Interview with Robert Collins

Published 2013-10-29.
When did you first start writing?
The eighth grade.

I'd always been an imaginative kid. I saw "Star Wars" and got into science fiction and fantasy. I wanted to see and read everything I could. One of the books I read was "Asimov on Science Fiction." That book showed me that there was a way to take my imagination and put it to use: I could be a writer.

I started writing in junior high. I wrote mostly fan fiction through and after high school, then in the late 1980s I began writing only in my own worlds. I sold my first short story in 1990, and I've been published (or publishing) ever since.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yep. A "Star Trek" fan fiction short story. It wasn't good. I doubt it was even so-so. Thankfully, the only copy was lost in the 1991 Andover tornado.

I hope I've gotten better since then.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Telling stories. I love reading good stories, and I hope I'm telling good stories.
What is your writing process?
Get my butt in the chair. Play a few rounds of a game to clear my mind of other thoughts so I can focus on the work in progress. Once I've played a few rounds, I start writing. I stop writing when I get to the end of a scene, or I feel that I've found a good place to stop.

Recently I've gone to two writing sessions a day: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I felt I was wasting time not writing in the afternoon. I feel I can be more productive, and so far I have been. I've been meeting my new daily goals, and exceeding them a good deal of the time.
Does where you live influence your writing?
I live in Kansas. It's had some influence on me. I've found interesting story ideas from Kansas history. Our state's history is one of morality and immorality. Opinions can shift on who are the heroes and who are the villains. I try to keep those things in mind as I write.

As to any larger influences, well, if I become an author worthy of study, I'll leave that question to the future. Right now, I just want to have my stories read and enjoyed.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Maybe someday my stories will be liked and read enough for me to make a decent living. That won't happen unless I keep writing, so I keep writing.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I listen to music. I read. I'm trying to get back into model railroading as my one hobby. I like to get on social networks and see what my friends are up to. That's pretty much it.
What do you read for pleasure?
Science fiction and fantasy. I used to read quite a bit of Kansas history, but that was as much for research for my nonfiction projects as for fun. As a result, I've gone back to genre works for fun reading.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My iPad.

I like the idea of ebooks in general. I've come to wonder how much physical space gets taken up by things in my life. I like having books, but I don't like having to figure out how many shelves I need, or where to put those bookshelves. Having one device that can hold my books, my music, and other media is great.

Plus, I can write and edit my works on my iPad. I can also tinker with covers and cover design. I can show people sites like Smashwords and Wattpad. I can keep track of my sales at events. It's great to have such a useful device with me, as a creator and as a consumer.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I had three novels published by small presses. I always thought that a publisher would know more about publishing than I did. In those cases, I either knew as much as they did, or more. I wondered why I was relying on them if they didn't know more than I did.

I had learned quite a bit over the years. I self-published a series of travel booklets in the early 1990s. I worked closely with the small press that put out several of my nonfiction railroad books. I worked with a mid-size press on two biographies.

There were two projects I wanted to do: an article collection and collection of short stories published by small-press magazines. I learned about print-on-demand and did them myself. A year later I learned about ebook self-publishing, and started doing that.

It feels good to have control over my career. It also puts a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. Still, I'd rather have my success or failure as a writer in my hands than in someone else's hands.
What are you working on next?
I'm always working on something. As of this writing (late October 2013), I'm working on what might be the last books in two series I have out, the "Blue Pistol" series and the "Lisa Herbert" series. Once those are done I'll get back to another story I have half-finished. I might start another series as well.
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