Interview with Tim Rolston

Published 2014-12-09.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I don't remember the first story I ever wrote, but I do remember the first "book" that I published at Smashwords. It was "How to Build your own Fly Fishing Lanyard. It was an experiment to see if my limited computer skills could create a book using the Smashwords system and remarkably it was a success. A free book it has been downloaded around 8000 times since being published.
What is your writing process?
Oh my goodness, I wish I had a "writing process". The writing seems to be the easy bit, I focus on subject matter of which I have a great deal of knowledge and experience so that isn't a problem. I taught myself to touch type so that speeds it up as well. The work comes with all the graphic and video content that I add to my books. That is where the time is taken up and having started on that format I think that readers expect and deserve the same. The decision to use a multimedia approach to my books has proven to be a good one, but one which requires an inordinate amount more effort than just adding text to a page. Actually I think that I manage to achieve something with Smashwords books which very few others have. Being primarily educational in nature many of the books contain a high graphic content as well as external video clip links. That is one of the wonderful things about Smashwords, a few other outlets which I looked at don't accommodate any level of graphic content..
How do you approach cover design?
I think that I was fortunate here. Because of the graphic content of the book and the need to learn how to produce that it was relatively easy to come up with a cover design. Plus I actually enjoy the graphics part of the process as much as the writing. One thing that I did decide upon was to create a "Format" for my fly tying books so that the covers look essentially similar in the hope that one day there will be a "series" of titles, all of which should be instantly recognisable to my readers. The "series" is currently only two books but I think that the theme idea is probably a good one and creates some sort of branding to the covers.
What do you read for pleasure?
I am an inveterate reader and would read the list of vitamins on the cereal box if there was nothing else available. That said I particularly enjoy Science and Nature books such as "The Blind Watchmaker" by Richard Dawkins. I like crime fiction, current favourites include, Michael Connelly and newly discovered for me Carl Hiaasen. Plus of course I love Fly Fishing books of all types, Ed Engle's "Tying Small Flies", Tom Sutcliffe's "My Way with a Trout" and numerous others. Probably my favourite writer of all time is Bill Bryson, he seems to be able to enthrall and make complex concepts available to the common man. So "A Short History of Almost Everything" is a tome that I have read more than once and "A Dictionary of Troublesome Words" is probably required reading for anyone planning on writing something. And then finally my favourite books of all time would be "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" from Douglas Adams, with it's quasi scientific prose and exceptional and irreverent humour and "The Lord of the Rings" by Tolkien.
Describe your desk
It's a mess,it consists of a hollow core door on two trestles, adorned with two computers, a printer, piles of CD's, notepads, pens, a rarely touched "to be filed" intray, books lying about, unpaid bills and frequently the remainder of lunch sitting on a plate somewhere. Let's not talk about the desk.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in relatively rural Cornwall in the South of England, most of my family still live there. Probably the biggest influence is simply that I spent my youth outdoors. Fishing, surfing, wandering the countryside and the beaches, contributed to my fascination with the natural world and with fishing in particular. To date all of my own books have been fly fishing related. Up until very recently I wrote a regular newspaper column focused on the natural world and getting out and about in nature. I think that love of nature stems from my childhood and today I still do what I can to encourage people to get out of the urban lifestyle and enjoy the wonders of just being out there with the trees, the rivers, the mountains and all of that. I am actually not particularly comfortable in a seriously urban environment and far prefer sand and mud to concrete and stainless steel.
When did you first start writing?
