Bloodied but unbowed…
It is said Robert Pobi had six complete novels in his desk drawer when he decided to take up writing full time. Actually he told me it was seven complete novels and four half novels that resided there before he wrote BLOODMAN in mid-2010.
“BLOODMAN is a debut novel – absolutely – but in no way is it the first novel I wrote,” he said.
Robert sold his first novel straight out of university when he was 23. Twelve days before his novel was to go into production, the publisher was bought out and all their new writers were “dumped.” Robert did send out a few queries but got caught up in opening a new business that took off rather quickly. He kept writing and “feeding the drawer” but recognized it was hard to walk away from success in one field for the uncertainty of writing.
He changed his mind after three friends died – two from cancer and one murdered. So at the end of 2009, he walked away from his business, an exclusive antiques and decorating shop in Montreal, and signed with Jill Marr at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency at the end of February 2010.
Jill signed Robert based on a book he had just written called MANNHEIM REX, which he describes as “a novel about Mendelian genetics pushed to the limit.”
And then he wrote BLOODMAN in four months.
Some reviewers classify BLOODMAN as horror. Robert when asked replied, “I don’t understand genre. At least not always. At what point does a techno-thriller become science fiction? When does suspense become horror? Satire become farce? There are some horrifying elements in this story—there has to be—but is it horror? It’s a thriller and a love story and a disaster tale. It’s a hard-boiled detective yarn and a whodunit. It’s smart. Truthful. Some horrible things happen in it. Some wonderful things happen in it. Hopefully it has something new to say.
“There is enough going on to keep a lot of readers interested…Who doesn’t like a great serial killer story?”
It was his father’s rather bizarre episode of setting himself on fire and crashing through a plate glass window that brings Jake Cole back to Montauk, Long Island after a 25-year absence. BLOODMAN opens with Jake preparing to place his father, a famous painter, into a long-term care facility.
Besides being in a town he doesn’t want to be in, Jake is dealing with his own frayed nerves and fragile psyche that came from years spent reconstructing three-dimensional crime scenes in his head for the FBI. He is also trying to make sense of his estranged father’s recent life when the telephone call comes.
Enter the BLOODMAN. The local sheriff asks for Jake’s help in investigating a gruesome double homicide: one Jake finds echoes his mother’s murder 30 years earlier. And he comes to believe clues to the killer can be found in the thousands of paintings stacked in his father’s studio. The taut cat-and-mouse game between Jake and the killer is played out against the unrelenting approach of a monster of nature – a catastrophic hurricane.
“Do I lead the reader into a dark place?” Robert asks. “Absolutely. Then I flick the lights a few times to give them a glimpse of what happened. I like the build-up,” he continued, “the process of wooing the reader. Then when they’re hooked, I shut off the lights and open the spigot…Once they’ve acclimated to the world I give them, I crank the dial to eleven and wait for their ears to bleed.”
BLOODMAN kept Robert busy writing, and was relatively easy to write. His biggest problem was in trying to get Jake to stop smoking. “It drove me nuts. We fought about it for a few chapters before I gave in,” he said.
Whenever he finishes a chapter and it’s time to “cut out for the day,” Robert numbers the new chapter and types the word The in the first line as his starting point for the next time. “That single word always kick-starts me into action,” he said.
Writing for Robert is a seven-days a week deal—although he does take every other Thursday off to run errands and see friends. A typical day sees him getting up before 8am and starting his writing around 10. He takes a walk or runs in the early afternoon then writes until dinner. After dinner he writes until 1 or 2 in the morning. “After Christmas,” he said, “I intend on slowing down a little. I want to go down to working 5 days a week. If I can.”
Having recently moved, his office suffers from boxes piled along the walls of his sloped-ceiling attic space. He keeps his pens in a bronze Deco humidor on one side of his monitor and a “monolithic” printer on the other. All his paintings are leaning against the boxes with nowhere to be hung. He keeps a couple of rifles in an umbrella stand near a closet.
Fiction and non-fiction titles grace his to-be-read pile but the book that made him realize he wanted to write was The Eiger Sanction by Trevanian. “That book floored me. It still does. The Eiger Sanction has a little magic in it that I (still) haven’t found anywhere else.”
The other major influence in his writing he credits is a nomadic lifestyle as a child. “I’ve lived more places than most people visit in their lives and a certain survival skill set came out of this. Being the new kid my whole life completely inured me to any kind of criticism, which is one of the best defenses a writer can have. I’ve also developed a highly malleable set of social skills: I’m 100 percent comfortable in everything between a tuxedo and a wetsuit and I think this helps me write characters.”
Currently Robert has no plans to bring back Jake Cole in future novels and readers will find it is his use of language and writing style they will recognize from book to book – not characters or genre.
“I’m always working—I have to or I’d get buried by deadlines. The problem, if you can call it that, is each publisher has different contractual requirements, so the books are coming out staggered. Which means I will have written two new novels, maybe three, by the end of 2012. No rest for the wicked – or the contractually obligated.”
In addition to MANNHEIM REX, which comes out in November, Robert just finished DESELECTED, a techno thriller that “Michael Crichton put into [his]head,” and started work on THE TOYMAKER’S CHILDREN (working title) – a book he says is a .357 magnum opus. “If the concept survives the writing process, I think that it is going to be a book that will rattle a few teeth.”
Robert Pobi dealt in fine Georgian antiques for thirteen years before turning to writing full-time. He has fished for everything that swims – from great white sharks off Montauk to monstrous pike in northern Finland. He prefers bourbon to scotch and shucks oysters with an old hunting knife he modified with a grinder. In warm weather he spends much of his time at a cabin on a secluded lake in the mountains and when the mercury falls he heads to the Florida Keys. The critical response to his first short story (written when he was twelve) was a suspension from school. Now he writes every day – at a desk once owned by Roberto Calvi.
For more information on Robert and BLOODMAN check out his website.