An Interview With Russell Robertson

It has always been of interest to me personally to get behind the person I deal with, guess it's just my investigative nature.

So I agreed to this short interview (carried out by one of the first reviewers) to let other people get a 'behind the scenes' view of my creation of the Harry Cram character, a little bit of how the book developed and a brief insight into myself.

I trust the following is of interest to potential readers.

Is Harry Cram based on any particular person?

Harry cram is of course a fictitious character, but yes many of his traits are based upon people I have come across during my life. It is important that people reading the book can picture the characters and their traits.

What is the book’s category?

Windsor Place is a thriller. It’s a work of fiction, but the story is a crime thriller. 

How do you decide to describe the appearance of someone like Harry Cram, are there elements of other people rolled into the character and how do you go about actually creating the character?

With all my characters I list each person separately in a spreadsheet and complete their individual traits, appearance and attitudes combined from people I have known and my wild imagination, eg size, weight, colour of hair, religion, marital status etc

This is the first step in the process, even before writing the manuscript.

Where did the idea of the story and the character come from?

From my experience and my memories.

The character came first as I had already decided on the name and make up of Harry Cram before I commenced the book. For those who like trivia, I actually started off with the name Barry Cram but it didn’t seem to fit the character so I quickly changed it to Harry Cram.

People say that as they get older their stronger memories are from their formative years and I couldn't agree more. I met some wonderful characters in an around Portobello and Musselburgh in my youth and they form the basis of some of the characters in the book. (With different names of course)

 Perhaps some of those people if they read the novel may recognize themselves. Other characters traits come from some interesting people I have met on my regular visits back to Scotland over the years.

In what way does the main characters remind you of yourself?

Harry Cram is a suave, sophisticated metro person. Those traits certainly can't be attributed to me. However some of his lesser attributes do relate to myself. I don't want to label them as I might sound a bit egotistical. I will let the reader’s imagination deal with that.

What sort of people helped you, say in the technical area of the book?

I could not have written the book without my retired Edinburgh detective, who wishes to remain anonymous. (Let's just call him Colin) He was instrumental in guiding me through the police facts saving me oodles of time in my research.

A close friend, Bob Darling assisted me in the graphic design of the front cover as well as a being a great sounding board.

Last but not least the friends who took the time to read the early edition of the book and post their honest reviews.

How did you feel when you completed your first book?

Great question, to be honest I sat back and thought - where did all that come from?

I started with no script, spent a long time getting the first few chapters right and the rest just seemed to flow. Nervous is the best way to describe how I felt during the pre launch campaign. Less nervous when so many people pre ordered the book.

What did you learn from writing your first crime novel?

Number one is how important it is to research your facts and then edit and re-edit as many times as you can before you hand over your manuscript for professional editing.

You need more than one set off eyes as you sometimes can't see the forest for the trees.

Another very important thing that I learnt was to listen to constructive criticism from your reviewers without adopting knee jerk responses to one off criticisms.

What was your response to your first reviews?

I was petrified. Waiting on a "Don't give up your day job" response was my main concern and that would tell me early on that I wasn't up to it. However the early reviews were very encouraging and I knew that if the reviewers were pleased with the early edition they would enjoy the final version.

What do you think are the main attributes of the book Windsor Place?

I would like to think that Edinburgh was ready for a new hero and changing from the traditional detective as the main character to an Investigative Journalist is a unique and positive move. 

Ensuring that all the places in the book are authentic was important to me and running two investigations on the one crime comes at it from a different angle.

Are you happy with the setting of the story? 

Yes, the setting is everything about the book. Selecting the location was a no brainier.

Having spent the first twenty three years of my life growing up in Edinburgh left me with an appreciation of how unique the city is along with Portobello and Musselburgh where the majority of the story unfolds. I can say without doubt that you have to leave a place to appreciate what it has

How do you think you will feel the first time you see the novel in a bookstore?

I can't wait to buy copies for my whole family for Christmas. Seriously, I will be proud that I have ticked off another item on my bucket list and proved to myself. And my advice to anyone thinking of writing a book. You can do it.

When is your next Harry Cram Novel due for release?

Everlasting Guilt is the second book in the Harry Cram series. It carries on with the same characters plus some interesting new ones, but a very different story to Windsor Place.

Where do you live now?

I have lived in Brisbane Australia with my wife Margaret since 1974.

What's your favourite movie?

"One flew over the cuckoo’s nest" starring Jack Nicholson

What is your favourite book?

I have many favorites but if I was forced to pick one writer I would go for the Ian Rankin novels about John Rebus. I learnt a lot form the authors writing skills.

How often do you visit Edinburgh?

Over the years I guess I have averaged a visit every three to four years. On my calculations that amounts to around fifteen visits.

Recently my wife and I tend to visit annually and we also spend time visiting our Son and Daughter in Law and our three beautiful grandchildren, who tend to move around. Last year we visited them in Canada, this year we visited them in South Korea where they are currently based.

What are your other interests?

Golf, travel and walking are probably my main interests outside research and writing.

I also have a translation business translating English to Chinese which has led me to many visits to China, a place I love.

What was the time frame for writing this book? 

Eighteen months in total. I actually wrote the manuscript in six months, then spent the remaining 12 months backtracking to make sure my research was correct and then going back and beefing up each chapter and each character and finally editing....editing....editing..... you can't edit enough, every time you look back over your work you improve it.

What’s next?

Hopefully a Publisher

 I trust that you enjoyed the interview and getting some inside knowledge on myself and Harry Cram was of interest.

Please feel free to drop me an email if you have any further questions. I will respond personally.


 Russell Robertson