Interview with Robin Dalton

What is your e-reading device of choice?
I'm really a fan of the Kindle - the standard one. I use my Kindle fire as a mini-computer for when I don't want to lug my laptop around, even if I can't do any writing on it, but the standard Kindle really does feel not that different from a book to me. The Pearl ink simulator is pretty awesome. A shame they're kind of fragile devices.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has given me an outlet for all the short stories and bits of ideas buzzing around my brain that otherwise probably would never have seen the light of day. I only have so much time to write, after all, and up until now I was dividing my time between fanfiction and massive manuscripts I hoped to submit for publication one day. But those ideas were still there, and any little thing could pop something new into my head - some little gem of an idea that I could never stretch out too far because there weren't enough hours in a day, but maybe I could condense down into something small, because here was a platform where I could post it, no matter what it was, and maybe people might read it.
How do you approach cover design?
I can't really afford the prices a good cover artist would charge - it's not them, it's me. But my stories can vary greatly in length, and while I do try to get them all into the Premium Catalogue, I can't really justify shelling out $100 - $300 for a less than 2,000 word short story. So I make them myself, in Photoshop. I'm not a terribly good artist in drawing my own work, on or off a computer, although I know some people who are. Still, I tend to rely more on free stock photos or line work, and I try to balance expressiveness with making the cover easy to read. I do want people to at least be able to get a sense of my story from the cover, and thinking up ways to manage that has been an interesting mental exercise so far..

I do sometimes have trouble with what's readable to me and what's readable to others, especially where colors are concerned, so I always make sure to pass my cover art by some of my more artistic friends for inspection before I publish.
What do you read for pleasure?
My tastes are pretty broad, but my standards are high. I enjoy witty books, books that have clever or snappy prose and descriptions. I enjoy books that can make me laugh, even if the comedy is pitch black. Dense prose makes reading too much like work and too little like pleasure, which is a shame when it ruins an otherwise great plot. I like my heroes and heroines to have at least a kernel of sympathy, but beyond that, there's a wide variety of plots that can catch my attention.

With some exceptions, of course - supernatural romances are pretty much an instant turnoff for me, nowadays. I see any mention of "mysterious" "brooding" "dark" "boys" who will "change the heroine's life", and I'm out. It's practically a pattern match, nowadays, which is unfortunate for a genre that has a great deal of potential.

Beyond that, i would say I enjoy books that have something to say, which is probably why Terry Pratchett is one of my favorite authors. It has to be a message I can palate, but I enjoy the feeling that comes from seeing an author build up their world to say what they want to say. Female protagonists are also a huge plus for me - I actively seek them out over male ones. I don't always practice what I preach, on that score, but I try.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
In no particular order:

1. Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett
Night Watch has always spoken to me as an intensely relevant and personal book, due to its heavy focus on the intricacies and follies inherent in human nature. Even if its origins seem to lie in the London riots and in parodying Les Miserables, it's a story that could really apply anywhere, because the people are so perfectly, beautifully, tragically human. So many of its quotes have always stuck with me, its highs and lows resonated with me. I have always sympathized with Vimes as a man trying to make his way in a flawed world, all the more when those few rocks he's found to cling to are ripped away from him, and admired his tendency to just try and do one small thing right when the entire world and all of history is arrayed against him. Ultimately a tragic book, but one that laways leaves me feeling satisfied to read.

2. Lady Knight (Protector of the Small) by Tamora Pierce
The Protector of the Small series is probably my favorite of Pierce's Tortall books, but Lady Knight, to me, was where it all came to a head and all the best aspects of the series were shown off to best advantage. It had Kel taking care of people and taking charge, leading her fortress against daunting odds and eventually coming out on top. It had its high points and its low, it's humor and its horror, not to mention its moral ambiguity when back when I first read it, I hadn't read many books that dared to admit that moral ambiguity even existed. I greatly enjoyed the way it focused both on the necessary tasks of daily life and the grander scheme at work during the war, the characters that were given a chance to interact and fight and love and trust. Overall, a very powerful book to me even years later.

3. Heroine Addiction, by Jennifer Matarese
Not only was it a wonderfully inclusive book - one of the first and only I've ever seen to do so and do so in a remotely genuine fashion - but it hit all my superhero buttons. It's a book that remembers that it's dealing with superheroes, and if there's existential and emotional angst, it's angst interspersed with giant robots and flashy technology and high-powered fights that remembers to end on a hopeful note and doesn't have its heroes forget that they're heroes for the sake of the plot. It expertly wove the human and the fantastic together sot hat both necessary components of a good hero story did not outshine one another, and also crafted two different romantic subplots that got me interested in romantic subplots for the first time in years.

