Thursday, October 2, 2014

Interview With Fantasy Author - Robin Chambers

 Myrddins' Heir Series

Today's interview is with Robin Chambers, author of the Myrddin's Heir series.  So Robin, when did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?

When I was Head of English at Hackney Downs Boys School in East London (1971-6) I heard myself say one day to a class of year 9 pupils: “Some of you can write better stories than I ever could.”  An inner voice asked me how I knew that was true, when I hadn’t tried since I was at school.  It also told me I shouldn’t be asking pupils to do anything that I didn’t know I could do myself.

So during school holidays I started writing short stories for children.  In 1974/5 I sent a batch to Penguin, and they published them in 1976.  That encouraged me to think that maybe one day I could write something really good.  It would have to be after I retired from teaching, because I was on the way to becoming a headteacher of a large comprehensive school in one of the most stressful social services areas in the UK – and that was more than a full time job.

          When did you write your first book and how old were you?

1973-5: “The Ice Warrior and Other Stories” (Kestrel hardback & Puffin paperback, 1976).  I was 34.

So now that you are able to devote time to your writing, how long does it take you to write a book?

When I started writing full time (in January 2011) I used Anthony Burgess’s yardstick of 1,000 new words, arranged in the right order, per day.  It doesn’t sound like a lot; but it amounts to 365,000 tastefully chosen and carefully arranged words a year.  My books are around 80,000 words long: so had I been able to keep to that regime I would have written 4.5 books in twelve months.  In fact it took me 18 months to write the first 4 books in my Myrddin’s Heir series, and be confident enough about their quality to put them in the kindle store in one go (in May 2013).

Wow, that is a lot of words in a year.  I never thought about how 1,000 a day would add up.  How do you arrange your writing schedule to achieve that?

I write – in one form or another – all day, every day (seven days a week).  On 3 days per week I’m out at the gym from 6.10am - 8.40am.  I stop for meals, and generally stop for the day around 7pm.  On non-gym days I’m up around 7am and switch on after showering…

I have to say, that is dedication. My own writing schedule is not quite as intensive.  I might need to look at that.   What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? 

Maybe my obsession with balance and flow...  I’m always hiding blank verse lines in my prose!

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

The story I’m writing now may fill 20 books (and take another 15 years to finish).  The themes that bind it together were gleaned from my work with a Taiwanese philosopher while helping him write a book for the English-speaking world (2008-2011).  His “three obligations of wisdom” became my three commitments for making the world a better place: love learning, respect difference and protect the planet.  The other ideas are distilled from my seven decades of wrestling with life.  The information comes from my memories, education and experiences, and a great deal of factual stuff is readily available on the internet (Lorem Ipsum Wikipediam!).

      What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I love singing and acting.  My wife and I have done several shows with Chester Operatic Society, and last year we both took part in the 2013 production of The Chester Mystery Plays.  We’re also members of a performance arts group in Mold for people with and without special needs (  I received my first rave review in a local paper in 1958: for my performance as Lady Macbeth!

What does your family think of your writing?

They are very loving and supportive.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I suppose the way the story grew and grows: it has a life of its own, and it feels sometimes as though it has chosen me to write it.  The second (and wonderfully affirming) thing is how well the books have been received by discerning readers and other writers.  I had hoped I would be able to write something in the same class as Tolkien, Lewis and Rowling.  With the digital revolution and the plethora of self-published e-books, Myrddin’s Heir may never capture the world’s imagination in the same way; but for other excellent writers to praise my books as generously as they have has given me the confidence to go on doing what I now love doing best.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

In the 1970s I had three books of stories for children published; but they have long been out of print, and I’m sure deservedly so -  I never had any confidence then that I knew what I was doing.  I’m so much better now.  I have the first 5 books in my Myrddin’s Heir series in the Amazon Kindle Store.  They tell one long story, which still has a way to go, and they are all my favourite.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Read as much as you can, and when you find a book you really admire, study it to understand the craft that went into its art.  Follow Ted Hughes’ advice when you write: throw caution to the winds and write freely, knowing that in a week or two you will go back to what you wrote and revise the heck out of it.  Remember Wordsworth’s words: “I yield to none in love of my art.  I therefore labour at it with reverence, affection and industry.” Avoid the continuous present like the plague.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I hear regularly from those readers who have become friends, and we say a lot of helpful things to one another.  Several of them are also writers, and our relationship is mutually supportive and ongoing.  We tell each other stories…

What are you working on right now?

I have one more editing assignment to finish for a talented writer friend of mine, and then I am going to start Book 6 of Myrddin’s Heir.  A proportion of every day is spent on interacting with my friends on Twitter and Facebook, and my read-and-review list never seems to drop below ten (though I manage around one careful read-and-review each week).  I am also collaborating with another local author on a book of stories for children centered on Chester’s history, locations and traditions …

Robin, I want to thank you for taking the time from you busy writing schedule to share this with myself and my readers.  One last question, where can readers follow you and/or purchase your work?

I write for bright children between the ages of 10 – 110.  I’m always careful to point out that does NOT mean everyone. http://bit.lybin /1ka0iuM author page: kindle store page:
Goodreads profile page:
Self-Publisher's Showcase:
Irene’s Book Oasis:  
A Wizard of Dreams reviews:
My Facebook Myrddinsheir group page: