ROBERT’S TOP WRITING TIP: Writing and publishing are two entirely different activities that are connected only tangentially. Don’t think about being published, or not being published, while you are writing; it will screw with your head. Write the best book you can, that you are proud of, and only then start worrying about publishers. The publishing world is changing rapidly; it’s impossible to imagine a potential readership while you write, so write for yourself.
Robert Schofield grew up in the suburbs of Manchester, in the north of England, and won a scholarship to the local independent school, Stockport Grammar School. In 1984 he won the school’s John Moult Memorial Essay Prize for creative writing, which won him a handsome volume of the complete works of Shakespeare. Despite this early promise of writing talent, his proficiency in mathematics and science won him a place at Emmanuel College, Cambridge to read Engineering.
He scraped through Cambridge with a modest degree having pursued his own curriculum that included theatre, revue, music and politics, with some engineering thrown into the mix. He was part of a theatre company that took two shows to the Edinburgh Fringe in ’86, and that brief theatrical career ended in front of an audience of three on a rainy Scottish afternoon. He was an elected delegate to the National Union of Students Conference, in the year that Margaret Thatcher removed universal access to higher education. The highlight of his political career was being hit on the back of the neck by an egg intended for Ken Livingstone.
After graduation he moved to London and started a career as a structural engineering consultant, designing signature architecture for the likes of Foster, Rogers, Grimshaw, Hadid and Alsop. His portfolio includes East Croydon Station, The Eden Project, Madrid Airport, Lichfield Theatre, and the London Imax Theatre.
He took time out to travel through Europe, Asia and the Americas, ending in Australia where he met his wife, Jacqui. Finding no call for creative architectural engineering in Perth, he adapted his skills to the mining and offshore industries. He is currently Principal Structural Engineer for an engineering consultancy, designing minerals processing facilities for the gold and metals industries in Western Australia and Africa.
The idea for HEIST came on a site visit to an abandoned gold mine in the desert, and was inspired by pub conversations with mine workers trying to conjure elaborate hypothetical schemes for stealing gold. The book uses stories and characters collected from his time in the gold industry.
Robert Schofield lives in a house he designed himself in Inglewood, with his wife and three children: Jackson 9, Charlie 5 and Emma 4. Whatever time he has left after working, writing, and wrangling three young children, he spends reading, cycling, kayaking, and maintaining his scooter: a beautiful 1970 Vespa Rally.
Visit Robert’s website for more information: http://robertschofieldauthor.com
Why do you write? I came to writing late. I’d won my school’s creative writing prize, which scored me a handsome volume of the complete works of Shakespeare, but despite this early promise of writing talent, I thought myself more proficient in mathematics and science. I chose to read Engineering at college, and then pursue a career in engineering. I never thought about writing a novel until one bored evening thirty years later when I was lying on a bed in a donga on a gold mine a thousand kilometres from nowhere in particular.
During all this time I had been writing, but nothing concrete. Mostly I had been active on the internet, anonymously contributing to news sites, satire and current affairs. My work came to the attention of the editor of a local news website, and he asked me to write a column for him: something topical, irreverent and scabrous. I thought about it and decided that as I wasn’t an established writer, I didn’t have the credibility necessary to pull it off. Nevertheless I had enough people telling me that I had talent as a writer that I began to think it might be put to better use than making mischief on the internet.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’m still working full time, so I’d be doing my day job and feeling restless.
What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I had a pretty easy ride getting published. I was taken on by the first agent that I approached, and he sent my first book to the Big Six publishers. I got five rejections and then a two-book deal with Allen & Unwin. It was four months from finishing my manuscript to getting a contract. It took me a while to understand how extremely lucky I was.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? It’s an excuse to lock myself in my shed and shut the world out, which is an extremely selfish thing to do. Luckily I have a family that lets me do that. Sometimes they even encourage me to go away and leave them alone. Writing has also introduced me to a whole new group of fascinating people: both writers and readers.
…and the worst? Finding the time to write between a full-time job and a full-time family. I have to fit the writing in at the end of the day when the kids are sleeping, or steal an hour here or there.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I can’t say I’d do anything differently as a writer. I made a few mistakes when first dealing with my publisher. There’s a delicate balancing act between standing your ground and accommodating valid input, and I got the balance wrong. I had been used to speaking plainly and directly in my day job in engineering, and that didn’t work so well in the world of publishing. It took me a while to learn to talk like a luvvie.
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Be nice to your publisher. Do everything that is ever asked of you and be very grateful for everything that your publisher does for you.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever. I have a tiny notebook in my pocket at all times, plus a small pen. I write down all sorts of things that occur during the course of my day: story ideas, snippets of overheard conversation, things I read in the paper or on the web, book recommendations, shopping lists, telephone number, everything.
Gareth Ford returns in the gripping sequel to Robert Schofield’s rollicking goldfields adventure, Heist.
Ford is working in the iron mines of Newman in Western Australia but his involvement in the Gwardar Gold heist is still hanging over him. One morning he returns home from the night shift to find his housemate dead on the sofa, and the local cops waste no time in treating him as a suspect. Ford fears that he himself was the intended target, and soon realises he is being tailed. He summons his old ally from the Gold Squad, DC Rose Kavanagh, and they find themselves in Marble Bar, searching for the Gwardar Gold while being pursued by a variety of desperadoes, each with their own agenda.
Marble Bar is available from: http://www.allenandunwin.com/minisites/crime-city/books/9781743316849/