Robert Lane’s literary crime noir novels mix humor, action, and ageless moral themes set against the backdrop of the west coast of Florida. Cooler Than Blood is his second stand-alone Jake Travis novel after The Second Letter. His third book, The Cardinal’s Sin, will be released in October 2015.Q:
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Cooler Than Blood. What was your inspiration for it?
A: I yearned for a classic crime tale, in this case a kidnapped young woman, that, through twists and turns, circles back to my protagonist, Jake Travis. I desired a story arc, that in ways Jake could have never foreseen, threatens Kathleen, the “world’s most important person,” to Jake. I wanted the story to force him into moral choices that will define and shape him. Where’s the inspiration? Instead of a faceless victim that the reader would have no feeling for, I was intrigued with the idea of a young woman who lost her father at a young age. She relies on the memory of her father and the lessons he taught her while boating, to persevere a kidnapping ordeal. The time she and he spent on the boat is all the fuel she has to survive her captivity. The only thing real, and inspiration, is the boat, but we all know the formula—1 percent inspiration and 99 percent work.
Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.
A: Jake Travis has struggled with who he is and is just now learning to accept himself. He cannot resist the thrills found on the edge of life, but they come with heavy consequences. Unfortunately, some of these consequences are moral ambiguities that are likely to re-occur. It’s the central theme in his life, and central themes do not fade or resolve.
Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?
A: My books are character driven—I have little clue as to how they will end. I usually see the end coming somewhere around two-thirds of the way through. That’s good—I think. Hemingway said if you know where your story’s going, so does the reader. Total writing time is about nine months, with half of that time in re-writes and crafting the words. Writing is a bumpy road. Sometimes it comes out smooth and clean, but that’s just the space between the bumps.
A: I don’t let myself get bored. Add humor. Conflict. More conflict. Physically move Jake. In Cooler Than Blood, Jake gets a lead, hops in his truck with Garrett, and the story explodes as he meets other characters who, in turn, lead to the core of the story.
Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?
A: Not really. My secret is I flip open the laptop and hit it hard and fast. If I waited, even a minute, I know self-doubt would gain a foothold. Also, I usually exercise before I write—let the endorphins meet anxiety at the gate and thrash it away.
Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?
A: I run or swim early in the morning and then write until my mind shuts down. By late in the afternoon, it’s been recharged enough to go a couple more hours. If I had sixteen free hours, the best I could do is write during five to six of those hours, and not congruently. That leaves plenty of time for other activities and obligations.
Q: How do you define success?
A: Doing my best used to be my mantra, my measuring cup for success. After I read Haruki Murakami’s excellent book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, I altered that stance. Success is exceeding my capabilities. Doing better than I thought I could do. Freeing my mind of self-imposed limitation and handicaps. That’s pretty elusive…but so is success.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?
A: Get a new a partner? That could be expensive. How about this: forget them. It’s your dream. Since when do you need the outside world to validate your goals and aspirations?
Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?
A: I suppose I do, but that seems a little heavy, dare I say Orwellian? Lighten up. I don’t drill too deep into my compulsions, who’s got time for that? At some point, during the writing of every book, I’ve sworn off writing and rue the day I ever started. Is that so different than other professions and activities in our lives, or do writers just whine more?
Q: Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
A: While reading my books, I hope you laugh, I hope you get choked-up, I hope you turn the page quickly to see what happens next, I hope you come across a mirror and ponder yourself, and I hope that is some small, immeasurable, speck-of-dust manner, all that gobbledygook gives you a better understanding and acceptance of your world.