Steve was born in coastal Kent, UK, and now lives near London on the Essex/Hertfordshire border. His passion for writing began at the age of sixteen when he was first published in a computer adventure magazine and he's been writing by way of a creative hobby ever since. When his career in telecommunications ended in redundancy he began to write full time. In the Blood, his debut novel, was the result.
"When I was made redundant in 2005, becoming a full-time writer wasn’t on my list of job options. I’d worked in telecoms and planned to go in disaster recovery management, but suddenly having some free time on my hands, I began to write. I’d had an idea for a story turning through my mind for some time, which I got from a National Trust pamphlet while staying in Cornwall. It contained a damning verse, which I’ve included in my book, written by a farmer in 1803 as he waited for the Helford ferry to take him and his cart across the river. It was aimed at the often drunk and tardy ferrymen who operated the Helford ferry at the time. In the Blood evolved from the question: what if the farmer was murdered the night he wrote it. Then came the question of why, and unbeknown to me at the time, my writing career began."
He decided to have a go at independent publishing and in June 2011 he published In the Blood for the Kindle, followed a few months later by the paperback. That year it became one of Amazon UK’s ‘Best Books of 2011’ and earlier this year he released To the Grave, which was featured in Your Family Tree magazine and awarded their ‘Seal of Approval’. His third book, The Last Queen of England, has just been released for Kindle and will be published in paperback in the spring.
I write for the crime, thriller and mystery genres and often with a semi-historical narrative. I mostly like to read books from these genres so when I started to plot In the Blood it was no surprise to me that it began with a murder. I love a good mystery, too, so I combined all these things into a book about a genealogist who uncovers past crimes, the past providing the main mystery, while the present provides the thriller as someone inevitably tries to stop him.
In those early days, how did you juggle the demands of family life with a writing career and the day job?
I’d been made redundant and could write full time but the greatest struggle for me was a mental one, in that I was suddenly without income and had to watch my wife go out to work every day, while I sat at home writing in the seemingly impossible hope that one day it would all work out. It took five years for that to happen and I’ll be forever grateful to my wife for believing that I would someday make a go of it. I do all the cooking and cleaning and other household chores, of course.
My second book, To the Grave, came to me quite easily because I think it was one of those stories a writer has to get out. It was inspired by my own family history so I had a good stock of things to draw from. I particularly loved writing the scenes set during World War II, about the life of a young girl called Mena. In many ways that part of the book seemed to write itself as I’d become lost in that period of time for days on end.
How do you ensure that the setting, characters and details in your novels are authentic and unique?
Unique ideas are difficult to find, but I think having a fresh approach certainly helps. Authenticity, if you’re not already an expert in the subject you’re writing about, comes from research - lots and lots of it. I knew little about genealogy when I started out, but through my research I’ve been able to write about the subject with confidence. My books are read by many amateur and professional genealogists and many have remarked on how well and how accurately I’ve dealt with the subject and I’m sure that’s because through my books I’ve become something of an amateur genealogist myself.
In the short term I think it will find a balance. EBooks are certainly here to stay and traditional publishers will have to keep a close eye on the digital market. I like both paper books and eBooks and there’s currently plenty of demand for both, but in the longer term, as the technology continues to improve, I can’t really see paper books surviving. I think things will change with the generations. You only have to look at the music industry to see it. EBook readers are to words what iPods are to music.
What are your own plans for the future?
I plan to keep writing for as long as readers wish to read my books and I’m able to write them. I’m working on my series of genealogical crime mysteries now and I’m keen to see how my main character’s life is going to turn out. When I start a book, I feel I owe it to my characters to finish it - to tell their story.
Going to see a literary agent in London and coming away again with the knowledge that she was going to send me a contract. I couldn’t stop smiling all the way home again and rang my wife and my mum as soon as I got outside (around the corner of course). That didn’t work out, but it was still one of the highlights for me. Seeing and holding my first ever paperback is also very high on the list as was selling my first book to someone I didn’t know - knowing that they wanted it because they liked the sound of it and liked my writing enough to give it a go. Topping all that through is spending my first royalty cheque on my wife. It wasn’t very big, but I wasn’t touching any of it for myself. Having not earned anything for so long, it was incredibly rewarding just to be able to buy her something again with my own money.
What was the most difficult thing you have had to deal with?
Obvious thoughts here are all those rejection letters and the isolation that goes with writing full time. But while I have certainly felt these things - as I’m sure every writer has - the most difficult thing for me has been the worry of failing to make a career from my writing - of letting someone you love down.
Have you any advice for newbie authors?
Keep going. Writing a book takes time and the journey is rarely an easy one, but if you write a little every day or every weekend, it will get written. And try not to take rejection or criticism personally. It’s an opinion, that’s all. What you chose to make of it is entirely up to you.
Thank you, Steve, for finding the time to answer my questions. That is a very personal and honest interview, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Having read and reviewed, In the Blood, I can heartily recommend Steve's novels. I wish you all the best with The Last Queen of England, Steve and good luck for the future.
Read more about Steve Robinson on his webpage:
Buy his books on amazon:
In the Blood on amazon.co.uk
In the Blood on amazon.com
To The Grave on amazon.co.uk
To The Grave on amazon.com
The Last Queen of England on amazon.co.uk
The Last Queen of England on amazon.com