Author of “Song and Sacrifice” (High Fantasy)
How long have you been writing? Do you write genres other than speculative fiction?
Like most people (I imagine) I wrote stories as a teenager but just for my own amusement. I stopped when I went off to university to do my degree and then doctorate, and once I became a lecturer most of my non-teaching time was spent writing academic papers and books. I still made up stories, but never wrote them down. Then a few years ago I sat down one evening to plan out a paper and started writing a story instead. I wrote a thousand words each night for ten days, and at the end had a pretty long short story! And it was great fun. Since then I have tried to make time when I can to write short fiction, mainly fantasy and horror. I’d love to write sci-fi too, but I can’t seem to do it. Too close to the day job, perhaps. So I still spend most of my time writing research papers, but the stories keep coming so I write them down whenever I can.
What is your typical writing process? Outline or seat-of-the-pants? A quiet room or a lively café? Music and coffee or tea and silence?
I usually start with a simple idea or image and then sit on it for a long time without doing anything, and I find it grows by itself. I might jot down a few notes but not usually more than a line or two. When it’s ready, I sit down to write it out, then put it away again for a while – a few weeks or months. After that I’ll edit it a few times, then if I think it’s any good I’ll send it out. I don’t have a lot of choice in the atmosphere when I write – I usually write longhand on the train to and from work, and then type in the evenings when things are quiet(er). I need background noise but don’t like to write in public (apart from scrawling in a notebook on the train).
What’s on your to-be-read list right now?
Earlier this year I read volume one of Ray Bradbury’s short stories, which amazed me. I’d read a few of his stories as a kid but had no real idea of the range and quality of work he produced. So volume two is awaiting my attention! I’m currently reading Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories and various “Best Of” fantasy and horror anthologies. I’m also looking forward to reading the 5X5 anthology as well, of course.
What keeps you going when the writing gets hard? What brings you joy?
I would say I’m in the Bradbury school of writing philosophy – writing is a lot of fun, and if it gets difficult it’s probably because you picked the wrong topic! So I write whatever I really want to at the time, switch between stories and so on. It’s harder with a deadline of course but I’m pretty good at chipping away when necessary. Writing a novel would be very different I’m sure, but I love short stories in particular and will stick to those. I get a lot of pleasure from writing and of course it’s great when a story finds a home. What really means a lot is when someone comments on a story, or lets you know they enjoyed it. There are so many good stories out there that it often does seem like you’re putting one more grain of sand on the beach, so if someone says they enjoyed your contribution that really does feel good. If I read something I really like I try to let the author know by posting a comment on their blog, or Twitter, or leaving a review online. It doesn’t take long and can only bring joy.
What are you working on right now? And which of your stories would you recommend to someone new to your work?
I’ve been working on a few Victorian horror stories recently, though I’m not sure where to send them…. I also have a series of Leos and Agris stories planned. Leos and Agris are two eternally-frustrated down-at-heel mercenaries, trying to make a better way in a hard world that is a bit like a medieval western frontier. They’ve been featured in a few stories I’ve had published at Swords and Sorcery Magazine and Tales from Elsewhere, as well as (most recently) Metaphorosis Magazine. Those stories would be a good place to start for my fantasy work – dark with a touch of bleak comedy. For horror, my two favourites are “A Private Viewing of the Working Instruments of Dr. Morris Marshall (1897-1941)” at Theme of Absence and “Shroom Culture” in the anthology Tales of Blood and Squalor by Dark Cloud Press. One of my favourite stories is also one of my shortest – “All Our Bodies in the Glass” at Every Day Fiction. It got some really nice comments and is (I think) still ranked in the top ten fantasy stories on the site.
You can read Rob Francis’ story in Metaphorosis Magazine, “Beneath the Sea of Glass,” for free online.
For more about Rob Francis:
Amazon webpage: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Robert-A.-Francis/e/B009PMWADO/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1512990078&sr=8-1