Name: Rob Sinclair
Where are you from:
Currently West Midlands (via Newcastle, Norwich, Hull, Birmingham, Sunderland, Durham, Nottingham and New York…)
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I live in the West Midlands with my wife and two young boys (5 and 2). My wife and I met when we started work at the same global accountancy firm after graduating from University in 2002. I studied Biochemistry at Uni but chose a career in accountancy based on my mum’s advice! I worked for that firm for 13 years, 10 of which were in the forensics department where I was involved in large scale fraud and corruption investigations which saw me work on high profile cases across the globe. But, during that time I picked up the bug for writing which I haven’t shaken off! I’m writing full time now in between looking after my boys.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
The third book in my Enemy series, Hunt for the Enemy, is released on 11th February! I’m really excited about this one as it’s bolder and more ambitious than the previous two I think in it’s breadth and intricacies. I’ve had great feedback from those that have read it and can’t wait for it to be released to the world!
The story follows an embattled intelligence agent called Carl Logan. Logan is on the run in a harsh Russian winter, having been framed for the murder of his boss and long-term mentor, Mackie. The story is essentially a chase, a race against time as Logan tries to figure out why he’s been set up and by who, before the wolves close in on him. But at the same time I’ve woven into this story elements of Logan’s past, told through flashbacks, which aim to give the reader a better understanding of who Logan is and the troubled life he’s led.
The book has a really international flavour to it as well with intelligence agencies from the UK, US and Russia colliding and events spanning continents from South America to Europe to Africa to Asia.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing in 2009. It came out of the blue for me. I’d never held aspirations to be a writer when I was growing up and had never been on courses or anything like that. Then one day I just started. I’d been thinking about it for a couple of weeks beforehand, and I trace it back to reading a number of books on a holiday to Spain that I hadn’t been impressed with. I made a seemingly flippant comment to my wife that I thought I could write a book. But I was deadly serious! I started to think through an idea just for one scene. Then when we were home I started writing that scene out. Then I wrote some more and some more. Finally I built up the courage to show those early chapters to my wife, half expecting her to tell me how bad they were! But she didn’t. She encouraged me to carry on and six/seven years later I still am!
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably only very recently. When I started writing I had a full time job, then I had two kids come along to add extra pressure to our already hectic lives. There wasn’t much time to write. In between I had to deal with a lot of rejection from agent after agent for my early drafts of Dance with the Enemy. I very nearly gave up altogether before pushing forward with self-publishing. But it took over 4 years to get to that point. By that time I knew I wasn’t going to give up. I had the second book nearly drafted and had a plot idea for the third one. I committed internally to myself that I would at least see those 3 books through. Did I feel like a proper writer at that point? Probably not. The proof was always going to be whether people liked the books. The books could have dwindled in the sales rankings never selling more than a handful of copies and I think I very probably would have stopped and chalked the whole thing up to experience – and still have been proud that I at least gave it a go. I don’t think I would have felt myself to be a writer then, though. It was probably only when the books finally seemed to take off when the second one came out last year, and then a few months later I started writing full time, that I started considering myself a real actual writer! And I know I’ve got plenty more books in me yet!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
It really was nothing more than a challenge I set myself. I’d told myself why not. I’m a clever guy. I’ve read books, I know what they’re about. Why can’t I write one too? I’m a very competitive person, even if just with myself. Having set myself the goal, I wasn’t going to stop until I had written a book. Happily I enjoyed the experience too, and writing does seem like something that’s very natural to me. I really enjoy it and now can’t imagine it not being part of my life.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I believe in just getting stuck in. I get one or two big plot ideas, turn them over in my head a little then just get down to writing. I don’t plan out a full plot with all the ins and outs beforehand, don’t use a storyboard or anything like that. I just write. Drafting for me is like a big brain dump. That’s effectively my inspiration, my research, my plotting right there. Once I get the bare bones laid out in the draft, the beginning, the middle, the end, I can then go into all the nitty-gritty of characters and settings etc during editing. I tend to draft quite quickly – 1-2 months from start to finish. The editing then takes several months longer, though most of that time is because I’ve put it to one side to get on with other projects, which also has the benefit of me going back to do editing with the story feeling cold. I find I spot the flaws and what needs developing better that way.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Well it directly flows from the previous two books; Dance with the Enemy and Rise of the Enemy. Hunt for the Enemy conveys what’s happening in this book. It’s a hunt. A chase. A race against time. But as with all of the titles, just who “Enemy” refers to is ambiguous.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The Enemy series are categorized as espionage thrillers but I think the nuts and bolts of the story is far more wide reaching than that. Espionage loosely describes the setting. But really its a human story about the main character; Carl Logan. He’s a man who’s lost in the world, trying to figure out who he is, where he fits in, both in terms of the job he’s dedicated his life to but also in love. It’s a story of growth and redemption for Logan starting with someone in despair, battling his own inner demons, and then fighting the system when it turns against him. So really I think the core themes of the book, the series, (love, betrayal and revenge) are concepts that everyone is familiar with and everyone on some level can empathize with.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
I don’t know how to answer that question. All fiction is fiction! I love superhero movies, books with fantasy elements. But are they realistic? As long as the plots make sense and flow well and there aren’t glaring errors in plotting/setting then anything can work in fiction I think. It does annoy me that one or two negative reviews of my work have said my books aren’t realistic. I mean, I could write about an accountant going to work and spending 8 hours a day typing up an investigation report then going home and putting the kids to bed and making his tea. But is anyone going to want to read that?!!
