Robert Winter author of September, Every Breath You Take and Lying Eyes joins PirateQueenRdz to talk writing and what it means to him.
Thank you, Robert, for joining today! This was a great interview, the best ones are always those that leave the reader wanting to know more.
Lying Eyes is Robert’s most recent release, read a little about it below!
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
The one that comes to mind is to Oxford, in England. I was a huge fan of both The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis when I was young. Lewis and Tolkien were friends at Oxford, and both were members of a group called The Inklings. They used to meet at The Eagle and Child pub in Oxford. Going there was an amazing experience that made me feel close to both writers.
What are common traps for aspiring writers, or any writer?
Believing that you can be your own editor. When you produce a novel, it’s very easy to think that, as the writer, you are best positioned to judge the story. After all, you are the only one who knows the tale you want to tell. The problem is that ego inevitably produces blind spots. You can’t see the omissions or logical gaps because, in your mind, the connections are clear. Beta readers are helpful, but since they tend to be friends they may not be willing to identify flaws that might hurt your feelings. It takes an objective, hopefully professional, editor to point out flaws, weaknesses or downright inconsistencies.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Fear of unintentional plagiarism can paralyze me. All writers read voraciously, and the words and ideas inevitably are stored in our subconscious. Every time I have what I think is a good plot or a clever way of phrasing something, I worry that I have remembered something rather than created it. The self-doubt can keep me from writing for days at a time. Sometimes I stop what I’m doing to go back and reread works that I might have aped. Rationally, I know that we all work with a finite set of words and within a range of tropes – vampire, werewolf, May-December, GFY, enemies to lovers and so on – and therefore some similarity is inevitable. As long as I can convince myself I’ve done my level best to tell a unique story, I can work myself out of the crippling fear.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym (or do you already)?
I thought about writing my MM romances under a pseudonym but then I decided that implied I was somehow ashamed of them so I publish under my own name. I’m retired from my law career so I don’t have to worry about professional repercussions, and my family is generally supportive. I have ideas for other types of books, particularly a Young Adult series, and if I pursue those I probably would use a pseudonym as a way to keep my audiences distinct. I don’t think I’d want a 13-year old to pick up Lying Eyes and learn about rope play!
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
It’s some combination. I do want to be original, but I also want to be read. That means keeping an eye on the top sellers in Amazon for various tropes that do well and considering whether I have a story that might fit in a niche. It also means acknowledging that readers have expectations and not being so wed to my own writing that I alienate an audience. For example, in Lying Eyes I originally had my main character Randy meet another character, Danny, before he met the love interest. An editor pointed out to me that many readers would latch on to Danny as the end game because they met him first, and would then resent my intended romantic pairing. I thought that was valid so even though I liked the story structure I started with, I changed it to acknowledge that readers have legitimate expectations.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Starting with my trip to GRL 2016 in Kansas City, I’ve met a number of writers who have become friends and mentors. Leta Blake and Keira Andrews, in particular, have been terrific with their advice, both in terms of story content and the logistics of self-publishing. B.G. Thomas and Brandon Witt have been good sounding boards and they’re both kind men as well. Pat Henshaw, Rick Reed, Devon McCormack, Amy Lane … I’ve really been lucky to meet these great people who genuinely want to help a new writer succeed. I can’t wait for GRL 2017 to connect with even more writers.
If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
Write every day. I heard this advice when I was younger but I never developed the habit that I should have. Storytelling is a talent but writing is a craft. I wish that I had made myself sit down and write at least one page of something every day, even if it was nonsense and would never see the light. Sentence structure, syntax, composition, balance, momentum … all of these are vital and have to be developed with practice. I’ve grown a lot as a writer in the last few years since I began to write my first MM romance, but I think I would be much better if I had started earlier.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
When a book first comes out, I skim the reviews on blogs, Amazon and Goodreads to see if the reaction is generally favorable or not. After that, I keep an eye on the overall summary ratings but I don’t usually read the actual reviews. Instead, I ask a friend to read them and let me know if there is any recurring trend or theme – either positive or negative – that I can take note of and use in future writing.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Spoiler alert. In September, I wrote a scene where Brandon has his leg amputated. That scene gutted me. Of course I fall in love with my own characters so it was painful to do something so awful to one of them. But I had laid the groundwork. I mention early on that Brandon, a physical therapist, worked with someone hurt badly riding a bicycle, then I mention he starts riding his bike more as the weather gets hotter, and then after his hit-and-run accident I introduced the risk of amputation and his devastation at the possibility. I didn’t want to cheat myself or my readers by having his leg recover miraculously. Still, it killed me when I wrote the scene where his doctor tells him that they can’t save his leg.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
When I get going, it takes me about six weeks to produce a complete first draft of an 80,000 word novel. After that, I spend two to three months on revisions before I get to the point of showing it to anyone else. By the time I go through professional editors and proofreading, it’s typically been six months overall.
ABOUT ROBERT WINTER
Robert Winter lives and writes in Provincetown. He is a recovering lawyer who prefers writing about hot men in love much more than drafting a legal brief. He left behind the (allegedly) glamorous world of an international law firm to sit in his home office and dream up ways to torment his characters until they realize they are perfect for each other. When he isn’t writing, Robert likes to cook Indian food and explore new restaurants. He splits his attention between Andy, his partner of sixteen years, and Ling the Adventure Cat, who likes to fly in airplanes and explore the backyard jungle as long as the temperature and humidity are just right.
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS
Contact Robert at the following links:
Review quotes and links:
“Robert Winter is now an auto-buy author for me. Spectacular writing!!!” Amazon reviewer
“There are pulse-racing action scenes to go along with the intrigue and building romance, and an ending that goes above and beyond to supply gratification to the reader, as well as to the characters.”
It’s About the Book
Bayou Book Junkies
“Robert Winter has definitely made it onto my favorite author list. This is his third book, and they just keep getting better!”
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words