Schuler Guest Author Spot: Robert Pobi
Welcome to this Friday’s Guest Author spot – I really enjoyed this post by Robert Pobi, author of the creepy thriller Bloodman, released this past Tuesday. (Sarah Weinman at The National Post loved Bloodman: “…a Sixth Sense-like take on Thomas Harris in his prime…days after racing to the finish…the story still unsettles me.”) Add in the supremely awesome author photo they sent us (see below), and I am SOLD.
Ten things you couldn’t pry out of my cold dead hands – unless I was cold and dead.
By Robert Pobi
With the new book coming out I am being asked a lot of questions about what I do. About the choices I make. The books I read. My opinions about the state of publishing. I am asked about my voice. My ideas. Where I think it’s all going. But no one ever asks me about the things I need to get me there. The supplies. The gear. And in all honesty, there are a few crutches I need to get the work done without losing my patience, my health, or my mind. So here are the top ten things that help me do what they pay me to do (this is where my little lady starts jumping up and down in the background, hollering “Booze! Booze! Booze!”).
1 – My coffee maker. It seems a little obvious but that doesn’t detract from its necessity. I need to take breaks from staring at the screen all day and very few sorties offer the legitimacy that a coffee maker provides. I had one of those little plastic-pod robots but the thing produced three times its own weight in garbage a week so I got rid of it. I have since settled on a nice old-fashioned filter deal that would have made old Joe DiMaggio proud. And I like the way it sounds like a bulldog in a heat wave when I fire it up.
2 – A digital timer. This one is inobvious but necessary. I don’t use a microwave, I use an oven. So when I slap my lunch into the thing, it enables me to go back to the computer and sink back into the work without worrying that my bacon and Swiss on rye will end up looking like a chain-smoker’s lung. It’s also great for the five minutes it takes for the coffee maker to wheeze out a pot. It saves me from waiting around when I could be working. Also great for timing a break. Or if I promise to call someone back in ten when I’m working on something I don’t want to leave.
3 – A large-capacity printer. I don’t write short stories. Or haikus. Or outlines. I write novels – 150,000 word, 500-page slabs of paper. I need a paper tray that can take an entire pack of paper; I need at least 40 pages per minute output; the cartridge has to give me at least 10,000 pages. I also need something slightly smaller than an Oldsmobuick. I have an HP4350 that I wouldn’t trade for a new kidney if I needed one. When I die, I want my ashes shoveled inside and someone to lob this off the Brooklyn bridge – that’s just the way I roll.
4 – Battery backup. I have one of those monolithic aluminum desktops that doubles as a blast curtain during nuclear tests. I live out in the country and the power blinks out like a cheap drunk at least twice a month. The first time it happened, I lost twelve pages of work. The second time it happened, I lost my hard drive. So I went out and bought one of those power reserve units. It’s the size of a sewing machine but when the power goes, it gives off a high-pitched squeal that lets me finish whatever it is I’m working on before shutting the beast down. If you write for a living, it’s worth its weight in red pens.
5 – A proper chair. Another one that I often see writers ignore. If you dabble, sitting cross-legged on the sofa with your laptop is fine. But if you hammer out work for six, eight, or ten hours a day, you need something that isn’t going to give you scoliosis. I’ve had an Aeron chair for years and if the house caught fire, it’s the second thing I’d save after my autographed picture of Colonel Sanders.
6 – A headset for my cordless phone. I’m not trying to sound like I’m Donald Trump (mainly because we have different values when it comes to hairstyles), but I get a lot of business calls. Between my agents, publicists, marketing people, website guy, my assistant, and relatives who don’t understand that I actually work, I spend at least two hours a day on the phone. The headset lets me multi-task. While I make lunch, I get calls done. While I’m stretching my legs out in the backyard and hunting moles with a crossbow, I get calls done. It’s a time and neck saver
7 – A binding machine. I bought a used heavy-duty coil binding machine on Craigslist for the price of concert tickets to some bloated over-the-hill pop band that I wouldn’t want to see in the first place. It takes me about five minutes per manuscript but the smiles I get from my initial readers is fit for one of those Mastercard commercials where the guy who sounds like my grade eight home room teacher tells me how priceless the smiles on children I don’t have could be.
8 – Spare mouse batteries, a backup mouse, and a spare keyboard. I agree that the last two-thirds of this equation sounds like a waste of funds. But when your keyboard craps the bed on a Sunday night and you have a Monday morning deadline, you’ll be thanking me you spent the extra thirty-two bucks.
9 – Good walking shoes and a breathable rain coat. WTF does this have to do with writing? you ask. Everything. All work and no exercise makes Jack a dull, fat, diabetic, unhealthy uninspired sack of lazy meat with a few organs thrown in. Walk every day for a solid hour. No matter what. If you don’t, the weight will creep on and you’ll find yourself starting to wear sweat pants at home. If that happens, all you have to look forward to is some guy cracking your ribs with a stainless steel claw and patching an artery in from one of your legs. I’ll pass on that one, thank you very much.
10 – My agent. Okay-okay, before you start screaming, She’s not a thing, by God – she’s a human being!, let me remind you that this is my list. Plus, you’ve never seen her scream like a psychotic banshee when they forget to put Reese’s Pieces into my trout smoothies at book signings. And you couldn’t pay me enough to do what she does. It’s not that my editors aren’t nice, or that the accounts payable departments at my various publishers aren’t sweet as pie when I call, it’s just that I need my time to write and she buys me that. In spades. And as long as she is agenting, I can murder all the prose I want to. Because all the fancy gear and a massive slab of oak to write at won’t produce the one thing this is all about – the work.
So that’s it – my magic list. Every writer has one. Some would include an iPod. Others a door that closes or a quarter-ounce of hydroponic weed a day. One writer I know has a recording of a grandfather clock that he plays to remind him that time is ticking by – he says it makes him work harder. But this is my big-ten – my personal grand-slam. I could add a few things but I couldn’t take any away. Not if I want to keep doing this.
Do you write? Send me your list. Or post it on my Facebook page. I’m curious.