Interview with Robin Bower

Introduce yourself, your writing style and books
I live in my hometown of Perth on the west coast of Australia now but managed to escape and live in other places of the world. I’ve lived in Melbourne, Hong Kong and London working as an editor and writer. For more than 20 years, I’ve worked as an editor and publishing professional in the areas of business, education and trade in books and magazines. I was the managing editor/publisher of a jewellery and diamond trade publisher in Hong Kong where I learnt how to schmooze on an international scale and travelled the world looking at diamonds. I taught writing and editing at Curtin University in Perth, and have a Master of Creative Writing from the University of Canberra. It’s hard to describe one’s own writing style. I think my writing is easy-to-read and descriptive with a strong sense of place. The setting becomes a character in its own right. I want readers to identify with what the characters are going through, to laugh and to cry with them. If I’ve achieved this, I’m happy.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Keep writing, keep persisting at everything to do with the craft. Practise, join writers’ groups, associations, network, submit to publications and enter competitions. Travel as much as you can (but avoid cruises), meet the locals, experience the colour and the every day. Listen to language everywhere you can and note it down — trains, buses, family gatherings, work, school — everywhere. Keep honing your craft but start something new often. Have several projects on the go at the same time. Read your favourite genres and authors. Then read outside your genre. Keep submitting, keep writing, self-publish eBooks while you’re working on the next great novel. Build it and they will come…
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always loved creating stories. As a kid I found I was good at English composition but I didn’t really do anything much with writing until I was well into life. Procrastination is my close friend and something I struggle with as a writer.
How has working as an editor prepared you for writing a novel?
I think most editors are also writers. As an editor, it’s important to get the words, grammar and spelling correct so it can sometimes be difficult to focus on writing above the editing. That’s why it’s important to separate the two skills and wear one hat at a time. I can’t be an editor while I’m writing. The creative juices have to take over and then the pragmatic editorial approach can go to town on the writing I’ve just created. The skills of an editor are immeasurably useful as a writer though so it’s a huge bonus in the whole process. As an editor, I can also understand the process of editing and the role the editor takes in editing my writing. I enjoy being edited because I’ve been on the other side of the mirror.
Why did you decide to self-publish over traditional publishing?
Having worked in the publishing industry for so many years, I know how hard it is to get published in the traditional way and how hard it is to get a literary agent. Unless you’re a famous chef, athlete, reality star or murderer, it’s tough. I had written the as-yet-unnamed Beyond Home several years before I decided to publish it. By that time, I had already completed my second book and I was about to start seeking out a publisher for that. I know that the important thing in publishing is having an existing platform and audience so I decided to use my first book as an experiment in the self-publishing arena and published it with Amazon KDP Select. It’s such a simple process and I can have an eBook as well as a paperback. I used this book to promote my writing on all my social media platforms and am trying to get readers and make people aware of my writing. I will still try to pursue a publisher for my second book but if I haven’t been able to secure an agent or publisher by the end of the year, I think I will self-publish that one also. It’s all about perseverance.
Being a self-published author how have you marketed your book? Any tips you give to those starting out?
First you need to get your book as good as it possibly can be. That means writing, rewriting, peer reviews, mentoring, more rewriting and editing. Polish it to a full shine. This is not a quick process. Then you need to have a strong social media presence. You need to gain a following online by providing interesting information from which your readers will benefit. You have to be prepared to give something away, not just promote yourself. You can do this on any or all of the social media platforms available. However, I suggest that you choose three or four to concentrate on. It’s a long, time-consuming business so you need to focus on the platforms that you are most comfortable with and where you can gain the most readers. I have a website where I post fairly regular blog posts, a Facebook personal profile and an author page, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and LinkedIn. These social media profiles are easy to manage with a scheduling program such as Hootsuite, Hubspot or Meet Edgar. You’ll probably have to pay something to get these platforms working for you but not much. In the real world, you can join writers’ and readers’ groups, volunteer to speak at libraries or bookstores, and send media releases to every media organisation you can think of. Rinse and repeat. Forever.
Tell us about your first fiction novel.
Beyond Home is my first novel. It’s about a woman who tries to find out about her father’s revolutionary past in Burma, and discovers a family she never knew she had. It’s also about people in servitude to drugs, husbands, lovers, dictators or themselves. It’s about finding your own strength in dangerous circumstances and realising that you can survive. It’s a wild ride through the jungles of Burma and the strange world of dictators wearing pink Chinese slippers.

The story and characters are fictional but the seed for the idea germinated from the fact that my father was born in Rangoon (the descendant of a British Baptist missionary). He and his five sisters were brought up in Rangoon in the foothills of the Himalayas. He spent his early life there before the nationwide strikes tore the country apart and the family decided to go to England. It was only a few years later that Japan occupied Burma. By that time he was in boarding school in England.

I created a ‘what if’ scenario around this. What if my father had had another life I didn’t know about? The character of Eve is some parts me but is mostly fictional. I think as a writer you put something of yourself into at least one character and possibly more. I wanted to watch her journey from being an anxious deserted wife with not much purpose in life, to someone who finds her strength in the face of terror.

One day, I’ll write my father’s real story.
Did you have the basis for the plot when you started or did this develop as the story progressed?
I had a basic plot and some idea of the characters and setting I wanted for the story. However, the characters developed and grew in number, the setting evolved and the story changed direction as I was writing. It is a very evolutionary process.
What are you working on next?
I’ve completed my second novel. It’s set in Perth in the midst of a mining boom where money talks and the houses are big. Kim has grown up on the banks of the Swan River, her Chinese ancestry dating back four generations to the first Chinese gold prospectors in Western Australia. When her father's urban farm begins to die, Kim engages an Afghan refugee, Ara, to work with her to rebuild it.

I’m also working on a collaborative project with an artist friend. We are creating an illustrated journal as a gift for lovers of all things Parisienne. It’s a visual commentary of our impressions of contemporary Paris. Every aspect of Paris imbibes the mind, body and soul with cultural diversity, artistic heritage, ancient structures, and gastronomic delights. For us, it is a journey into marking a place with our own pen and brush using all the senses. I anticipate that the book will be available in 2016.

There are several other ideas in the pipeline.
Published 2015-11-29.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Top 10 Tips for Publishing Your Book: Before, During and After the Writing Process
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 2,540. Language: English. Published: November 29, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Publishing » Self-publishing, Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Publishing business
As an indie author and someone with more than 20 years in the publishing industry in Australia and internationally, Robin Bower takes aspiring authors through the main steps of publishing a book, shows the differences between commercial publishing and self-publishing, and looks at the financial aspects — how much it costs and how much you can make. All in a 15-minute read!