In lieu of a review this week I am pleaased to bring you an interview with author T.R. Robinson. Regular followers of my reviews blog will be familiar with my reviews of her book.
Tanya Robinson is an Indie author of autobiographical, biographical and biographical fiction both full length books and short stories.
Thank you, Pam, for giving me this opportunity to share experiences with your readers.
When did you start writing and why?
To answer the question in reverse order. It never occurred to me to write my story, or that of my ancestors and relatives, until others, confidentially, shared their tales with me.
It was then I came to realise how unusual and unique our lives had been. Even then, the thought of public exposure deterred me. However, eventually, after many years of consternation, it occurred to me our tales should not be lost to society; there is much in them that will hopefully help and assist others in their own lives.
Having reached the decision to publish, it was many years before I had the time to do so: to provide for my son and myself I had to work three jobs seven days a week and up to twenty-three hours a day (I catnapped on buses while travelling from one job to the other). Consequently, it was not until 2013 I commenced my authoring career.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Currently, all my books fall within the autobiographical, biographical or biographical fiction genre. Information and ideas are therefore drawn from real life; my own, my ancestors and my relatives.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Ah! Good question. I have no specific time span; it always depends upon what is happening in my life. Some, especially the short biographical fiction stories, can come into being within a matter of a few weeks while others can take many months. Some days I can get between one and two thousand words written while on others I can struggle to get five-hundred.
Although your books are based on the life of your family and yourself, have you needed to undertake research for your stories?
Oh yes. A couple of examples: In the abridged memoir series I needed to check some details regarding World War II actions and for the novel ‘Peter’ it was necessary to learn about some medical conditions and treatments. For both I used such resources as: My own library (comprises a mixture of books, mostly physical, on all sorts of subjects); Public reference libraries and the Internet (various sources).
Your autobiography reminds us there is a lot of cruelty in the world during both war and peace. How did you cope with revisiting painful memories?
To be honest, I have never really forgotten any of the difficult experiences endured though I have attempted to try and put them to the very back of my mind, but they are stubborn. Nevertheless, to spend dedicated time fully revisiting them was painful causing me to cry though much of the writing. Many memoir authors state they found the writing of difficult memories therapeutic but, though I understand what they are saying, for me it was simply and an extension of what was already floating round in my mind. Did I feel better after putting the details down? Not really, it made no difference. Nevertheless, I was glad to have got them onto paper, so the stories will not be lost (I am the last surviving member of my branch of the family who remembers everything. Of course, my son has experienced some but by no means all besides which, he has no children and therefore it all effectively ends with us.)
What gave you the strength to be a survivor?
In the earlier and wartime years: I do not really know. Perhaps it was my youth although when it came to the Gestapo and occupying forces I, together with my relatives, was determined they should not succeed and resisted them at every possible opportunity.
In later years: MY SON! Without question. I knew if I did not get us out of our situation neither he nor I would have survived. Thereafter, and in many ways still, I just wanted the best for him; for him to have a better, more peaceful life, than I had experienced. True mother love is a powerful force.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Not sure I have one. Sometimes I make a lot of notes before starting a book and then must try and sort all the bits of paper into order. At other times I simply sit and write as the thoughts occur effectively allowing the story to lead me.
You have written both fiction and non-fiction. What genre gave you the most enjoyment and satisfaction?
I enjoy them both. With non-fiction there is the satisfaction of seeing the facts take shape in a manner that, hopefully, engages, informs, and entertains the reader as well as conveying the realities of life. With fiction (of course, so far mine have been biographical fiction) I enjoy allowing my imagination to run in wild abandon (hopefully not too wild). I honestly cannot say I prefer one above the other. The mix is actually very good as it keeps everything fresh and does not allow my mind to stagnate.
What has been your most successful marketing tool or outlet?
Ah! The bane of many author’s lives. And Mine. Marketing is a very weak area with me. I am a private person and have never been one to ‘blow my own trumpet’. Naturally, I understand as an independent (indie) author it is necessary for me to let readers know my books exist and to try and encourage them to pick up a copy. However, though I have followed advice and have created an online presence: Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google Plus, etc. I am not really any good at it. Certainly, I have seen very little in the way of sales despite those who have read some of the books constantly leaving four and five star reviews. It must also be acknowledged the advent of free, easy use, self-publishing systems (for which we are all grateful) have resulted in thousands of books being published each day making it harder for readers to find their next read and for authors to be ‘heard’. Many state consistent, frequent, regular activity is required. That may well be true but the time commitment, with the competing demands of day-to-day life, can be a very real challenge.
