of June, so I can take some copies to the book room at Swanwick.

Who is your favourite author?

I quite like Fritz Leiber, who wrote a series of sword and sorcery fantasy stories featuring Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. I was first recommended them when I started writing Gentlemen of Fortune, and began looking at the dynamic between the two characters. Apparently he wrote them in a bid to create two fantasy characters who were closer to human nature.

What do you like to do when you’re not planning or writing your next book?

One of my major hobbies is table-top roleplaying games, made famous by Dungeons & Dragons (although that’s a specific game and not the one I play). I like running games in a variety of settings which use the Savage Worlds system, but I also like opportunities to experience them as a player rather than a host.

I also love designing miniatures using a web platform called Hero Forge. Since my drawing skill never levelled up from doodling stick figures in the back of my schoolbooks, I find it to be a useful tool for visualising my characters or making fan art.

I am also on the committee of The Writers' Summer School that meets every August at The Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire.

When did you know you wanted to write novels?

When I was 17, my brother gave me a rulebook for a weird western RPG called Deadlands. Since I didn’t have many local players to run it with, I decided to write a story set in the world. At the same time, I was in Sixth Form and had struggled with the jump from GCSE to A Level. Through the constant pressure of exams and coursework, I found comfort in writing stories. Since I wasn’t doing any A Levels in Creative Writing, it was something the exam boards had no say in. It was practically my teenage rebellion.

Do you write in other genres?

I dabble in poetry from time to time, which I write under the pen name “Skeffington Liquorish” and publish on a blog I set up called “Liquorish All Sorts” (because I’m sweet on the outside, bitter on the inside, and something of an acquired taste).

I’m also looking into writing for roleplaying games, sketching out a comic fantasy setting. Heroic fantasy and situational comedy aren’t my normal genres, but I had an idea while sitting in a pub one night that was bizarre that I had to consider it. Worldbuilding has taken up a lot of time, but I’ve enjoyed statting numerous weird and wonderful characters who might appear.

What do you like most about being an author?

I love putting figments of my imagination through perilous situations, and seeing them triumph.

Do you have a specific routine for writing?  Is there a special place or particular tool you use?

I like to write in the afternoon when I’ve finished work for the day. I’ll do a bit of harmonica practice to unwind, and then make some coffee and put on some music before opening a manuscript to stare at. If I’m lucky, I might add some words to it.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Don’t get too attached to your minor characters. A lot of them will get removed in subsequent revisions.

If your book were to be made into an Audiobook, who would you choose to read it?

Someone who plays a good pirate. I’m thinking Geoffrey Rush, based on his role in Pirates of the Caribbean.

If your book were to be made into a movie, who would you like to play the main character?

I’m thinking Santiago Carbrera as Kestrel and Howard Charles as Scar, based on their dynamic as Aramis and Porthos in The Musketeers.

The Blurb

Wandering rogues Kestrel and Scar return to England with Rosanna Barclay, but her adventures with them are far from over. The English Winds have blown the Lady Faire to the Cornish coast where Kestrel grew up. When Scar is injured in a shoot-out with a smuggler gang, a search for a physician puts them into contact with Kestrel's father.

As Kestrel seeks means to make sure Rosanna can set up her own tavern, he's forced to confront the demons from his past. While the local smugglers have caches he's eager to plunder, he's also forced to deal with aftermath of a mistake he made that led to his piratical career. Neither his parents nor the local magistrate have forgotten nor forgiven, and he finds another consequence he never expected.

The Author

Born in Lancashire, A. J. Roberts has been writing as a hobby since the age of 17. This initially stemmed from writing campaigns for pen-and-paper roleplaying games, and later developed into short stories reminiscent of the pulp magazines. Always a fan of swashbuckler fiction (especially Zorro), he wrote a story featuring a pair of wondering scoundrels partly inspired by Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

It was while writing this he found that he wanted to see the protagonists he created get into all kinds of trouble in different stories.

After discovering an annual writers’ retreat in Derbyshire, he decided he wanted to take things further. In 2018, he left his job as an accountant to study for a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. While he’s experimented with new mediums since graduating, he hasn’t forgotten the old pulp style he was originally inspired by.

The Links

Andrew's Writer's Block (Blog about writing and popular culture):

Liquorish All Sorts (A blog for sharing poetry):

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