Today we travel to the south coast of England to chat with Robert Crouch. He and I talk about how being an environmental health manager, To Kill a Mockingbird, Sue Grafton, quitting smoking, Scooby Doo, visiting a Medium, and his sense of humour come together as part of his past and present life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Robert Crouch, author of the Kent Fisher mysteries. I live on the south coast of England at the edge of the beautiful South Downs National Park, where my novels are set.
In which genre do you write?
My books are contemporary murder mysteries at the cosy end of crime fiction.
How many published books do you have?
Five in total – four in the Kent Fisher mystery series and a collection of humorous blogs, entitled Fisher’s Fables, a fictionalised account of my experiences as an environmental health manager. Most of the characters in the blog went on to populate the mystery series.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
I suspect I’ve always been a writer. My father taught me to read at a young age and I immersed myself in fiction as a child. I won a national short story competition at the age of 12, but it was To Kill a Mockingbird that inspired me to become an author at the age of 16. It was the first time I realised that writing could change lives and opinions.
From those enthusiastic beginnings many years ago, it’s been a long and challenging journey to published author. Though the belief may have wavered a few times, the desire never faded.
What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?
It has to be a West Highland white terrier. They may be small, but they’re spirited, determined and not afraid to go their own way, like my dog Harvey.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
I have a small office, which allows me to treat writing as a job, which means I don’t work weekends. Notebooks – currently fourteen – dominate my desk. I scribble notes all the time so I don’t forget anything. This means my desk has become a constant source of inspiration.
If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?
It was kind of a dream come true when I contacted my favourite author, Sue Grafton, on Facebook Messenger, never expecting her to reply. But she did and we conversed for several months, discussing many aspects of writing and her Alphabet murder series, featuring Kinsey Millhone.
I should add at this point that Kinsey Millhone is the inspiration behind the Kent Fisher murder mystery series.
I asked her all the usual questions about where she got her ideas from, how did she avoid duplication after 25 books, but it’s the question she posed that provided a fascinating insight into her writing.
“Have you faced writer’s block yet?” That’s suffering in its truest sense.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
That’s a challenging question for someone who looks out rather than in.
I don’t know if this makes sense, but I’ve learned how to succeed as an author by being me instead of trying to be a writer.
It took me a long, long time to get a novel published. For decades I thought there was some magic formula to being a successful author – a formula I didn’t have. I read books on writing, spoke to authors, analysed novels, searching for those elusive elements that would get me published.
Then I was forced to give up writing for about a year when I quit smoking. I couldn’t write without having a cigarette on the go, you see. Then, somewhat ironically, I did an interview for a local radio station on the public ban on smoking that was being introduced in the UK. I was the environmental health officer tasked with introducing the ban in my area.
More for fun than anything else, I wrote a blog, basing the first post on that radio interview. Rather than put it out in my name, I fictionalised the blog and let my creation, Kent Fisher, write it. Fisher’s Fables ran for about seven years before I realised I’d found my author voice.
This was me, writing a humorous blog that lots of people read and enjoyed. I then took the first Kent Fisher novel and rewrote it in this new voice. It was accepted by a small independent publisher in the US and my career as an author started.
If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?
No contest – Scooby Doo. He’s the cutest, funniest dog ever, and makes the most amazing snacks. He solves mysteries, and he makes me laugh and feel good. That’s what I try to bring to my novels.
When we were on holiday in Florida, we visited Universal Studios, where Shaggy and Scooby were posing for photographs with children. I asked if I could have my photo taken with them, much to the embarrassment of my wife. For me, it remains one of my treasured moments.
Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?
I think it’s tempting to believe in fate, especially when things don’t go the way you want them to. It takes away responsibility, handing it to some unknown entity with the power to decide how your life will be.
None of this stopped me visiting a medium many years ago. I went to her house, rang the bell, and waited, not sure what to expect. This lovely, warm and uplifting woman answered the door, looked at me and asked me why I was worrying about a particular issue.
I hadn’t told anyone about this issue, so how did she know? Did she have a divine power, a channel to the other side? Or was she simply a mind reader? Whatever the answer, she was so accurate in what she told me, so detailed about events and issues, it was like she had access to my inner secrets and personality.
She told me I was meant to visit her, to seek her help. Who am I to argue?
Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?
My sense of humour and the irreverent way I look at the world have never deserted me, helping me to stay positive (most of the time) and entertain readers. Murder is a serious business, so it’s good to lighten it a little.
Determination, or stubbornness as my wife calls it, has kept me going when I could have given up. When it was easier to give up, I kept going, writing and rewriting, submitting and resubmitting.
Tell us about your most recent book.
No More Lies is the fourth Kent Fisher mystery.
Kent Fisher gets more than he bargained for when Detective Inspector Ashley Goodman enlists his help with a ten year old murder. She’s on a mission and needs a big case to put her career back on track.
And they don’t come much bigger than Miles Birchill, Downland’s wealthiest and most divisive resident.
Not for the first time, Kent has doubts about the case, forcing him to make choices. But who do you trust when everyone has something to hide?
Caught in the middle, he has no alternative but to solve the murder, unaware that his every move is being watched.
The Kent Fisher novels offer a fresh and contemporary reworking of the classic whodunit and murder mysteries of authors like Agatha Christie.
I find your path to becoming a published author deeply inspiring Robert. I am moved by how you rolled with life experiences in such a way that they blossomed into your author’s voice. Thanks much for being a part of MTA! – Camilla
Where to find the book:
Connect with Robert:
Website – https://robertcrouch.co.uk
Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01HFPCYOM
Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/robertcrouchauthor
Twitter – https://twitter.com/robertcrouchuk
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