Death At A Sushi Bar
My foot is dead. I lost feeling somewhere over the Indian Ocean and I have not got it back. I am limping because I just spent 12 hours on a plane and legroom is an illusion. An illusion created by the same people who try to convince you that the miniature, rubbery bits in the tinfoil bowl are actually food.
But I endured and now I limp in Sydney, Australia, but I limp towards a goal. Best-selling author, Michael Robotham has agreed to an interview and I have questions to ask.
This is what I learnt:
- Michael was first a very successful journalist, who then became an extremely successful ghost-writer and now he is an insanely successful novelist.
- He likes Salmon Sashimi.
- He writes about 500 words a day. He wishes he could write 1000 words a day and on a good day he can. When he was a ghost-writer he could write up to 5000 words a day, sometimes he writes all day but only ends up with one good sentence or paragraph or description. Then he considers it a good day too.
- He will only go back to ghost-writing if George Clooney wanted to hire him and that is only because his wife will make him do it. (I think she is very reasonable.) Or if it is a very special story, but he can’t say what story that will be.
- He just finished reading Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain and thinks it is the best book he has read all year.
- He never set out to become a crime writer. He submitted 117 pages which became the subject of a bidding war at the London Book Fair. He had no idea what the ending was, it didn’t even have a title. It was just 117 pages. It was only when the book was finished that it was labelled as a crime novel. He was rather shocked when his contract stated he had to write crime.
- He loves the genre because he can delve into the darker side of society.
- He has read more than one crime novel. He was misquoted about this in one of his first interviews and that quote has haunted him ever since.
- He has considered writing something other than crime, but his publishers recon it would still have to go in the crime section, regardless of the genre.
- If he wasn’t a writer he would like to be the Captain of the Australian Cricket team.
- His greatest strength as a writer is the ability to create compelling characters. Characters that engage a reader’s emotions. You don’t have to like them, you can even hate them, but you cannot be ambivalent about them.
- His worst writing habit is procrastination. He blames it on the internet. He says: “It is the greatest tool for writers and the greatest waste of time. Sometimes I am simply going online to check the smallest detail and two hours later I am checking the college basketball results in America. I don’t even follow college basketball.”
- He doesn’t take time off between books. He starts to panic as the book nears its end. He feels like he will not be able to write another word. He feels like he has used up all his lines. So he tidies his study and then the next idea comes around and then he can stop tidying his study.
- When he gets stuck he goes to a different scene. He doesn’t plot (much) and he doesn’t write in sequence.
- He says don’t write what you know, write what interests you.
- He doesn’t show his novel to anyone until it’s finished.
- He writes what he would like to read.
This seemingly civilised conversation has taken place with me wrestling chopsticks, dodging soya spills and getting slapped by seaweed. I am not a very elegant sushi eater. I’ll post some more of the interview next week. There was a lot to discuss, not to mention a lot of sushi to eat.
Michael’s latest book is the excellent thriller, Watching You. Read my review here.
If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course.
by Mia Botha
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