About Robert French
Robert French is a software developer, turned actor, turned author who was born in Oxford, England, and was brought up in the East End of London. At age 26, he emigrated from the UK to Canada “for a couple of years”; he has been there ever since. He is the writer of the seven (so far) Cal Rogan crime thrillers about a drug-addicted ex-cop who fights his way from living rough on the streets to being a much-sought-after PI. Robert is passionate about the beauty of having the right words on the page and with every new book, his goal is to make it better than the previous one.
Could You Tell Us About Yourself?
After a long career in software development, I became an author in 2003. My first book, Junkie, was published in 2011 and has expanded into a seven (so far) series.
What made you write your book (s)?
A part of me had always wanted to write fiction and so when a business adversity gave me more flexible time, I started writing. From the first day, I was hooked.
What is the first book you remember reading?
Although it was not the first book I ever read, the first one I remember reading was Dr. No by Ian Fleming. It was the book that made me an addicted reader.
What’s your favourite book?
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
Who is your favourite author and why?
John Steinbeck. He writes with enormous compassion for his characters and his use of the language is wonderful. He can express so much in few words.
How many hours a day do you write?
I don’t have fixed hours per day but aim at thirty hours a week.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
I don’t know that there is anything I could give up that would make me a better writer. Better writing comes from constantly learning the craft and making a resolution to make each book better than the previous one.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
I am a seat-of-the-pants writer. For me this makes for a better more interesting book, but sometimes—in fact, too many times—I write myself into a storyline that causes me to have to rewrite earlier parts of the book.
If you could spend a day with another popular author, whom would you choose and why?
Earnest Hemingway because he would be a blast to hang out with.
What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
Tidiness and coffee… lots of coffee.
How do you celebrate when you finish your book?
I take a veg-out day where I don’t do much of anything.
Do you listen to music while you wrote your book (s)?
Yes. I have a playlist of classical and baroque music. Interestingly, although I am not a religious person, much of the music is religious music.
Where do you get your idea (s) for your book(s)?
From everywhere! I got the idea for one book from a podcast. Another was from an article I read on the BBC news website. The book I am currently working on came to me as I was sitting in traffic in the downtown east side of Vancouver.
What is/was your writing process like?
I start with an opening concept. For example, my first book came out of an experience of being freaked out by an alley in the downtown east side that is home to a lot of drug addicts. I used to think how awful it must be to wake up in an alley like that. That gave me the opening concept: a drug-addicted ex-cop wakes up in an alley, covered in blood. Without much planning, I start to write and let the book unfold. With that book, II didn’t know who the murderer was until I was about 80% through the book
Do you try more to be original or rather give readers what they want?
I think it is an error to try and guess what readers want. Readers wants are ever-changing. I write books that I think I would like to read. I hear people talking about ‘writing for market’. I don’t know how to predict what the market will be in the future and I don’t think anyone else does either.
How did publishing your (first) book?
I self-published all my books.
What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I do a lot of research. Because Cal Rogan, my protagonist, is a drug addict, I did an enormous amount of research on the subject of addiction. This included reading, taking a course on addiction and hanging out with present and former addicts and alcoholics.
This research led me to the firm belief that we should legalize and control all drugs, just as we do with alcohol and tobacco. A position I have often had to defend.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
I let the plot unfold by itself. With the characters, I like to give them unexpected quirks and things that seem to go against their grain. For example, one character, Tommy, is an alcoholic that lives on the streets. He generally appears not to be that bright, yet he can understand Latin.
What’s your favourite and least favourite part of publishing your book (s)?
My favourite part is getting feedback from my beta readers. I have frequently made changes based on their feedback. My least favourite part is marketing.
What part of the book was the most fun to write?
My latest book, Jailed, has a huge twist in the tale. It was fun writing the first part of the book to give some clues to the twist without revealing it, so that readers can say, ‘I didn’t see that coming.’
How did you come up with the title for your book (s)?
I go for one-word titles that spring out at me as I am writing.
Would you and your main character get along?
Quite a bit. We both like Shakespeare and craft beer. We could hang out and chat about our kids over a pint or two.
If you could meet your characters, what would you say to them?
Hi guys. Keep up the good work. :))
Which of the characters in your book (s) do you relate to the most and why?
There is a minor character in some of the books named Damien Crotty. He runs a high-tech company and shares some of the same beliefs and attitudes that I do on things from technology to philosophy.
What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?
The substance of the book doesn’t change but thanks to my beta readers some elements will always improve.
How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?
Someone who likes a good mystery thriller and who is prepared to embrace flawed heroes.
What did you edit out of your book(s)?
Errors found by my beta readers and (I hope) typos.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I find scenes involving sex to write. I don’t want to write explicit sex scenes but rather allow my readers’ imaginations to fill in the blanks in a way that is pleasing for them. It’s a hard line to tread.
How long did it take for you to write a book?
Six to eight months.
What do you hope your readers take away from your book(s)?
Compassion for the characters and the understanding that from day one society has mismanaged the issue of addition.
What was the hardest part of writing your book (s)?
Did you get some negative feedback on your book? and if so how do you deal with that?
If I get negative feedback from my beta users, I make changes to the book. Negative feedback from random reviewers I just ignore.
How did you feel when you first published your book (s)? Scared? Excited? Nervous?
Excited and relieved.
Where can people who are interested in your book, buy your book?
Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?
There are three books I am working on. One is about a woman found on the streets with no memory, the other is a conspiracy theory story and the third is a murder mystery set in 2044.
After writing your book (s) what is your advice to people who want to become writers?
Work hard on learning the craft. Constantly improve your writing skills.
What are common traps for aspiring writers and have you faced any of them?
I was certainly guilty of the belief that because I was an avid reader, I knew how to write. I could not have been more wrong. It took me seven years of failure until I wrote a publishable book. I could have saved those years by studying the craft of writing.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I no longer read book reviews. If I happen to see a bad one, I ignore it. However, if your average rating on Amazon is less than four stars. It might be worth reading some negative ones to see if there is any constructive criticism that might help you improve your writing.
Is it something more you want to tell us which I forgot to ask about?
One other thing for aspiring authors: although there are some excellent courses on being a self-published author be aware that many of the people who are promising success as an author if you will just take their course are selling hot air.
Robert French Media Links