Robert Crouch is the Author of The Kent Fisher Mysteries series amongst others!
Robert Crouch is the author of the Kent Fisher murder mystery series, based on his career as an environmental health officer. Robert now writes full time from his home on the East Sussex coast.
What inspired your most recent book?
I wanted the hunter to become the hunted. I thought it would be interesting to reverse the roles and have my hero become the prey, though he doesn't realise this until late in the story.
Do you remember the moment (or person who inspired it) in your life that you knew you were going to be a writer?
I don't recall a particular moment. As soon as I learned to read, I was captivated by imaginary worlds and tried to create my own, telling stories to my friends. It wasn't until secondary school when my English teacher told me I had a talent I should develop, that I realised I could be a writer. Then I read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and I wanted to be a writer.
What was the first thing learnt as an indie author that has never failed you?
I'm in control - I choose my book cover, my editor, how often I will publish and so on. It was liberating after my first novel was released by a publisher. We didn't share the same vision for my books or career and parted company, leaving me free to become an indie author. While it's hard work and you have to do everything, you can't beat being in control.
How has your life or work experience influenced your work?
Like me, my hero is an environmental health officer, only he investigates murders. I use my experiences and knowledge to add depth and hopefully additional interest for readers. My experiences are often the starting point for an idea or story as my work was so varied and often unusual. As I followed the same investigation procedures and rules as the police, and often worked with them, it's given me a valuable insight that makes my stories more credible, I hope.
Do you base characters on people you know?
My characters are all inventions. They may share traits, mannerisms and attitudes with people I know, but that's all I use. That's not what my former colleagues believe. Many of them read my stories and blogs, determined to match characters to real people.
Do you undertake a lot of research?
I'm not sure what a lot means. My books are set in the present in an area I know well. The main character's job is the one I used to do, so I only need to check that my knowledge is up to date. I have plenty of former colleagues to consult in this respect, though I will check details first. I can spend hours looking into how a fire ivestigator operates, for example. I talk to police officers to check procedure when I need to verify details. I look at property websites to get an idea of what a house might look like, inside and out. I check details about cars, places and can spend a lot of time on Google, looking up the meaning of names to make sure I get the right one for a particular character. I'll feed business names into Facebook and Google to check whether they already exist so I don't misrepresent anyone. I do all this for accuracy and credibility as I don't like authors who skimp on details or get police procedures wrong.
Whats the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Getting a professional editor who understood my work, goals and the genre I write in. While I generally know whether what I've written in up to scratch, I need someone indpendent to assess my work. It allows me to improve my novels, iron out wrinkles and feel confident it's the best work I can produce.
What does literary success look like to you?
I've absolutely no idea. I never thought I'd write six novels in a series. I simply concentrate on writing to the highest standard possible and hope more people will like and buy my books. Maybe one day I'll sell enough to make a profit. That would be a success.
Do you read your book reviews?How do you deal with good or bad ones?
Yes, I read every review with interest. I like to know what works and resonates with readers, or what doesn't. All reviews offer feedback, much of which is food for thought. I know I can't please everyone, so a bad review is someone's opinion - nothing more, nothing less. Now, if it's unfair, I have to bite my lip. While it's always rewarding to receive good reviews, it's always interesting to know what works, what readers like.
Do you try to be more original, or pander to readers' wants?
I write the kind of book I like to read. While I'm aware of market trends, I'd rather take a chance and offer readers something different and hopefully refreshing.
Do you want each work to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?
I write a series of murder mysteries. While each can be read as a standalone, the characters and backstory changes and develops with each book. Readers tell me they enjoy the backstory and I love seeing how the characters will develop and deal with the challenges they face.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It gave me an enormous self-confidence boost, which meant all the issues and weaknesses I couldn't see before became as plain as the nose on my face. I was able to consider my writing objectively and do what was best for the story or characters.
How do you balance making demands on the reader and taking care of the reader?
It's a tricky one sometimes. When my first novel was accepted by a small, independent publisher, I was told the story needed editing. When I asked for a few hints, I was told I had a habit of repeating things too often. I was told to trust my reader, that they would remember. I often remove lots of repetitions during editing and I've had no adverse feedback so far. As I lean towards the cosy end of the crime market, I avoid foul language, graphic violence and explicit sex scenes. I want my readers to be entertained, so I have a humorous element, which they like, and a touch of romance. In return, my readers have to try to fathom their way through complex and twisting puzzles to work out the murderer.
How do you feel when you start writing a book, in the middle, and at the end?
I'm always excited and apprehensive when I start a book. I'm a pantser, so I almost no planning, so there's always the worry of writing myself into a cul-de-sac to counteract the excitement of watching a story grow and develop. By the middle, I usually have a fair idea of where I'm heading and whether the story has legs. When I finish, there's relief, pleasure, sadness and satisfaction before I put the book aside for six weeks. I love editing and polishing my story and can't wait to return to my manuscript.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Names evoke an image in my mind, so I often experiment until I get a name that creates a certain type of character. I often look up what the names mean, which helps me select the right one. I'm not averse to getting names from gravestones. I found Colonel Witherington in a graveyard.
If you had to do something different as a teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
Focus. There were always so many things I wanted to do, so many dreams to chase. Looking back, writing was always my strongest skill, but I hated editing and revising and didn't appreciate how it could make my writing better. Had I spent my time doing that instead of chasing other dreams, I might have done better sooner.
Do you ever think it's ethical to reply to your book reviews?
I'd like to reply sometimes, if only to say thank you, but if I suddenly started to sell a lot of books (laughs), this could be time consuming. I've no desire to debate issues or respond to criticism, especially if it's negative as everyone is entitled to their opinion.
Do you always give books not yours a chance right until the end, or are you quick to DNF?
I have only a limited time for reading, so I don't like to waste time on something I'm not enjoying. I usually know within a few pages if I'm going to enjoy a book. That's why things like Amazon's Look Inside feature are so good - you can decide whether you like a story or new author before you buy, or not as the case may be.
Who is your favourite character of another author?
Kinsey Millhone, a private investigator in California, created by Sue Grafton. This was the author and character that made me believe I could write crime fiction. I love the conversational first person tone, the character's attitude and humoour. She seemed to emboy all the characteristics I wanted my hero to have.
What's been your worst experience navigating through indie authoring?
Never being sure what to do for the best when it comes to marketing and promoting my writing and myself. I read the books, do the courses, but I never feel confident I've got it right. I think that's where a publisher can help with advice and support.
Find Robert's work on Amazon!
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