Interview with Robert D Spake

RSpake“Even if I’m not writing…

I’m always thinking about

what I’m going to write..”

Robert D Spake from Southampton recently talked to me about his writing ambitions and career. He currently has a published novel, Angelic Hellfire, available across all Amazon stores, along with a number of short stories and a collection of poems. He holds a wide range of reading interests in various formats and an interest in many styles of writing including plays and scripts.

Grabbing Mr Spake for a little interview was a pleasure, and upon having read some of his works recently, I found his offerings to be accomplished, efficient and compelling.

Take a look at the interview and check out the various links below to discover the works of this promising young author.

 

1. Is writing your main pastime?

I’m not sure I’d class it as a pastime, it’s more like an obsession, something I have to do. It’s almost like all the creativity builds up inside and creates this pressure and the only way to release it is by writing. I try to keep it balanced but sometimes I’m guilty of letting it build up to try and make it come out in a frenzied burst. I probably shouldn’t manipulate myself like that, thinking about it. So yeah, it’s a big part of my life and even if I’m not writing I’m always thinking about what I’m going to write or I have fragments of poetry lingering in my head.

 

 2. Do you write about subjects you also like to read?

Yeah, and often reading about a subject can make me want to write a story about it. For example, I recently read Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini and that made me want to write a pirate story, which isn’t something I considered doing before. I’m interested in a lot of things so I tend to branch out and I’m not content to just sit within a single genre so I’d like to write a lot of different stories and I think that shows in my collection of short stories. Sometimes I tend to take some aspects of the book I’m reading at the moment, I remember a few years ago I was in the process of writing a western/fantasy thing while studying Greek and Roman literature. I was reading The Odyssey at the time and I found that in my story the characters were making these long dramatic speeches in the same tone as the Greek epics so I had to reign myself in a little bit.

3. What is your own favourite piece of writing?

Now this is a very tough question. I’ll always have a soft spot for Angelic Hellfire but in truth it was my first proper attempt at writing so parts of it are still a bit rough around the edges. From my short stories I’m particularly proud of Incestua and Looking Beyond the Edge of the Universe. I also wrote a novel at the start of the year called Fraudulent which is still unreleased at the moment but I’m very pleased with how that turned out because I put a lot of myself in it and it was very draining. There are also a number of poems I like, one in particular which I’ll share with you now, it’s based on Watchmen, so if you haven’t read the graphic novel or seen the movie I’m not sure it’ll make as much sense but I felt really good after I wrote it.
We Watch the Watchmen
(With thanks to Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons)

 

The clock ticked another minute to Doomsday
A father wept as his daughter stayed out late
To the immortals its nothing but child’s play
Just another tear lost in the rain

 

A meeting with an old friend reminds you how times have changed
But deep inside a spark remains
A common secret, a common shame
A commonwealth of shared blame
A lover living on another plane
Treating life as if it’s a game
Just have a smoke a tell a joke
Sell everything for fame

 

It only takes a minuteman to save the world
We all watch the war grow cold
And pray to a silent god
That it all doesn’t end before we run out of heroes

 

He beats and rapes the love of his life
Because she dared to say ‘no’ twice
Then turns around and rolls the dice
Snake eyes rule his conscience

 

A boy looks with wrath upon his mother
As she watches one leave then takes another
Just a whore with broken hearts in her bed
Like the lesbians stabbed until they bled

 

Everyone drowning in their own sin
No-one has the strength to muster a grin
Because the comedian is dead
And the clock ticked another minute closer to doomsday

 

It only takes a minuteman to save the world
We all watch the war grow cold
And pray to a silent god
That it all doesn’t end before we run out of heroes

 

The smartest man in the world has gone insane
Another fight in an alleyway
Too much information in his brain
A broken arm, a shattered face
He thought he could find a way to stop the rain
Followed by a warm embrace
But he could never fully explain
Hell is somebody’s happy place
Why we needed all the pain

 

It only takes a minuteman to save the world
We all watch the cold war thaw
And pray to a silent god
That it all doesn’t end because we ran out the heroes

 

We were jealous and scared
Lashed out and who was there
Our protectors, to take the blows
Our defenders, as we said ‘go’
So they left us
And we said oh….fuck

 

We taunted the superman
Flaunted the everyman
Haunted by every damned mistake we made
Trying to escape from the shadows into which we fade
But don’t worry
It’s sane to be afraid
As the clock ticks another minute to doomsday

 

We just watched as the minutemen died to save the world
And we just watched as the cold war burned
And prayed to a silent god
To bring back the heroes.

Angelic Hellfire4. How did you find the process of writing a novel?

