Friday, August 16, 2013

In The Hot Seat With H.C.: Robert Fanshaw

Joining me in the Hot Seat today is author,   Robert Fanshaw  

Bio:I am a barrister specialising in commercial law. I used to write articles for journals and magazines, then I started a blog when Caroline was away on business trips. She is a senior executive in a big company. The blog became the on-going story of the dilemma faced by many working couples today - how to balance the competing demands of work, marriage, and supporting a football team. Caroline and I are in our mid-thirties and live in Surrey, England.

Q:  Can you tell our readers a little about your writing? What genres do you enjoy writing?
Writing is more important to me than my job. You could say I am on a journey which started firmly in non-fiction and is moving through memoire and into fiction. Most of what I write now is based on what Caroline tells me, but there are elements of fiction when she refuses to go into details and I have to fill in the blanks.
I write for fun and my aim is to entertain the reader. The characters Caroline meets, the events they precipitate, how she and others react are fascinating to me and I try to pass that on. What happens to Caroline takes me in and out of different genres, but steamy romantic comedy might sum it up.

Q:  Do you write on a schedule or when the Muse decides?
I am an opportunistic writer. If have to take instructions from a client in Edinburgh I think, great, three hours writing on the train. Lawyers are meant to try and resolve things before they get to court, but I love it when the parties can’t agree because loads of time is wasted in court. Barristers have a little room, I tap away on the computer, and everyone thinks I am working. And then of course there are Caroline’s business trips – a lot of Shameless Ambition is set in Frankfurt, Germany – and that gives me time to write in the evenings and weekends.

Q: Can you tell us about your writing process, for example, do you write an outline first?
The outline is in my mind once Caroline has told me what’s been going on. I assemble all the evidence – the phone calls, videos, photographs – and work it up like I would a complex case. Lawyers are trained in making a convincing story out of the available evidence, and that is what I do. Even when working from life, there are many surprises. When you look into things closely, you discover things about people you didn’t suspect.

Q:  What qualities do you instill in your heroes?
On the one hand they are just normal people trying to make sense of a crazy world. On the other hand, life is a struggle and everyone’s a hero, aren’t they? Unless they do something really bad, of course.

Q. Coffee or tea?
The courts and legal profession in the UK run on tea, but I need strong coffee in the morning.

Q. Beach or countryside?
Beach please, white sand, no flies, bottle of champagne in an ice bucket, sunset. You get the picture.

Q. Do you write about the places you know or prefer to take your readers to exotic places?
Both. What starts as a domestic drama ends up travelling all over the world. Monsaint, the medical instruments company that Caroline works for, is an expanding multi-national. She had to go to Brazil recently because they are trying to break into South America. What a place that is!

Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
Life and newspapers. Sometimes I think, this is outrageous, no one will believe this, then I read something far worse in the newspaper.

Q: We have all suffered submission rejections. How do you cope? Do you have any advice to other writers on coping with rejection?
My daily advice to myself and to other writers I meet, especially aspiring authors, is Banish all Doubt. Repeat several times if necessary. You have just got to believe in what you are writing and stick with it. Doubt undermines the creative process. Great books have been turned down.

Q: Do you write one novel at a time or do you move between works in progress?
There was a time, not so long ago, when I worked on one project at a time. What a blissful state of innocence that was!

Q: Do you have times when the Muse is away on holiday?
When the muse is away on holiday she keeps in touch with texts and photos. When I go on holiday, the muse always comes with me. She won’t let me go by myself.

Q. What motivates you to write?
Stories have to be told and writing them down becomes an obsession. I just want to keep getting better at doing it.

Q. What advice would you give to unpublished authors approaching an e publisher?
This is a very relevant question because there is a window of opportunity right now for unpublished authors. The traditional publishers are starting new electronic imprints every couple of months and new publishers, like Steam eReads who published my book, have opened up the publishing world.
The advice I would give, based on talking to other authors, is write with freedom, write what you love to write, and don’t be frightened to submit the results once you’re happy with the finished work. There is room for work that doesn’t fit neatly in one genre. I hope.

