Elliot J Harper
A Brief Chat with Robert Welbourn
Robert Welbourn is the author of Belonging, published by SRL Publishing, a London-based indie press. He is also the author of Ideal Angels, set to be re-released by SRL later this year. He lives in Leeds, England, with his wife, Hannah, and their dog and cat, Nellie and Sylvia.
Hi, Rob, congrats on the new book. Now, straight to the impossible question. Who is your favourite author?
I hate this question! Is there someone somewhere who can just answer this straight away, and that’s that? If so, I envy them! For years my favourite was Bret Easton Ellis. American Psycho is obviously a masterpiece, but Glamorama was, for a long time, my all-time favourite book. Ellis’ writing is so darkly funny, he really gets under your skin. Of course, at times, it’s incredibly difficult to read, but I’m always up for a challenge. I’m a huge fan of Stephen King, too. I recently finally finished reading all his novels and short story collections - all 70-something of them - and I am just in awe that he can turn out quality book after quality book, even after all this time. I’m a huge fan of Shirley Jackson, AM Homes, Hermione Hoby, John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath may be the best book ever written by anyone - Jay McInerney, Jonathan Franzen, Heather O’Neill. That’s a list, does that help?
But really, I don’t think I have a favourite author. I’m lucky that there are so many authors I adore, it’s impossible to pick just one.
What is your favourite book?
See above! As in, there are far too many good books I can’t choose just one! As I mentioned earlier, for a long time, Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis was my favourite book. I’m currently re-reading (for about the tenth time) 11.22.63 by Stephen King, which is just an incredible piece of writing. Whilst ostensibly it’s about going back in time to prevent the assassination of JFK, really, it’s a love story - and it’s the best love story ever written. I adore The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, not just because its opening paragraph is perhaps the finest paragraph ever written. I’ve already mentioned The Grapes of Wrath, but I also love East of Eden and Of Mice and Men. I recently read Rebecca for the first time, and it absolutely blew me away.
Honestly, my answer is the same as the previous one - there are far too many amazing booms in existence to be able to hone in on any one!
What was your inspiration for writing Belonging?
Now this one I can answer! Belonging is the culmination of years of being very lost and very confused. My entire life, well from at least about 15 or so, I’ve been lost. If you ask me who I’m not, I can answer that in a second, but if you ask me who I am? I don’t have a clue. Identity is such a huge thing, and so many people seem to just know and be aware of theirs - but I don’t even know where to start. Belonging is all my frustrations in this regard set down on paper.
Alongside this, it’s also my frustrations with England and the UK at the moment - the social and political strife, things like Brexit and the constant Culture Wars politicians and the media are waging, the rampant inequality we’re seeing, all of the absolute mess in which we’re all living. Belonging is my attempt to understand it all, whilst venting my frustrations at living through so many supposed once-in-a-lifetime events. I was told the financial crash of 2008 was a once-in-a-lifetime recession - did they mean once a year???
What is the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Write, write, write.
Finished writing? Good. Now go write some more.
And read too. You can’t be an author if you haven’t written anything, it’s as simple as that. And you get better at writing by writing and reading.
Honestly, this answer probably sounds dumb, but it really is that easy. Ever since I was young, I’ve dreamed of being a published author. However, it was only in my early 20s that it clicked - I can’t publish anything if I don’t write anything. And so, I started writing properly, really dedicating myself to it, and here we are, two published books under my belt.
For those who are already writing, write every day. Consistency is king - set yourself a target and stick to it, no matter what. When I was writing Belonging, I set myself a target of 500 words a day minimum, and I stuck to it, no matter what. It can be hard some days, when you’re busy, or life gets on top of you, and you struggle with motivation. That’s when it’s more important to write than ever. We’re lucky to be living in the age of laptops - take it with you everywhere you go and write every day, no matter where you are or what you’re doing. I’ve written on my honeymoon, family holidays, in airports, on planes. Just write, always write.
Have you ever heard how the most successful people are those that show up every day? It’s true of writers. Write every day, and you’ll get there.
Thanks for answering those questions, Rob.
Me and Rob go way back. We used to work with each other in TD Waterhouse, where we both spent most of our days pretending to do our jobs and whining about how awful everything was. TD is now gone, but our friendship remains. Rob actually inspired me to begin writing after the release of Ideal Angels in 2018, and he has helped me ever since, be it beta reading and encouragement, and I, in turn, have done the same for him. They say it’s a lonely world, this publishing lark, but I think I’ve been quite lucky because I have a friend who is tackling this insanity with me. Having a second novel published is a fantastic achievement, and Belonging is brilliant. I couldn’t put it down, and I devoured it in three days. I urge you to buy it and support not only an indie author but indie publishing in general.
Thank you for reading this month’s Brief Chat.