Robert Downs the Author
Penchant for Vengeance 2018; The Convenient Escape 2017; LaCours Destiny 2016; Graceful Immortality 2015
- Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it?
I’ve always been fascinated with police procedurals, even though I had never written one before. I like challenging myself, so in this type of scenario, I often look at it as what’s the risk. If it’s no good, no one will ever read it but me. But I finished it, I sent it to my publisher, Black Opal Books, and they liked it, and here we are. I do believe I am growing and improving as a writer, and more than anything, I hope I show that with PENCHANT FOR VENGEANCE.
I grew up in a religious household, so there were themes in this novel that I wanted to explore, and that were important to me. It’s a bit of a departure from what I’ve written before, but I look at it as a good thing, not a bad one.
- How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?
I believe in John Grisham’s approach to research. I do as little of it as possible to sound believable and creditable. With that being said, I love to learn, and I am always learning random facts that I may, or may not, use in one of my books. I am like a sponge, and I constantly soak up the world around me, because I never know when I will discover some tidbit that will set my story off on a new course. When I discover one of these, my first thought is that’s fantastic. I can use that.
My process, and it’s not the process that will work for every writer, is to write the story first, as fast and as furious as my fingers and brain can go. Over the course of this process, I’ll discover where I get stuck, and therefore what I need to learn more about. Once in a while, I’ll surprise myself with what I do know, and sometimes I’ll bend the truth a little in order to make the story work. But either way, I don’t want to spend more time doing research than is absolutely necessary, because I get more joy from writing than I do from research.
- How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?
I’ve been rejected so many times I’ve lost count. Stephen King used to nail his rejection letters on a wall, and the story goes that he had to get bigger and bigger nails to hold up his increasing number of letters. Rough guess is I’m hovering close to 1,000 myself, but that’s over the course of seventeen years of writing, and making every mistake you can imagine, like trying to publish books before the story was ready for an audience. I’ve also discovered that as a writer you never stop being rejected, so I just take it as another part of the process. It’s much easier to say no than it is to say yes, because yes requires some action from the other party. I also have this personality quirk where I can take the energy from negativity, and turn it into a positive that works for me. I have no idea where this particular gift came from, but it’s absolutely fantastic.
- Did you need to self-publish on e-books before a publisher took you up?
I did not. As writers, we shouldn’t compare our writing path to anyone else’s, because this can sometimes be a losing proposition. My journey has been to gradually build my writing career over time, and I have worked with some wonderful small presses thus far. If we’re being completely honest, some have been a bit more wonderful than others, but all have taught me valuable lessons about publishing that I will take with me for the rest of my life. That’s valuable, and when value is bestowed upon me, I consider myself lucky.
- Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?
I’m gonna steal from my previous answers a bit, but I’ll try to do it with a slightly different spin. I would say writers need to look to carve out their own path, and not worry about what someone else has done. It ultimately depends on your goals as a writer, and how much control he or she wants to have throughout the writing process. Self-publishing gives you a whole lot of control, but you have to use that power wisely, otherwise it can end up wasted, or it might even blow up in your face.
When you’re starting out as a writer, the best thing you can do is write. After you’ve been doing this a few years and possibly published a few novels, the best thing you can do is write. That particular aspect never changes. Think of it like practice. You have to continue to show up and put in the work. If self-publishing is what gets you to write, and you use that platform to grow and improve as a writer, learn from your mistakes (most beginning writers make mistakes), and build your audience through marketing, hard work, and more writing, I don’t think anyone can fault you for doing that. It can be a great process if you use it right. I understand it as a process, but it just wasn’t the right process for me.
- Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened?
That’s gotta be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard, and it’s also one of the biggest myths about being a writer. Readers assume we’re all driving around in Porsches, and we have two or three homes, one of which is somewhere like Florida, Nantucket, or California. But we all can’t be Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell, John Grisham, James Patterson, or Harlan Coben. Let me dispel this myth completely right now. The average writer makes $7,000 a year. If you can live on $7K a year, then I have to say you are a much better person than I am.
If that ever happens, I will certainly let you know. But I’m not gonna hold my breath on it ever happening, and I am not gonna build my retirement plan around such a farfetched scenario.
- Which author had the most influence on your writing? Your writing style? Your writing genre?
There are many writers who have influenced me over the years, and I feel like I discover more every day, since I am a reader first and a writer second. But I will go with the late Robert B. Parker and his Spenser novels. Spenser was a smartaleck, and Parker wrote some fantastic dialogue, and I adored the stories very much. Whenever he and Hawk busted a few heads, I was ready to stand up and cheer.
- In your opinion who is the funniest author now writing?
Again, there are many writers I could place here, and all have a fantastic sense of humor, but my answer for today is Dave Barry. He comes up with fantastic characters and places them in the midst of fantastic situations, and he is just such a joy to read. I believe a lot of humor can be found in the extremes, and he utilizes this particular theory to a fine art. If you ever need a good laugh, I don’t think you can go wrong with Dave Barry. I know I sure haven’t.
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