Name Linton Robinson (less formally Lin )
Age 67 years. Until this labor day when that will change to, apparently, 68.
Where are you from?
That’s a tough one, actually. I’m an army brat and we aren’t really “from” anywhere, we circulate around a map of places. Each armed service has it’s own distinctive map. It’s different from people who went to kindergarten with their friends, but it always worked for me. Every couple of years you have new friends, not house, new school, new problems and kicks. Actually, I’ve continued that in adult life. Some people assume I travel a lot: actually I just move to new places and live there until the next move. My early years were in Asia, but most of the last 25 years I’ve been in Mexico and a lot of my books are set here. I’ve also been fairly peripatetic about schooling (after going to a dozen schools, K-12, I went to a dozen colleges before graduating from Washington (go Huskies!). Oddly, after living for years in Washington with family there and in North Carolina, I tend to think of myself as a Californian (to include Baja California)… but mostly a Pacific Rim guy.
Fiona: When did you become a writer?
I was kind of always a writer. I recently got a box of stuff left in my grandmother’s attic and my mom had kept stuff I wrote as far back as I actually knew how to write. More to the point, I’ve kind of always been into publishing. Yes, I was a self-publisher and POD hustler before it was cool. I used to create little newspapers and books from school supplies. When I discovered ditto and mimeograph machines, I went nuts. I published my church paper on mimeo and later abused the Baptist Student Union mimeograph to publish a REALLY underground paper that got me kicked out of Wake Forest University. And not a moment too soon, believe me. Since then I have published several newspapers (several equally underground) and a couple of lines of books, generally poetry. I am a big believer in publishing poetry as cheap, pocket-sized little books in the tradition of Red Hen or City Lights and advice poets to do so. My “day job” is a similar little book called “Mexican Slang 101” which I usually put out on Xerox machines, often in editions of a half dozen because that’s all the money I had. Like I say, proto-POD. That book has sold well over 100,000 copies and continues to sell strong today, both in the original paper and fairly recent ebook version.
Fiona: So you think writers should accept self-publication?
Not just accept: revel in. I mentioned my long history of publishing as a note to other writers. I regard publishing your own work as a very natural state of things, one which pre-dates the printing press and has produced some or the great literary masterpieces. As opposed to some freaky little thing desperate writers do it they can’t get some suit in Manhattan to put their book out. We are so fortunate to live in the current state of publication: people talk about the liberating effect of Gutenberg’s press, but contemporary POD and eReader technology puts publication within the reach of EVERYBODY. We’ve been handed the keys to the kingdom, and yet some listen to nitwits who say we shouldn’t publish until we are given permission by others. A writer is only the size of his or her readership, and the more direct your relationship to them, the better for both parties.
Fiona: You are saying that publishing our own work is empowering, then?
Oh, yes. And on top of that, modern publishing, especially ebooks, makes it possible to do things never before possible. Poets can do amazing things these days: make their poems into eBroadsides, wallpaper, audio files, cell phone ringtones… My “Properties of Light” is a true, actual hypernovel, sequenced by links, not continuity. I came up with it (and many other ideas for books not possible in print) in the late seventies… and now it’s suddenly possible! BTW, I use links extensively in my ebooks—links from TOC to chapters and back, links to footnotes or glossary entries and back, most recently to lay out some alternative sequence of “chapterettes” in my border-lit WIP “Suffer the Children”, coming soon to join the current “Mary of Angels” and the spin-off “Boneyard 11”. I urge writers to seize this opportunity, not to pine away for being a “real writer” under the old paradigms of shelves and stores. Tech nology has always transformed what we think “a book is”. And it’s doing it now. There is a press called “40K books”—the old length specification of novels/novelette/novellas/novelitos are no longer meaningful. A book can be any length that works—it’s a story, after all, not a document. The “size” of books was mostly determined by the nature of capital expenditure: no longer a factor at all. I encourage writers to do what they want to do, not what Writers Digest says they should—and to share it with as many people as they can get to read it, in whatever format people seem to prefer.
Fiona: Interesting you should mention financing as influencing story length.
It’s not generally thought of in that context, but ownership and financing printing presses and all the other assets of putting books in stores has been a major factor in how we’ve come to think of genres. And speaking of capital (and the post-capitalist nature of contemporary publishing) I am a big proponent of doing books as DIY as possible. It’s easy for the book gurus who feed off writers’ aspirations to try to shame you into dumping money into putting your book out—money you will almost certainly not get back—but it’s a far better idea for writers to learn how to put a book out. It’s part of the process, and in these times, it’s part of the skillset for the job. I get into this a little more in this free ebook [ http://books.noisetrade.com/lintonrobinson/little-red-book-quotations-from ]… a lot of fun, but also good information/attitude for new writers looking at going public.
Fiona: So who does your editing and book covers and other tasks?
