Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Creative Edge Author Interview – Robert P. French

December 9, 2021
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1.       How did you start as a writer?

When I was about 23, I wrote a book of horror stories which I typed on an old Underwood typewriter. At the time I didn’t have the faintest idea about publishing, so I put them in a file folder which, by the way, I still have.

Many years later, I was Chief Technology Officer at a company into which I had poured my heart and soul. The company didn’t make it through the high-tech meltdown of 2003, so I did what all techies do in such a situation: I started looking for consulting projects. After a long day of phone calls, I opened a WORD document and started writing a post-apocalyptic novel that had been sitting in the back of my mind for a while. I wrote non-stop until something like three in the morning. For me it was my heroin; I was hooked.

I kept writing most days but at about 40,000 words, I ran out of steam. I put the book to one side and tried writing another novel about a man, so totally bored with his life, that he seeks excitement by becoming an assassin. This too petered out. Finally, I completed a 115,000-word business thriller about a high-tech entrepreneur who gets scammed by a venture capitalist and then gets his revenge by scamming the scammers. I gave it the awful title, Vengeance Dot Com. This was before the days when agents and publishers would accept emailed submissions, so I mailed out over a hundred copies of the book… and watched as the seventy-plus rejection letters trickled in.

At the time, I had heard about the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, which is in a suburb of Vancouver and is, I believe, one of the largest writers’ conferences in North America. I went there with the idea that I would just learn all about how to write a winning synopsis of the book and about how to submit it to agents. Then they would see what a wonderful book it was… right?

The first session I attended was on the craft of writing and I was horrified to learn that there were  some things I was doing wrong, disastrously wrong, in fact. Who’d have thought it? I immediately changed my focus from sessions on marketing to sessions on the craft of writing. In one of these sessions, I met Lisa Rector-Maass, an editor from New York. I engaged her to do a review of the book. I got back a superb thirty-seven-page critique and realized that it was a non-starter. No amount of editing was ever going to save that book.

At the time, I had a project where I was managing software development for a company whose offices were in the downtown east side of Vancouver, which is a poorer part of the city where lots of drug deals happen. Every day, on my way to my client’s office, I would carefully avoid stepping on discarded needles. I used to pass the entrance to an alley that was filled with addicts who were sleeping, shouting out, shooting up, drinking coffee, eating fast food, and buying and selling drugs. To be honest, it kind of freaked me out. I remember thinking how awful it be to wake up and find yourself in that alley. I started to obsess over the idea and mentioned it to Lisa. She asked me some questions that just got everything flowing in my mind and the first Cal Rogan book was born. Lisa mentored me through Junkie and the second book Oboe and she was my editor for both books. I credit her for most of what I have learned about the craft of writing.

2.       Did you have a clear idea of the genre you wanted to write or did the story dictate that?

No. I love science fiction and thought that maybe I could write a sci-fi novel. But once Cal Rogan came into my life, I had found my genre.

3.       Why did you choose thriller crime fiction?

It was where Cal took me.

4.       Where did the character of Cal Rogan come from?

I was answering Lisa’s question of who it might be waking up in that terrifying alley. I thought about a lawyer, a doctor or a cop. I liked the irony of a cop, who had probably arrested his fair share of addicts, waking up there. Her follow-up question of ‘why was he there?’ was immediately answered, ‘Because he’s now an addict himself.’ Thus was Cal born.

5.       Do you feel your character has grown in each book?

Oh yes. He still fights with his demons but he works so hard to stay drug-free. Book by book, he rebuilds his life, often in the face of people or events that could send him back into the downward spiral of addiction.

6.       Is writing a series easier or harder than a standalone?

Much easier, I think. I have a cast of characters who have grown over the writing of the books and I love them all. Their words and actions just leap onto the page. I work on the plot and the characters write the rest. 🙂

7.       You cover tough social issues within your narratives. Was this a conscious decision?

I didn’t set out to make social commentary. As I was researching drug addiction, I was faced with the question of whether legalizing drugs (all drugs, not just marijuana) would be a good or bad idea. I don’t want to write preachy books so I allow my characters a few moments to argue the issue here and there. They are coming around to my way of thinking. I am a firm believer that legalization with control, just like with alcohol and tobacco, is a far better way to go for everyone in society and I feel that I can defend that position pretty well. I also like my characters to explore moral or philosophical questions like when is it morally correct to kill someone? Do we have free will? Is incest ever OK?

8.       Is there a subject you will not cover?

No. The only thing I don’t do is write explicit sex scenes. My readers’ imaginations are much better at filling in the blanks than I could ever be. In the same vein, I don’t give long descriptions of a character’s physical appearance. For example, I don’t think I have ever mentioned the colour of Cal’s eyes. I think it’s way more fun for readers to see the characters the way they want.

9.       How do you structure your writing schedule?

Prior to covid, every day I would drop my son at school and go to the Vancouver Public Library to write. For the last year and a half, I have been homeschooling him and writing on the weekends and, for an hour or two, here and there, during the week. Covid has not helped my productivity.

10.   Can you tell us about the latest book in the series?

The seventh, and latest book in the series is called Jailed. After some harrowing experiences in the previous book, Captive, Cal quit the PI business and went to teach Shakespeare at Simon Fraser University. A student approaches him and begs him to help exonerate her brother who has been falsely convicted of murder. After reluctantly visiting the brother in the Kent Institution, one of Canada’s grimmest jails, Cal is convinced of his innocence and sets out to find the real killer with unexpected results and some disastrous consequences.

11.   Do you have a current manuscript you are working on?

Always. I haven’t finalized a title and I’m not sure where it’s going yet, but the starting point is that a woman is found wandering in the downtown east side of Vancouver. She is obviously wealthy and she claims to have lost her memory. As Cal investigates, he discovers that she bears a remarkable resemblance to someone who has been accused of orchestrating a multi-billion dollar fraud. As an aside, the fraud is based on a real case.

12.   Would you consider writing another genre? Why or why not?

I have often thought of writing science fiction but I just don’t think I’d be that good at it. However, Cal Rogan has a daughter, Ellie, who is now twelve. I have started working on a series set in 2040, where she is a detective. It definitely won’t be science fiction but will describe a world that I see as a logical extension of where we are today.

13.   Which genre do you enjoy reading?

I love crime fiction, psychological thrillers, espionage, and science fiction. For non-fiction, I tend towards science and philosophy.

14.   How can readers find you and your books?

The best place is at my website

Robert French is a software developer, turned actor, turned author. He is the writer of the seven (so far)
Cal Rogan Mysteries crime-thrillers about a drug-addicted ex-cop who fights his way from living rough
on the streets to being a much-sought-after PI. The series, set in Vancouver, Canada, reflects the best
and worst of the city. He is passionate about having the right words on the page and with every new
book, his goal is to make it better than the previous one.
His loves are his family, science, language, certain elements of philosophy and craft beer.

Bibliophile’s Collective Tuesday – A Special TV Interview with BLive Media

November 30, 2021
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I was delighted to be interviewed on Writers Corner Live TV Show on Sunday. It was an early start 7 am so if you missed it (you were probably sleeping!) here it is. https://www.facebook.com/WritersCornerLive/videos/445917263722961

I talked about Life in Slake Patch and it’s long history from initial draft through multiple revisions to it’s final publishing date and the redesign of the front cover. We discussed my writing journey and how I create my stories.

If you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comment section here. I’m always happy to connect and chat.

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – Plunging into NaNaWriMo Again!

November 4, 2021
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Once again it is that time of year when many writers immerse themselves into a frantic month of writing. National Novel Writing Month gives writers the opportunity to begin, or indeed finish a writing project. Taking part is a challenge, it certainly motivates and is a great experience in writing to a deadline. This banner says it all.

My project this year is book two of The Delphic Murders, my detective trilogy. The title is A Tainted Search. Unfortunately, I managed to delete last year’s project, book one, The Elusive Trail, when I changed the date by mistake. Although, it does show as a goal. Onward and upward as they say. That manuscript has already gone through several revisions and edits.

Personally, I have found NaNoWriMo to be useful for my writing, as stated in the illustrated banner, but also as the vehicle to meet other writers around the globe. We are all experiencing this challenge in different ways, with varying success, but in a uniquely linked way through the portal. It is also a personal challenge and one we can learn from in regard to our writing technique and commitment. Having such a shared experience and the ability to communicate while doing it makes it a fun project, although anxiety inducing as we watch the word counter.

Are you entering the challenge this year? I’m happy to be a buddy – my user name is MandyB

Please share your project so we can encourage and support each other.

Wordsmith’s Collective Thursday – What About Those New Year’s Goals? How are you doing?