So yes, the book has to be larger than life in some respects. Put simply though, I think the book is realistic in the world I have created. All of the things that happen in my book could happen in the real world, in a physical sense. And really, what we’re talking about here is a character in Carl Logan who works for a secretive intelligence organisation that is known to virtually no-one on the planet. And who’s to say such an organisation doesn’t exist now or never has done in the past?! It’s highly secret! But we do know that espionage is real. And questionable government operations are real. So there really could be a Carl Logan out there and we just don’t know it.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Not on the whole but actually lots of the smaller details of who the character are and the things that happen to them, the way they react to situations, have definitely been inspired by real life – either me or people around me. And some of the most clear cut areas that I’ve taken from real life are the settings. I travelled a lot in my job as a fraud investigator, to some less than salubrious locations, and a lot of those places provide great back-drops for these kinds of books. Plus I saw some truly jaw-dropping cases of fraud and corruption and in places I’ve used those experiences and weaved some elements of what I’ve seen into the stories.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I think it’s a combination of books and films. The Jack Reacher books, some of the books by the likes of David Baldacci, Michael Connolly, Harlan Coben, Jeffrey Deaver. Plus films like James Bond, the Bourne series. There’s no one source of influence but it’s all those books and movies that I’ve experienced and enjoyed over my life. In a small way each one has shaped my writing.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’ve just started reading Tom Wood, the Hunter. A few people have pointed that the Victor series is similar in style to mine and I’m enjoying it so far.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
There are so many authors out there, it’s hugely competitive, particularly for self-published and independent authors. Unfortunately some authors like to get ahead by crushing others, but on the other hand I’ve also found many authors to be very helpful and collaborative and myself I’d much prefer to be seen as the latter. A couple of new(ish) thriller authors who both started out as self-publishers and are at similar points in their careers to me (and our books get linked together a lot on Amazon!) are Matt Johnson (debut book Wicked Game recently re-published by Orenda books), and Tim Tigner (who self-published his first two books, Flash and Betrayal, and recently had his third, Coercion, published by Thomas & Mercer). Anybody who likes my work should certainly take a look at theirs too.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
There are many! I’ve completed a new book, a slight change in direction. It’s a psychological thriller about a normal guy who’s rebuilding his life following his wife’s murder, but years later finds his life spiralling out of control once more. I’m really excited by that one. It’s still got action and is fast-paced but is a more intense and gritty read, really getting into the head of the main character.
I’ve then just about finished the first draft of what will be a new series that is a continuation of the Carl Logan character, but not quite. And I’ll leave you confused by what I mean by that!
