GWN: According to your bio, you’re just a Southern boy who grew up in Chicago. What’s interesting, about your early years, is that you were drawn to stories and films focusing on the arcane, the bizarre, right out of Ripley’s Believe it or Not. What is it about the bizarre and frightening that demands you write?
Robert: I suspect those of us who are fascinated by the Twilight Zones of life find the arcane and odd worthy of our time and curiosity, all of which is necessary for creativity. The fascination we have as children with death is not an uncommon one that shadows us all our lives. One philosopher, forget the name, asked, ‘When is death not with us?’ Writing about horror, a category I have never limited myself to as my mystery suspense and historical novels are just as important to me, is actually writing about life and death and how we choose to live our lives in terror or in bravery.
Robert: Writing historical fiction is a great, great challenge in that, like writing science fiction, we have to create a world we have not lived in; for me, the research is FUN and enjoyable. It is like Time Travel. I have a ball living for a time when Titanic was built, or pre-Civil War America, or pre-America in Colonial Salem. I love a challenge and how challenging is that — to recreate a whole world that has gone bye-bye. I love bridging the divide between we, us in the present, and they, them in the past — our ancestors. I have so much admiration for our ancestors by the way.
GWN: You’ve come a long way from your first attempt to write a sequel to Huckleberry Finn. Tell us about your path in writing suspense-techno-thrillers?
Robert: I am always amazed at how far authors like artists evolve from poor, shabby work to sleek, complex works; look at Martin Cruz Smith as an example — wow. However, beginning my career in emulation of none other than Mark Twain TAUGHT me so very much from the get-go. It taught me I did not know enough about 1850 America or the Fugitive Slave Act or the Underground Railroad, so it taught me to do some research. The exercise also taught me so much about Twain’s touch, his style, how he controlled the story and organized it. Imitative writing is a grand, great teacher in and of itself. I moved on to horror because it was selling, then same with mystery/suspense and forensics. After doing many such titles in series, I wanted a bigger challenge and that meant Children of Salem, Titanic 2012, Bismarck 2013, and Annie’s War — alternate history and historical novels and techno-thrillers in the case of the two shipboard titles. Challenge keeps me going. But those challenges come from me….challenging myself always to do a different, unique, better book each outing.
GWN: You seem to prefer writing series. Are you using the same theme and/or characters in each dedicated series or quite the opposite?
Robert: Every series title, including the 12 Instinct titles are unique in plot and problems and threads while the bedrock character of the series ensemble of characters remains pretty much intact. I believe series begin to fail when one’s main character(s) begin to behave as they simply would not given the bedrock character. You want to challenge those qualities and characteristics, not ‘destroy’ them. I understand the author of Hannibal in a fit of anger did that on purpose! Does not surprise me to have learned that. I did same in my Dr. O because I instinctively knew no one at Zebra at the time was editing it. Dr. O has no sequel as a result. None of the characters made any sense.
GWN: Tell us about the different series? Are they character or plot driven?
Robert: I have nine series if you count my two trilogies, and all are character-driven with a driving plot in each. Plot and character must fit like hand and glove; many of my plots grow out of a full understanding of the main character. I have a book that introduces in short stories each of eight of my series characters, which is entitled Thriller Party of Eight – the One that Got Away. This is an audiobook as well as an ebook. Working now on a tenth series character. Yes, you could say that I like doing the series thing. Even though Titanic is a stand alone, I had too much fun on the high seas, so I followed up with a near sequel, Bismarck 2013. No two series titles are alike, however! Not completely. The good stuff is familiar but the plot NOT.
GWN: Do you establish an outline to write your books?
Robert: I eschew doing an outline or character cards, but rather trained in another method. I don’t know what I think until I see what I say, so to speak. I jump into a scene that raises twenty questions, and I allow the characters free reign then to find answers to those questions. Strange, weird, odd happenings in the opening chapter, while the rest of the book…it takes all that to answer those crazy unanswerable questions. I start with an enigma from Spontaneous Human Combustion to What Sank Titanic or How Do Neighbors Hang Neighbors etc., and I want answers! That is again how I challenge myself. What if is BINGO for my mind. Can I come up with an solution to what really deep-sized Bismarck? Headlines in my head. Character cards and outlining bores me to tears and I would give up on the book idea as such work for me kills creativity.
GWN: What format are they published in and by whom?
Robert: I now have some 55 novels and one How-To for writers published via Kindle e-book store/Amazon.com. Many of those are now coming out as audiobooks via Audible.com which is an Amazon company, and many are now coming out as PODs via Createspace.com, also Amazon. HarperCollins has my City Trilogy featuring Inspector Alastair Ransom begun with City for Ransom, a detective in 1893 Chicago. My last ten titles I have published via my company Instinct Ink Books in partnership with Amazon.com. All of my titles are found in a Kindle store in every Netherhood.
GWN: Do you have a favorite of all the series?
Robert: Asking an author his or her favorite books is painful for the writer; it is like being asked which child is one’s favorite. However, I really feel that Children of Salem is the title I was put here on the planet to write. By the same token, I feel Annie’s War is my best writing, but then I get better with each book I write same as a home builder gets better with each home s/he writes. For forensics/suspense of course my Instinct Series.
GWN: How do you promote your books?
Robert: I promote my books by never turning down any chance to give an interview, HA! I spend a great deal of time on Facebook but not simply talking about my books but books in general, the day’s issues, politics, and I set up a How-To page, offering all kinds of writing advice, as well as a fan page for Titanic 2012. Three FB pages, whew! I spend time on Twitter in the same manner. I maintain a website: http://www.robertwalkerbooks.com and I do all I can to help other authors on chat groups. I have used FB ads but only a few times. I do next to no advertising and pray for word of mouth as I set up contests and giveaways and promotions via Amazon such as the new Countdown promotions I am doing right now. I am also giving away loads of audiobooks to get word out on this new venture.
GWN: Are you a member of any writing organizations?
Robert: I have been a member in the past of Mystery Writers of America and Horror Writers of America but not presently. I had to give up something to remain SANE! However, both organizations are helpful for young writers in particular, and anytime a young author can get to a writers conference, it is extremely valuable to meet and hear old pros talk writing both on panels and in the bar.
GWN: What are you currently writing?
Robert: I have taken a brief hiatus, but even so have a hundred and twenty pages done on a thing I am calling The FEAR COLLECTOR.… similar to the Instinct Series but of course unique! This is just in the gestation season, but I am excited about it. I just completed a Young Adult title – The Canoneers – Ben Cross & The Guns of Ticonderoga. I have a couple more YAs I am wanting to find time to do. These YA coming of age stories, I feel, are very important for kids 11 and up. These are, like my historical novels, my attempt at the best I can do in the area of literature that people at any age can appreciate. I want to write books that enrapture readers and live on in their minds years later. A big goal indeed but one’s grasp should always exceed one’s reach or so my teachers always taught me.