Name Rob Munns
Where are you from
I grew up in Bramhall, near Manchester in the UK, and currently live not far from there in Macclesfield, with my Fiance. I have moved around a bit over the years in-between though, having lived in London, Birmingham and Toronto, Canada. Not much to tell education wise, after high school I completed an A-level equivalent course in IT, and that’s about it. I am thinking about going back to college this September (2016) to do a University access course. I worked in retail for many years, working my way up to Store Manager, but after having been made redundant twice, I decided it was time to try something else, so I have been concentrating solely on writing since May 2015.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My short story “Lifespan” was recently published in Nebula Rift magazine: http://www.fictionmagazines.com/shop/nebula-issues/nebula-rift-vol-04-no-01/
And I also have another short story due to be published in the upcoming edition of efiction magazine, which should be available soon: http://www.fictionmagazines.com/magazines/efiction/
And I have another four short stories and a novel in the works.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Over the years I have attempted to get started with writing a novel several times, but I had always been unhappy with the results and given up. It wasn’t until early 2015 when I started writing content for RPG gaming sessions with friends that I gained some much needed extra confidence, and started to write a novella based on a popular RPG universe. I spent about eight months messing around with that, and having got that out of my system I have found that I suddenly have a wealth of ideas for short stories, and also one for a full length novel. So I have been writing short stories since mid January 2016, and have had two published so far – hopefully it’s not just beginners luck. As to why I started writing, well, it just happened really. The time was right I suppose, I don’t really know what else to say about it!
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably when I clicked “submit” when submitting my first short story to the first publisher I approached. Before that I would have claimed to be a writer, but would probably have been lying.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Tabletop RPG gaming. It’s not something that I’ve done a massive amount of in my life, just so happened that a few old friends came over one day last year and we dug out some old board games from when we were kids, and it went on from there. Suppose we weren’t really taking it too seriously, but I was at one point spending 5-6 hours a week preparing for each session. One day while writing narrative for the game I got the idea for a novel, and wrote the first thousand words or so there and then, and that was the that.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
It’s early days, so a difficult one to answer in simple terms. I do like to keep it simple, though, and at least as far as writing short stories is concerned, I like to focus on dialogue as much as possible – I find that when I am reading, if I am going to lose concentration it will be during narrative rather than dialogue, so I try and keep narrative fairly short if possible. And that works out well for me actually, because I seem to take more naturally to writing dialogue, and I enjoy writing it more. That may not be to everyones taste but I feel that anything other than writing in the style you enjoy reading (ie. What comes naturally) is going to feel forced, and not be enjoyable for either myself or the reader.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
So far I haven’t had to spend much time working on or thinking about titles, and to be honest I couldn’t tell you how I came up with any of them. They just popped in there.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
As far as “Lifespan” is concerned, there is a message in there but that comes from the subject matter rather than anything I’ve done. From my point of view it was all about the shock factor and trying to leave a lasting impression in the readers mind of the main character and the terrible thing that happened to them. Whats going on in the story isn’t necessarily going to be obvious to everybody because the story is, in the end, left open to interpretation, but I would hope that it is a short, sharp shock that’s easy to read and leaves something to the imagination. Although I suppose there is a message for anyone out there who’s might be making serious inroads into building a working time machine – stop it immediately you nutter.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
It’s a sci-fi / horror story set in 150 years in the future, so not much. The one thing I did take from popular culture was the speaker, who I see as one of those guys off an annoying American infomercial, but other than that it’s all speculative really.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Dr Julian Pearce from the story is based on a real scientist from an Open University video from the late 70’s / early 80’s that we watched at school and found highly amusing. I often wonder what he’s doing now. Hopefully he got some new glasses.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Two obvious ones from childhood are, as every sci-fi / fantasy writer probably says, the Hobbit and 2001: a Space Odyssey, but another book called “With a single spell” by Lawrence Watt-Evans was also a favourite and if someone was taking all my books away except one, I’d probably grab that. I suppose that in general fantasy and sci-fi encourages a sense of adventure and an inquisitive nature – I know, for example, that if I had the chance to travel to another habitable planet outside our solar system, even if I didn’t know what I might find there or even whether I would be able to ever return home, that I would go without a second thought. I doubt I would think in that way if it weren’t for sci-fi writers like Arthur C Clarke.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m supposed to be reading “The great book of amber” by Roger Zelazny, but its ridiculously enormous so I keep putting it off by reading tons of short stories from sci-fi magazines such as asimovs, clarkesworld and fantasy & sci-fi. If I can, eventually, get just one story in one of those magazines, then I can go to Kepler 438b a happy man.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I don’t know how long he has been around, but I really enjoyed a short story I read yesterday in Clarkesworld magazine called “in the midst of life” my Nick Wolven. Considering that I write short stories, it might sound strange that even though I try to read as many as I can, it’s relatively rare to I find one that I really enjoy, but this one pulled me in. Not sure that I understood it 100%, but that’s probably the point.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I have more or less fully planned and researched my first full length novel, which will be (loosely) set in the same universe as “Lifespan” with the working title “Lifecycle”.