Lastly I’ve been trying my hand at screenwriting. I’m a huge movie fan and I think that comes through in the style and plotting of my books. I’ve been working on a script for the first Enemy book, Dance with the Enemy, for a few months. It’s been a steep learning curve as I’d never done any screenwriting before but I’ve enjoyed it and will keep going until the script is polished and ready to try to sell! If that goes well I’ll carry on adapting each of my novels.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I’m self-published and one of the biggest things that made a difference to me was getting a professional to help me edit my work. I was at something of a roadblock with Dance with the Enemy and the help I had from my editor in developing the story and really making it publishable was invaluable. I’ve used the same editor, Charlie Wilson (The Book Specialist), for each of my projects since and have come to trust and rely on her judgment.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely! I’ll keep doing it now as long I have still have ideas.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. But my latest book is still fresh in my mind. When I think about Dance with the Enemy – it’s now a couple of years since I performed my final edit on that – there are some elements of the plot that I now wished I’d changed. Unfortunately I think that’s always going to be the case. Maybe that’s just me but I have a critical eye and am never 100% satisfied! But at some point with these things you have to just say enough is enough.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Two things: getting started and letting go. Getting started on the first day with a new book is always a big thing for me. I’ll often procrastinate for days before finally doing it because it just feels like such a big step. I worry that I haven’t got much to write about. I worry that the plot and the characters aren’t strong enough. Or that it’s too similar to my last book. Or that it’s too different. I worry, worry, worry. But then as soon as I finally sit down and break the seal, I usually get into straight away and it’s all steam ahead until that draft is done.
Then it’s the same again at the end of the process. Like I said, I’m never 100% satisfied and knowing when to just stop and say it’s done is hard. I’m sure if I edited my books 1,000 times I’d make changes each and every time. But you just can’t do that. At some point you just have to stop typing and say it’s ready.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t have one favourite author anymore. Though growing up it was Terry Pratchett. I just absolutely loved not just the humour of his books but also the scope and interest of the world he created. It was really incredible and some of the characters from those books still feel very close to me even many years later.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not really. The majority of my book marketing (and my sales) are online. So I tend to just be glued to my computer and phone each and every day! I travel to the odd book fair and festival but haven’t yet been on a whistle-stop tour of the world! One day…
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Each of the books have been produced by Authoright who are a self-publishing boutique offering all sorts of services to authors. The cover for the first book (Dance with the Enemy) was at the time a standalone concept but it’s now grown into something of a branding for the three books together, and I think they look great next to each other on a shelf (physical or virtual!).
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That I love writing! And that it just seems like such a natural thing for me. I’ve often pondered that I have an over-active mind, and a really short attention span. Before I started writing that was just a hindrance. But now I hone that. It’s where my ideas come from. Rather than just randomly daydreaming I’m now forever plotting!
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
So much advice, depending on where in the process a writer is at. The number one piece of advice is don’t give up. And that applies wherever you are in your career. Having a writing career isn’t just about writing a book, there’s a hell of a lot of work needed to get that book published and into the hands of readers too. But if you’re determined enough and stick at it you can make it work.
Accept that you’ll make mistakes along the way. Either in your writing, in your submissions to agents/publishers, in your self-publishing choices, in your promoting/marketing. That’s fine. Different things work for different people. You find what works best for you through trial and error.
Lastly, use an editor. It’s not free but I really don’t think there is any substitute for having a professional eye help you with your work before you go seeking representation or before you self-publish. Not only will it make your work better, but you’ll also learn a lot about the writing and editing process that you can replicate in your future books.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Not specifically. But when I was very young I loved Mr Men books, which I now really enjoy reading to my sons!
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I can’t remember the last time I cried! So not much. I do get emotional though, more when watching certain movies rather than books. Usually in scenes when there is a devastating loss to one of the characters.
Laughing? All sorts! I have a very childish sense of humour to be honest so it doesn’t take much! I like comedy in all sorts of form; books, movies, stand-up, panel shows etc etc.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I’m going with the Queen! She’s just brilliant. I love the history of our royal family and how it’s shaped this country and I think the Queen is such an iconic figure across the world.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
I don’t know the specific wording but I want to be known most as a loving husband, dad and son. Family is more important than anything.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I love movies. I probably watch more movies than I read books. I’m also a big sports fan (football, rugby, snooker, golf, NFL) though mostly watching rather than playing these days, other than golf.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I always seem to miss the big new TV series these days. There are too many of them and I have so little free time to commit myself to episode after episode! My two favorite current series are Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead. Movies? I love all sorts but particularly action and thriller movies. A couple of recent absolute favorites would be The Departed and American Sniper.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Favorite food is curry! I’m English after all?! Colour, no idea! Red perhaps. Music? I like a lot of music but the stuff that gets played most frequently is anything that’s ear-splittingly loud! So lots of metal music, dance music with big bass-lines etc.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I still want to try my hand at property developing. I’ve long been a keen DIYer and will definitely take the step up and give it a go at some point, when I get some time!
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Amazon US author page: http://www.amazon.com/Rob-Sinclair/e/B00LFXNU76/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1453824873&sr=8-1
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8389261.Rob_Sinclair