Interview with Rob Shackleford 

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1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. What inspired you to become an author?
I live in Australia and, for the majority of the time in writing Traveller Inceptio, lived where most of the book’s Transporter invention process took place, which is the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. It is a beach location and is quite laid back. I also worked at the University for a time and knew the described locations well. I have, of course, applied liberal creative licence to some locations.
I enjoy reading, especially books with a great story and have, for quite some time, tinkered with the idea of writing. Like most, I started with a few short stories and children’s books, which are still awaiting the illustrations from my daughter, who is quite the artist and procrastinator. It was during a very down time in my life that the opening scene for Traveller Inceptio began running through my mind, how a person from the 21st Century could react in the forests of Saxon England, when I realised that a story was beginning to devfelop. I started writing that scene and it soon went on from there. The actual writing process took over five years and there were ideas I had to drop because I saw something similar on Game of Thrones and in other stories that would look too similar. I have a very strong aversion to cliche, so I hope I stuck to that.
Surprisingly, some of the language and story was based on the antics of my son and his surfer / skater mates. The things you overhear sometimes.
My vocational background is actually far removed from History, which has become a love because of my father’s interest in family history and genealogy. I worked in Customs in my younger years and then did time in the Media, Tourism, IT and Marketing.
In keeping with my coastal lifestyle preference, I am fortunate to live in a very chilled part of Australia’s Gold Coast with my lady love. I have two kids, both in their early 20’s so, yeah, I am advancing in life’s journey, but I am still young and silly enough to take the risks.
2) What was the inspiration behind your story?
I was sitting on the beach one day and thought, “What would this have looked like 100 years ago? 200 years ago? and then 1000 years ago? The next question was, “How would someone from this time survive if taken back 1000 years?” Like many books, I started with a couple of assumptions; that one could travel back 1000 years, and the book grew from there. The ‘visit to the beach’ chapters in Traveller Inceptio were based on that thought process.
I like Science Fiction, but aimed to keep any story as real as possible, so I and any reader could honestly relate. I tried to keep reactions and events as plausible as possible. This sometimes took the story away from where I had planned and added some interesting moments.
Fortunately I have travelled to many of the world locations mentioned in Traveller Inceptio and future books. The sights, smells and feelings are most inspiring. The forests of England, the great walls of Istanbul, and the deserts of Israel can never be fully imagined simply from research on the Internet.
 
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your story?
Wow, I have to be self-analytical here.
There are two main messages I think.
The first is the desire to travel, to see new places and take new risks. I particularly love the short film Wanderers with a narration by Carl Sagan, (Check it out on You Tube) which acknowledges humanity’s need to explore. If we could explore the Past, then we, of course, would.
The other theme is that people in our past were like us. Our parents and many-great-grandparents lived lives with similar aspirations. They laughed, joked, worried about their kids, farted, and got horny, but also had trying times when they were sad and shed tears. Sometimes they even experienced violence. The message is; They were people too, only without an iPhone.
When we realise our history and give credence to those who have gone before us, we can then better understand ourselves and the rich tapestry of interwoven lives and genetic material that has created each of us.
4) If you could sit down and ask any character in your story a question, who would it be and what would you ask them?
It think it would be Tatae, the healer and wise woman of the Saxon village of Giolgrave. She was one such as those who would be persecuted and killed in the ages following the Norman invasion of England in 1066. Tatae is enigmatic. Not only does she hold deep knowledge, but she has learned that many would debase and profit from it if she let them.
I think I would ask, “How did you gain your knowledge?” Assuming she would tell me, it would be quite a story.
5) What’s more important to you when writing: developing plot or creating characters?
I think the plot, because that dictates the reactions of the characters. Place the character into a situation and I try to see how they would realistically react. Sometimes it isn’t how I thought, which is always a pleasant surprise. Sometimes a minor character became a major one. One example was Tatae, as I had no intention of travelling down the romance cliche. How wrong was I?
6) What social media site has been the most helpful or beneficial in creating your readership?
Initially FaceBook, as friends refer friends etc, but it is beginning to be overtaken by Blogs. Naturally this will grow further, but this world of self-promotion through on-line media can be very challenging. Amazon and others can be a minefield. It becomes a question of persistence, losing money on bad marketing ploys, and not taking it too seriously.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or new authors out there?
Keep on going, even if it does mean that you end up rewriting your little gem fifty times. The other is that professional critics have their place, but can often get caught up in the detail. Be humble enough to recognise that your skills might need improvement, ie. writing skills, but also believe in yourself. It can be a tricky thing to balance. Don’t be surprised to be elated at a great review, then go down in a screaming heap when someone criticises your writing style. It’s all part of the gig.
8) What’s next for you? Any new projects on the horizon?
Traveller Inceptio lends itself to a sequel. I found this especially important when readers asked me “What Now??”
So, I have completed a draft of Traveller Probo – Traveller Book 2 – and I am in the never-ending process of fine-tuning the grammar etc. I hope this will be ready by the end of this year (2017) or the beginning of 2018. Traveller Probo (meaning: to prove or question) assumes the Saxon mission is successful. Governments vie to prepare the next Traveller mission, but safety is paramount. Missions to New Zealand, the USA, Ukraine, and the old Byzantine Empire of Turkey are planned, but the political rivalry is intense.
I have already begun Traveller Manifesto – which will be Traveller Book 3.
Why the funny names? I started Book 1 as Traveller, but when you google ‘Traveller’ you are inundated with book titles. Some friends thought it was a book about my travels. Traveller is spelled in the British / Australian way with 2 L’s, and the Latin word is to give an idea as to what the story is about. Latin, because 1000 years ago, Latin was the language of religion and education in Europe.
Inceptio = Beginning
Probo = Prove of question and investigate
Manifesto = Declaration to the World
Why Europe? Think about this. 1000 years ago, if you travelled anywhere in Africa or the Pacific, you would be eaten. If you travelled anywhere in the Americas, you might be sacrificed or skinned alive. In Asia, killed as a stranger, or limited because of the barriers of lost languages. England was selected because of the racial and national identity of the inventors and sponsors. Plus, it made my writing easier.
There is a criticism that the books are long – the irony being that Traveller Inceptio and Traveller Probo are precisely the same length – 190,000 words. To be honest, I created each story and then tore about 50,000 words away in the editing process. I hope the story makes the time taken in reading worthwhile.
I have written drafts for two other books that have nothing to do with Time or Transporters, but I believe I have to do the best I can with one project at a time. These others can wait.
Ultimately, I hope my books bring enjoyment to readers. It is, after all, about having a fun, entertaining read.
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