Tell us about yourself and your books.:
Hi, My name is Rob Shackleford and I live on the Gold Coast in Australia with Deborah-Jane, my partner. We each have a son and a daughter and, because they are living away from home and have not yet decided to have kids, we are in that sweet spot in time when we can, and do, travel when we can.
I have written a few books but I have only one, Traveller Inceptio, that is published so far.
Traveller Inceptio is a blend of Science Fiction and Historical Fiction which examines what could really happen if we placed 21st Century researchers into 11th Century Saxon England. If you were placed there, would you survive? How do you think you would fare with the food, the clothes, the language or the superstitions? What about the lack of law and order and the threat of violence?
My inspiration came after I was ripped off by a dishonest business partner and I sat on the beach and was forced to look at my options. While there I looked at the buildings around me and imagined what the location would look like 100 years in the past, then 200 years when white explorers first arrived, then 1000 years ago. A story began to form, which became Traveller Inceptio. Inceptio means "Beginning" in Latin, the religious language spoken in the time. I had to add that part of the title because, have you seen how many books there are with the title, 'Traveller'? Dozens!
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I generally write in the morning. If I have a flash of inspiration, that means I can get up as early as 4am. After a few hours we go for a walk and a coffee. By midday I gym and then sometimes play the Play Station while I think about my research or seek inspiration while I am killing zombies or whatever.
I do research a lot! With Traveller Inceptio I lacked the confidence to write so I thoroughly researched for about a year before I dared write anything. I live in terror of having wrong information, of a historian saying – "Oh, this is rubbish because xyz!" My local library banned me at one stage as I had a really good book on Saxon history out for 6 months.
The most unusual thing is how sometimes I can write and it doesn't feel like I am writing, where the story develops in ways I had not anticipated, where I go, "Wow! I didn't know that was going to happen!"
What authors have influenced you?
There are so many!
I admire the beautiful descriptive writing of 'The Life of Pi's Yann Martel, 'Shantaram's Gregory David Roberts, or Colleen McCullough's superb series of novels on Rome.
I love brilliant imagination and the ability to story-tell as shown in the warped imagination of Steven King, Tolkien and even the simplicity of 'The Martian's Andy Weir.
I am also astounded by the pure brilliance of the research undertaken by historian Simon Sebag Montfiore and his range of excellent novels, and of course Bernard Cornwell.
Last but not least I adore the Science Fiction greats – Arthur C Clarke, Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, Greg Bear and so many others who make our imaginations soar beyond the stars.
And these are but a few. I will post this and then say – "How could I have forgotten …?"
Do you have any advice for new authors?
1. Persist. I heard a cheesy saying from an author I can't recall, which goes: "The successful Author is the one who persisted." Take some hope in that most authors have had to scarper naked through the valley of death.
2. Being an author is about being commercially viable. Modern publishers want to make money off you, web sites want to make money off you, the various nebulous publishing services do too. Be judicious about where you spend your money and understand this is a business like the music industry. In the end you will have to watch out!
3. Be true to yourself. You work is your work, but also accept that sometimes a suggestion might be good for you. The first time I had Traveller Inceptio edited it was by a grumpy old bastard of an Englishman who tore off my arm and beat me over the head with it. Thanks to his bemoaning of my abilities I was compelled to relook at what was written, removed some chapters, cut the length of my manuscript, and essentially was forced to concede that I had a lot to learn. He also hated one of my characters as it reminded him of a kid who bullied him when he was at school, which was brilliant! It meant my character development touched a chord in him, even though it might have been negative.
4. Each literary masterpiece started with the first written word. Start your work and don't be too hard on yourself. Let the work emerge when it will, but write something! It is easier to edit than to make the first utterance. Good luck and have fun!!
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Don't believe everything you think!
What are you reading now?
I am about to embark on a journey in India, so I am reading "The Story of India" by Michael Wood while delving into the darkly realistic world view of Chris Hedges in his brilliant "America – The Farewell Tour."
What’s your biggest weakness?
I have a tendency to self-criticism / self deprecation that can lead to negativity when it concerns me. Perhaps not the smartest weakness for a self-motivated author.
What is your favorite book of all time?
I like too many books to make such a distinction.
Some fav's are "Dune" by Frank Herbert, The Harry Potter Books, The Lord of the Rings set.
What has inspired you and your writing style?
I do like books that have me engrossed in the world the author creates. As I am a lover of History and Science Fiction, it perhaps was logical that I would find joy in blending the genres.
But I don't have a calculated, premeditated style where the story is already know. The first draft of my books is essentially a story I am telling. The frequent rewrites then allow me to better define my language and the imagery I hope allows the reader to become immersed into the universe I have created.
My inspiration can be attributed in part to the great authors I read and to my love of the topic on hand.
What are you working on now?
Traveller Inceptio lends itself to a sequel, so I have completed Traveller Probo – to Prove – which delves more into the political machinations that would eventuate in the world with the Transporter – the device that allows researchers to be sent back 1000 years. there are more locations, some of the old characters, and what I believe would be the logical continuation of the story.
Traveller Probo has been polished to be worthy of an editor, while part 3 – Traveller Manifesto – is the conclusion (!?) and is also under final review by me.
I have also written a couple of novels that are not part of the Traveller universe which are under review and edit.
What is your method for promoting your work?
I have a Publisher – Austin Macauley – and to a certain extent I rely on their promotion of my work.
Alas, modern publishing also relies on the efforts of the author, so I am compelled to engage in Social Media, where I must engage daily in Instagram, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and Pinterest.
Perhaps most beneficial is my engagement with almost 1000 literary bloggers in whom I have trusted to review Traveller Inceptio. That has been an interest process of highs and lows, for no work will satisfy everyone who agrees to review it. Yes, there have been tears, but I have also received validation that my work is good enough to withstand commercial scrutiny.
Next step: Looking for a Literary Agent!
What’s next for you as a writer?
Next is the commercially positive outcome for Traveller Inceptio that will allow the publication of Book 2 – Traveller Probo.
Meanwhile I will continue to market, engage in book signings, and write. I am not sure of there is room for a 4th Traveller novel – I am thinking a set of short stories from the universe – so I will analyse that while I engage in other projects.
How well do you work under pressure?
I place myself under pressure but prefer the pressure not to be external. In the creative field of literary writing / storytelling I prefer to let myself be the taskmaster.
The best motivation for me would be to be assured my work would receive a welcome review.
How do you decide what tone to use with a particular piece of writing?
I try to be realistic in my tone – which means the tone would vary with the circumstances. Most humans tend to have a sense of humor, so the most serious of circumstance could have the note of light-hearted banter.
In times of fear, violence, or despair the tone becomes shorter and sharper, for the human mind has little need or patience for frivolity. These moments are reflected in my mood and I find I become upset and even angry when faced with violence, especially against women.
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