What advice would you give someone considering becoming an Indie author?
It is an adventure. If you truly believe you have something valid to convey or share, then go for it. But! Do not expect to become a best selling author over night, or perhaps ever. Several of us, including me, thought people were out there just waiting for our books. Regrettably that is not so.
Best advice I can give is, if you are certain you want to do it and our prepared to devote endless hours, days, months, years to the project, sit down and start writing and seek to do so each day. Initial drafts may not appear to make a lot of sense but, at that stage it does not really matter. Just write but do not expect to have your book perfect after the first draft. It usually takes several re-drafts, a lot of editing and proof-reading before you get anywhere near a publishable product. Overall, try and enjoy what you are doing though there are bound to be times when frustration and impatience will arise. Perseverance is key to the authoring career.
I could go on but that would make this far too lengthy. Just one other point to mention: each author has a unique voice and though writing courses and so called writing rules exist (for some) it is important not to forget your uniqueness. In the end you should be writing in the style that suits you. Readers will detect, enjoy and appreciate genuineness.
Do you hear from your readers? Do you like to get their feedback?
I have few regular readers or followers and most of what I hear is through reviews. YES, I not only like but also value feedback. It does not matter whether it is positive or negative. I learn from all and consider I will never learn and improve without taking note of what readers say. Negative comments can open areas where I need to improve while, naturally, it is always a pleasure and joy to receive positive feedback. This is especially so for me because part of my purpose is to help those who have either experienced or are experiencing similar situations, know it is possible for them to get free and to overcome and that it is possible to survive and go on to lead a reasonably normal life even though there may be further challenged along the way.
How many books have you written? Which is your personal favourite?
So far: A three volume abridged memoir series; One novel; Four short stories.
Favourite? Do not really have one because they are all personal. However, if you really forced me to choose, probably the first in the abridged memoir series ‘Tears of Innocence’ because, despite all the difficulties, it records those wonderful, far too few, days I had with my beloved mother who I miss to this day.
Do you have a current work in progress?
- Another novel depicting some of my mother’s experiences (follows on from ‘Peter’).
- Three more short stories in the ‘Bitches’ series.
- Unabridged autobiography, principally of my own life but also including a few biographical cameos.
- I also have a collection of notes and thoughts for other books though it is likely to be a while before I can get them into book form.
Who are your favourite authors?
I really enjoy some of the ‘classic’ ones such as Jane Austen; Emily Bronte; Charles Dickens; Thomas Hardy, Scott, etc. Though with all going on in my life these days rarely get the chance to read them.
With regard to more modern authors:
It would be hard to say I have a favourite. I have enjoyed: Claire Tomalin who has written a number of interesting biographies about some of the above authors; Lucinda E Clark who besides some memoirs has based her fiction books upon some personal experiences and has a great sense of humour; Your own books which I have found very interesting and informative (I am not just saying this because you are the one interviewing me - I have truly enjoyed them).
Though I now tend to focus more upon memoire, autobiography and biography I also enjoy occasionally reading in a variety of genre as may be observed from the selection of reviews available in my website. I like to support fellow indie authors by reading and reviewing their books.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I like to keep up-to-date with current affairs, enjoy preparing meals and love gardening. I also enjoy going for drives and walks in the countryside whenever my son can take me.
T. R.’s Website and Social Media
Website (with integrated blog): https://trrobinsonpublications.com
Your readers may find links to other social media accounts, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. in my website side column.
Note: Many of the experiences recorded in T. R.’s books, bearing in mind they are all either totally or partly based upon fact, were violent, cruel and painful. Inevitably, descriptions of the perpetrators are ugly, unpleasant and critical and show them for who they really are or where. Though deserving of public exposure, T. R. is not of a vindictive nature and has no wish to impose upset, embarrassment or public shame upon the relatives, decedents or friends of those terrible people. ‘Why should they suffer for someone else’s cruelty’. In view of this desire to protect others, deserving or not, and of course her own family, and that many would recognise her from any photograph, T. R. prefers to utilise the logo shown above for her profile.
Interviewer’s note: I have read and reviewed all of TR Robinsons books. These reviews can be found by going to the Book Review Blog link on www.pam.id.au