Author interview with Ellen Appelgren
Which movie stars would play your lead characters? What music inspires you to write? These were just some of the great questions asked by the amazing Ellen Appelgren at It’s Write Now, who does so much to promote indie authors and give them a leg up in building a readership. I first worked with Ellen in 2016 so providing an update on my progress with the launch of book two was great timing all round. You can read the full interview on Ellen’s website.
One of the joys of the author interviews is to see the growth of authors over time. Robin Crumby, who I last spoke to in July 2016 about his novel ‘Hurst’, has returned to chat about ‘Hurst’, how his writing has improved and the release of the second installment in the ‘Hurst Chronicles’. Robin thanks for returning today to share what’s happened on your journey as an author since we last talked.
For those readers who aren’t familiar with the first installment in the ‘Hurst’ series, can you take us back in time to what inspired the development of ‘Hurst’?
Hurst Castle was the inspiration for the book. It’s a beautiful setting, opposite the Needles Rocks and the Isle of Wight, reachable by boat or along a mile of shingle beach. Originally built by King Henry VIII, it’s been updated and modernized over the course of the last five hundred years.
I’m very glad to hear that the place has been modernized over the last five hundred years. Some of those recent inventions like electricity and indoor plumbing really do make a place nice, and I’m sure Henry would have approved. Other than the boon of modern technology, what did you pick to take away from those 500 years of history?
I needed to familiarize myself with Hurst’s five hundred years of history plus the subject of pandemic viruses. It is quite technical so required a lot of background reading.
Technical aspects like the ins-and-outs of virology would require a huge amount of background reading! After you had all of this technical research in hand, how you pick up those nuances of the place that Hurst castle embodies to ensure the thoroughness of the technical side matched the thoroughness of the location?
I spent much of my childhood exploring the various harbours, creeks, and islands around the Solent. It’s an area with so many stories, shipwrecks, and history.
Not only do you have vast quantities technical scientific information, 500 years of historical particulars but within your novel you’ve introduced a sizable cast of characters. How did you keep track of the characters in the midst of all of the other information?
The cast of Hurst is quite a large number of characters and keeping them all in your head is quite a challenge. I tend to have a (movie celebrity) photo of each one together with a summary page so that I can maintain consistency and keep them distinctive.
The idea of character profiles complete with celebrity choices is fantastic. Who are some of the movie stars you’ve already picked?
Tom Hardy for Zed, Natalie Dormer for Riley, Kirsten Dunst for Terra, Jack – I’ve never quite figured out, suggestions welcome.
I think your trouble to find a suitable suggestion for Jack means that you shouldn’t be picking from someone known. You should be picking from off the beaten path. Maybe you need to look outside of the acting profession and find someone from a completely different industry to find who you are looking for. When you started writing, did you find that you designed the characters first through this profiling technique and then insert them into the historical location of Hurst’s castle?
The story came first for me but the characters helped refine and shape it.
While shaping and refining, what central message did you find that developed?
However bleak circumstances may appear, good will prevail and hope springs eternal!
As writing can be a long and tiring process, were there any areas that gave you personal satisfaction and kept the hope springing up within you?
I have always enjoyed reader reviews (good and bad) and people reacting to what you’ve written, engaging with the story or suggesting improvements. The discipline of daily writing also appeals. It’s something I talked about doing for many years and circumstances now allow that to happen. I’ve finally run out of excuses!
*Laughs* When you ran out of excuses and started writing, what was the biggest thing that you learnt?
Writing the story is just the beginning. Publishing the finished version takes a lot of work.
Would you do anything differently around either the writing or publishing processes now you know more?
Give up other projects to focus on writing full time.
Earlier in the interview we mentioned that you’ve just released your latest writing project ‘Sentinel’. This novel is the second installment in the Hurst Chronicles and is available on Amazon for all readers who have already blasted their way through ‘Hurst’. Is ‘Sentinel’ the last installment in the Hurst chronicles, or has there been some progress on a third novel?
Book three in the series out in early 2018.
That’s fantastic news for keen readers who are eager to see where the action will go next! As you’ve now brought two books to market, and have a third in the works, what draws you back to the writing world?
Making up stories is great fun. I have a lot of creative energy and this is a good way to channel that.
Having a lot of creative energy is a great problem to have! Do you try and wrangle that creative energy into a plan or outline before you let all that energy go wild when you start tapping away at your keyboard?
No, I’m a ‘pantser’ so like to write a first draft as someone would read it, discovering where the story takes you. I start with a very rough structure only.
Do you try and expand on that structure daily?
I try and write every day but that doesn’t always happen.
Is music used as a tool to get that writing happening? If so, what’s in your playlists?
Because ‘Hurst’ is quite dark and dystopian, I find it helps to listen to ‘The Cure’, ‘The Cult’, ‘Depeche Mode’, even ‘Siouxsie and the Banshees’ to get me in the mood.
Awesome picks for achieving that dark and dystopian mood. Despite the best efforts of the dark music undertones, do you sometimes outside of that right mood and stuck with writer’s block?
Never had much problem there but you have to be in the mood.
Well, if you haven’t had much of a problem it sounds like the music is doing its job! Is editing a part of the writing job that you try and do yourself?
Yes, generally, I do most of the editing myself until very late stage when I involve professionals.
Outside of involving professionals, how do you improve your self-publishing process?
It takes 10,000 hours to be really good at anything. Practice makes perfect.
It takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery, I think you’d hit really good quite a bit before then! But more practice should certainly get you closer to that goal of perfection. Have you been able to accelerate goal faster by racking up some of these hours from your day job?
I ran a B2B publishing business for 20 years so have done copywriting, editing, proofreading before so tend to write quite clean first time.
Wow, writing clean the first time is a dream for many authors, and I suspect that you’ve tallied up quite a lot a substantial portion of those 10,000 hours already to be able to do that. Are there any quotes that you like to refer back to keep that fire in your writing dream?
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Winston S. Churchill
You gotta love Churchill. Are there any philosophies of life that you feel compliment the words of Churchill that you use together to inspire your life?
Always try and do the right thing, but if you can’t, don’t get caught.
*Laughs* Never ever get caught! Robin thanks for sharing a little insight on the ‘Hurst Chronicles’, and I’m sure I’ve joined by many readers who wish you the best of luck getting that third novel published!