I recently read an interview with Robert Shaw and thought it was fascinating, because it really goes into the process of how an author creates a work. Please, spend some time with this. Whether you’re an author or a reader, I’m sure you’ll find it interesting. Thanks, Robert!
1. What can you tell us about the novels you’ve written?
So far I’ve written two books that are as opposite as day and night. Girlfriend Trouble is an uplifting positive story about young people overcoming stereotypes and bullying, The Scare is a dark, edgy and sometimes brutal horror tale-a different take on the zombie genre. To use a movie business analogy I suppose you could say one is Disney the other Dimension Films.
2. What kind of genres and types of things do you enjoy writing about?
I doubt I’d ever write another book like Girlfriend Trouble. Not because I no longer enjoy that genre, but because I’ve probably only got one more story like that in me and I don’t think I’d have the energy to write it based on the lack of enthusiasm Girlfriend Trouble seems to have been met with. Horror stories are much easier for me to be knee deep in anyway. When writing The Scare I sometimes felt like I was channeling the words from some mystical plane. Girlfriend Trouble was a bit more of a struggle. I know I’ll enjoy writing more horror and action adventure. I’m currently working on a sci-fi western that’s a cross between The Missing and Aliens.
3. When writing, do you like to be formal and casual or edgy and gripping?
I like to overwrite, so I guess I fit into the casual category although The Scare is very edgy and gripping. So where does that put me? However anyone else might label my style and technique, when I sit down to write I just pour out whatever comes naturally and sort out the mess in rewrites. I usually do my first drafts longhand because things just seem to flow more easily for me at that stage. I’ll occasionally hit a fallow period or a time when I feel like I’m terrible (doesn’t every writer?) but I don’t let it stop me (for long) and I like to think that everything has come out well when I finally read the book.
4. How has your work and career outside of being an author helped you in your writing?
Most jobs I’ve had were boring and laborious so writing was a wonderful escape for me. It helps a great deal to want to get away from the world and jump into a story. I do it when I read and also when I write. But I couldn’t say that anything I’ve done in my career has really helped my writing. When I was at DreamWorks Studios seeing the deals writers were getting, it maybe inspired me a little, but mostly it just frustrated me that even being right there on the ground at Spielberg’s Amblin’ compound I still couldn’t break into the game and start getting paid what I like to call “silly money.” Because believe me, the amounts these writers were getting paid was silly.
5. How do you perceive the writing and publishing world compared to the movie and film industry?
They’re exactly the same. I’ve worked in Business & Legal Affairs at some major Hollywood studios and saw deals being made. Studios are looking for anything that’s already branded or well known in the world so they can minimize the marketing they need to do to build awareness. If you’re pitching something to a studio it had better have five installments because everyone wants a franchise. Nobody wants to gamble on an unknown or a single story. Disney said it first when they decided they were no longer going to make small “one-off” family movies. They want a series they can sell again and again. How much marketing do you need when all you have to say is “it’s the best Shrek ever”? Not much. The publishing world is the same. I doubt there’s even a slush pile anymore because the big houses no longer accept unsolicited (heck, did they ever?). Nowadays editors are “tracking” the self-published indie authors and swooping on those that make something of themselves. Amanda Hocking is a perfect example of this. I’m not knocking it. It makes sense from a business perspective and it’s a business after all. I just hope I make something of myself and get “tracked!”
6. What do you think makes for a good quality Horror story?
I think it depends on the type of horror story you want to tell. Slasher gore works great for a story featuring a Freddy or a Jason type character or a revenge from the grave theme. But the understated, oppressive, bad dream-like creepiness of The Ring probably scared me more than anything since I saw The Exorcist as a kid. But above any of the “tools” of horror, I think the most important element, and this can be said for any type of story, is the characters. If you create characters that readers can relate to and care about and worry for, you’ve done the biggest part of your job. I like to believe that I got all of the above mixed together in a nice blend for The Scare, but I guess readers will be the ultimate judges.
7. What’s a classic book and/or movie you wish you could re-make and give your own creative spin to?
I’d like to do Gaslight and make the woman a modern, takes no shit from anyone kick ass girl who solves the mystery and saves herself rather than being saved by some dude. Or Dickens’ Oliver Twist with a girl named Olivia – I’d call it Olivia with a Twist and again, she’d be the hero of her own story. I like strong, capable female lead characters, anyone who reads my current two books will see that. The western I’m doing now features a woman who could be Dirty Harry and Ripley combined. I’m sorry I use a lot of movie analogies — I guess I struggled in vain in Hollywood for just a little too long!
8. What has promoting your works been like so far?
It’s harder than writing the books. And that’s hard enough! I’m not a big fan of social media, but it does help in promoting my books. However I sometimes find that I spend too much time on FaceBook, Twitter and other sites promoting and not enough time writing.
9. When writing, what aspects of the book do you tend to focus on most, characters, plot, setting, etc?
Definitely characters. I try to create people I’d like to have as friends, or in the case of the woman in my latest story, someone I could fall in love with for her strength and resolve. When I was writing The Scare, if I took a long break from it I would start to miss my group of main characters – the teens who are the heroes of the story. I’d feel as if good friends had gone out of my life. I’m not saying plot and setting take a back seat, they’re extremely integral of course, and in The Scare I feel that the setting was as much a character in the story as any of the actual characters. The story and its elements are all one tapestry after all.
10. What can you tell us about your upcoming third novel?
Apart from the things I’ve already said above, it’s not going to feature any technology despite the sci-fi aspect. There are no space ships or laser guns. And it’s thunderously violent.
The Scare on Kindle: http://amzn.to/RoVw3N
Girlfriend Trouble on Kindle: http://amzn.to/ThdhSh
Robert Shaw’s Author Page on Amazon: http://amzn.to/Tlf0F7