Robert Lane’s literary crime noir novels mix humor, action, and ageless moral themes set against the backdrop of the west coast of Florida. Cooler Than Blood is his second stand-alone Jake Travis novel after The Second Letter. His third book, The Cardinal’s Sin, will be released in October 2015.
Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?
I write stories. Like Hemingway’s famous six-word story, that’s as little as I can say but it says it all.
When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
It was more like a Polaroid picture slowly coming into focus. As it grew more vivid, it became crystal clear that it was something I wanted to pursue. Something I needed to pursue. That was a little over five years ago. That’s not counting the novel I started in sixth grade.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
My mother was a schoolteacher and insisted that my sisters and I read chapter books before first grade. In the summer, we had dedicated reading time every day. After I flew through the Hardy Boys, I trained my sights on the heavy stuff. Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand were both voluntary summer reading. Then Irving Stone, Leon Uris, Faulkner, Hemingway, Graham Greene. I found those on my own, before I ventured into college and majored in English.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, Cooler than Blood, and what inspired you to write such a story.
I was intrigued with the challenge of making Jake search for a lost person, and his efforts eventually coming back around and threatening Kathleen, who is the center of his world. A threat to her is greater than a threat to himself. Inside that, I wanted to wrap the story of a young woman, who upon being kidnapped uses the memory of her deceased father and the lessons he taught her. Those lessons were instilled upon her while she and her father shared time on an old wood boat.
How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
My characters create the story. I oftentimes jot down how it ends, but it never goes by plan. Not that that doesn’t keep me from trying, but I have no idea how some of these characters will react. Usually, about two-thirds of the way through, I get a glimpse of where the story is headed and how it might end. But even then, it’s a waste of time for me to outline the final act. When I’m finished, I need to go back and drop hints, but not too many, along the way.
What was your goal when writing this book?
I want to entertain, inform and enlighten the reader. Enjoy the time you spend reading the book, learn a nugget or two, and perhaps—just perhaps—see a little of your self and your world in those pages.
I stare at a screen and imagine myself in the scene that I’m writing. If I’m aware of my environment, I’m not doing my job. I write in several different places, but the screen is always the same.
Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?
I write the first draft pretty fast. I’m in a hurry to see how it ends (I have no outline, just a vague idea). I oftentimes get ahead of myself, like an army outrunning its supplies, and do several (a dozen?) reads in an attempt to keep it on the tracks. When finished, the real work begins. And forget that thousand words a day crap you’ve been taught. When re-writing, I’ve often worked a hard week—or three—and ended with less word than I started. That’s when you know you’re making progress.
They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and art is highly subjective. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? I read that the novelist Richard Ford got a poor review for one of his book and the reviewer was himself an author. Ford took a hardback copy of the reviewer’s own work, tossed it in his back yard, and put three holes in it with his revolver. He then mailed it to the man. Honestly? I see if they’re any merit to the remarks and then let it go. But Ford’s reaction…
As a writer, what scares you the most?
I read an interview with some mega-award winning author and he was still afraid: afraid that people would think he was a fraud, that he was simply no good. I think that current runs through all writers. I’ll do one better and suggest it exist in all the creative arts.
When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?
The relationship of my characters to each other and how they cannot escape who they are. I like self-doubt and moral ambiguities. I want my characters to struggle with themselves, not just with the outside world. And not just Jake, but other characters in the book as well. Heck, I can name that tune in two notes: Inner conflict.
Are you a disciplined writer?
I am. Others, highly talented and successful, are not. What is important is knowing yourself and what is the best means for you to achieve your potential. For me, it is adhering to a schedule. There are enough interruptions in life to make a ‘normal’ day an anomaly. Nonetheless, only you decide on how to spend your time.
When it comes to writing, are you an early bird, or a night owl?
Early bird. Furthermore, my best writing is before breakfast, so I often delay that to 11:00. I can also write late afternoon and early evening, but those writers who toil away at night—I just can’t do that.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?
Occasionally things get bogged down and I have a character open a door or answer the phone. I’ll put Jake in a car or on a plane. He meets a new character, the plot thickens, and I’m off to the races.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
The Cardinal’s Sin will be released in October, 2015. I’m currently writing The Gail Force that is tentatively scheduled to be released in March, 2016. They are both stand-alone Jake Travis novels, in which Jake, much like in Cooler Than Blood, finds himself diving into the short end of the pool.
As an author, what is your greatest reward?
You. The reader.