Author Interview: Robert J Franks

Author Robert Franks is eccentric, geeky, and currently rebelling noisily about approaching the age of 50 far too rapidly. Please welcome him here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Bob FranksMy name’s Robert Franks. I’m currently 49 going on 15. I’m a huge geek for anything to do with fantasy, superheroes or science fiction, and world mythology. I live in Darlington, England, and work full-time as an assistant manager in a budget shop.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve always had a love of writing and wrote my first fantasy novel at the age of fifteen. Reading it now it’s cringe-worthy! But some of the characters I created all those years ago stuck with me, and when I was made redundant in 2009, I found once again my love of writing, and they re-emerged in The Glass Apple.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I can pin it down to two occasions: the first was sitting at my parents’ dining table (I was a regular visitor when I was unemployed), surrounded by research books and various scraps of paper with little snippets of dialogue and plotlines scribbled on them. I remember going to make a coffee and coming back and realizing: “Wow. I’m actually working. For me!”

The second was when I received my first reviews on Amazon. There was something just so thrilling about that. Like a child waking up on Christmas morning!

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

The book follows the adventures of Ethelbert Gobswistle, an elderly gentleman with memory problems. He has a rather quaint Texan accent but speaks like an English Butler. He also, though he has little memory of this, used to be Merlin. He still has his Anguinum (Druid Stone) – the Glass Apple of the title. He becomes the caretaker of his three grandchildren; Jason (11), Kylie (10) and little Anna, who is 4, after their mother has a heart attack while driving.

He has a nemesis. The Medb (Pronounced Mave). She has a history similar to Gobswistle, but whereas Gobswistle always tried to do good, the Medb always sought power, and control, and more than anything, she sought Gobswistle’s Anguinum.

What inspired you to write this book?

My love of world mythology. Reading up I found it interesting how many different mythologies and religions had a very similar basic structure of an old man teaching peace. And a lot of mythologies had hints of magical travel and portals. So in the first instance, I created Ethelbert. He is 7000 years old. He no longer remembers anything from his childhood – his parents, his origins or anything – but he kind of remembers being Merlin. And Myrrdin. And Lailoken. And Michael Scott. The Compte de St Germaine is in there somewhere, as is John Dee. In fact, if you think of any wizard/Wise Man or halfway decent conjuror in history, it was probably Gobswistle.

And in the second instance, I created The Portal, an old scifi and fantasy trope I admit, but great fun too. It means I can put my characters at any point in history. I love including Easter Eggs in the books in the form of names or situations. If people aren’t into them it doesn’t affect the story at all, but it (hopefully) adds something to look up the meanings of the names of various characters or to realize an event/war/location actually existed.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I like writing humour, and this forms a great part of the books. It’s not heavy prose – I wanted something that anyone could dive into and enjoy. I don’t aim for slapstick comedy though, and there are chapters that are very dark. Hopefully, the two balance each other out.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

When I used to smoke, I had a green Murano Glass Apple ashtray. I thought it was beautiful and quite quirky looking. I don’t know what influenced me to use it, but it became (in my mind at least) a perfect representation of Merlin’s Druid Stone.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I guess, if I had to say there was a message in the books, it’s to accept people for who they are. Because the mythologies used in the book come from very diverse cultures I’ve used people from those cultures to help inhabit the stories. Whether people are black, white, ochre, or sky-blue pink with yellow polka dots, they’re still people.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Honestly? All my family, friends and the occasional work colleague has helped to shape the characters in this book. I just haven’t told them yet … Shhh!

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

You’ve made me think about answering this one! Okay, there are three authors that have inspired me, from three different decades. And yet the reason they inspired me is very much the same. The authors are:
Armistead Maupin, J K Rowling and Jim Butcher.

They inspired me because they write such well fleshed-out characters and because they can find humor in the darkest of situations. Humor is a survival tool, and so many authors forget this.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The hardest thing about writing is that first minute you sit down in front of your desk to write. Procrastination, and that little voice that whispers ‘you know you’ll never do it’ are the two biggest obstacles you’ll ever have to overcome.

Believe me, those dishes CAN wait!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

If you like action-adventure, magic, comedy, time-travel, and the occasional cliffhanger, you’ll like The Glass Apple!

 

Book Cover The Glass AppleRobert J Franks
Darlington, England

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The Glass Apple

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Happy Halloween from No Wasted Ink

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Happy Halloween from No Wasted Ink.  May all the ghosts and goblins who visit your door be treated to sugary delights and well wishes.  This vintage victorian postcard certainly captures the spirit of All Hallow’s Eve.  I love the pumpkin faces especially.

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

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Sometimes, being a writer is filled with self-doubt and desperation.  Many of this week’s articles deal with this issue and how to overcome it.  Plus a few on writing picture books, general writing tips, and one about Hugh Hephner.  Why not?  Enjoy.

5 Tips for Organizing Subplots

8 Things to Know If You Want to Write a Picture Book

Have We Met? Creating Characters Your Readers Will Feel They Know

How Safe Is Your Most Valuable Writing Asset?

Planting the Magic Beans of Story

Hugh Hefner On Writing, Voice and Magazine Success

6 Ways Slowing Down and Thinking Small Will Help You Write Your Book

A Pivotal Step to Get Past Your Fear of Writing

What Do Young Adults Want to Read? Let My Students Tell You

How writers can beat imposter syndrome

No Wasted Ink Writers Links

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Welcome back to another Monday of writer’s links.  This week I have many general writing tip articles for you and a few that feature poetry writing.  I hope you enjoy them!