It’s been a bit different every time. I will say that I don’t plan my novels at all. When I get an idea it comes to me in a flash and I have the main thrust of the story and I know most of what happens, and other subplots develop as I’m writing it, so I let it happen rather organically. That part is alright, although it gets pretty hectic in my head sometimes. As for the actual writing of the novel, with Angelic Hellfire I wrote it by hand first, and then typed it up. Because that was my first attempt at a novel it’s been through a lot of edits and I’ve tweaked it a lot, and it was very long. I think I initially wrote it in four months, but it was a long time before I was somewhat happy with it. I don’t write novels by hand anymore because it takes too much time and my handwriting is awful so it’s hard to understand what I write when I go back to it…also I want to be kind to the trees.
But it can be quite draining and sometimes it can seem overwhelming, so I try and take it bit by bit. I set myself a word target every day/week and try my best to stick to that. I managed to write Fraudulent in a period of eight weeks, although that was fulled by a lot of emotion on my part. It does take a tremendous amount of courage and effort I think, and it can be incredibly lonely. I read a recent blog post talking about how important a support network is for writers, because we can get lost in our own worlds so I like places like Goodreads because there’s a very friendly community where you can share and connect with other writers who understand what it’s like. But it’s also very rewarding to look at a finished story and think ‘I created that,’ and you sort of know that you’re the only person who could have written that story in that particular way.

5. What, or who, in the world inspires you?

Well I get inspired by everything I read and watch and listen to. There might be little things in stories or movies that I think could be explored in another way, or a certain image or chain of words that makes me think of something new. Hank Williams in particular has been a big influence on my poetry because I’d love to write poems as tragic as his songs. I generally tend to write things that I’d like to read and I try and take the best bits of what I like and blend them into my stories. I also have a lot of inner conflict that drives my work.

6. Are there any authors that grab your interest?

Do you count? Sorry, sucking up to the interviewer there (haha). I discovered W. Somerset Maughm at the start of the year and I fell in love with the way he writes. His prose is beautiful and I’m in agreement with a lot of attitudes his characters express. I think he’s a very underrated writer and deserves to be more widely-heralded. I also love Tennessee Williams for the emotional vibrancy of his characters and another of my favourites is Philip K. Dick. Whenever you start one of his stories you’re never entirely sure where you’re going to end up, and his short stories in particular are a great showcase for the range of his imagination. Those would probably be my top three, but I’m looking forward to reading more of Sabatini’s work along with a few other people.

7. What has been the biggest challenge as a writer?

On a personal level I think it’s remaining motivated and overcoming the fear of failure and lack of self belief, both of which I’ve struggled with. Professionally, I think it’s getting noticed. I’ve heard it said that the hardest thing for a writer is to learn to stop the editing and tweaking and let the work go, but I think it’s getting exposure and feedback that is the hardest part, especially now. I mean it’s great that we have the opportunity to share our work easily but there’s such a vast amount of books out there it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.

8. Do your characters believe in God?

Thanks for the simple non-controversial question! I’m sure some of them do, but for the most part they don’t. I’m an atheist myself so I don’t tend to bring up the subject of religion or God in my work unless it’s pertinent to the story. I put a lot of myself into my characters, especially the main ones, so they tend to reflect my beliefs, which is why a lot of them are Elvis fans.

9. Do you prefer e-books or the real thing?

I like them all equally really. I do like the feel of a book, there’s something nice about physically owning something and being able to see it sit in your shelf, and I’d love to have a published paperback because I think there’s a prestige that comes with it. It’s also easier to lend people physical books. E-books are good too, there are a lot of great free classics available and they don’t take up space in my crammed cupboard. I’ve also recently discovered the panel-view feature that Kindle Fire has for it’s graphic novels and comics and I’m amazed by it in all honestly, it’s such a fluid reading experience. I also love having a load of books available for train rides, I don’t have to lug a few books around in a bag. The only downside is that you have to watch the battery.

10. What’s the best and worst thing anyone’s said about your work?

There have been a couple of negative comments about Angelic Hellfire because there’s a shift in tone about half-way through the book, and a couple of people who read it said they were enjoying it up to that point. So I’ve tried to make it clear that it’s a sci-fi book, even though it doesn’t really start off as such, but to me it’s just a natural progression of the character’s journey and I hoped that even is a reader isn’t necessarily a fan of sci-fi they’d still be invested enough in the character to carry on. My poems have received a fair amount of praise when I’ve shared them with people and someone once said they could really identify with Aaliyah’s journey in Angelic Hellfire which was nice. I also had a friend who was proofreading Fraudulent for me and she read it in a couple of days so it was nice to know that she liked it enough to read it straight through!
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