I am also writing another sci-fi short story, as well as one that is based on a true story about something that I apparently did when I was a child but have no memory of, which I am expanding upon to create a supernatural tale.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I sort of have to because it’s what I am doing full time at the moment, which is something I am very happy about. For the first time in my life I have found myself in the financial situation where I can really devote my full attention to something other than a job or sleeping.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
To be honest I wasn’t 100% happy with it, but I doubt anyone ever is. I wouldn’t change anything specific, but I think it wouldn’t have hurt to restructure it a little and maybe add some extra detail. But I’m happy enough with it, I think it mostly works as intended.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
When I was about 8 or 9, I read “The Neverending Story” by Michael Ende (probably should have added that to the influencial books question above actually) and loved it so much that I really wanted to read more, but there weren’t any sequels so I decided to write one myself. I think I probably wrote about 2-3 pages in a school notebook, before giving up, but I suppose having the idea was the important thing at that age. I also wrote a series of stories in primary school called “super wally” which were ridiculous but they always had the class laughing so it was fun at the time.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Below is an excerpt from “Lifespan”. It’s a little sweary, feel free to sensor it if that’s not ok for your site.
Reality smacked Bobby hard in the face. 1, 2, 3… his eyes came into focus, his mind began to clear. It was freezing cold, he was starving and his clothes were tattered rags. Every bone and muscle in his body ached; he had never felt so physically exhausted in his life. He stood amongst a small gathering of the similarly unfortunate. What had he signed up for? His memory was hazy, but this… somehow, this wasn’t real. Or at least, this wasn’t him.
A group of soldiers, their weapons raised, stood a few metres away behind an infuriated… Sergeant? Captain? In any case, the leader. He was yelling in… German? – Bobby was never any good with languages – and waving a Luger pistol over his head. Where the fuck am I? Thought Bobby, but then, as soon as he had asked himself the question, he knew. No! Anything but this, anything! Oh Jesus fucking Christ not this!
7, 8, 9… The soldiers moved amongst them, selected nine people, seemingly at random, and lined them up in front of the rest of the group. Bobby was the last in line. He wanted to fight against them, to scream, to run, to beg for mercy. He was an American citizen for Christ’s sake! But he wasn’t in control. Something came back to him then. This is not me thought Bobby. But even so… 30 seconds? That means something. 30 seconds…
The chosen nine were forced to their knees, and down onto their bellies. Nobody resisted. Their faces were stony, emotionless. Bobby remembered why. 14, 15, 16… He heard the first gunshot. Moments later, a second. By the time the eighth gunshot rang out, the person Bobby had become was shaking and crying, but he still did not resist. The leader stood over him, shouting, ejected the clip from his pistol, and slammed in another. Bobby felt the cold metal press into the back of his shaven head, 27, 28, 29… and howled a silent scream, lost inside this other mind. No matter how loud he tried to yell, nobody could hear him.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Again, it’s early days and I’m learning as I go. As I mentioned above, I find dialogue easier than narrative, and I maybe struggle a bit with descriptions of environments and objects.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t really have a set favourite. I own the complete works of only two authors, William Gibson and Douglas Coupland, so anyone looking at my book collection would probably assume they were my favourites, and maybe they are, but Arthur C Clarke is probably the one I would go with if pressed, for reasons stated in the earlier question“what books most influenced your life”
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not so far, but the chance would be nice. Won’t hold my breath.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I usually find starting the most difficult part. I tend to write down the general outline in notepad on my phone, then leave it for a few days / a week to think about it and expand upon it before starting proper. The opening line is very important, and it can take a lot of thinking about.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
During my first eight months of writing, I was writing fan fiction and it wasn’t easy. I felt forced into writing in a particular style, for a particular audience, and constrained by the existing universe. It was probably a big mistake from the point of view of making a career out of it, but at least it was good practice and helped to get the process down. As soon as I was finished my mind was flooded with a million short story ideas, so from a creative point of view it was well worth it.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
The thing that held me back for years was being embarrassed to show others my work, or thinking it wasn’t good enough and deleting it. So yeah, don’t do that.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I doubt that I have many that i’m not related to, but if I do, then I suppose I would say thanks for reading, I hope you weren’t too offended.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I remember two from when I was very young, childrens bible stories and the childrens encyclopedia. Both scared the shit out of me.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I have a pretty extreme sense of humour, you probably don’t want to know about it to be honest. I don’t remember crying much in adult life other than for the obvious things, death and relationship stuff. And every time I hear One Direction in a situation where its inescapable.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I play a bit of guitar, I need lessons from Jimi Hendrix or Rory Gallagher.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Hopefully my headstone will be on another planet and be written in some strange alien language.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I play guitar pretty badly, I’ve always been a big music fan and worked in record stores for most of my life.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I will literally watch anything with even the most vague sci-fi element, even if it’s utterly terrible. I watched Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, that wasn’t great. I really enjoyed Interstellar, that’s my kind of thing.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Cake, Chocolate, Sweets. I listen to a lot of different stuff, working in record stores you meet a lot of people who love all different types of music and find new things every day. Growing up I mainly listened to metal and rock, but I have a large collection of indie / alternative, blues, dance and ambient and even a bit of hip hop.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I really wish I had been forced to have music lessons as a child, whether it was guitar, piano, anything. I was very shy and reserved at school and I would have hated it at the time, but I would be reaping the benefits now.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I have a blog here: http://robmunns.blogspot.co.uk/?zx=fa3668e75ef1c687 Which features excerpts from some of my stories, and I am also on twitter, @bungoslysse