Kindle Author Interview: Robert Collins

Robert Collins, author of Expert Assistance, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Expert Assistance?

ROBERT COLLINS: It's a bit of a satire of revolution stories and pop culture. Here's the blurb: To get out of debt, spacer Jake Bonner takes on two odd jobs. The first, chauffeur pop star Evvie Martini on her tour; the second, helping Daniel and Clarissa Rosen overthrow their planet’s tyrannical ruler. Unfortunately for Jake, Evvie finds out about his second assignment and, hoping to advance her career, invites herself to the revolution. From there the absurdity grows for Jake and his band of “freedom fighters.” I hope readers have a good time with the novel, though a little deeper thought is okay too.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

ROBERT COLLINS: It varies from story to story. Some characters grow as I rewrite the story. Others, like most of the EA characters, were pretty much formed when the story was written.

I like to think that what makes my main characters different from those created by other authors is that mine tend to think before acting. Clever characters stop and think before they make some choice or carry out a plan. That's part of the joke in EA; Jake knows what to do, but he has to spend time explaining, which is the real aggravation.

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

ROBERT COLLINS: I like to say that I'm more a storyteller than anything else. I hope my ideal reader is willing to let me tell them a good story. Sometimes my stories are funny, sometimes they're serious, but there's always that story. That's who I want to reach, the reader who wants to be entertained for a little while.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

ROBERT COLLINS: I got hooked into SF by Star Wars. That got me into Star Trek, and that made me aware of writing. Another inspiration was a book by Isaac Asimov, Asimov on Science Fiction. I sold my first short story in 1990. I self-published a series of local travel booklets from 1992-95. I began self-publishing nonfiction about 5 years ago.  A couple years ago I put out a short story collection. EA is my first shot at self-publishing a novel, even though it was previously published. I imagine sometime next year I might put out a novel that hasn't been previously published.

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

ROBERT COLLINS: In the morning, after I've showered, dressed, etc., I sit down at my iMac. I have a goal of writing 4 pages a day, 6 days a week. For my fiction, I need to have a story plotted. Otherwise I just spin my wheels. For my nonfiction I just need my research materials and an idea of what I want to say. I work until I've reached my goal or hit some other milepost (end of scene/chapter, for example).

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

ROBERT COLLINS: I'm not an "author person," in the same way that I'm more a "song person" than an "artist/band person." Stories speak to me. In the case of EA, it was the Hitch-Hiker's Guide books, Doctor Who, and the need to be funny. All of my stories are the same; it's other stories (fact or fiction) that inspire them.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?

ROBERT COLLINS: The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. Actually, the first three books in that series, along with the Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

ROBERT COLLINS: By doing interviews and blogs like this. I've sent out some review copies. Mainly, though, I'm hoping to keep putting out works until something clicks. The contract for my second novel is about to expire, so I want to self-publish that by the end of the year. I have plans to release other works as well. I agree with Kristine Kathryn Rusch: the best promotion is to write the next book.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

ROBERT COLLINS: Why not? It's the most popular e-reader. (I may have an iPad in my future; I'll probably load the Kindle for iPad app onto it.)

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

ROBERT COLLINS: I'm probably not the best to ask, since I'm just starting out myself. Of course, I have all those plans, so maybe I'll figure out an answer for next time! :)

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.


Robert Collins writes, "My third novel, Monitor, came out last year from Whiskey Creek Press. My second science fiction novel, Lisa's Way, was released in 2008 by eTreasures Publishing. My first SF novel, Expert Assistance, came out in 2007 through Asylett Press.  I've had stories and articles appear in periodicals such as Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine; Tales of the Talisman; Space Westerns; Sorcerous Signals; Wild West; and Model Railroader. In 2007 Pelican released my biography of "Bleeding Kansas" leader Jim Lane, and before that a biography of a Kansas Civil War general.  I've had six Kansas railroad books published by South Platte Press."

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