Q&A with Rob Sinclair, author of Dance With The Enemy
Here author Rob Sinclair tells senior content editor Debbie Butler about himself and his book, ‘Dance with the Enemy’ – the first of three stories he has written about intelligence agent Carl Logan.
I’m Rob Sinclair, author of Dance with the Enemy, the first book in the Enemy series featuring intelligence agent Carl Logan. I’m a husband and proud Dad to two young boys.
Where and when were you born and educated?
I was born in Newcastle but have lived in a number of places throughout my childhood and adult life. My Dad’s family are all from the North East, my Mum’s from the North West. I’ve lived in Newcastle, Norwich, Hull, Birmingham, Sunderland, Durham, Nottingham, Birmingham, New York, Birmingham. In that order! I did my GCSEs and A levels in Sunderland and went to university in Nottingham.
What’s your working history?
My first ever job at the age of 16 was in a library, which I feel is now rather apt given the career path I’ve taken! I’ve spent the last 12 years, since graduating from university, working for a global accounting firm, specialising in local and international fraud and corruption investigations. It’s been equally challenging and rewarding and I’ve had some great experiences including the opportunity to live and work in New York.
Where do you live?
Me and my wife are now settled in Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands with our two young boys. It’s a great location; close to a big city (Birmingham) but also a great, relaxed area for families with plenty of parks and things to do nearby. It’s a very comfortable, friendly place to live.
Describe your book/books
Dance with the Enemy is the first of three stories I’ve written about intelligence agent Carl Logan. They’re fast-paced, action-packed stories that will keep readers turning the pages. They’re the type of books that I love to read myself. The second in the series, Rise of the Enemy, will be out over the winter, the third one hopefully next summer.
When did you start writing and why?
I started writing about five years ago now. It wasn’t something I had always looked to do, it really came about quite randomly. I had made an offhand comment to my wife on holiday in Spain that I betted I could write a thriller. I think it was largely borne out of frustration with some of the books I had been reading that just seemed so formulaic and uninspiring. I don’t think either of us took my comment too seriously at the time but when we got home I started drafting out some ideas for specific scenes and somehow or other the stories just seemed to flow.
I’ve found that I love writing, though, and now I can’t stop. It’s a great release when you get an exciting scene out onto the page and an even better feeling when you weave together the plot lines and end up with a finished story. I tackle books very much like a project, managing my time, setting targets, mapping out the structure of characters and chapters. The writing process itself can be tiresome and frustrating, particularly on the days (which are many) when you just don’t seem to have any ideas. But it’s such a rewarding feeling when everything finally falls into place which I’ve found it eventually does when I stick at it.
What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
It’s the eureka moments when you’ve been sat with your brain at a complete block for hours or days over a particular plot hole or dead-end in the story. When you overthink these things you very rarely find the answer. But then it just seems to come to you when you’re doing something random; washing or cleaning or shopping or trying to sleep. Those moments are great because they nearly always come when you’re away from your computer and it gives you a real impetus to get back in front of your screen and get working again. It’s like an adrenaline rush, but it can last for hours or days and all of sudden you might have thrown out 10,000 words or so just like that, all from that one brainwave.
...and your worst?
Editing can be really tedious. My style is very much get the first draft onto paper in one go. I find it just helps to keep the creative juices flowing. The first drafts really don’t take me that long – a couple of months maybe. When you get to the end of the first draft, the nuts and bolts of the story are all there. But it invariably needs a lot of work. I think I must have re-read, re-edited, Dance with the Enemy close to a dozen times before it was finally published. In a way it’s good because you become so close to the story, but it’s frustrating because actually you come too close to the story, can’t see the wood for the trees. And, quite frankly, as much as I like my work, it’s just a boring prospect having to start through the whole re-read process yet again. I’d much rather just be writing.
Where do you usually write?
Sat on the sofa in my lounge with my laptop. It’s comfy, warm, I have a nice view of my garden. I’d love to have a lakeside, seaside or mountain cottage where I could really take myself away from everything and just escape into my own world – maybe one day. But for now, my lounge suits me just fine! But actually, with my job and kids around, much of my writing has been early in the morning or late at night and really I’ve written just about everywhere; the office, planes, trains, ferries, hotels, beaches – anywhere I can find the time and space.
What time of the day or night do you write?
Whenever I’m able! That spans from about 5am to about 11pm. I’m not an all-night writer, I need sleep. But I write anytime during waking hours I can. And when I’m not writing I’m thinking of new plot ideas and characters.
Tea or coffee?
Mostly coffee. I’m quite a slave for structure and routine though so when I’m having a full writing day I usually stop for breaks at pretty much set intervals - that generally amounts to four coffees a day; three in the morning, one in the afternoon. I don’t know why, it just happens. But if I’m having an off day, if the kids have been playing up and I need the extra help, I might have a couple more!
Who or what inspires your writing?
You know, I really don’t know. Simply, I write stories that I know I’d be excited to read. I think it’s that. As for where the inspiration actually comes from, I can’t answer that either. It just comes. I think I have an overactive mind. I have a really short attention span because my brain just wanders all the time. It can be frustrating because I struggle to keep up in meetings or on the phone to people because I just zone out so easily. So if you think I’m ignoring you or not listening, I’m sorry, it’s not deliberate, it’s just my brain creating a new scene for my next book.
Do you have a favourite author?
Not really. I like a whole host of other authors in the thriller genre, all the household names that many of us know and love.
What’s your favourite book and why?
I’ve never read the same book more than once so I don’t have an absolute favourite. There’s a few that stick out in my mind as being particularly memorable to me; the first Jack Reacher book I read, Persuader; Garden of Beasts by Jeffrey Deaver; and Primal Fear by William Diehl.
Why? I’m not sure. The Persuader was just such a fresh, action-packed thriller when I read it. It got me hooked on Lee Child’s books. I loved the atmosphere created in Garden of Beasts of pre-WWII Germany – really vivid and eye-opening. And Primal Fear I think has one of the best end twists I’ve ever read. You really don’t see it coming and it’s written into the story so intelligently.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I’m not sure there was just one. It’s amazing that so many books I read as a child are still popular today. My boys have Mr Men and Alfie books, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, all these books that I had 30 years ago. Many of those books I hadn’t seen for years and years and yet when I first opened them for my son, the sense of recognition and memory at seeing the pictures was quite incredible. Thirty-year-old memories suddenly rushed through me. The mind really is an amazing thing.
How do you unwind?
I love to watch gritty TV: movies, dramas, thrillers, I love eating out with my wife, having a few glasses of beer or wine or whisky. I love playing silly games with the boys. I’m quite a simple creature. Unwinding is often doing as little as possible and I really like spending time on my own.
What are your ambitions, literary or otherwise?
Well, what writer doesn’t want to see their name on the top of a best-sellers list?! That would be the ultimate ambition. But I’ll carry on writing regardless. I love it and it’s a great sense of achievement. And hopefully people will buy my books.
The second book in the series, Rise of the Enemy, is nearing completion. It’s gone through a number of rounds of editing and I’m really happy with it. Really excited in fact. It picks up after Dance with the Enemy and sees Carl Logan facing his biggest challenge yet; coming to terms with the betrayal of those closest to him.
As soon as that’s published I’ll get editing book three which is already drafted. Then when that’s done I’ve got a fourth book in my head waiting to come out which I’m sure will be my best yet. As you can see, it’s a bit of a non-stop process. But it’s what I’m passionate about and I’m really looking forward to seeing how everyone reacts to the next books.