I am pleased to welcome my friend and fellow Swanwicker, Andrew Roberts back to my blog today. Firstly, thank you very much for agreeing to an Author Interview with me. Over to you, Andy.
Please tell my readers a little about yourself?
I’m A. J. Roberts, and I predominantly write historical adventure fiction reminiscent of the old pulp magazines (think Indiana Jones and you’ve got it). I also dabble in poetry, under the pen name “Skeffington Liquorish”. I used to be an accountant, but I decided to take some time out to go to university and study for a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Creative Writing. Having recently finished my course, I’m now considering my next step.
What inspired you to become an author?
It was largely through my love of table top roleplaying games (such as Dungeons & Dragons). When I was 17 years old, I was given a rulebook for one such game called Deadlands, which combines science fiction, horror, and fantasy in the American West. I loved the world it painted, but my gaming group had drifted apart at that point, so I decided to write fan fiction set in the world. At the time, I was struggling with A Levels (the UK equivalent of high school junior and senior years), and frustrated with the high demands the exam boards expected of me. I found comfort in writing, simply because it was something the exam boards had no say in.
What is the best thing about being an author?
I love putting figments of my imagination through perilous situations. I also love the escape my writing gives me from reality.
What is your writing routine like?
It’s been sporadic at the moment, having recently finished university and being busy with the next step, but I usually like to have a dedicated writing session in the afternoon. After lunch, I like to sit at my laptop with a cup of coffee and some music (usually classical music or video game soundtracks), and try and put words to paper.
How much time do you spend on research?
It depends on the story. I usually look at some basic details about the time period I’m working in, but then I’ll dig deeper when I need to.
How much of the book is planned out before you start writing it?
Not much, to be honest. I might sketch out a rough outline as I’m going along, but I’m largely a pantser who jumps straight into it.
What do you think is most important when writing a book?
I think characters, plot, and setting are all equally important. I’d like to use the analogy of the fire triangle, in which a fire needs oxygen, heat, and fuel to burn. Remove one of those, and the fire goes out. You can probably say the same about a book. I suppose that’s why it’s called “creative spark”.
For example, one of my more experimental projects is a comic fantasy which lampoons roleplaying games. I’ve been making a lot of notes on the characters and the setting, but I’m struggling with the plots for that particular project.
If I was pressed though, I’d say I often go with characters first. Probably from my background in roleplaying games.
What is your latest book about?
My latest book, Gentlemen of Fortune, is a swashbuckling adventure which takes place in the Caribbean during the late 17th Century. We follow the wandering rogues Kestrel and Scar as they’re hired as bodyguards to Rosanna Barclay, recently arrived in Jamaica from England in search of her missing father. They soon learn that he was a pirate who had disappeared after absconding with a haul from a French payroll carrier. Worse, he double-crossed his sponsor, who is looking to get even.
I’ve had this story in the works for five years, and published it for a university assignment as a limited release. It’s currently being considered by another publisher, but I’ll publish it as an e-book if that falls through.
What inspired it?
I developed a fondness for pirate fiction through the Pirates of the Caribbean films, and video games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag or Sid Meier’s Pirates!
I guess I wanted to do a Pirates of the Caribbean-type story but without the fantasy elements which bogged down the later films.
Any new books or plans for the future?
Too many to count. I’m looking to write more stories featuring Kestrel and Scar, which serves as my main work-in-progress. I’ve also written a screenplay about Jack Sheppard, a thief in 18th Century London who became famous for his repeated escapes from prison.
Now that I’ve finished university, I’m looking at renting a place while looking for freelance writing work. I’ve recently landed a ghostwriting job, but I’ll need to find something else to supplement that.
What genres do you read most often?
I find myself reading a lot of mysteries or thrillers. A lot of the other stuff I’ve been reading recently has been for craft.
Is there anything else you would like my readers to know?
I didn’t get my first job until I was 19, I didn’t pass my driving test until I was 20, and I didn’t start university until I was 24. It’s never too late to do what you want to do.
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 begin studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. While he’s experimented with new mediums on his course, he hasn’t forgotten the old pulp style he was originally inspired by. The Links
Blog 1 (Writing and Popular Culture): https://andrewswritersblock.blogspot.com/
Blog 2 ("Academic" Writing): https://andysquarterlifecrisis.blogspot.com/
Blog 3 (Poetry): https://liquorishallsorts.blogspot.com/