I am delighted to welcome S.D. Robertson, author of Stand by Me, back to Linda’s Book Bag to celebrate his third book. Previously Stuart has written about his journey to publication for Time To Say Goodbye that you can read here and another post about plotting a unique structure along with my review of If Ever I Fall here.
I had hoped to review Stand By Me today too but I must apologise that life got the better of me and so that review will appear later. However, I’m thrilled that I have an interview with S.D. Robertson to share anyway.
Published by Avon Books, an imprint of Harper Collins on 11th January 2018, Stand by Me is available for purchase here.
Stand By Me
They’ll always have each other…won’t they?
Lisa and Elliot have been best friends ever since the day they met as children. Popular, bright and sporty, Lisa was Elliot’s biggest supporter when the school bullies made his life a misery, and for that, he will always be grateful.
Twenty years later, life has pulled the pair apart and Lisa is struggling. Her marriage is floundering, her teenage kids are being secretive, and she’s so tired she can’t think straight. So when Elliot knocks on the door, looking much better than she remembers, she can’t help but be delighted to see her old friend again.
With Elliot back in their lives, Lisa’s family problems begin to improve – he’s like the fairy godmother she never had. As their bond deepens, she realises how much she’s missed him, and prays that this is one friendship that will last a lifetime. But sometimes, life has other ideas…
An Interview with S.D Robertson
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Stuart. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Stand By Me in particular. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?
I’m Stuart Robertson, a former newspaper editor turned author. I write under the name S.D. Robertson and my third novel, Stand By Me, has just been released. I live in a village north of Manchester with my wife and daughter. There’s also our cat, Bernard, who enjoys jumping on my desk and distracting me – particularly when I’m writing.
(Ah – cats are like that!)
Why do you write?
First and foremost, I write to be read. The more people that enjoy my books, the happier I am. It’s also something I’ve always liked doing: a way to process my thoughts and focus my mind. I find I can express myself better through my writing than I can in any other way. I can’t ever imagine not wanting to write any more.
When did you realise you were going to be a writer?
I wanted to be a writer from a young age – already when I was at primary school. I was a total bookworm and dreamed of writing my own novel. I started lots of them over the years but didn’t actually finish one until much more recently.
I first realised there was a good chance I was going to be a professional writer when I got accepted on a Newspaper Journalism course in the late 1990s. That was a very different kind of writing from what I do now, though.
I didn’t know for sure that my childhood dream would come true until I signed my first contract with my publisher, Avon HarperCollins. Before that, I hoped it would happen, of course, and I believed myself capable of it. Otherwise I’d have never finished the manuscript.
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I really enjoy writing dialogue. I’m not sure why. It just seems to flow. The part I find hardest is settling on an idea in the first place and then writing a synopsis. I have ideas for books all the time. My problem is choosing which one to actually write.
(We readers hope you write them all eventually!)
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I try to write every day from Monday to Friday, mainly while my daughter is out at school and my wife is at work. I aim for a target of at least one thousand words per session but try to do more than that if possible. I mainly write at home, moving between the study, lounge and kitchen, depending on my mood.
Your books are filled with emotion. How do you feel as you write them?
I try to put myself into the minds of my characters as I write, particularly the protagonists, so I usually feel whatever they’re feeling at the time. Music is always helpful with that. I can only listen to instrumental things when I’m creating, though, as I find lyrics distracting.
As well as being a writer, you’ve quite an eclectic C.V.! How has your own life experience affected your writing?
I’ve definitely tried my hand at a few different jobs over the years. For instance, I’ve worked as a mobile phone network engineer, a holiday rep, a kitchen porter and a door-to-door salesman. Before becoming an author, I spent nearly a decade as a local newspaper journalist. I think all of these things help me when I’m writing. As a novelist I find the more life experience you have, the easier it is to create realistic, varied worlds and characters.
Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Stand By Me?
It’s about the powerful and changing nature of a long friendship. My two central characters, Elliot and Lisa, meet as 11-year-olds in the early 1990s and remain great pals as they traverse secondary school and grow into adults together. Then life pulls them apart – until one day, totally out of the blue, Elliot returns to Lisa’s side just when she needs him most. As the story flits between past and present, we gradually learn the remarkable truth about Elliot’s return and what it means for both of their futures.
(And now, of course, I want to read Stand By Me even more…)
All of your novels seem to me to have an underlying theme of the unexpectedness of life. How far was this an intentional theme and how far did it arise naturally as you wrote?
I didn’t consciously set out to write about that, but it is absolutely a running theme in my work. I’ve always been the kind of person who thinks ahead and imagines various ways that situations might turn out. It’s part and parcel of being creative, I guess. However, things do often take unexpected turns and that’s when they get interesting.
My debut novel, Time to Say Goodbye, was very much inspired by my relationship with my daughter, who was still only a young child when I wrote it. Becoming a parent is instantly life-changing; it transforms your priorities and makes you realise the fragility of everything you hold dear.
Some readers have said that my books make them appreciate what they have in life. I’m always very happy to hear that. I think that’s a great message to take from these stories.
Stand By Me is your third novel. How has your writing developed since Time to Say Goodbye?
The more times you do most things, the easier they become. I think that’s true with writing to a certain degree. I’m a lot more familiar and comfortable with the editing process and its various stages now, for instance, and I’m producing manuscripts quicker.
That said, starting out on a new book is always daunting. The doubts and fears you have as you write don’t go away just because you’ve been published. You could even argue that they get worse, since you now have existing readers to consider, who you don’t want to disappoint.
You have to walk a fine line between producing something different from last time and yet similar enough to appeal to the same people.
I don’t want you to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn’t read Stand By Me yet, but I know there is a return appearance for one of the characters from Time To Say Goodbye. How did this inclusion come about?
Yes, one of the characters from Time to Say Goodbye does reappear in my latest book. It’s only a brief return, but it just felt right somehow to check back in with this person here. I really enjoyed spending time with them again – but I’d better not give away any spoilers. Hopefully it will come as a nice surprise to my readers.
If Stand By Me became a film, who would you like to play Lisa and Elliot and why would you choose them?
Hmm. That’s tricky. Let’s aim big and say James McAvoy for Elliot, because he’s great in everything and so versatile. Plus he can handle various accents and Elliot’s supposed to sound like he grew up near Manchester but has lived in Sydney for a long time, which could be a bit of a challenge in the wrong hands. My best fit for Lisa would probably be Claire Foy, although she’s a bit young for the role at the moment. I think she’s also brilliant in everything she does, plus she’s originally from Stockport, so she’d have no problem sounding authentically northern.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
I read all kinds of books. I’m not particularly into non-fiction, short stories or poetry. It’s mainly just novels, but I work my way right across the genres, from crime and horror/fantasy to literary fiction, YA, whatever really.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Stand By Me should be their next read, what would you say?
Indulge in this heartwarming tale of friendship, family and hope in the face of adversity.
Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Stuart. I’m genuinely desperate to read Stand By Me in the very near future.
Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog, Linda. It’s been a lot of fun!
About S.D. Robertson
Former journalist S.D. Robertson quit his role as a local newspaper editor to pursue a lifelong ambition of becoming a novelist.
An English graduate from the University of Manchester, he’s also worked as a holiday rep, door-to-door salesman, train cleaner, kitchen porter and mobile phone network engineer.
Over the years Stuart has spent time in France, Holland and Australia, but home these days is back in the UK. He lives in a village near Manchester with his wife and daughter. There’s also his cat, Bernard, who likes to distract him from writing – usually by breaking things.
There’s more with these other bloggers too: