This time i am talking to Sci-Fi writer Scott Robinson about one of his passions, which is writing of course! Scott is 38 years old and lives in a small town just outside Brisbane in Australia. He lives there with his amazing wife and two young children with another one on the way. Outside writing and work he plays cricket (badly) and enjoys photography (though not as often as he would like).
Books & Writing: How long have you been writing?
Scott Robinson: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Even when I was young it was science fiction and fantasy. When I was 10 years old I wrote a 11 page, 11 chapter science fiction ‘novel’ at school. An official from the school district happened to visit about that time and was so impressed that she took the story to show to other schools for the next couple of months.
Books & Writing: When did you get interested in science fiction?
Scott Robinson: I couldn’t say where my interest in science fiction actually started. I remember watching “Dr Who” (with Tom Baker) when I was young, as well as the show “The Goodies” which often had elements of science fiction and fantasy. I grew up reading David Eddings and Raymond Feist. There was never really a time when I read anything else.
Books & Writing: What do you love about the genre?
Scott Robinson: The thing I love most about sf and fantasy is the possibilities. A lot of people seem to think that writing science fiction it easy because you can just do anything at all. In fact it actually makes it harder because you as well as all the usual stuff other writers have to do, you also have to set the limits.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us something about your science fiction series “Tribes of the Hakahei”?
Scott Robinson: Tribes of the Hakahei started life as a quest fantasy novel when I was probably 12 or 13 years old. It involved 6 people from different, fairly standard fantasy races getting together to fulfill a prophecy and save the world. Like a lot of things I wrote back then it never really went anywhere (I remember spending longer writing the prophecy than I did the actual story) but twenty or something years later it merged with an idea to link a lot of myths and legends from earth into a science fiction novel. I went around looking for lots of little things I could weave into the story.
Robin Hood is good at archery– elves are good at archery. Therefore, Robin Hood must be an elf. A few of the Native Americans cultures believe that their ancestors crossed from another world through underground doorways. Why is Machu Picchu stuck up in the hills? The ‘navigator’ stories of the south pacific peoples. I read about a lot of things, then just started writing. When something came up in the story I went to the internet to see if there was something similar from real life that could be made to fit.
The series was only 2 books at one point but my original editor thought the ending was a bit rushed. She was right, so I added another book. But word lengths kept growing throughout the various drafts and soon it was 4. Book 3 will be ready by the end of February but 4 may be a few months after that– it’s still only half written.
Books & Writing: What does your family think about your writing?
Scott Robinson: My wife is very supportive of my writing– she would support it even more if I could make some money. I’m very luck in that she reads science fiction and fantasy as well so she is one of my beta readers. My kids are too young to understand (3 and 2) but they both love books so in a few years I imagine they’ll be beta readers as well. The rest of my family are supportive in general though they probably don’t really understand what’s involved.
Books & Writing: Where can people find you on the internet?
Scott Robinson: My website is www.scottjrobinson.com The Space Between can be downloaded for free from there. If people like that enough that they want to read Book 2– Singing Other Worlds (which is already available) then I think a small donation isn’t a lot to ask.
Books & Writing: Which writer(s) inspired you?
Scott Robinson: I suppose way back it would be David Eddings– one of the first fantasy or science fiction writers I knew. More recently, writers that inspire me in a general way are KJ Parker, Dave Duncan and Richard Morgan. Dave Duncan has a light, humorous tone that I love as well as plots, magic systems and worlds that are always a bit different. The other two don’t have a lot of humor but Morgan writes with gritty force and Parker has a way with words that I would love to be able to emulate.
Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Scott Robinson: I guess I could go for the old standards– read a lot and write a lot– but we’ve all heard those a million times. So I’ll just say, have fun. If you’re in it for the money chances are you’ll be disappointed so make sure you’re enjoying it. That’s the way to come up with something different and original– something that people might remember.
Below is an excerpt from “The Space Between”
Kim turned and saw one of the ‘German’ cannoneers– a short, balding man on the wrong side of fifty. He had picked up one of the ropes used to pull a cannon into position and was trying to get it out of the camp and into the open.
“Hey.” He was talking to an archer but the man stood in shocked silence and it was doubtful he’d be any use at all for a while yet. Then he saw Kim and turned his attention to her. “Help me with this,” he said in his English accent. “There’s another one of the damn birds.”
Kim followed his pointing finger.
“Just grab the rope and pull.”
Kim was trained to follow orders in battle. She did as told and Keeble came to help as well.
“[This had better be a cannon,]” he said as he pushed at the back. “[It looks a bit flimsy.]”
Kim had no idea what he said, but she pulled on the rope and tried to keep up. The little man was surprisingly strong and his low centre of gravity gave him good leverage.
The cannoneer stopped pulling for a moment to shout at five of his friends. “Sonneberg Artillery. Don’t just stand there. Gets those cannon moving.” He let go of the rope completely and went to shout from closer range. The other men hadn’t moved.
“Are you crazy, Johnno?” said someone from inside a tent. It wasn’t the best place to seek protection from bombs.
Keeble kept pushing so Kim kept working as well. It seemed better than thinking about the people in the crowd. Or about any of the other things she might think about. She pulled on the rope and tried not to think.
“Are we artillery men or are we just playing with our toy guns?” Johnno shouted.