I do my own editing, and get some review comments on failures there. But they bought the book and liked it, didn’t they? It’s a mistake to think that readers are as repelled and horrorstruck by typos as bookcoaches are. If people like your story, they will keep reading. I do my own formatting. Because it’s really, really easy and you’d have to be an incredible moron not to be able to convert your word processing file to a mobi or epub file, or a CreateSpace template. I do my own covers. I have no artistic talent or training, but I think it’s mostly a matter of having good sense and being able to size up what’s out there and do something similar. If you are publishing literary fiction, poetry, romance/erotica, space opera, or non-fiction you’d have to be a bit of a clueless idiot not to be able to make a cover equal to what’s on the market. Some experience with a graphic program necessary—another not-too-awful learning curve for something writers should know about. If nothing else, what if you put a big red circle in the middle of a white cover, with your title on it in bold black or white. Would that drive potential readers screaming into the night? The Beatles “White Album” sold well enough. I started a series on doing your own covers, which I should continue, but meanwhile it’s got good basic information on making your own covers [ http://linrobinson.com/home/article-links/ ] recommend looking at if you are thinking about this.
Fiona: What is the current state of your writing career?
State of confusion, if not panic. I’m at a major quandary or crossroads in my life right now. I lost a couple of years after heart surgery. I’m hoping I will come back to writing as well as I used to, but face it, I’m aging. And running out of time. I have already realized that even if I never have another idea for a book, I will still not have time to finish the ideas I have. Which is pretty depressing, actually. I am struggling to finish my WIP, and not sure why. I just don’t seem to have the desire, or the words. Once I do, I’ll have to figure out what to do next, and I have different dueling ideas daily. Start right in on the next in that “Borderland” [ http://mexipost.com/borderland/ ] series? Unlikely. Do quick converts of screenplays to short novels? Worked well for “Bailin’ “. Do some quirky, sarky short books I keep thinking of out of sheer mischief? Go back to writing magazine articles, like I did for decades of “pro career”? Finish one I’ve had in the back of my mind for 20 years—a sort of tec noir set in Tijuana? And try to sell it to a publisher or talk to one of my old agents from back in the day. So they can tell me they don’t want to start up with old guys with tricky tickers, depressing me worse? Become a gigolo? I can’t wait to see what I do next. Want to keep track of it all? Sign up for my newsletter by downloading this cool “Whitman’s Sampler” [ http://books.noisetrade.com/lintonrobinson/pirate-this-book ] of my past work.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Yes. Here’s one of a series I’m doing: one of a collection of anecdotes from all those years I covered concerts and films for newspapers. Here’s one about hanging with Cheech and Chong [ http://linrobinson.com/GIGS/cheechong.pdf ] And here’s some stuff from that current WIP that’s driving me nuts for some reason, Suffer The Children. [ http://linrobinson.com/download/excerptpucho.pdf ] “Pucho”, the pooch, is an on-going character from the first book: a tough fighting dog who does fine until he gets mixed up with people.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Oh, constantly. There’s a list of published “tips” on this page [http://linrobinson.com/home/article-links/], and it looks like I’ll be doing more for some of the more-cruised writer sites. For some tips I’ve passed on second hand from known writers, check out my “Tips From the Masters” articles on Indies Unlimited [ http://www.indiesunlimited.com/author/lin-robinson/ ]… a site indie authors should be aware of and bookmark, anyway.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Funny, I’ve never owned a TV, but of course you can’s avoid seeing it. And whatever people say, there is some fantastic writing on TV. I have NetFlix now, so I watch a couple of shows I think are extremely well written: Breaking Bad (and even more so its spin-off, Better Call Saul, Weeds and Orange Is The New Black (that woman could teach tricks to any writer alive), Scandal, Nashville, Magic City (though that might be because of their habit of having some of the most beautiful actresses alive traipse around naked). I always say fiction writers can learn a lot from dramatic writing… and you frequently learn more for lousy shows than good ones that scoot you along all star-eyed so you don’t notice what they are doing. Writing a screenplay first, then converting to novel is a really good way to tell a story: better to add description and subtext than chop it away. And regular network TV shows like Barney Miller, WKRP, Frazier, are structurally amazing: 3 to 5 acts, all ending on a cliffhanger or punchline, 2-3 subplots often including longterm “series arc” material, all lengths drastically limited and specific, and everything resolves in the last scene. I used to marvel at the way Barney Miller could wrap up three sub-plots with one final scene.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Hell, I’m a writer… I can’t AFFORD hobbies. My life has moved me away from my old standbys like bicycling and paddling watercraft and free diving (which means skindiving without air tanks and other artificial prosthetics) and even “younger women” is starting to look a little shaky. I don’t carve bone and ivory jewelry much any more, but lately have been making bone-handled kitchen utensils: chow down with a coyote jawbone fork or bison-tibia carving knife. I still read and listen to music a lot. Yahoo…
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you have done?
Crime. I did a lot of that anyway, in between law enforcement and journalism gigs. Now I live in Mexico, where it’s hard to tell those three apart.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Thought you’d never ask. My main sites are at LinRobinson.com [ http://linrobinson.com/home/ ] for a general sort of ”business card” site, and Slang101.com [ http://slang101.com/ ] for the Mexican slang stuff.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Yep. And it’s all available on amazon.com [ http://www.amazon.com/Linton-Robinson/e/B002BLP59C ] Thank you for asking.