An Interview with Andy Roberts
I am pleased to be joined by Andy Roberts, who is one of the dedicated writers I met at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Thank you so much for joining me today, Andy.
Please tell my readers a little about yourself?
I’m Andy, and I write historical adventure fiction reminiscent of the old pulp magazines (think Indiana Jones). I used to be an accountant, but I took some time out in 2018 to go to university and study for a BA in Creative Writing. One of my main ongoing WIPs is a series of swashbuckler stories about two wandering rogues named Kestrel and Scar.
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’d say I got my start through table-top roleplaying games (such as Dungeons & Dragons). It was fun to make characters and inhabit imaginary worlds. When I was 17, my brother introduced me to one such roleplaying game called Deadlands, a combination of Western, horror, and steampunk. My roleplaying group had drifted apart at that point, so I made do by writing fan-fiction set in the game’s world.
At that time, I was struggling with A Levels, and felt like writing was the only thing I enjoyed, and something the exam boards had no say in. It all took off from there.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
I love putting figments of my imagination through perilous situations. I also love finding kindred spirits within the writing community.
What is your writing routine like?
I do most of my writing after lunch. Usually with a coffee and some background music (either classical or video game music). If I can get settled in, I can put a lot onto paper as long as I’m not interrupted.
How much time is spent on research?
I’ll do some bare bones for a first draft, and then go deeper when I revise it. I often get caught up in it, though.
How much of the book is planned out before you start writing it?
Not a lot. I might make a few notes on characters, but for the most part, I go by the seat of my pants.
What do you think is most important when writing a book? Characters, plot, setting, etc
All are equally important, but I’d say characters are the most important. Sometimes a memorable character can carry a story.
What is your latest book about?
I’m currently working on a screenplay for a period crime drama/biopic about Jack Sheppard, a thief in 18th Century London who gained a celebrity status for his repeated escapes from prison. I started it for a university assignment, but I want to keep working on it and seek to develop it further in my third year.
What inspired it?
I’m a fan of a video lecture series on YouTube called Extra History. Around Christmas last year, they produced a serial on the history of law enforcement in the 18th and 19th centuries. The first two episodes looked at Jonathan Wild. Known as “The Thief Taker General of Great Britain and Ireland”, Wild led a double life as both London’s greatest crime-fighter and London’s greatest criminal mastermind. I decided he would make a good villain.
Why did you pick the genre or genres that you write in?
I like historical fiction because I’ve always been interested in history. If I’m writing something based on personal experiences, the historical setting allows me to distance myself from it. I’m often surprised by things I find during research, and I love writing misfits so I can challenge the attitudes and social mores of their contemporary societies.
How did you go about getting a publishing deal? Or how did you become self-published?
I haven’t actually had anything commercially published yet. However, I do have a Kestrel and Scar story serialised on a website one of my classmates set up for sharing work.
The story is available here: https://freepencollective.wixsite.com/website/home/categories/five-and-twenty-ponies
Any new books or plans for the future?
One of my final year assignments involves self-publishing. I’m looking at doing a collection of Kestrel and Scar stories for that.
I’m also looking at writing for roleplaying games. I’ve found a paying market for user-generated content, and am exploring that avenue with a comic fantasy setting.
What authors have been an influence on your writing?
One of my biggest influences has probably been Fritz Leiber, a fantasy author who wrote a series of stories featuring a barbarian called Fafhrd and a thief called The Grey Mouser. I love his character dynamics, and his belief that just because you’re writing fantasy doesn’t mean your character shouldn’t be realistic (which was his critique for Robert E. Howard’s Conan).
I also take influence from many authors of swashbuckler fiction. Notable examples include Alexandre Dumas, Johnston McCulley (the creator of Zorro), and Rafael Sabatini (who wrote Captain Blood).
What writing advice would you have given yourself when you started?
Don’t make changes as you go along. First drafts are meant to be bad, and should be finished first.
What writing advice would you give to an aspiring writer or a new author to the block?
For a start, don’t call yourself an “aspiring writer”. It doesn’t make you look confident. If you’re working on something, you’re a writer. Own it.
“Aspiring author” is okay though.
What has been your favourite book so far this year?
Hunter’s Blood. I haven’t really caught up with many new releases. I’ve been doing an English module on 20th and 21st Century Literature, and that’s had a lot of set texts. These have included Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood, and Brick Lane by Monica Ali.
What is your all-time favourite book and why?
Probably The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley, the original Zorro story. I love the way the character was originally presented, and how it combines two of my favourite genres; western and swashbuckler. What’s particularly fascinating is that Zorro and Don Diego are presented as separate characters until the big reveal at the end.
What genre do you read most often?
I read a lot of action/adventure or mystery.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading The Guns of Navarone by Alistair McLean for recreational reading. I’m also reading Thieves’ Opera by Lucy Moore, for some research reading.
Thank you so much for visiting my blog today, Andy. I wish you ever success in your writing career going forward.