Recently, I was invited to attend an Author’s Fair at the public library in my hometown. I met some pretty amazing people and had the privilege of rubbing elbows with folks who’ve been on their writing journey for way longer than I have. Afterward, I was inspired to do a blog series to highlight some of these individuals and their work. I would like to thank Miranda, from the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, for reaching out to these authors and begging on my behalf for their time and attention.
Please help me to welcome Robert Collins. He is my first guest.
Robert! Thanks for being willing to speak with me.
R: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Have you lived in Kansas your whole life?
R: I grew up around the Wichita area, and I’ve lived in the state my whole life.
When did you know you wanted to write?
R: I was hooked into science fiction & fantasy by “Star Wars.” From there, I looked at everything I could: books, magazines, movies, TV shows. One of the books I read was “Isaac Asimov on Science Fiction.” It was a collection of essays, including essays on writing. Those essays resonated with me. I realize now that I was an imaginative child. The reason why those essays struck a chord was that I loved telling stories. I’ve been writing ever since.
When you read Star Wars, was it a comic book or something else?
R: I probably read the novelization, though I think I also read the paperback edition of the comic adaption.
Very cool! Do you plan to see the movie?
R: I’m not sure when I’ll see it, but eventually I will. The experience just doesn’t do it for me like it used to.
I find fantasy writers fascinating. I would love to try it sometime! So how long has your writing been out in the world?
R: I sold my first short story in 1990. I started self-publishing in 1992. My first book published by a press (nonfiction) came out in 1996. My first novel came out in 2005.
You have an envious number of books available on Amazon. You’re also pretty diverse in what and how you write. What genre do you prefer to write? Fantasy?
R: I mainly write science fiction & fantasy. I like being able to create worlds, and let my characters do what they want to, or have to, in those worlds. I like that I have the option of talking about present-day issues in my created worlds, or talking about genre issues, or just telling a story. I like trying to figure out how my characters and their worlds tick.
Do you have a work-in-progress?
R: Of late, I’ve been writing works in my “Defender” series. The stories tend to be novella/short novel length. I’ve written close to three dozen stories in the series, along with a few side-stories and a couple of works set well before the first story (they fill out some of the history of the place). As a result, what I’m writing now won’t come out for a year or two.
I see you’ve gone through the traditional publishing route as well as self-publishing, but have chosen to stick with self-publishing. Why is that?
R: One of the aspects of self-publishing that I enjoy is the freedom it allows me when it comes to publishing. Sometimes I can put works out one way as eBooks, and another way as print books. I can put out books that are as short or as long as they need to be. I can experiment with release schedules. Over the last few years I’ve been putting out something new every month (presently, that’s usually a “Defender” novella). I might slow that down in a year or two to see how that works.
I’m eager to have a third of the books you do and your Defender series sounds fascinating. You also have a lot out there on Kansas history, but I know you experienced the 1991 Andover tornado. If I may ask… how affected were you?
R: I lost everything except for a handful of items. My mother was out at the time. I was home, and I did get to the shelter.
I can’t even imagine what that’s like.
R: The important thing about the experience that I can share (and have) is how vital it is to be prepared. Keep lists of what you own. Keep backups of your work. Try not to get attached to things, but be sure to protect those things you care the most about.
Excellent advice. Did the experience have any impact on your writing?
R: It didn’t have that much effect on my writing. The effect of it was that it slowly steered me towards trying to live a more minimalist life. That’s accelerated the last few years. I’ve also started putting a sign up at my event tables that one day I’d like to live in a tiny house.
I have some friends who are going to do that. It’s wonderful for the disciplined. You’re obviously disciplined to have so many published works. I appreciate you sharing your story with me, Robert. I’m going to close our interview by throwing some random questions at you. Ready?
Chocolate or vanilla?
Coffee or tea?
R: Tea, but I prefer water.
See! There’s that discipline again! Hot breakfast or cold?
Dessert before or after your meal?
Haha! More discipline. Love it!
Robert, thanks again for a lovely chat. I wish you best in your career.
R: Thank you!
Check out Robert’s blog here.