To be inspired by others is a great way to spark in us a determination and motivation. It is also a short cut way to fast forward our learning, and increase our tool box of options and understanding.
Therefore, I have asked a few blogger friends, if they don’t mind being interviewed and featured on my blog with the intention to inspire us with their journey. Click here to read the introductory post.
Where does the inspiration to write come from? Featuring Robbie Cheadle Part 2
In this three-part series, we will be speaking to Robbie/Roberta Cheadle who has written books in several genres, whilst running a household, working full-time as an accountant, and actively managing two blogs (Robbie’s inspirations (started in 2016), and Roberta Writes (started in 2018)).
In part 1, we learnt about Robbie’s Children’s books which she wrote with her son.
Today, we will focus on how she got into writing, the fictionalised biography she wrote with her mother, how she started to write Horror, and we will also discuss editing, researching, beta-reading and more.
Robbie’s Writing Journey – How it All Started.
As a girl, I always wrote poetry and shorts passages of descriptive prose. I read a huge amount, having learned to read at 4 years old. Some of my favourite books, including Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon, both by L.M. Montgomery, inspired me to write.
In 2012, I rejoined the Accounting and Auditing practice where I had undergone my articles [training to be a chartered accountant]. I created an opportunity to write a series of publications about Investing in Africa. This series involved a significant amount of research as I compiled my conclusions from an analysis of the facts and information presented in approximately twenty-five other research documents. The process of publishing this series introduced me to the design, editing, and marketing elements of writing. This series was popular and resulted in my participating in several television interviews which was another learning opportunity.
In 2015 I started to write children’s books as a way of helping my son advance his reading and writing. This eventually led to these books being published.
Tell us about your fictionalised biography that you co-wrote with your mother.
My mother is a storyteller and has shared tales of her childhood growing up in a small English town during World War II all my life.
I decided to share a few of her stories on my blog, Robbie’s Inspiration, and they proved popular with my readers. I then decided to convert the stories into a children’s book with the help of my mother. As she was only seven years old when the war ended, I had to fill in a lot of the blanks in her recollections with fiction and research. This is the reason I have called this book a fictionalised biography.
I was fortunate enough to have a lot of amazing help from Charli Mills, a USA writer and blogger, with editing While the Bombs Fell. Charli made some wonderful suggestions such as preparing a timeline of the well-known historical events during the war and overlying my mother’s memories and timeline over it. In this way I was able to weave the history into this book. Charli also suggested I incorporated more of the history into my story. I did this and I am happy with the outcome.
It was wonderful to write with my mother. I learned a lot more about my family through this process and it was good for her and for our relationship, which has always been close.
Mom and I are currently writing After the Bombs Fell which picks up where book 1 left off and recounts the remainder of the war and what happened afterwards.
We are four chapters into this new book and I am hoping for a September/October launch.
You have also written in the adult horror and supernatural genre. I know you have written short stories as well and they are part of an anthology. Where do you see writing career going?
Michael and I have seven published Sir Chocolate stories as well as a number of Sir Chocolate stories that are available for free download on Robbie’s Inspiration. There will be no more published Sir Chocolate Books as Michael has grown out of the series now.
I have a second book in the Silly Willy series which is about three quarters complete and I am hoping to finish that during 2021. I am also writing After the Bombs Fell with my mother as detailed above.
I do enjoy writing for children, and I will continue to do so, but for an older age group.
I have a partially completed picture book for adults featuring my Covid-19 and lockdown cakes with twisted nursery rhymes and limericks. This is a slow project as the cakes are time consuming and that project is on hold while I do my current Christmas gingerbread and chocolate project.
I have one young adult historical supernatural fantasy book called Through the Nethergate. This book was inspired by all the different ghost stories I came across while researching Bungay town for While the Bombs Fell. One of the old inn’s in the town is purported to be haunted by more than twenty ghosts. This inn shares a cellar wall with Bungay Castle, built by the notorious Hugh Bigod. Hugh Bigod was an evil man and is believed to still haunt Bungay in the form of a black dog or Black Schuck. Hugh Bigod and the other ghosts that haunt the inn and town, gave me the ideas that are included in Through the Nethergate.
I have author, Dan Alatorre, to thank for my expansion into horror and supernatural writing. He ran a short story competition on his blog and the best stories would be included in a new anthology called Dark Visions. I have been reading horror and supernatural stories since I was ten years old, and when I saw this short story challenge, I decided to give it a go.
I wrote my first ever horror story, The Willow Tree, for this competition, and followed it up with The Haunting of William. Both stories were accepted for the anthology and Dan gave me some excellent feedback. I am open to useful feedback and positive critiquing. I amended my stories accordingly and incorporated Dan’s advice into my writing going forward.
Supernatural and paranormal is a genre I really enjoy, and I have subsequently written short stories for five other horror/murder mystery and paranormal anthologies. All my books have a strong historical theme and I do a lot of research for every book and all my short stories.
I am currently writing a paranormal romance which is another first for me, although it does keep the paranormal flavour.
How can bloggers/writers utilise the power of the WordPress.com community?
Blogging is a good way to meet other authors and writers, many of whom have experience in publishing and marketing and who generously share their knowledge to newbies to the industry. I was lucky enough to follow Sally Cronin from Smorgasbord blog early in my blogging career. Sally is an international blogger and a huge promoter of writers and books. I learned how to go about blogging from Sally.
I was also fortunate enough to meet dozens of other writers and bloggers through Sally’s blog. Some of these bloggers like Christopher Graham, Story Empire, and Sue Vincent share a lot of helpful posts about writing techniques, writing contests, and writing challenges.