He pushed someone towards a second cannon and glared at another man until he went to help. Soon all three cannons were heading for the open ground. Another four men were getting a large chest from beside a tent. They pushed through the onlookers, straining with their burden.
“[This is the worst bunch of soldiers I've ever seen,]” Keeble said as he took a quick look over his shoulder. “[Pathetic.]”
Johnno encouraged his men one moment and abused them the next and soon had all the cannons lined up about five metres apart.
“Harry, what’s the range at maximum elevation?”
“Christ, Johnno, I don’t know,” a big man replied, barely keeping the quaver out of his voice. “We’ve never fired them at maximum elevation.”
“We’ve got no chance of hitting a moving target,” said one of the men lugging the chest. “Can we load shrapnel of some kind? Cutlery maybe?”
Johnno pointed at the bat. “We don’t have time.”
Kim looked again. “Shit.” She took a couple of steps back and looked over her shoulder to see just how far away the forest was. Her heart was racing.
“Come on boys, let’s do this.” Johnno strode along behind the three cannon, checking to see the alignment of each, as if they could possibly know what they were going to need. “We’ve fired these things hundreds of times. Easy as pie.”
One of the men looked at him and shook his head. “Who’re you kidding John?” A couple of the others looked at him as if he were crazy.
“Here.” He’d been helping with the chest and was now pulling a key from a chain around his neck. He was a thin man with a long nose and hollow cheeks. His costume seemed about two sizes two big, as if he was expected to grow into it. Now was his chance.
Johnno jumped. Up until then he had been as calm as a seasoned campaigner but his tension finally came through for a moment. He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself, with mixed results. “Good. Excellent. Let’s load up then.” His leg was shaking and he grabbed it with his hand to get it under control. Kim wished it were all that easy as she wiped sweat from her own hands.
The bat was coming in over the trees.
Two men adjusted the cannon’s muzzle height while Boydie supervised the loading.
Kim watched as Johnno took a packet of matches from his pocket. She wiped sweat from her face, licked her lips and examined the bat. Two minutes at most. Did they have time? Did they have any choice? She looked back at the remains of the crowd. A couple of hundred injured people and bodies littered the edge of the cricket field. They were a writhing, moaning mass. About the same number had come from the forest. Some were helping while lots just stood and stared.
She swallowed and watched the canonneers working. The bat seemed to come so fast, the men seemed to work so slow. Christ. What the hell are they doing?
They were waving their sword at the dragon and not waiting for the experts, that was what they were doing.
When the first cannon was loaded, the men moved onto the next and someone came forward to fill the fuse hole with gunpowder.
Kim looked around, as if hoping someone sensible would turn up to tell her what was really happening. Her heart pounded. She suddenly needed to go to the toilet. Smoke drifted across the field. The sounds of death and pain came with it. And the smell. Burned flesh. Fire. Bad explosives. Fear.
Kim looked back at Johnno in his costume. Panic clawed at his eyes, trying to get out. But he held a match in his hand and it was as steady as a rock. The bat was still a long way out, surely the cannon couldn’t fire that far.
“Beware,” Johnno yelled.
Everyone nearby turned to look at him, even those in the important loading detail.
“Fire in the hole.”
Everyone covered their ears and Kim thought it might be a good idea if she did the same. Keeble seemed to work out what was going on just in time. He covered his ears just as Johnno lit the match and touched it to the fuse.
The explosion was much louder close up. Kim’s ears were ringing as she watched the cannonball sail majestically across the field. It cleared the pitch square, cleared the field and crashed into the trees on the far side. A couple of hundred metres.
She stared through the drifts of smoke for a long time after the ball had landed. It was crazy. The first shot had fallen well short of the bat– Johnno obviously didn’t know much about the capabilities of his cannons– but possibly had some use as a range finder. Stupid bloody Englishmen, trying to hit a moving target with a cannon that had never been fired in anger.
The bat was still coming.
“Don’t just stand there,” Johnno bellowed. “Finish loading those cannon.”
Boydie and his assistants got back to work. Keeble rushed over to watch them, chattering constantly in his strange language. Meledrin had reappeared and stood watching. After a few moments she said something to Keeble and he fell silent, though he didn’t look happy about it.
The next cannon was loaded and Boydie moved to the third.
“What do you think, Harry?” Johnno asked.
“Not yet,” the big man replied, suddenly an expert after his earlier protestations. He seemed much calmer too. “A few more seconds.”
“Range was good on that first one,” Johnno said proudly. Then he shook his head. “The height is what’ll screw us.”
Harry gave a bark of humourless laughter. “That’s confidence for you. I reckon there’s about a dozen things that are gunna screw us.”
Kim couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “This is crazy,” she said. “What the hell are you doing?” She looked into the woods and wondered if it was too late to run. It probably wasn’t, but she stayed where she was.
Johnno shrugged. “Some jobs have got to be done,” he said. “And some times the right person isn’t available, so the only person has to do it.”
“Christ.” Wiping her hand on her jeans, Kim turned to look at the sky. The bat was coming. It was almost there.
Johnno got out his matches again as he shouted at some of his men to get the second cannon repositioned.
“We ready?” Johnno shouted. He answered his own question. “Looks good to me. Beware.” And a couple of seconds later, “Fire in the hole.”
Thanks Scott for the interview! Wish you all the best with your writing!