Well I suppose we all started writing with those "What I did on the weekend" assignments at school, but I was never very good at writing or English for that matter. My poor spelling has always proven to be a troublesome inconvenience although I did do English Literature and English language as GCSE "O" level at high school. Around 1995 I decided to teach myself to touch type and that has greatly improved my love of writing. Now it seems that thoughts flow onto the page in a far more seamless way than when scribing with a pen or using the "hunt and peck" four finger method. My first published book was "Learn to Fly-Cast in a Weekend" which has proven to be quite successful. That was originally published in paperback by Struik, now Random House Struik. The book is currently only available as a eBook, and thankfully I discovered Smashwords in time to convert the text to that format before all of the printed copies ran out. I find it particularly pleasing that Smashwords makes that book and others available to a world wide audience, something virtually impossible to achieve with a local publisher printing books.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book "Guide Flies" is an extension of a previous publication. I work, at least part of the time as a Fishing Guide and the book aims to provide readers with a series of simple, durable and effective fly patterns which anyone can learn to manufacture. Guides have slightly different requirements for their flies compared to the purely social angler. It doesn't pay us to spend hours fashioning a close copy imitation of some insect only to have the wayward cast of a less than proficient client consign our lovingly fashioned creation to the bank side herbage. So this book is a pragmatic guide to creating effective fishing flies in short order. It isn't just a "how to" book though. I wanted it to include elements of on stream experience, stories of success and failure and some information related to how these fly patterns have evolved over time. I think that I succeeded in achieving that.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Now that is a simple question to answer. Firstly I have grown to love writing and secondly having published a printed book with a known publishing house I discovered first hand the lack of effort the publishers put into promotion. The complete lack of understanding of anything outside of the mainstream and the pathetic remuneration that the average published author receives from traditional publishing. With Indie publishing I can, at least potentially, reach a world wide audience, there isn't a major requirement in terms of up front financial investment, I get to keep a far far higher portion of the sale price of the book, which means I can offer books at a more affordable price point, I can update to suit changing circumstances (or even a latterly discovered typing error). Plus, as something of an environmentalist I like the idea that eBook publishing doesn't require the excessive burning of fossil fuels to distribute heavy tomes or the chopping down of trees from which to fashion the pages.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
As I have mentioned before I am not the world's leading light when it comes to computers. I was born too early to receive a computer based education and too late to be able to avoid the advance of the technology. But with my own experimentation and with Smashwords providing a platform and quality instruction of how to go about it I think that I have achieved some level of success. Without Smashwords it would have been impossible for me to even dream about "reaching the world" with my writing and although I lack advanced computer skills if I simply follow the instructions and go through the "Style Guide" I am able to come up with something that looks pretty much like a polished book. There is no way that the average Indie Author, would be able to get a listing on Barnes and Nobel, or to create books in ePub, pdf, Mobi and other formats on their own. I have, I think, managed to get Smashwords to accommodate things that even they didn't think possible, particularly with the external hyperlinks and graphic content in most of my publications. What I write and the way that I write is rather different to the normal novel, but with Smashwords I have still managed to get it to work, to publish books which are available to anyone at reasonable cost and unlike traditional publications I do at least get to receive some return on the investment of all that time. Thank you for providing that opportunity.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy, other than the simple pleasure of writing down one's thoughts, is to receive a review or even a personal email from a reader in a distant land to say "thanks I really enjoyed that book". I get a huge rush out of the idea that I can, on occasion, provide something useful and enjoyable to a person half way around the globe. Someone I have never met or am likely to meet. I love to imagine that I can, sitting here at my cluttered desk, actually perhaps enhance another person's life experience. To me that is technology at its best.
What are you working on next?
Next I have an idea of writing something about "The mathematical elements of fly fishing". I have written a number of articles on my blog at about the scientific and mathematical elements of fishing. In a field where much is conjecture, opinion and downright obfuscation it is interesting to me that there are measurable, scientifically sound and reproducible elements that potentially aid in understanding what is really going on. The properties of water and the diffraction of light, the momentum of the cast and effects of mass, velocity and acceleration on leader design. The only problem is that I am not that good at maths, but it probably won't stop me if I decide it is something I want to do.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The natural world inspires me, the perfection of a honeycomb, the beauty of a flower's design, the view from a mountain top and ostentatious livery of a Paradise Flycatcher. I don't get too excited about man made things, but whenever I am out in nature, simply hiking, or perhaps fishing, something always happens to take one's breath away. The sight of an otter on the beach, or gulls feasting on hatching termites. The wonder of watching a dragonfly escape from its nymphal shuck or a mayfly desperately seek out a partner in a mad rush to procreate before it all too suddenly runs out of energy. I find nature endlessly fascinating and if I stay in bed I am going to miss it.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading, fishing, hiking, building, gardening, drawing and thinking, not necessarily in that order.
What would you consider the "style" of the book you write?
