Friday, 13 April 2012

Author Interview - Robert Downs

Debut, hard-boiled mystery fiction for men. Stephen King’s son describes a fitting genre as MANfiction (the opposite of Chick lit). 

Casey Holden, former cop, current PI in Virginia Beach, VA, screens his clients the way he screens his women, based on whichever drop-dead gorgeous woman happens to waltz through his door first and manages to hold his attention. So when Felicity Farren, widow-at-large, struts into his office asking him to solve the two-year-old murder of her husband Artis, she intrigues him. When Casey starts digging, he learns the murder isn’t what it seems to be and he doesn’t have a big enough shovel to unearth the truth. And to top it all off, his former rival at the police department, Greg Gilman, is determined to disrupt his investigation. Casey's challenge is to learn what really happened to Artis, and why Gilman can’t seem to remove his head from his butt. And he’ll need all of
his wits to complete the task.

Watch for Falling Immortality in an upcoming Read It & Reap, or if you just can't wait, buy it here now:
About the Author:
Robert aspired to be a writer before he realized how difficult the writing process was. Fortunately, he'd already fallen in love with the craft, otherwise Casey might never have seen print. Originally from West Virginia, he has lived in Virginia, Massachusetts, and now resides in New Mexico. To learn more about the author or Casey, visit the author’s website: Look for Casey's next adventure.


Author Interview with Robert Downs!

When and why did you begin writing? What inspired you?
I started writing my first manuscript (a really bad one) my sophomore year in college. Even before that, though, I had written really bad poetry, or my attempt at song lyrics, as a way to communicate with the world, when my mouth just didn’t quite do the words in my head justice. When I talk, I feel like my brain moves at one speed, and my mouth moves at another, and never the two shall meet. But when I write, somehow, my brain and my fingers are joined as one, and the words flow out of my head onto the computer without missing a beat. It’s a serendipitous moment that I can’t help but repeat over and over again.

The movie Finding Forrester helped change my way of thinking when it came to writing. I always hated writing in school, because it was all about the rules (not necessarily a bad thing), and it was forced down my throat. I never thought of writing for myself, until I watched Finding Forrester. After the movie, though, something clicked for me, and I realized for a shy guy I had a whole lot to say. I opened this massive floodgate that I haven’t been able to close since. And if I’m lucky, it’ll never close.

Do you have a favorite character from Falling Immortality? Which character did you have the most fun writing?
Without a doubt, Casey Holden is my favorite character that I’ve written so far. He’s what my dad calls my alter-ego, and that’s probably not too far from the truth. He’s an exaggerated version of me, without the filter and conscience to help guide him. And that’s certainly one of the reasons why he’s so much fun to write. Before I’d published the first novel in his series, I’d already written two sequels, and in the process of publishing Falling Immortality, I’d already begun work on three sequels, one of which I’m working on right now. Needless to say, I plan on keeping him around for a while, since he and I have plenty of unfinished business together. I hope my readers find him as enjoyable as I do.

How much and what kind of research was necessary to write Falling Immortality? Do you have to travel much concerning your books?
I take John Grisham’s approach to research: I tend to do as little as possible. The exception being when I don't know enough to make whatever scene or character seem believable. Then, I dig just enough to be dangerous. While I tend to skirt away from research, I do have relatively good analytical skills, which in some cases can be to my detriment, since I tend to analyze everything. However, with writing, it's more of a blessing than a curse. I also have this need to learn about anything and everything, no matter how trivial it may seem at the time. And I love mysteries, whether it's a book, movie, or TV show. When I write, I invariably analyze and utilize these different data sources, on some level that I'm not even aware of, and hopefully, I create something new, along with a believable story.

If you’re referring to a book tour, no, I don’t tour much in relation to my novel. I’ve done library talks, book signings, and I’ll attend a couple of mystery conferences this year, and possibly a writing conference in West Virginia if I’m lucky enough to get an invitation, but book tours tend to be reserved for nationally bestselling authors with an already established audience, or new authors from the large New York publishers with what are considered to be the big books of the year. But I am creating an online presence and platform through Facebook, Goodreads, my website, and gracious blog hosts like yourself.

What was your main source of inspiration for the story?
I honestly have no idea where the story or the character came from. It was almost as though this blessing came from outside myself and was graciously bestowed on me, and I was the vessel through which Casey’s story was being told. I had a beginning in mind (reading a number of the late Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels, as well as other mysteries helped in this regard), and I had an ending in mind, but I really had no idea how I was going to get there. I sort of figured it out as I went along. I'm not a big fan of outlining, because I figure if I surprise myself when I write it, then hopefully the reader will be surprised when he or she reads it. As to Casey (and he’s really the heart and soul of Falling Immortality), I have miniscule amounts of his sarcasm, wit, and charm, and I extrapolated these bits to create a character that was strong enough to sustain a first person narrative. I knew I needed a strong male lead to make it work (and I don’t really do anything halfway once I set my mind to a task), so I created the strongest male lead I could possibly imagine.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Honestly, all of it is both a challenge and a blessing. I wouldn’t still be writing, if I didn’t find myself being challenged day in and day out from initial conception, to the race to the finish for the initial draft, to the constant revision, to the critique process, to the final edits, to the marketing, to exposing yourself to the whole world. It’s the most rewarding and scariest thing I’ve ever done, and I’m only just getting started.