4. Johannes Cabal, Necromancer by Jonathon L. Howard
I'm a fan of the entire series, but this first book is what introduced me to Howard's impossibly clever and creepy writing, not to mention Cabal's tendency to tightrope walk the Moral Event Horizon. The ending remains one of the most powerful hundred pages or so I have ever read, and the rest of the story was truly haunting at several points. Howard managed to tell a story about someone who, in any other story, would be the villain, the final boss for a group of plucky young heroes, and make him not only tolerable, but understandable, and at times, even sympathetic and pitiable.

5. Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst
It's nearly everything I've ever wanted in a vampire- or supernatural-based story, starting with a remotely likeable protagonist who actually tries to be good...even if only because she was stabbed by a unicorn. It has a solid female-friendship and a male love interest who actually admits when he's been kind of a dick and other humans who aren't just worthless bystanders to be eaten. There's moral dilemma and humanity coming together and learning to fight, all wrapped up in some powerful descriptive prose that left me shivering more than once.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't remember the first, precisely, but I remember one of the earliest ones - "The Song of the Lioness" quartet, by Tamora Pierce. A friend of my Mom's gave it to me to read, and I devoured it. I was too young to understand some of the ideas, concepts, and plot points, but I adored Alanna, and overall I found her story very satisfying. She was one of the first case's of a good, genuinely strong and well rounded female protagonist I'd ever encountered, and the feeling that came with it has stayed with me ever since.

My parents also took turns reading "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" to me, when it first came out. It was a gift from my aunt, but I wasn't interested, probably because I was just coming off "The Song of the Lioness". Mom finally sat me down and forced me to listen. I was hooked halfway through Chapter One.
When did you first start writing?
I've been writing almost as far back as I can remember. I remember it really coming to something of a head in second grade, though. My teacher was a very creative woman who wanted us to tap into our creativity and imagination, too, so there was a lot of storytime, and a lot of creative writing assignments. Mostly, though, I remember the frustration of second grade. Because I'd get these grand, sweeping ideas - or at least, they seemed grand and sweeping to me - and writing them all out by hand in the hour or so we had to work was impossible!

The day I discovered Microsoft Word and proper typing technique was a good one.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I remember a few stories that all might have been my first? When I was younger, I would often "import" favorite characters or at least names from my favorite TV show or game of the day. I believe the first story I ever actually finished was based on a combination of Beauty and the Beast and the Swan Queen, featuring a girl who got turned into a wolf. When she later regained her human form - after a noble sacrifice for her pack, of course - she cursed the witch right back to turn *her* into an "Omega" wolf. Wolves were my favorite animals, back then. I'm more into rabbits and rats now.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I would say it's the feeling of construction. It's the feeling that here is an idea, and by my own time, effort, sweat, tears, and metaphorical blood, this idea will be turned into something tangible, something real. It's the satisfaction that comes from slogging through the necessary scenes and the excitement that comes from getting to the good stuff. And, in the end, it's being able to look back on what I've written and say "yes. This is me. I did this." Getting a story out and written is an almost physical relief, for me, and satisfying down to the bone to manage.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans mean so, so much to me. My plots and ideas might come from my head, and the writing might be something I need to do just to feel complete, but I write them so they can be read. And the fact that there are people who take time out of their day to stop and look over my efforts, to even leave comments and reviews or even likes or kudos, is what keeps me going. My fans and their downloads and hit counts and kudos are proof to me that I'm not shouting into a void. That in some small way, these words and ideas and characters buzzing around my head mean something to someone besides me.

Thank you all. I wouldn't be here and I wouldn't be trying without you.
Published 2014-04-07.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

A Frolic of Children
Price: Free! Words: 3,960. Language: English. Published: July 16, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories, Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables
(3.00)
A brief but haunting glimpse into a community of reclusive rabbit-folk keeping their doors barred against a land changing for the worse. Much as they try to hide their children from the world, the world and all its strangeness has a way of finding its way to their doorstep. A strange spirit takes hold one night, drawing all the children from their beds to show them that there's nothing to fear.
Tea for Two, Justice for All
Price: Free! Words: 1,940. Language: American English. Published: March 19, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Themes & motifs » Spiritual & metaphysical, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
What is life? By what traits and attributes is one thing defined as living, and another not? CCD-08, who prefers to think of herself as "Bo", muses on the subject as the civil war for robot independence rages on outside her bakery doors. She wages her own personal fight inside, trying to bring robots and humans together on either side of a table.
Everyday Dangers
You set the price! Words: 8,280. Language: American English. Published: November 26, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories, Fiction » Science fiction » High tech
A look in the lives of a supervillain who's been slightly less villainous lately and her former nemesis that's been hanging around to keep an eye on her. When you've got powers the like of which the world has never seen, it's natural to want to enjoy them a little. And when you have a mad scientist on the payroll, sometimes you just want to play around with the resulting technology before dinner.