Robert T. Armstrong, the author of Full Circle: From Africa and Back Again, shares some details about his life after becoming a new author!
Did you always dream of becoming an author?
No. Never. Sports, Mathematics and English literature I loved at school. I was an avid reader but never contemplated becoming an author. In fact, my English spelling all my life has been terrible. Once I was sent to work in Central Asia on airport projects. My boss in Hong Kong, an eminent claims consultant, came out to assist me. While he was there, he handed one of the young local typists a draft letter to type. An hour later, the Japanese Project Manager came to see my boss and said, ”Richard-san, your English very, very, very bad” while waving my bosses draft letter.
Very quickly Richard replied, “Sorry next time I fly from Hong Kong, you better book two tickets and I will bring my secretary-additional to the charges of course.”
Needless to say, the local secretarial assistance continued.
I do feel shame however at not being very good at English Language.
What was your first job?
At 12 I used to deliver newspapers after school.
At 13 I worked two nights a week for 6-7 months in a small nearby factory, chopping logs and binding the sticks with wire, for selling as firewood
At 16 I left school and was lucky to be selected along with 5 other young lads as trainee quantity surveyor by large local construction company.
How did you come about writing your book? Was that your intention or did you start writing for fun?
The origin of the book was a series of repetitive dreams that began around 2006/8. They were of a conglomerate setting itself up in northern Nigeria to reap rewards of recent surveys that had been carried out, indicating good oil yields and diamond veins in old abandoned mines. To make their efforts risk free, they set about genocide in the area, pitting Muslims against Christians, and forcing out expatriate farmers.
As the dreams repeated, I began taking notes, thinking of screenplay possibilities. And the more I wrote, the more my mind took over. I remember when I had just typed about 40 pages, I thought my god this could turn out to be something. At the halfway stage, I then stopped thinking screenplay, this is a book.
The final initial product was 192 pages (manuscript pages) including a one-and-a-half-page introduction, and was titled, ‘The Voice’
I sent it off to several publishers without any real response after several weeks. So, in March 2013 I sent it to The Literary Consultancy for review.
The review shocked me, but after several days and slowly reading their report, my confidence returned, and I set about not so much re-writing it, but maintaining the skeleton, and putting better meat on it.
Getting rid of the introduction, was the most pleasurable, adding three new chapters to the book. Then as I examined the bones, I began writing, not as a screenplay, but as a novel. It took me until early 2018 for me to complete the book. I was very keen to see if my efforts had merit, so I sent the new manuscript; now with the new name of’ Full Circle ; From Africa and Back Again’ to The Literary Consultancy’ with a specific request for it to be reviewed by Kitty Walker, one of their reviewers.
The review I received was frank, honest, and gave me the confidence to stay with the book. At that time however, I was employed in a senior management position in the Middle East, where the day to day pressures limited the time I had to work on the book. Also, I could not stop my mind from thinking of the main characters, and very quickly, I could see a trilogy on the horizon, so I began working on the second book, whilst addressing Kitty Walker’s comments to complete the first, which I achieved in June 2019.
Several companies expressed an interest in my book from hundreds whom I had contacted. But with Pegasus, I felt I was being treat in a’ customer friendly manner’ by Suzzane Mulvey from signing up in the September 2019, and I have been extremely happy working together with Production and Publicity staff to get the book finally published.
It is a hell of a feeling. My advice is to never give up. It is a hard road to publication, but look at your work objectively. Keep going back to it in stages. If you are looking for a previous reference, when you find it, read more of that time in your book.
I have kind of answered both questions simultaneously. But my writing is what I love, and it is fun. If it ever stopped being fun, I would know the theme was wrong, and search for something else to write about.
What was your life like before you became an author?
I would almost need to write a small novel to answer that question, and even then, it could be another trilogy.
I had two fantastic parents and grandma. Married at 26 and embarked together three years later to Middle East to work Two great children. We made a mistake in my continuing overseas while my wife stayed at home with the children for their education.
I had two spells working back in UK, but I missed out on a lot of family life, such as children getting married, having children themselves. You can never recapture lost years.
All during my working career, I was blessed in having the best bosses available at that time, in that place or area, until the final couple of years of my working career, which showed the darker side of working in construction in the modern world. And maybe that could become another book.
Did you face any struggles before becoming an author? If so, how did you overcome them?
In my work many. Being involved with contractual matters every day, was difficult at times. But the plus side, was working alongside multinational colleagues, and understanding different cultures and religious beliefs, and being in warm climates.
To achieve my first book, the struggles were understanding what standard I had achieved with the finished article. Kitty Walker was my saviour in pointing me in all the right directions.
At times, I struggled for thought about certain scenes or sections. My wife has always been there through all the stages of my books, including spelling.
Probably, the significant hurdle to overcome, when you feel sure you have done everything you could think of, and feel its complete, is to find a publicist. That is the hardest. Because there are millions of others like you. I was lucky that Suzzane Mulvey and her team took me on. Really lucky and eternally grateful.
Keep going, do not give up.
Now that you are a published author, how has your life changed, if at all?
It has not, and it will not change me. I still miss my Contract Administration work immensely, and hope to undertake a role in the future, but I will never abandon my writing.
My second book is complete, and I am working steadily on the last of the trilogy. When that is complete, I will divert from Action/Thriller to a Black comedy for adult children series of books about the exploits of Ollie the Osprey.
And then return to the characters of the Full Circle trilogy again.
Can you please describe a typical day in your life now?
It’s a wrong question while we are in lock down. Also, it’s the wrong question even out of lock down. I do not have a typical day. I like going to different areas of the North of England, and Scotland. We love gardening, having pub lunches, I keep getting different ideas for books. I follow a lot of sport, communicate with several friends overseas, and love watching a good crime or thriller movie or series on TV. And like making fun. Life should never get too serious.
What is your most memorable moment of your life as an author?
Seeing my wife nod her head, when I signed up with Pegasus last year, and a couple of days ago, receiving my copies of the published book
In a few words, how would you review your experience with Pegasus Publishers
Excellent. In both the production and publicity stages, they performed in a very professional way and were attentive to all my questions.
Why did you choose Pegasus Publishers?
Suzzane came across as a sincere person I could trust.
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