Rob Sinclair is the best-selling author of The Enemy Series, a high-octane, espionage trilogy that has sold over 200,000 copies. His latest book, Dark Fragments, is an Amazon Top 50 best-seller.
Rob has been kind enough to share some of his writing experiences with me. As you’ll see, his story is an inspiration for anyone looking to write and publish their first book.
Please can you give us an overview of your background?
I was born in North East England but have lived all over the country and also spent some time in New York a few years ago. After graduating university I joined a global accounting firm where I became a Chartered Accountant before moving into their Forensic Investigations team which saw me travelling around the world investigating large scale corporate fraud and corruption. I started writing while still working that job, finally moving to being a full time writer in 2015 shortly after my second book had been released.
How and when did you begin your professional writing career?
I’d never had aspirations of being a writer growing up and it all came a bit out of the blue really. In my mid-twenties with a steady job and no kids and really quite a simple life (work stress aside), I had this bright idea that I could write a book. It’s still hard to figure why that moment came, but I can pinpoint the idea back to a holiday me and my now wife were on in Spain. I’d read a few thriller books in quick succession and hadn’t been all that impressed with any, and, for some reason, I told my wife that I reckoned I could write a book. I mean, how hard could it be?!! So I did! It certainly wasn’t as easy as that flippant comment might have suggested, but I did quickly realise that I enjoyed the writing process, and it seems to come quite naturally to me so I just carried on … and on!
The Enemy Series is tremendously successful. What was your inspiration for the stories?
When I started out writing I kind of knew the type of book I wanted to write; something that was fast-paced and not too bogged down in narrative or politics or anything like that. A book that had plenty of action and intrigue and twists and turns, but also a central character that readers would really feel for. Basically it was the type of book (and movies) that I enjoy myself. As for where the actual story came from, I really don’t know!! I tend to start a book with just one or two big ideas, maybe just an important scene (could be the beginning or the end), or the twist, and I just take it from there and build it out. I find that when I’m in the zone and typing away the story just unfolds quite naturally. Usually anyway!
The lead character, Carl Logan, has clearly been popular with your readers. Did you purposely choose a strong, enigmatic character?
Absolutely. I wanted a character who was quite no nonsense in his approach to life and to getting the job done, someone who was tough, dogmatic, but also highly skilled. I guess that really describes most action heroes but I also wanted Logan to be a character that readers would really empathise with, so while he’s this all-action tough guy on one level, I think there’s also a real vulnerability to him, mentally at least, because of the traumas he’s suffered in the past. I think it’s this side of him that makes him stand out and draws the reader into his life and problems.
For people taking their first steps into fictional writing, what advice can you offer them?
Speaking to other writers there are so many different reasons why people get into the craft, and everyone has their own way of tackling writing a book, so it’s hard to give advice because there’s no right or wrong way to do it, necessarily. A couple of things though; Firstly, be patient and don’t give up. Writing that first book (never mind publishing it) can be a long and frustrating process so if you really want to be a writer than you have to stick with it and push yourself through no matter what. Secondly, don’t do it all alone. When I first started writing I kept it a secret even from my wife for a while before I showed her my first few chapters. It was months more before I showed my parents, for fear that they would think it was a load of crap. But, in the end, you have to take that step and let others see it and really its a hugely important step to get other people’s opinion on your work. Ultimately, when your book is written and you think you’ve taken it as far as you can, I’d strongly advise getting professional editing help (regardless of whether you are looking to self-publish or to find an agent/publisher). It’s not cheap – expect a development edit to be something like £750-£1,500 – but if you’re serious about making your work the best it can be and actually having a career then this step is invaluable not just in polishing that manuscript, but in teaching you more about the craft itself – I learned a hell of a lot from that first edit about the dos and don’ts and where I was getting things wrong.
For experienced fictional writers looking to publish their first book, what pitfalls should they try to avoid?
I’d echo the comment above again about getting editing help before you jump into either self-publishing or trying to get an agent/publisher. There are so many books out there that you have to make yours as good as it can be, so take the time to perfect it yourself but use a professional to critique it for you too. The other key thing is realising just how much effort is needed to properly market yourself and your book so that it sells. For the vast majority of new authors these days, even those published by big publishing houses, you need to do a lot yourself whether it’s social media or festivals, or blogging or organising and analysing paid advertising. It’s all quite a minefield but the more time and effort you put in (and in some cases money), the bigger your chance of catching a break and seeing your book rise through the charts. If you just leave it to chance, or believe someone else will do the leg work for you, you’re giving yourself very little chance of success.
Finally, what’s next on the writing horizon for you?
I recently signed a three book deal with Bloodhound Books and those books will follow-on from the Enemy series. It’s still Carl Logan, but he’s run away from his old life and has a new identity (James Ryker) and new problems. The first book, The Red Cobra, sees Ryker drawn back into his old world when a legendary female assassin, The Red Cobra, reappears having been presumed dead for many years. That’s set for an April release and I’ll soon be drafting the third of those books!
I’m also in the process of developing a new series which will be a spin off from my standalone thriller, Dark Fragments. It features one of the secondary characters from that book, DI Dani Stephens, and will be a slight change in direction for me into police-based crime fiction. I don’t yet know when that will be released but I’ve drafted the first book already and am really excited about it!