Stephanie: Keith Robinson is a writer of fantasy fiction for middle-grade readers and young adults. His ISLAND OF FOG series has received extremely positive feedback from readers of all ages including Piers Anthony (best-selling author of the Magic of Xanth series) and Writer’s Digest.
Keith is a self-employed website designer with a wife and daughter. Originally from England, he moved to the United States in 2001 where he now resides in the sticks of Chickamauga, Georgia. Apart from writing, he collects young adult and children’s books. He has a bookshelf crammed full of secondhand hardbacks of varying authors from the 1940s-1960s, in particular those he grew up with in the UK. He owns EnidBlyton.net and is webmaster of EnidBlytonSociety.co.uk, both dedicated to the great author. Visit UnearthlyTales.com for more.
Hello Keith, congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion! Please tell me about your book, Island of Fog.
Keith: Thank you!
A lonely, foggy island is home to eight families. Twelve-year-old Hal and his friends have always wondered what happened all those years ago on the mainland, that unseen place Out There beyond the fog, and after an astonishing discovery in the woods the children are more determined than ever to find out what their parents are hiding. But their lives are turned upside down when Abigail reveals her closely guarded secret. According to her, the children are slowly changing into monsters! Are they freaks of nature, or subjects of a sinister experiment?
Each child reacts differently to his or her unique monstrous transformation; after all, one may feel proud to be a dragon, faerie, or centaur, but who in their right mind wants to be a sadistic manticore or cowardly harpy?
ISLAND OF FOG is a story of intrigue and conspiracy. The reader follows Hal Franklin as he struggles to accept that he and his friends are something more than ordinary children, and that their parents have been covering up the truth the whole time. With their trust shaken and the unexpected arrival of a strange woman from Out There, the children hide their frightening shape shifting abilities and pretend nothing is wrong.
Stephanie: What was your inspiration for your story?
Keith: I moved with my wife from England to America in 2001, and since I worked from home building websites, I was alone in my office for much of the day with no old friends to call on. That first year was a huge adjustment, and I didn’t have a whole lot of work, so I started writing. I remember standing out on the deck one morning with a steaming cup of tea looking at the thickest fog I’d seen in a long time creeping across the lawn. There was the inspiration right there — the germ of an idea about what it would be like to grow up and live in fog without ever getting to see a blue sky, to be able to see only as far as the end of the road. (I’m not sure where the turning-into-monsters part came from!)
Stephanie: What are Hal Franklin’s strengths and weaknesses?
Keith: He’s loyal and fair with an unwavering sense of what’s right and wrong. He’s also a little slow on the uptake sometimes. For the purposes of the story, he’s our eyes and ears; readers follow the adventure from his point of view throughout. Since he’s been burdened with perhaps the most monstrous of shape shifting abilities, his friends often look to him to lead, a responsibility he doesn’t take lightly.
Stephanie: What genre does it fall under?
Keith: This is urban fantasy with “ordinary” children from an “ordinary” setting. Characters that we can all identify with, who happen to have as-yet-unknown abilities, end up in a world of fantasy and adventure. The book, and the entire series, is targeted to readers aged 9-12 but suitable for all ages. I would estimate that half my readers are adults!
Stephanie: Is there a message you want your readers to come away with?
Keith: No, just enjoy the story. But many readers like the fact that the eight children — who seem perfectly normal at first, with quirks and clashing personalities — come together and stand united when faced with danger. And their younger, more innocent views of the world cut right through all that grown-up political nonsense. 😉
Stephanie: How long did it take you to write your story?
Keith: The first book in the series was a long process — over six years! This was partly because I was honing my skills and writing it bit by bit, changing my mind and rewriting entire chapters while learning that plot guidelines are in fact useful. But there were two years where I hardly wrote anything at all while my wife went back to school and our daughter arrived on the scene. And there was the fact that, as a newbie, I wasn’t convinced I had anything publishable. Once I’d self-published Book 1 in 2009 and received positive feedback, my confidence was boosted. Book 2 (and subsequent books) took only 6-8 months from start to finish.
Stephanie: Who designed your book cover?
Keith: Me. As a website designer by trade, I do a lot of graphic work, so this was just another aspect I could keep to myself. I enjoy the entire process — writing, editing, preparing the e-book, designing the cover — and couldn’t imagine hiring anyone to do any part of it for me. I’m a control freak. The only thing I share is the beta reading and proofreading. This is an essential part of the production, and something I would NEVER do alone.
Stephanie: What book project are you currently working on?
Keith: Three books, actually! FRACTURED is a collaboration with Brian Clopper (http://www.brianclopper.com). It’s a sci-fi/fantasy novel for ages 10+ and will be available for free in September. It’s a full-length novel that we want to give away to introduce readers to us and our other work. Read more about it at http://www.worldofapparatum.com.
Another novel I’m working on is QUINCY’S CURSE, which is in the late stages of editing and should be available later this year.
And I’m working on Book 7 of the Island of Fog series titled VALLEY OF MONSTERS (http://www.unearthlytales.com/island-of-fog-book-7-valley-of-monsters.html), also available later this year.
Stephanie: Will you self-publish again and where do you see this industry in five to ten years?
Keith: Yes, self-publishing is my life now. Website design is still my main source of income, but the balance is starting to shift as I sell more books and do less work. It’s a shift in the right direction. As for the self-publishing industry, there’s no doubt that it’s here to stay, but I would expect (and hope) that in the future self-publishing will be somehow more regulated to weed out those who are more interested in making a quick buck than writing something decent. I think indieBRAG is a great step in that direction, a stamp of approval from a reputable organization.
Amazon is the giant bookseller at the moment, and although Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble’s NOOK are second and third places, they don’t come anywhere close to competing. I love Amazon, but I do want other substantial avenues with which to sell my books in case Amazon suddenly decide to pull the rug out!
As for marketing, there are literally hundreds of places to list a book during a promotion but very few actually deliver readers. I would love to see more services like BookBub and BookGorilla who have an awful lot of clout for a fair price. So: less saturation, and better ways for serious authors to be noticed.
Stephanie: What do you like most about writing and what got you started?
Keith: I’m not sure how to define that. Why does anyone like doing the things they like doing? I just like writing and creating. I wrote and drew comic strips when I was younger, and although they’re terrible to look at now, there was nothing like the feeling of writing a series of stories. I was always a collector of books, too, and back in England I spent all my pocket money (allowance) on Books 1-15 of one series, Books 1-21 of another, and so on, gradually filling my shelf with all the different series with their matching spines… Something about that just makes me happy. And writing my own series is the best thing in the world.
Book 1 is hard, developing characters and story. Book 2 is also hard because you have to hope it’s as well received as the first. Book 3 is a little easier in some ways, but harder in others because it might be the final book of a series (if you’re writing a trilogy). Now that I’m writing Book 7, a lot of it just flows naturally; the characters are established, the readership by this point clearly wants more (otherwise they would have stopped reading earlier in the series), and all I have to do is focus on the story — and right now there’s plenty of it.
Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?
Keith: A fellow author had been approved, so I applied by submitting ISLAND OF FOG. A couple of months later, I was the proud owner of a Medallion! 🙂
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Keith Robinson, who is the author of, Island of Fog, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Island of Fog merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.