Robert White talks about Thomas Harris, David Lindsey and Martin Cruz Smith, his protagonist’s biggest fear and how real life events inspired Northtown Eclipse

Fun Fact: Robb tells us, “I sent the manuscript of a crime novel entitled Siblings to a New York City agent who had expressed interest in a separate manuscript. She never responded back, so I assumed she wasn’t interested. Three years later, I retitled it and sent it to an indie press in the U.K. soliciting novels. That publisher sent me three royalty checks in the following year that totaled more money than my other 9 books squared. Since then, it’s been reprinted under another British press and is still chugging along with over 100 ratings on Goodreads compared to 15, my next biggest number.”

Amazon Northtown CoverSR: Was there a specific issue or incident that really motivated you to write this particular story? What was the prompt?

RW: It’ll sound ghoulish, but I was watching the Cleveland news one winter night when a report of a plane being lost over Lake Erie came on; 5 people from two families died in the crash. I used a similar incident of a plane crash into the lake and involved my protagonist, a fledgling private eye, not very sure of himself, acquiring facts about the crash that lead him to conclude the engine was sabotaged.

SR: What conspiracy theory is your protagonist most likely to believe in? Roswell? JFK? Princess Diana? What about you? Any conspiracy theories that you think might have some truth to them?

RW: My protagonist didn’t snap to his own terrible childhood accident being no accident, so he’d be unlikely to believe in those conspiracies.  I, on the other, hand grew up feasting on those godawful alien invasion film and thus am very inclined toward the belief that aliens exist and our government, as well as others, have been too slow to reveal what they know.

SR:  Is your protagonist more likely to go insane or end up in prison?

RW: Definitely prison. And it’ll involve protecting a woman somehow.

SR: What’s your protagonist’s greatest fear? Why?

RW: Fire. He was badly scarred in childhood when a plastic tent burned with him unable to get out.

SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted to come through in your work?

RW: Philosophy is too big a word for my writing but hobby seems too insignificant for an “obsession.”  I’ll always settle for a Damn, I enjoyed that story from a reader. Even better if the reader enjoyed the style.

SR:  If hell was watching one movie over and over and over again, or listening to one song over and over again, what would the movie or song be for you?

RW: Personally speaking, I’m a fiend for watching movies over and over. If I told you how many times I’ve watched Body Heat, you’d pray for my commitment into the nearest mental facility. I’m currently addicted to lousy Korean horror movies full of ghosts and doppelgangers, so watching a bad film ad nauseam in hell won’t be as bad as flames that burn but never consume—as the old, crazy nuns used to tell us in my catechism class. I might make an exception for any Will Smith movie.

SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?

RW: I, Jan Cremer, a self-described memoir by an author who went from one half-assed adventure to another much like the French film Going Places with Gerard Depardieu, which I’d seen when my hair was black and he was about 150 pounds lighter. That Cremer book never made me want to be a writer, but I had such pleasure from it that it must have planted a seed. But it wasn’t until I read William Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner in college that I knew someday I wanted to write.  It just took a longer time than I expected (30 years).

SR:  What’s the best thing about writing?

RW: Disappearing into the writing. Losing yourself so completely that whole hours pass where you are not conscious of anything but the work taking shape in front of you. Narcotic.

SR: Are you drawn to things that are really popular or wary of them? Do you find it helps you to market your work if you’re familiar with what’s currently selling or do you ignore all of that and focus on what you’re interested in?

RW: I’ll admit I’ve been tempted by some of the more popular aspects of horror/thriller writing, but I can’t adjust gears as well as I thought. I gave up on Carrie after 50 pages because the characters were so unlikeable and the prose style so pedestrian, although The Shining was a fine read even if the conclusion made little sense. The stomach-churning horror of the Saw franchise films seems mindlessly juvenile, not to mention insanely improbable.  I have moments but nothing ever pans out. It has to come down to psychological horror for me even in mysteries.

SR: Everyone needs an outlet to help them recharge. What hobbies do you have outside of writing?

RW: Does lawn mowing count?  Lying in a hammock? I might well be the dullest man in Northeastern Ohio.

SR: You strike it rich. What charity are you going to create or support?

RW: Easy. The ASPCA and my local APL.  Animals don’t deserve the shitty treatment human beings inflict on them.

SR: What factors influence you when you’re choosing a book to read?

RW: Three items:  Is the work by Thomas Harris, David Lindsey, or Martin Cruz Smith? If not, I don’t waste my time.


RTW Photo ThumbnailRobb T. White was born, raised, and still lives in Northeastern Ohio. He has published three novels in the Thomas Haftmann series, a pair of noir novels, a serial-killer novel, and 3 collections of short stories. Special Collections, a digital novel, won the New Rivers eBook competition in 2014. Many of his crime stories have appeared in magazines like Yellow Mama, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Switchblade, and Near to the Knuckle.