Right now I am focused on what I would consider to be educational books. I got a bit stuck because my first book (after offering the publishers a number of suggested titles) was a "How to" type book and I haven't really escaped from that genre. I like to think that at the same time they are entertaining and perhaps even a tad amusing but for the most part what I write currently would be mostly deemed as "educational". It is actually I think quite a difficult way to write as one has to consider various potential readers and their own abilities and understanding of things. So for example one needs to guess what would happen if the reader was left handed, or if they didn't understand particular nomenclature or jargon and it takes quite some effort to consider if further explanation is called for. Certainly including a multimedia approach and being able to include external video links and built in graphics as well as text I think helps to insure that the experience is worthwhile to all the readers irrespective of their abilities.
What would you tell anyone starting out as an indie author with Smashwords?
I think that perhaps the hardest part is to accept that it really is a long process. Not so much the writing, most people will have already written something before they decide to publish. But one imagines that the moment the book appears one will be "discovered". One really has to keep at it and I certainly haven't yet experienced the success that I believe I can. But it takes time and it takes effort. There is so much "noise" out there these days that it is difficult to stand out, people (that is your readers) are busy, That said, Smashwords does make it easy and I am always very appreciative of the opportunity that Smashwords has offered me.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

Books by This Author

Guide Flies: Simple, Durable Flies that Catch Fish.
Price: $14.99 USD. Words: 30,790. Language: English. Published: December 4, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Fishing
What flies do the professionals go to when the chips are down? In Guide flies, Tim Rolston, international competitive angler, national fly fishing team coach, guide and author provides all the information you need to manufacture your own highly effective fly patterns. Illustrated with superb graphics, external video content and a splash of humour.
An AFTMA fairy tale.
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 16,920. Language: English. Published: May 4, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Fishing, Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Essays
A collection of fly-fishing related stories based on the most popular posts from "The Fishing Gene" blog, revised and updated into a more convenient reading format. Information on fly tying, fictional tales of fly-fishing and thoughts on subjects ranging from why fish are so smart to the perennial question of "What about the Hook?". A light hearted romp through a wide variety of subjects.
Essential Fly Tying Techniques
Price: $12.99 USD. Words: 25,650. Language: English. Published: March 17, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Fishing, Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Sports coaching
(5.00 from 7 reviews)
A downloadable version of the totally innovative "Essential Fly Tying Techniques" book sold on disc. The book provides all the key techniques for tying myriad fly patterns. Includes over 80 full colour detailed graphics, links to 35 video clips of techniques and complete flies as well as the tying instructions for 14 killer patterns.
Learn to Fly-Cast in a Weekend
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 30,760. Language: English. Published: February 14, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Fishing, Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Sports coaching
(4.50 from 4 reviews)
A guide to understanding how fly casting really works and sixteen innnovative exercises to take you from your first tentative steps to mastery of the double haul. The print version of this book has sold over 2500 copies and assisted thousands of anglers to finally master their casting and improve their enjoyment of their fishing. Now updated and available as an eBook.
100 Fly Fishing Tips, Tricks and Techniques
Price: $6.99 USD. Words: 21,050. Language: English. Published: December 6, 2010. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Fishing
(4.60 from 5 reviews)
Over one hundred useful and thought provoking ways of improving the way your rig your fly fishing gear. Information on sharpening hooks, modifying tackle and fly lines and much more. Mostly learned in the crucible of high end competative fly fishing. Filled with useful tips for beginner and expert alike and illustrated with dozens of clear diagrams and graphics
Who Packed Your Parachute?
Price: Free! Words: 4,330. Language: English. Published: June 23, 2010. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Fishing
(5.00 from 1 review)
NOW REVISED AND UPDATED: How to tie better parachute dry flies. A short evaluation of new ways to tie better, faster, more imitative and durable parachute fly patterns. Tim Rolston takes a brief look at why parachute flies have traditionaly been fragile, why they are worth using and what steps you can take to make your flies better.
Build Your Own Flyfishing Lanyard
Price: Free! Words: 850. Language: English. Published: July 24, 2009. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Fishing
Lanyards offer a simple and effective alternative to zingers, those need little self retracting reels that hold all your gizmos.. Here is how to make your own.