Feb 5, 2015

Author Interview With Tudor Robins

Yay, another interview! After reading and reviewing Appaloosa Summer, I was very pleased to get to talk to the author, Tudor Robins...

First, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well, I was born in Ottawa, Ontario, the capital of Canada, and I think I must have been born loving horses and books, because the only time my nose wasn’t in a book was when I was begging for riding lessons. In fact, my best friend when I was about ten or eleven, was a girl who lived on a farm and had horses and a ton of great books. I’d go stay with her and we’d ride and read – it was heaven!

I moved around for school and work, and wherever I lived, I would also ride. After my second degree, I moved back to Ottawa and now I’m really lucky to live in an outdoor-friendly city where riding, running, hiking, and skiing are easy to do.

I’m married, with two boys, and we spend as much time as we can on Wolfe Island – often called “the first of the Thousand Islands” – where my parents live, and we have a cottage. We love the island for its scenery, river, wildlife, and people.

I can – and do – write anywhere, but the island is my favourite place to write.

What got you interested in being an author?

That’s a good, and difficult, question. Difficult, because I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I recently found a nearly full notebook containing a “novel” written when I was about ten years old.

So, I was always writing, and wanted to be an author, but didn’t really know how. It’s much easier if you want to be a teacher, or a lawyer – there’s a set process to follow. Being an author is very different.

I studied English literature first, and enjoyed it, but eventually realized that wasn’t really about writing. Then I applied for, and got accepted to, Journalism school. Now that was about writing, and it was hard work. There were strict time deadlines and word counts to meet. Everything needed to be factual, and grammatically correct. And, it all needed to be interesting. Oh, and, in general, the shorter the better.

So, journalism school was a great start in really tightening my writing, and getting me ready for the realities of being a writer – accepting criticism, being reliable, meeting deadlines – etc.

After that, it was feeling my way through. Trying to figure out how I wanted to be published, and the best ways to get there. My first novel, Objects in Mirror, was traditionally published, and I’m now an indie publisher and loving every minute of it.

What was the inspiration for your books?

It’s pretty simple, really. As a kid, I read lots of books I really loved. Like most readers, there were certain authors I absolutely adored and, of course, those authors can never write enough to satisfy their greatest fans. At some point, you’ve read all their books and you want more.

So, really, I think part of my aim was to write more of those kinds of books for myself.

I had stories in my head, those stories just kept developing, and it seemed like I might be able to turn those stories into books that I’d enjoy writing, and other people might enjoy reading.

More specifically, of course, there are real-life inspirations in my books. Like Grace in Objects in Mirror, I struggled with anorexia. Like Meg in Appaloosa Summer, I fell in love with summer life on an island. Like the characters in my upcoming ski-themed book, I’ve skied all my life, and even raced a bit as a kid. Those are my more direct, practical inspirations.

What's your approach to writing a unique horse book in a market full of similar stories?

I’m going to refer back to my last question and say, first of all, while reading all those stories I loved as a kid, I never thought of them as similar. The Black Stallion series was very different from My Friend Flicka, which as very different from the writing of Jean Slaughter Doty, or Dick Francis.

So, to start with, I never thought of horse books as being universal, or similar.

To be honest, it was only when I started reading reviews of Appaloosa Summer – reviews that said things like “not your typical horse book” or “I normally don’t like horse books” – that I began to realize there was a perceived formula, or sameness to horse stories.

I guess I’ve just admitted I don’t have an approach, or a strategy. I write the story that’s in my head, and try to be true to my characters. I think quite a bit about character motivation, and, also my editor is very good at asking “Would he / she really do this?” and so maybe, in that way, we avoid some clich├ęs.

I think everybody’s experience / background is different, and the stories in everybody’s head must be different, so it stands to reason each book should have unique elements to it.

What are you working on right now?

I think my workload is pretty typical of most writers – especially indie-published writers – because the main word is “multi-tasking.” So, here’s my current to-do list:
  • Publish Appaloosa Summer sequel, Wednesday Riders. The book is currently with my proofreader. As soon as I get it back from her, I send it to my book designer for her to do the print layout, and I start doing the eBook formatting. Anticipated publication: March 2015.
  • Send my ski-themed novel – working title Cold & Sweet (you heard it here first!) – to my editor so I can begin the above process, and hopefully have it out late summer 2015.
  • Write the sequel to Wednesday Riders. I have the outline, and I have the motivation – I just need to get the above two books moving before I can write it.
  • Finish any of the approximately three other books I’ve already started / start any of the approximately ten books I have ideas for.
  • Record the podcast of Appaloosa Summer which will be free to my readers. I’m going into the studio next week!
  • Promote, market, strategize. Reach out to readers, bloggers, and writers. Try to help people find my books so they can tell their friends about them and I can keep financing writing more books!
As you can see, the work is steady and it goes in cycles. I may be writing the first draft of one novel, while the last draft of another one is being proofread. It keeps me on my toes and it keeps my work really, really fun!

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers out there?

Just do it. Seriously, that’s the best advice I can give. It applies on many levels:
  • Just sit down and write. I hear lots of people telling me “I wish I had more time to write,” or “I want to write someday.” Now, I’m not one to say everybody has to write, but I will say, if you sit down, and think about it, and decide writing is a priority for you, there’s no point in thinking about “someday.” You need to get started – even if it’s only ten or fifteen minutes a few times a week.
  • And, if publication is important to you, then I would say don’t be afraid to just do that either. We’re writing in a very lucky time when we don’t need other people / companies to publish us. If seeking publication from a traditional publisher is very important to you, then, by all means, pursue that. However, there’s no need to do that. There’s no need to send out dozens of submissions. There’s no need to wait for long months for the process to move forward. You can set your own goals and deadlines and work toward publication on your own terms if you like.
Finally, share some of your favorite horse books, and favorite books in general!

When people ask me this, I always think I’m going to give the short answer, but my head starts working on the long answer!

From a very young age, I adored Jane Austen. Seriously, I first read Emma when I was about nine. I think that’s weird, but I remember at the time thinking how funny the writing was. And, of course, still is.

Of course Jane Austen books aren’t horse books, except for the fact that traveling by horseback / coach set the pace for many of the stories. There’s possibly more scope for misunderstanding, tension, etc. when your news comes via horseback messenger, instead of your Twitter feed.

As to books that were more definitely horsey, I got hooked on Dick Francis at a very young age and, since he was such a prolific writer, he kept me going for a while.

And there was always Black Beauty, My Friend Flicka, and anything by Josephine Pullein-Thompson, and I adored Jean Slaughter Doty.

And, of the classic kids’ mystery series, I always liked Trixie Belden better than Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys because the Bob-Whites of the Glen were always riding horses.

Of course, there are lots of great writers bringing out new horse books all the time. Rather than make this answer even longer, I can refer readers to the Horse Lovers Blog Tour I hosted in the fall of last year, to see the authors featured there.


Tudor Robin's website

Tudor's Amazon page

Tudor's Facebook page

Review of Appaloosa Summer

Thank you Tudor for the interview! Be sure to check out her website and sign up for her newsletter. Looking forward to Wednesday Riders!