26 July 2010

Interview with Robert Collins

Greetings everyone! My guest today is fellow sci-fi writer (and writer of non-fiction too) Robert Collins. So, I'm never one to beat around the bush, so let's get things started:

TM Hunter: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What makes you tick?

Robert Collins: Well, I like to write, and I like my writing to tell a story. It’s why I do what I do even though I’m not rich or famous (yet).

TMH: I notice that you write both fiction and non-fiction. Which do you prefer to write, and why?

RC: I don’t have a preference. I started out wanting to be a science fiction & fantasy author. To some degree nonfiction came about through a few gaming pieces I wrote for Steve Jackson Games. Later I started a series of travel books, which led to writing railroad books, which has now led me to write about Kansas history. I would say that fiction is my passion, but I like ‘em both!

TMH: So tell us about Lisa’s Way. What’s it about? Did anything inspire it?

RC: Lisa’s Way is my second novel. It started back in high school with my friends at the time. We thought it would be cool to be characters in a novel we wrote. Since I was the only one who really wanted to be a writer, I ended up writing most of it. It turned into fiction quite soon.

Here’s the blurb:

Teenager Lisa Herbert lives in the small town of Mountain View on the planet Fairfield. The “Savage Rain” decades earlier shut down the hyperspace gate and isolated her world. A casual remark from her sister gets Lisa to ask a simple question: “If life was better before the ‘Savage Rain,’ why couldn’t it be better again?” That question starts Lisa on a journey.

TMH: How long did it take you to write Lisa’s Way?

RC: It took about twenty years of off-and-on work to get the novel into its present form. At first it was post-apocalypse and the adventures fit together too loosely. In researching the Santa Fe Trail for my travel books, I decided Lisa would restore order through trade. Later I chose to set it in space on colony worlds connected by “hyperspace gates.” And that’s where we are now.

TMH: Is Lisa’s Way your favorite book you’ve ever written? If not, what is (and why)?

RC: I don’t play favorites with my books. It feels like playing favorites with your kids. But as characters go, Lisa is the one I feel proudest to have created. I like her. I want to tell her story. It will end one day, but until then I intend to keep working on her, no matter what.

TMH: If you could, describe your writing in a word or short phrase. Why should a reader want to desperately read your work?

RC: Story-telling. I will tell you the best story I can. I will try to make you laugh, cry, to inspire you, or to make you think, all while telling you whatever the story is.

TMH: When reading, sometimes secondary characters end up being as interesting or more so than the main characters. Were there any characters in Lisa’s Way which begged to have more attention than they were originally planned for?

RC: Yes. I start one chapter with Lisa meeting some young bandits along a road. She talks them into joining her. The scene was just supposed to show how clever she was, and how she tried to avoid fighting.

I realized at some point that these guys had to prove their worth, otherwise the scene was unnecessary. I found a way for them to do so, and their leader started to come forward. He came out of nowhere, and now he’s much more important to Lisa’s effort.

TMH: If Lisa’s Way was made into a movie, who’d star in the cast?

RC: I’ve never thought of a movie, except to ponder who might play Lisa. Felicia Day would have been great about a decade ago. I don’t see any young red-haired actresses right now that make me think, “I would love to see her as Lisa.” Maybe someday...

TMH: What’s next for Robert Collins? Do you have any more novels or non-fiction books in the works? Publications coming up on the horizon?

RC: My third novel, Monitor, has just come out as an e-book. It might be the end of the year before it comes into print. When it does, I’m sure we can chat about it then. I haven’t sold many short stories lately, though I have written some. Last year I put out a collection of short fantasy stories called The Sagas of Surgard. I’m thinking that I might put out another late this year or early next.

As to nonfiction, the project that has dominated my life these past few years is a book on Kansas county-seat conflicts. The manuscript is creeping towards completion. I have high hopes for it, if I can get it published.

TMH: How can a reader find you on the web?

RC: This is my site; I also have a FaceBook page, and I’m part of Book Town.