Interview with Robert Carter

What type of books do you write?
I write stories set in exciting periods of history, in places and times where emotions run at their highest. These are periods of great change, uprisings and wars, in which the characters find themselves embroiled. I want my readers to feel as if they are going on a trip to a strange and different place. Today, you can book a trip to just about anywhere in the world and be there inside 24 hours, but my books take you to places you can't go, places that have vanished forever - the worlds of the past.
Why did you start writing?
When I was a kid aged 8-9 at the Woollarah Opportunity School in Sydney, Australia. My teacher, Mrs Porschel, would get the whole class to write a story about a haunted house together. The idea was that the story would be written in sections and the class would vote on whose section would continue it. I kept winning the votes, but only because I had discovered the cliff hanger and the others had to vote for me to find out what was going to happen!

I was in my mid-20s. I wrote a novel in my spare time and sent it to a publisher. They agreed to take it, but offered the princely sum of $300 for all rights. It had taken me six months of hard slog to write! It just wasn’t possible to live on that kind of salary, so the next week I got a job in the oil industry in Texas. The pay was about a hundred times better.

I knew I wanted to write, so eventually , after a spell at the BBC, I stopped working and starting writing full time.
What kind of advice would you give to struggling writers?
Would-be writers MUST apply discipline to the exercise of compiling 100,000 well-chosen words. Without discipline, it’s almost impossible. So the best help you can get is to develop a habit. Set aside a regular time when you do nothing else but write, and never miss a session. For people who can manage that every day, the total soon builds up. If you can write 1,000 words a day for 100 days, you will have created the first draft of a novel in 4 months.

Then it’s just a question of editing, and editing is much easier than creating on a blank page. A really good tip is to print your novel on paper and put it in a drawer for at least 30 days. When you come back to it, you will find that household gremlins have re-arranged all the words and made it read like garbage. You will find the second draft is so much better. And the third draft ? You can probably be proud of that one. Some of my scenes have had fifteen drafts before I was happy with them. Re-writing is essential. It is the absolute key to quality.
What is your writing process?
I work in phases. In Phase One I do general research. I learn everything I can about the period in which my story will be set. In Phase Two I prepare a detailed outline regarding story and characters. Then in Phase Three, I do deeper research around the specifics that comprise the story. It’s only when I’ve completed these three phases that I sit down and start the first draft.
Who is your favorite author and why?
James Clavell. If you read Shogun, you will know why. Clavell is the master of immersive narrative – a story that you really can lose yourself in.
If you could recommend 3 books what would they be & why?
Fire Down Below, by William Golding. A perfect allegory. A reflection on human life or the fundamentals of human nature.

Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien, because it is all about the First World War, without the author being consciously aware of it.

A rather obscure fantasy novel from about 35 years ago, Pavane by Keith Roberts because it should be better known.
When was your first book published?
I was in my mid-20s. I wrote a novel in my spare time and sent it to a publisher. They agreed to take it, but offered the princely sum of $300 for world rights. It had taken me six months of hard slog to write! It just wasn’t possible to live on that kind of salary, so the next week I got a job in the oil industry in Texas. The pay was approximately one hundred times better. The idea was to get rich enough to buy myself a couple of years of writing time so I could try to break into the Big Time.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
A dozen or so. I like different books for different reasons. Some make me laugh, some remind me of the time I was writing or promoting the book. (I once met a Rolling Stone who thought my book “The Language of Stones” was about the band!) But really my favorite is always the one I am writing at the moment, otherwise I could not fully engage. My latest historical fiction book is called Death Valley Scotty, and I love it!

