Dr. Rob Burton was a professional sociologist for over 25 years at the University of Exeter, the Open University and the University of Plymouth. Now semi-retired Rob works in Nanjing, China teaching English and writing novels. He has authored many academic articles and recently published, with a Chinese co-author, a crammer for Chinese students who wish to succeed with their IELTS speaking test. His first novel Meditations on Murder is available now on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.
His novels are firmly set in the Urban Fantasy genre where he brings his experiences of traveling the world and his academic interest in Cornwall, the Cornish, and the Celtic world to the fore.
Rob has an 18-year-old daughter back in the UK. Snook Doggy Dog, a female Jack Russell that he took with him to China and features in his books.
BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR:
Meditation on Murder
Dr. Burton Unlocks the Secrets of the IELTS Speaking Test
The Castle of the Red-Haired Maidens
The Twelfth Rune
A Taste of English
The Twelfth Rune is his WIP (Work in Progress). He has also written a memoir under a pen name.
An Interview with Rob Burton
Ink Smith: Let’s get some basics out of the way! What is your favorite food?
Rob: I live in China at the moment so the opportunity for favorite food is limited. But I’m British so a curry would be top of the list, and surprisingly there are good curry houses here in China with authentic Indian cooks. Cheese is hard to get here in China, when I do manage to buy it from the local French supermarket (Auchan) I tend to eat it all in one go. Fish and Chips from a takeaway from my home city of Plymouth, UK is also something I miss big time.
Ink Smith: What is your favorite color?
Rob: Blue – and in particular the blue/turquoise of the sea. Any sea. I have always lived by the sea apart for the last six years living inland in Nanjing, China. I miss the sea, miss surfing in the sea, I miss just looking at the sea as the sun sinks into the horizon.
Ink Smith: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Rob: My writing goes in fits and starts – so I can spend a lot of time writing and then have a bunch of time off writing. I don’t get het up about it. I know that my unconscious brain is working it all out. I’m not a plotter and a planner. I don’t have an office with a big white-board covered in timelines and plots. Nor walls covered in post-it notes. I’m a pantser – my characters drag me through the story. I have the small corner of a two seater sofa of which the dog and the girlfriend have the majority of the space. I also get to write in my office at the school here in China where I teach English in the two office hours I have to do every day as part of my contract.
Ink Smith: What inspired you to write your first book?
Rob Burton: Discounting my PhD and the Chinese book, my first book started, as opposed to published, was Meditations on Murder. I worked in a British University that was trying to make me redundant and the relationship I had with my daughter’s mum was down the tubes so I wasn’t in the best of moods. So a lot of the dark stuff in the book is semi-autobiographical – I was getting my angst out there.
These are the first lines I wrote
I wanted to kill someone.
It could be anyone.
I wasn’t holding a grudge.
I just felt like it.
Ink Smith: What is your favorite book?
Rob: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig (who has recently passed away). I first bought this book in Holland where I was living and working. It was probably around the mid 70’s so the book had just come out. I cannot count how many times I have passed this book on never to get it back. Fortunately, it can often be found in Charity Shops, car boot sales and secondhand bookstores which are all my favorite shopping places.
Ink Smith: Did you learn anything from writing your book(s) and what was it?
Rob Burton: Writing about 12th century Scotland for The Castle of the Red-Haired Maidens was interesting. I wanted to get the period details right. For instance in common parlance, we would call the Norsemen that colonized northern Scotland and its islands ‘Viking’s when in fact they were called Lochlannach – which effectively means ‘Scandinavian’. Viking is a verb – ‘They went Viking.’
I also learned about weapons and stuff like that – for instance, chopping off a head with a single sword swipe would be very difficult despite the movies. As I am in China my main research sources are Google and Wikipedia, but also posting questions on the FB writer pages I am on.
Ink Smith: Do you have a specific writing style?