Q: Is there anything you would like to share with us about upcoming releases?
There are further titles in the Shameless pipeline which I hope will see the light of day once Caroline has agreed to let the story be told to a wider public.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your current novel?
High-flying executive Caroline and barrister Robert have been married for three years, and the demands of work have left little time for their relationship. Caroline is angling for a promotion, which will mean spending more time away in Germany. On a management development course in Spain, Caroline is tempted into indiscretions with some of her colleagues, a fact that is noticed by course leader and former chief executive Melody Bigger.

Melody sees in Caroline aspects of her younger self and a barely suppressed exhibitionism. She draws Caroline into a plot to put pressure on Von Wolfswinkle, the German delegate to the European Central Bank. His opposition to Eurobonds is causing hardship across southern Europe, and Caroline is inveigled into a peculiar relationship with Von Wolfswinkle based on his voyeurism and her exhibitionism. Melody wants Caroline to influence the banker’s recommendations to the forthcoming European economic summit.

As Caroline is drawn into a seedy world of private parties for bankers and politicians, she soon realises she has damaged her reputation and her marriage. How will she ever be able to face her colleagues and her husband again?

Excerpt: From Shameless Ambition by Robert Fanshaw
Caroline’s best friend at work, Antonia, wants Robert to help her try out bondage for the first time…

“Look, sorry, I’m not looking for a new relationship. Caroline and me…”
“No, of course not. I’m not either, definitely not. I don’t want you to have sex with me. I just want you to tie me up, touch me a bit, perhaps try some of the equipment, and let me imagine what might happen.” She walked into the small bedroom and came out with a large brown cardboard box. “Here, this is what I’ve got. It’s a beginner’s set.”
Robert opened the box and took out the contents, piece by piece. Handcuffs. Foot restraints. A studded collar and lead. A blindfold. A leather paddle and a flail. And enough rope to abseil down the side of the building.
“What are these?” he asked.
“Nipple clamps. They’re the only thing I’ve tried. They’re magnetic.”
“No, much less ouch than pegs.”
“You’ve really thought about this, haven’t you?”
“Yes, and I want the lights on and the blinds open. Nobody can see, we’re too high up. Well, someone on the London Eye with binoculars perhaps, but it’s the idea that someone might be…”
“Well I can see what you have in mind. But what if you decide you don’t like it?”
“I’ll tell you to stop.”
“But how will I know you really mean stop? If I use the flail of course you’ll tell me to stop.”
“Ah. I’ve read about that. We will have a password which really means stop.” Antonia started to giggle. “I already know the secret code word. It’s Bluebell.”
Robert used the voice he had developed to deal with a client who had a hopeless case. “I don’t think I’m the right person to… spank you. It’s not something I’ve got a lot of experience of. You need a specialist. Isn’t there someone else you could ask?”
“I already have. I asked this man at work – Clive who was in Spain on the course last week.”
“What did he say?”
“He said it would ruin our working relationship.”
“I rest my case.”
“But we don’t have a working relationship. We don’t have any relationship. You’re just the husband of a work colleague.” She put on the face of a sulky schoolgirl. “I shouldn’t be disappointed. Caroline said you were boring.”
Robert opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out. She could see that she had scored a direct hit. She just needed to wait and his objections would sink below the waterline without a trace. The room was almost dark. Antonia was the first to break the long, tense silence.
“Would you like another drink?”
“Do you have any Red Bull?”

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  1. I love your humour Robert and hope others get the chance to enjoy it too. Great interview with HC!

    1. Thanks, Slyonwords. Sometimes it's not funny at the time, but afterwards you just have to laugh; through the pain, if necessary.

  2. Thanks for dropping by today, Robert.

    1. It was a real pleasure, and a great chance to say 'Hello' to your readers.