Rob Francis is an academic and writer based in London. Since 2015 he has had around a dozen stories published in various online magazines and anthologies, including SQ Mag, SpeckLit, Every Day Fiction and You Are Here: Tales of Cartographic Wonders.
1. How long have you been writing and what got you started?
I wrote stories as a teenager but only really showed them to friends – then I did my PhD and became an academic, so spent most of my time writing scientific articles and books. I’d still make up stories though, and eventually it got to the point where I just had to write them down. I’ve been writing fiction for a couple of years now. The catalyst was probably reading George RR Martin’s ‘The Pear-Shaped Man’. My ambition is to write something as good as that one day.
2. What is the best piece of advice you have for new writers?
Everyone says it, but perseverance, hard work and a modest dose of humility are all useful. Very few people (none really) are effortlessly brilliant and immediately successful. And research the markets you are submitting to. It saves everyone’s time and effort.
3. Are there any writing resources, such as books or websites, you’d like to recommend?
Stephen King’s On Writing is great, and there are a lot of useful websites out there as well, with some editors giving good advice on writing and what they are looking for (for example T. Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog has some good tips).
4. What is your favorite type of fiction and who are your favorite authors?
Mainly horror and fantasy. I prefer the grey shades of Joe Abercrombie and George RR Martin when it comes to fantasy, but I have always been a huge fan of short stories and the horror genre in particular lends itself well to that format. My favourite short horror writers are Damien Angelica Walters, Gary McMahon, Laird Barron, Stephen King and John Connolly.
5. What tips do you have for finding time to write?
Ray Bradbury had the best advice I think – you can write anywhere, all you need is a pen and paper. I do most of my writing longhand on the long train commute to work, and type it up at home when I get chance. Train yourself to write in imperfect conditions, and it gets easier.
6. Do you favor the traditional route or self-publishing?
Self-publishing has a lot going for it but I still prefer the traditional route.
7. Are you an outliner or discovery writer? Or somewhere in between?
More discovery – my stories usually start with an image that I work from and see where it goes. Once I have the bones of a story, I then jot down some finer details and keep shaping it. The discovery is where the fun is!
8. What are your writing goals for the next five years?
I love short stories so I aim to just keep writing them and sending them out! One day I’ll craft that near-perfect one…
9. What book(s) are you reading right now?
I recently finished Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Vol. 8, which was great! I’m just about to start Fireside Gothic by Andrew Taylor.
10. Is there anything you’d like to plug? Feel free to share a link.
I have a horror story called ‘The Final Atlas’ in the anthology ‘You Are Here: Tales of Cartographic Wonders’ edited by N.E. White. It’s a great book and well worth a look! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MYNOQSZ