As far as the actual craft goes, I have more problems with description than any other aspect of my writing. Sometimes it really clicks for me, and there are a number of times when it doesn’t. It’s something I’ll continue to improve upon as I evolve as a writer. And as I’ve told my wife, Casey isn’t real big on description (being a tough guy and all), so I probably didn’t start with the type of novel that would help me improve that aspect of the craft.

Did you have a teacher who influenced or encouraged you?
No, just like I draw from all of my experiences and individuals I may have met to create unique storylines and unique characters, I had many teachers who influenced me in one form or another over the years. Though I didn’t know it at the time, all the rules of writing that were ingrained in me from a very early age helped shape the writer I would later become. However, I believe it was my third-grade teacher who saw potential in me before I even realized I had a knack for writing. 

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was little, I wanted to be a garbage man, and I used to practice when my mom and I went to the grocery store. I’d hang off to the side, one-handed, and I’d toss random cans into the cart when my mom had her back to me.

Who is your favorite author and why?
Do I have to pick just one? So many authors have influenced me in one form or another over the years: writers within my genre, writers outside of my genre, good writers, not so good writers. As a writer I learn from all of them, and I am constantly improving and evolving. I’m not the same writer I was ten years ago, because I continued to read voraciously, and I put my butt to the chair and cranked out words, even if they were bad ones that would need to be rewritten later. If I don’t give myself permission to write crap, I probably won’t end up writing anything good either. One of the beauties of writing is that manuscripts can be rewritten and revised until it is the best I could do at the time. But if I wait until it’s perfect, I’d never have a finished story, because it can always be better. If I don’t leave the last couple of percent on the table, and at some point I decide I don’t want to look at it anymore, I wouldn’t have a published novel now.

What book are you reading now?
The Family Tree by Carole Cadwalladr. When I read I look for unique voices, and when I read the first couple of paragraphs I was captured by the voice to the point that I wanted to continue on with the rest of the story.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Absolutely, but that depends on how you define current. Graceful Immortality is the second book in the Casey Holden mystery series, and it’s with my publisher Rainbow Books, Inc. right now. We don’t have a release date yet, and as far as I know they haven’t started any editing work on it, because they’re a small independent press, and they want to see Falling Immortality get some legs and start running, before they commit to publishing additional books in the series. But I’m told I’m improving with each manuscript, and I’m getting more and more comfortable with Casey Holden. He’s like a long lost friend that I have the pleasure of visiting with on occasion, and he tells me his stories, however crazy they might seem initially. And it’s a friendship I treasure each time I sit down at the computer.

As far as what I’m working on right now, I’m in the middle of the second draft of the fifth novel in the series. It’s still a work-in-progress, so I’d rather not give away the title just yet. Titles aren’t set in stone until they show up on the cover of the book, and even then, I’ve heard of titles being changed by the publisher for a new edition. It’s rare, but it does happen.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing/creating your books? 
That I had this innate ability to write that I wasn’t even aware of, and that through time, effort, dedication, and perseverance I’ve been able to harness this initial gift and turn it into something much more meaningful. It’s a gift I’ll continue to treasure for the rest of my life, even if I don’t have another manuscript that ends up being published. That I had an imagination that was more powerful than my wildest dreams. Not only did I surprise myself, but I surprised pretty much everyone else I’ve met with my gift. I heard people are either more naturally speakers, or more naturally writers, and through writing I’ve discovered that my brain lends itself much more easily to writing.

I love the cover of Falling Immortality.  Who designs your covers? What is that process like for you as the author?
Betsy Lampe of Rainbow Books, Inc. designed the cover for Falling Immortality, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the end result. She had two different cover designs, and I chose the one with the Dodge Viper on the cover. I hadn’t seen many US novels with cars on the cover, except for a few exceptions of course. I’ve been told cars on the covers are more popular overseas. I helped her choose the right font, and my wife suggested the bleeding title, which is an idea I’m rather fond of. And I made the suggestion that the card on the front should look more like a business card. I became rather fond of the magnifying glass on the cover, so readers may see a mention of it in one of the later novels in the series.

It was a great process, and the three of us sort of came to a meeting of the minds. Betsy involved me every step of the way with the cover, and we ended up (hopefully) with a somewhat striking result. In the end, three ended up being the right number as well. Betsy has since informed me that some authors end up involving half a dozen or more people, and in the process, she may end up with twelve or thirteen iterations, before the final cover is reached. That just seems like way too many people to me.


  1. Manfiction, I like it. The book looks very good. I love a whodunit. Adding this to my TBR list. Thanks for the great interview.

    1. Thanks for adding my book Laura. I hope I can make Manfiction a bit more well known. Glad you like the term.

  2. Garbage man..that's so cute! Best of luck with your book!

  3. Thanks Midu. I was always a bit different than everyone else.

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