Article Research: A Savvy Librarian’s Top Tips

5 Tips for Creating Believable Fictional Languages

You Do You – 5 Tips for Making the Most of NaNoWriMo

Making Connections as a Writer

The 3 Secrets to Addictive Fiction

Rituals for Writing: Creating a Sacred Space

8 Ways to Rock Random Acts of Poetry Day!

How to Analyze Poetry

On Writing Craft — Why to Use a Variety of Sentence Lengths

Author Pen Names: 5 Reasons they’re a Bad Idea in the Digital Age

Author Interview: Hannah Steenbock

Hannah Steenbock is a German writer of Speculative Fiction. She uses both her native German and English as languages for her tales, as she loves English and tends to think in that language when plotting Fantasy. She lives and works in Kiel, the northernmost state capital of Germany. Her other pastimes include strolling along beaches, talking with trees, and devouring as many stories as time allows. I’m honored to introduce her here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Hannah SteenbockI’m Hannah Steenbock. I’m German, living in Germany, but writing in English, mostly. I’m 50+, and I wear many hats: I work part-time in a civil service job, I run a small practice as therapist and coach, and of course, I write.

When and why did you begin writing?

I wrote fan fiction as a kid. But I seriously started writing in January 2000. I know this so well because it was such an exciting experience to start writing out a scene stuck in my head and finding that I did 30 pages of work before even getting to it – and the whole thing eventually built into several novel-sized adventures of my fantasy hero and heroine. Those novels need a lot of work before I’ll publish them, but they were the beginning of my writing career.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I got my first outside validation by signing a contract with an agent in 2004, on the strength of the first novel in that fantasy series. That was when I thought I might actually be good enough. They didn’t sell a single book, and I ended the contract five years later… and then started self-publishing.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I’m going to talk about “Dorelle’s Journey”, the first book in my Cloud Lands Saga. That’s the first series I wrote about dragons, even though I’ve been in love with dragons since I discovered Pern in the school library during my exchange year in California. It took me that long to write dragons… I was always afraid that it would be called a copy of Anne McCaffrey.

I love Dorelle because she’s an independent woman, firm in her beliefs and her love of her dragon. And she’s willing to risk her life for others. In the book, I challenge her a lot… and she came through it all with flying colors. So did her dragon.

What inspired you to write this book?

#takes a deep breath#

Originally, I started out writing a novel with three different main characters, and three different timelines. They were supposed to meet in the Cloud Lands (that’s one large area in my world) and turn from enemies to friends. I got stuck on that one… ( it’s the base for my second series that will be called The Cloud Lands Wars, though.)
Even so, my mind stayed in that world, and I found a shorter story about how the Cloud Lands actually were discovered – basically a generation or so before that ill-fated novel. And the result is “Dorelle’s Journey”.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I don’t think so, to be honest. But most of my stories are “feel-good” stories. I see so much destruction and darkness in the world around us that I don’t need to put that into my stories. It’s unlikely you’ll see anything dystopian by me.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

I thought about it. 😉 No, seriously, most of my titles are just short descriptions of what happens in the books. And in this one, Dorelle takes a heck of a journey – and back. I try to make my titles short and powerful, though.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes, there is. Underlying the whole struggle in the series – Dorelle’s trouble with her Wing Commander and everything else – is the big question: How do we treat our dragons? They are an intelligent species, but their abilities are not valued everywhere, beyond their flying and fighting. There is a lot of discrimination going on. In this case, it’s speciism, and not racism, but the result is very similar. There are similarities to slavery…

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Anne McCaffrey, for introducing me to dragons and amazing worlds. Pern was my favorite, but I read most of her books. Rosemary Sutcliff and Judith Tarr, for their writing style. Both know how to pack an emotional punch with few words. Even with simple words. I adore that ability. And I adore Judy’s Lippizans. Rita Mae Brown, when she described why she wrote “Riding Shotgun”: She was stuck in a cabin with nothing new to read, so she sat down and wrote what she wanted to read. Isn’t that powerful?

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I don’t really want a mentor for writing. I guard my own voice. I want it to be me, not a watered-down version of someone else. When I’m writing intensely, I don’t even read fiction. However, I would love to learn marketing and fan interaction from Hugh Howey. #laughs#

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

The cover design is by Ashley Fontainne. I used to be in an FB group with her, and when I wanted new covers for the series before publishing the last part, I realized she had been doing covers for a while. I like hers – they are dynamic and dramatic, so it was an easy choice. Working with her was very awesome and totally easy.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write. Stop reading writing advice. Stop taking the next writing class. Sit down and write. Write more. Publish what you write.
And learn about the trade. Learn copyright. Learn grammar, spelling, pacing – by reading lots. Soak up the language of your genre. So read and write. Very basic.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I love you all. I’m so grateful you’re reading my books, and I love hearing from you, too. I’m an avid reader myself, I know all the joy that comes from books – and I hope I can feed that joy for you.

Dorrelle - Ebook_D2DHannah Steenbock
Kiel, Germany

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Dorelle’s Journey

Cover Artist: Ashley Fontainne

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