October 28, 2021
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At the start of each year, some of us decide on goals for the year. These range from the most common ones, such as weight loss, fitness, and stopping smoking, the ‘healthy ones’ in other words. But, what of the other goals, the practical ones, so to speak? For authors this would be improving our brand, more sales, promotional opportunities, presentations or speaking engagements and more. As writers, we want to increase our word count, the number of projects completed, or receiving publicity or publishing deals.

Obviously, many of these goals go by the wayside pretty quickly, while others make it to mid-year, or possibly later. The question that arises is – why make goals in the first place? Are we swept along with the possibilities of a fresh start? Do we think we can achieve them, and stay committed to our self-inflicted goals? The excitement of a whole new year ahead of us is a powerful momentum for change. I think that is the key to our initial thinking, when it comes to annual goal making.

As we all know that momentum gets harder to maintain as the months roll by. We get off-track.

There are time constraints, health issues, family matters, work events, vacations, seasonal holidays – the list goes on. Each scenario affects how we feel, our ‘free’ time, and what we are able to accomplish. There is always some ‘distraction’ pulling us away from that initial elation of new year possibilities.

So, what is the answer? This is a difficult question to answer, as we are all experiencing life in a multitude of ways. No one person is the same as another. I think the first step is to be totally honest with yourself, when it comes to setting goals in the first place. Too many goals, too loftier a goal and the ‘good grief’ goals should be shelved before they even get ‘out the box’.

Making a goal is a very personal thing. You need to look at what your time will allow and also your personality trait. Do you have a week to week, or month to month planner or do you hope for the best? Or something in-between? Having too many goals sets you up for failure and that isn’t good for anyone.  Remember we don’t have to do ALL the goals in one year – pace yourself. Put the most ‘important’ one first, then plan accordingly and stick to it. Put less pressure on yourself and accomplish one or two instead.

My goal board

You can even make a ‘goal’ under the umbrella of a wider spectrum, such as ‘improvement’, whether for your health or for your writing career. Many of you saw my 2021 goal board link – it is the best board I have made in many years and I don’t think I will be changing it very much for 2022. I have goals I want to reach in the next few years and the board reflects that for me.

Realistically, a goal can take longer than a year. Accept that and work towards it at your own pace. Time constraints and deadlines are not applicable here. We all ‘work’ at different paces, make that work for you.

How are your 2021 goals coming along?

Have you succeeded or are you on track?

Wordsmith Collective Thursday – An Author’s Reputation

October 21, 2021
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I was watching a documentary series on Netflix, Bad Sport, which looks at the underbelly and criminal side of sports. Greed is one of the main components of why ‘deals’ are done. In all of the cases, a person’s reputation is dragged into the gutter. Their honesty and integrity are forever questioned from that moment on, no matter where they go or what they do.

It got me thinking about how authors need to, not only guard their reputation, but also ensure they uphold a certain integrity for their work and their place within the writing collective. As authors, we have an obligation to be honest and transparent in our dealings with our readers and others in the writing community.

As many of you know, I am a staunch supporter of my writing group, the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County, of which I am the Secretary. I am also more than willing to encourage and assist other writers in their careers and I advocate for the writing community as a whole.

I have created a list of steps I adhere to to uphold and protect my reputation. I would hope other authors would take similar steps too. These guidelines will ensure we are providing the best content, but also the best support for fellow writers, the writing community at large and our readers, that we can.

  1. Behave professionally online and offline.
  2. NO plagiarism.
  3. Do not mislead readers about our books, their status or their content.
  4. Be respectful and courteous when dealing with readers, other authors, and all industry professionals. These include, but is not limited to, publishers, reviewers, publicists, agents, etc.
  5. I will not air grievances, complaints or engage in public attacks on someone, either online, in person or to the press. Instead I will seek consultation and mitigation to resolve the matter.
  6. I will not damage another person’s reputation.
  7. When reviewing another author’s books, I will not mislead or deceive the reader for my own gain. If I know the author (or not – this has happened before to me) and find something that requires attention, I will contact them directly and privately.
  8. I will not make false statements concerning my books.

Personally, I do not engage in, or post on social media or anywhere else, any religious or political content. These subjects are inconsequential to my author platform, my branding, or my narratives. This is a personal choice and one that all writers/authors can decide upon themselves.

Can you think of any other steps an author can take to build and maintain their reputation?

Please share in the comments your thoughts and ideas and rules you abide by.

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