I travelled through Death Valley and came upon Scotty’s Castle. Imagine that – a castle in the middle of a desert! When I started to read about Walter E Scott and Albert Johnson, I just knew this was a story that I had to write. I’ve spent a lot of time in various deserts while working in the Middle East and I have a soft spot for the hot, desolate parts of the world. Death Valley is a wonderful place to visit, and what better preparation for a visit than to read about its most interesting inhabitant.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Yes, I have constant feedback. Readers write to me with questions about the history, with comments (mostly nice) about the plot and sometimes they find problems which I had not considered, which can be embarrassing!
How do your books get published? Traditional or Indie?
I was published by the traditional publishing industry in the past, but now I want to be part of the revolution. I made good money out of regular publishing and my books appeared in half a dozen languages, but I like selling direct to readers and cutting out all the middle men. I like to decide what I write, and not have it dictated by the requirements of a publishing industry whose objectives are not necessarily the same as mine.
What does your family think of your writing?
I think my mother would have preferred me to be a brain surgeon. I think my father would have preferred me to be earning the income of a brain surgeon. Unfortunately, I am rather squeamish.
Published 2013-10-15.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Deadly Playground - 1914
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 82,690. Language: English. Published: April 10, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Historical » United Kingdom, Fiction » Adventure » Action
(5.00 from 1 review)
The Deadly Playground is the 1st volume of a story of the prestigious Barrington family during the Great War. A tale of espionage, romance and a portrait of power & influence as the curtain rises on the first act of a Century of tumultuous conflict. Hallmarked by attention to historical detail, this novel comes with a guarantee — the reader will see the Great War in a completely new light.
Death Valley Scotty
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 41,520. Language: English. Published: September 16, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
Around the beginning of the 20th Century, Walter E. Scott - Scotty to his friends - was passing through Death Valley, California, when he happened upon a dead man. Beside the corpse was a dog dying of thirst, and in the man's pocket was a piece of rock glittering with pure gold ... So begins one of the most endearing tales to come out of the American West.
Sheer Purgatory
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 72,360. Language: English. Published: June 19, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
(4.00 from 1 review)
An hilarious romp through the Afterlife in a Douglas Adams meets Terry Pratchett kind of way. If Monty Python had shot another movie, this would probably have been the one they shot dead. Dan arrives in Purgatory with Victor 3157, his well-meaning but incompetent guardian angel, where he finds he has to wash away his sins, outsmart angelic security and figure out how to get his life back.
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 167,100. Language: English. Published: June 13, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » General
In the final volume of the epic fantasy, the Language of Stones trilogy, civil war tears the Realm apart and the sorcerer Maskull’s plans to bring about a catastrophe that will rob the world of magic are coming to fruition. The wizard Gwydion knows that the only hope for the future lies with Willand, the young man he believes to be the reincarnation of King Arthur.
The Giants' Dance
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 180,920. Language: English. Published: June 12, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » General
The epic fantasy “The Language of Stones” trilogy continues. In the peaceful village of Nether Norton life goes on as it has for countless centuries in the Vale. The villagers celebrate the harvest and Will looks back fondly on the last two years, but a feeling of unease is stirring inside him, and seeing an unnatural storm on the horizon he feels that his past is coming back to haunt him.
The Language of Stones
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 177,620. Language: English. Published: June 11, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » General
The first volume of an epic fantasy where the Wars of the Roses are raging, but this is not England as we know it. Young Will and Master Gwydion, a wizard, struggle to save the Realm from the stones of power. A kind of magic flows through the veins of the earth in the Realm and this is used by wizards and misused by sorcerers to change history.
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 192,650. Language: English. Published: June 4, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Historical » General
Imagine a civil war that left 150 million people dead. A war waged ruthlessly by the Emperor against his own helpless people. A war continued against all odds by a rebel leader who thought himself the brother of Jesus Christ. The Americans, British and French were caught up in the catastrophe that ensued. In the Manchu court, we watch Yehonala rise from concubine to become an all-powerful Empress.
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 162,430. Language: English. Published: June 4, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Historical » General
True love. The terror of war. Rejection. Separation. Reconciliation. COURAGE. France, 1790, and a nation is on the brink of destruction, a not so innocent flirtation at a glamorous ball, a Frenchwoman destined for the guillotine, and a British naval captain who has loved and lost her - these are the ingredients of , Courage, Robert Carter’s epic tale of love and war.
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 216,510. Language: English. Published: May 11, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Historical » General, Fiction » Adventure » Travel
Imagine a corporation so powerful that it rules trade across the globe, fuels the first world war, creates governments and gives birth to new countries. It is 1746, the corporation is the East India Company and French and British trade interests are fighting for control of the decaying Moghul empire. A magnificent blend of historical adventure and romance "in the great tradition of James Clavell
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 222,140. Language: English. Published: May 6, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Historical » United Kingdom, Fiction » Adventure » General
Forget Captain Sparrow! Time travel to the real Caribbean of 400 years ago. See galleons filled with Mexican gold. Watch as Queen Elizabeth's ministers, Burleigh and Walsingham use Drake and Hawkins to humble the power of Phillip II of Spain. Feel the hopes and fears of Tudor England in this rich drama with all the historical detail of Patrick O'Brien and the storytelling of James Clavell.