Joining in writing prompts and challenges is a terrific way to meet other bloggers and writers and become part of the blogging community.
I participate in several writing and poetry challenges on a weekly basis. I also joined two reading clubs, Rosie Amber’s Book Club and Rave Reviews Book Club. I have met a lot of wonderful bloggers and writers through these clubs, and they also share interesting posts about writing-related topics.
Writing and blogging is a way of life and a community. If you want to do it successfully, you have to put effort into it by reading and commenting on other people’s posts, reading and reviewing other authors books, and making the most of what this exciting world has to offer.
I see you have edited some of the anthologies. How did you find editing and what valuable lessons did you learn that you can share with us?
During 2020, I Beta read two books for fellow authors and one I gave some advice about the ending of the book. I am currently Beta reading another book. I also edited a number of the short stories in Spellbound anthology and have done the same for the forthcoming anthology, Wings & Fire.
It is only recently I’ve had the confidence to comment on other peoples writing and to assist other writers with editing and Beta reading.
I believe I’ve learned a huge amount from the developmental editing I received from Charli Mills, who developmentally edited While the Bombs Fell, and Esther Newton, who has developmentally edited Through the Nethergate and my forthcoming novel, A Ghost and His Gold. Esther also gave me feedback on my three short stories in Death Among Us compiled by Stephen Bentley. I have also received feedback from both Dan Alatorre and Kaye Lynne Booth. These learning experiences have been invaluable, and I have improved tremendously as a writer. I am still learning and intend to have my new WIP, The Soldier and the Radium Girl developmentally edited, as well as After the Bombs Fell. For a new author and writer, I believe that developmental editing by a well know and experienced writer is the best investment you can make in yourself and your work.
Some of the important feedback I have received is learning to create a timeline as I mentioned above. Esther has also helped me spot threads in my story which I haven’t finished off satisfactorily. I have learned a lot about dialogue and not information dumping which is quite tempting when you write historical books. Avoiding filter words and showing and not telling are also writing techniques I am working hard on.
I am still a big believer in the storyline and plot being the most important part of a book. Writing technique is important, but it takes second place to a unique and exciting story. Some people excel at coming up with fascinating and interesting ideas. I like to learn something new from a book and uniqueness is vital to keep me interested as a reader.
I now feel I have enough writing experience to give some useful feedback with editing and Beta reading, but I would not attempt developmental editing. I doubt I ever will as I did not study creative writing and English at University, so I don’t feel qualified to offer such assistance to others. I also have a full-time job as a chartered accountant and my own writing which takes up all my time.
How long do you spend researching, drafting and editing a book? Do you ever get bored?
I do a huge amount of research. While the Bombs Fell has a strong historical undertone and my mother was too young during the war to remember details. I had to research a lot of things that formed part of her everyday life like how a mangle works, how a dolly was used, how milk was bottled during the war and how the bottles were sterilised. This was over and above the historical timeline and major events of WW2 research.
As mentioned previously, Through the Nethergate was based on the stories of several ghosts. The old stories only include a basic overview of the death of each ghost and the circumstances surrounding the person’s death which led to their becoming a ghost. All of the ghostly characters come from different periods in English history, so I had to do a lot of research about life at that time. The research ranged from investigating life in the 14th century to looking up the life and times of Dick Turpin. I discovered a lot of fascinating facts about baby farming during the Victorian era and learned about some truly terrible serial killers like Amelia Dyer. I also researched the Luddites and the chartists. Through the Nethergate took me just over a year from the first word to the publication date.
A Ghost and His Gold tells the story of three ghosts who died during or soon after the Second Anglo Boer War in South Africa. The research for this book was fascinating as the British point of view was quite different to the Boer point of view. I used dialogue to demonstrate how the characters felt and thought, thereby disclosing these different viewpoints. A Ghost and His Gold is 116 000 words which is my longest novel and nearly double the length of Through the Nethergate. It was a massive undertaking and have taken me nearly two years to write and edit. I am doing the final edit over the next two weeks and the book with release in January 2021.
I love history, it was one of my subject choices for high school and I read a lot of historical fiction. The research is never boring, but I have to be careful not to get sucked down a rabbit hole and lose focus on what I need to know for a book as opposed to what is just interesting additional information.
My two short stories in Spirits of the West anthology, compiled and edited by Kaye Lynne Booth, also focus on aspects of South African history.
The Interview continues…
In part three, we learn about her writing habits and advice to bloggers and wannabe writers, and how she juggles it all.
Are you inspired, motivated ?
I hope you are enjoying the “Let gets inspired” series so far. What I take away from this interview with Robbie is that:-
a) By entering competitions doors open (being brave, creates opportunities).
b) Most importantly by being active on WordPress.com, that is, reading and commenting on other bloggers post you make connections.
C) When writing fiction, think story line, show don’t tell, and dialogue.
d) You don’t have to have taken a creative writing course – just write and hire the right professionals for editing etc.
e) You don’t need to be self-hosted. The wordpress.com has a built-in community that is always ready to help. You can make your blog work be it a free or a paid account.
It is important to be inspired, but one has to take action too.
Do Comment below
Do let me know your thoughts on this post in the comments in below. And do visit again to read part three of Robbie’s interview. After which I have other bloggers interviews lined up, and may be more as 2021 progresses.
Thank you for popping by.. see you again.
Images: Created by myself on Canva and taken from Robbie’s blogs (with permission).