I rarely accept self-published books for review but there are exceptions to every rule. When I checked out the synopsis and reader reviews for Rob Sinclair’s ‘Dance with the Enemy’ I decided that it was the sort of book that I would like to read. I was also interested in finding out more about the man behind the story.
Although I generally ask each of the author’s that I interview the same questions I always hope that they will use these as prompts and tell me more than I directly ask. Rob has come up trumps. He has not only given me the background to his writing process but has explained what he has learned along the way, thus providing useful tips for writer’s who may choose to follow the same path.
I hope that you will find this candid interview as interesting as I did.
Please welcome to neverimitate, Rob Sinclair.
Where do you typically write?
These days I typically write sat on the sofa in my lounge with my laptop. It’s comfy, warm, and I have a nice view of our garden. But going back in time to when I first started Dance with the Enemy I was writing anywhere I could find the space and time. I had a full time job then so was writing early mornings before work, at lunch times, in the evenings before bed. I would write on the train, planes, ferries, in the office, in hotels in the UK and around the world, literally anywhere I could.
It would be great to have somewhere that I could really take myself away for long periods to concentrate on writing; a lodge in the mountains or a seafront villa – maybe one day. My parents live in the Lake District and whenever I visit there’s something about the place that makes you feel inspired – and it’s worked for plenty of famous writers in the past – so perhaps there. But for now, the lounge suits me just fine and it’s far better than sat on a cramped bunk of a ferry on choppy waters!
Tell us about your writing process.
I’ve finished drafting the third book in the Enemy series now and am currently editing it. I think I’ve finally started to get into a rhythm about how I tackle writing a book. Bear in mind that until five years ago I’d never attempted to write fiction at all so I really have been making this up as I go along!
I’ve started all three of the books with very little in terms of plot. I get one or two big ideas and then start to play out a few scenes in my head. Maybe the start of the book, or the end or just a page-turning scene in the middle. Then I just start writing. I’m a great believer in just getting things started, not just with writing but with anything in life. I’ve always hated planning things, at work when you sit in a meeting room with a team discussing for hours on end how to start a project. It’s not me at all. I like to get stuck in and see where things take me. That’s certainly how I approach writing. The first drafts of the books really don’t take me that long, a few weeks if I have sufficient time each day. It suits my style and even though I get writer’s block along the way, as every writer does, I seem to get through it and find that the quicker I write the more the ideas come to me. For the third book I set myself a word count target of 4,000 words a day. I think I hit it all but one day and my best was close to 10,000.
At the end of the first draft the meat of the story is there but it invariably needs a lot of polishing and editing. That’s the bit I dislike the most and it takes a lot more time. I edited and re-read Dance with the Enemy probably a dozen times before it was published. It can be painful and tedious at times reading through the same material over and over but it’s essential and it’s that stage of the process where the story really comes to life. During editing I also become more focused on the structure of the story; mapping out characters, timelines, chapter lengths, points of view to make sure everything flows smoothly and there are no major plot holes and the like. I’m a trained accountant so spreadsheets are my best friend. I have a big spreadsheet for each book breaking the whole thing down into tabular format, chapter by chapter (I know, once an accountant, always an accountant!). It’s a formula that seems to work for me so I’m sticking to it.
Tell us about your publishing experience.
I’m a complete novice really. I came into the whole writing/publishing process with no knowledge or experience of the industry. I was naïve and it didn’t pay off for me. After I’d drafted Dance with the Enemy, some four years ago, I was just so delighted to have finished a manuscript that I started to send it off to agents here, there and everywhere. I was young and out of my depth and I thought, very wrongly, that even though my draft needed work that someone would see potential in me. That’s just not the way the industry works. Agents and publishers want the finished article and needless to say I got universal rejections.
I started working on the book some more, improving it, and started sending it out again. Slowly the rejections I was getting became more personal, I started to get some praise and positive feedback and even pointers as to what to look at and change. This process went on for a couple of years but ultimately I was still getting rejected each time even though agents were telling me how much talent they thought I had.
In the end I got sick of it. I felt like I was wasting my life doing submissions to agents when I should have been writing. Me and my wife had also had two boys in the intervening period so my available time had dwindled to virtually nothing. It was at that time that I had a choice; quit altogether or self-publish. And it was a close call. Without the support of my wife I might have chosen to quit but through her encouragement, and that of my parents, I ploughed on and took a six month sabbatical from my job to give me the time I needed.
And it was then that I made the single most important step; I hired an editor. With hindsight I should have done it years before and I should never have sent out a single submission to an agent without having first done that. The editor was brilliant, she really helped me to finish Dance with the Enemy and make it publishable.
I self-published Dance with the Enemy in June 2014 and haven’t looked back since. In many ways I think self-publishing has suited me. I’m a bit of a control freak so it helps that I’m in charge of everything and get to decide when and how things happen. Maybe one day I’ll get back in touch with agents and the big publishers but for now I’m going to keep working hard at making as much of an impact as I can on my own.
In what ways do you promote your work?
Social media has been the number one forum for me for Dance with the Enemy. I’d never before used Twitter and rarely used Facebook until last summer but I now spend hours a day, not just promoting, but socialising which is very important. I do my fair amount of pushy marketing as it’s the only way to really stand out over the plethora of other authors (both self-published and traditionally published) that are out there trying their hardest to garner readers. But I also believe that the most effective way to sell books, build loyalty, is to be sociable with the people you meet.
In many ways social media was a shock to the system for me as in reality I’m a classic introvert, as are many writers. But in some ways that’s why I’ve fallen in line with Twitter and Facebook so easily – I feel much more comfortable behind the safety of my computer than if I had to meet and talk to all these people in real life!
I’ve also got to know a number of book bloggers/reviewers who have been immensely helpful in getting the word out about my work. On top of that I’ve had the odd flirt with traditional media; radio, local newspapers etc. For my next book, Rise of the Enemy, I’m hoping to make a much bigger splash in the mainstream media now that I’ve got the credentials and experience from Dance with the Enemy.
What are some of your current projects?
On the writing front my second book, Rise of the Enemy, is completed and due to be released in April 2015. I’m really excited about it and personally think it’s a better book than the first. It’s written in the first person, from the point of view of my main character, Carl Logan, and I really felt I got to know him during that book.
I drafted the third book last year and have been sat on it for a few months so my next task (outside of promoting books one and two) is to edit that. I let my wife and parents read the first draft and they all said it’s my best yet which was great to hear!
After that I’ve got ideas. I’ll begin my fourth book in the spring/summer if all goes to plan. I’ve got a great idea for a fourth Carl Logan book so I might put that one into action given that I’m building up a loyal following of him already. On the other hand there’s an idea for a standalone book that I’ve had for a while that I think would make a really great and complex story. I’ll give it a shot at some point but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Where can my readers find you?
On Twitter: Rob Sinclair (@RSinclairAuthor)
Facebook: Rob Sinclair – Author
Rob began writing in 2009 following a promise to his wife, an avid reader, that he could pen a ‘can’t put down’ thriller.
Dance with the Enemy, the story of embattled intelligence agent Carl Logan, released in June 2014, was Rob’s first published novel and the first in a trilogy of novels following Carl Logan. Rise of the Enemy is the second book in the Enemy series, due for release in early 2015.
Rob is a qualified accountant. He has worked for a global accounting firm since graduating from The University of Nottingham in 2002, specialising in forensic fraud investigations at both national and international levels.
Originally from the North East of England, Rob has lived and worked in a number of fast paced cities, including New York, and is now settled in the West Midlands with his wife and young sons.
Available to buy now from Amazon