Rob Burton: I have no idea – I do write with my tongue firmly in my cheek and hope that people find the humor in my work, which does also have its darker side. I am not trying to be out and out funny but sometimes even the darkest things can give us a little chuckle.
Ink Smith: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Rob Burton: No messages. I have tried to add subliminal BUY MY NEXT NOVEL messages into the text but that doesn’t work. Nor does writing sentences backward so they read like a satanic chant – that didn’t work for The Beatles either.
Ink Smith: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Rob Burton: Reading, reading and more reading. I was one of those kids that dodged school and hid in the City Library reading all day. I failed at school and didn’t get to University until my mid 30’s getting my PhD in my 40’s. I do recall being asked once to join an A Level English Course at a college once on the basis of one of my stories but my parents said no as I was doing an engineering apprenticeship at the time.
Ink Smith: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Rob Burton: My favorite author is James Lee Burke. And in particular his detective series featuring Dave Robicheaux. I find Burke to be a very atmospheric writer. His stories do not seem to be hurried; they are well paced and draw the reader in. Also he answers his fan emails *blush*
Ink Smith: What is your favorite mythical creature?
Rob Burton: Although not mythical but revered by millions, Ganesha is my choice. Ganesh is the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom. As the god of beginnings, he is honored at the start of rites and ceremonies. Ganesha is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions. Ganesha writing.
Ink Smith: What are your current projects?
- At the moment my novella The Castle of the Red-Haired Maidens is out with the editor. This is the back-story to Nye the 12th Century Scottish ghost who is a main character in my novel Meditations on Murder. In that book, she tells us she was horribly murdered – the novella covers that incident.
- I am also writing the second novel of the series with Charlie Simpson. (I wanted him to be a pretty ordinary man facing extraordinary circumstances – hence the boring name) I am about 50% through it at the moment. The Twelfth Rune is set in Cornwall and uses Cornish myths and legends to drive the story as Charlie has to pit his wits against Modred the arch Arthurian villain to rescue some lost religious artifacts and, of course, save the world again. (Is that too much of a spoiler?)
- I also earn some spare cash doing some writing and proofreading for Nanjing University and an English Training school. The translation department sends me English translations of works and I have to check the English. Recently, I proofed a book about Karl Marx (still popular here of course) and am working on a book about the various translations of the Chinese classic Dao De Jing by Laozi . (I am hopeless at proofreading my own stuff of course.)
Ink Smith: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Rob Burton: Write Like A Bastard Everyday – if I am not working on the novel, I am either blogging, writing on Facebook, or doing paid writing for other people. It’s not my main source of income but provides some extra cash.
Ink Smith: If you had to do it all over again, what would you change in your latest book?
Rob Burton: I would probably pay for a developmental editor to have a look at it. I made the mistake, being a proofreader myself, I doing my own editing and then publishing on KDP. A few mistakes were mentioned to me. Then I looked at it again after a few months and it was blindingly obvious it needed to be looked at professionally. Also, I was personally uncomfortable with having a substandard work out with my name across it – so it was also a matter of pride. So it’s now been edited and I have re-published it and I am happy now. But maybe a developmental edit could have made it even stronger than it is (currently it does have 5-star reviews on Amazon)
Ink Smith: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers
Rob Burton: Readers if you enjoy indie writers who offer their work at good prices and you enjoy what you read, please remember to go back and give the author a review – good or bad – reviews are the indie authors lifeblood and they help new readers find the new writers.
If this article has peaked your interest like it has ours, stop by Rob’s social media pages (https://www.rob-burton.co.uk, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. ), or better yet, stop by his Amazon (Amazon UK) pages and pick up a copy or two of his books!
In addition, if anyone happens to be passing through Nanjing, China they can have a free audience with Rob over a beer and if they have a paper copy of his book he’ll even sign it.
Many young writers ask on the Facebook writer’s page that they want to start writing but they don’t know how or what to write. My advice is travel. See the world, have some adventures. Live life.
“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values