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Interview with Alfie Robins

Hello, Alfie – please tell us a little about yourself …

I left school at the age of fifteen with no qualification and started work as a ships carpenter on the Hull fish dock. I then moved into the caravan industry and was eventually promoted to production manager, but not for long as the company went into liquidation. My next move was to that of sales manager with a radio communications company.

I decided on an about turn and returned to education as a mature student at the University of Hull and gaining a 2ii Honours Degree in Economic and Social History.

I am married with three grown up children, one grandson, two rabbits and live in a village in East Yorkshire.

What inspired you to write?

Over the years I’ve read a lot of books, some brilliant, some good and some not so good and eventually I decided that maybe I could do better.

How many books have you written?
Briefly, give us the lowdown on what they’re about, including genre and titles

I’m still very much at the beginning of my writing career; my first novel “Reprisal” was published in November last year by Taylor Street Publishing.  “Reprisal” is a gritty, police, drugs and gangster story based in Hull, an area somewhat overlooked as a setting for a novel.

My next novel, “Just Whistle” is to be published by crime specialist Caffeine Nights Publishing, again it’s based in my locality. “Just Whistle” is a crime novel with a twist; I suppose you could say it’s a bit surreal as the main character gets trapped between reality and fiction.

Where can we find your book/s?

“Reprisal” can be ordered through Amazon, Waterstones and WH Smith or from most on-line retailers for £7.99. At the moment the kindle version can be downloaded for 77p, and on

“Just Whistle” is due for publication in September, if you want to read the opening draft chapter you can find it at www.


How do you feel about e-publishing compared to traditional publishing?

To start with I wasn’t sure but now I’m a convert, especially since “Reprisal” reached #6 in the UK kindle charts.

I used to take half a dozen books on holiday with me – now I just have to take my e-reader with as many books as I want.

It really benefits the reader who can for free, or at a very low cost read work by new authors, authors that they wouldn’t usually invest £7.99, on the paperback.

That said, it doesn’t quite beat the experience of seeing your own work in print and holding a book in your hand.

What’s your all-time favourite read?

I enjoy crime thrillers, particularly those by Peter Robinson, Peter James and Mark Billingham. One of my all time favourites is the last in the “Exit Music”, last in the Rebus series by Ian Rankin and that rates as one of my favourites.

On the e-book front “Wolf Tickets” by Ray Banks is excellent and in my opinion Banks really takes some beating, with his gritty dialogue, characterisation  and excellent story telling abilities.

Do you draw from personal experience when writing, such as situations and settings?

Both of my novels have been based in and around the city of Hull.  I’ve lived in the area all my life and was brought up on Hessle Road in the fishing community which features heavily in both my novels.  I strongly believe in writing what you know and where you know.  Although I must stress that murder and serious crime are purely from my imagination and not personal experience!

Are the characters in your books based on real-world people (you don’t need to name names!)?

I don’t know if I should answer this honestly or lie. Ok, the truth, certain traits and characteristics of my family are ingrained within the characters in Reprisal, but don’t tell them that.

If you could morph into any animal, what would it be, and why?

A pet rabbit, they don’t have a care in the world.

Have you attended any writing classes or workshops? If so, which ones?

I haven’t attended any classes in creative writing but I have read several How to… type books, by far the best was, “On Writing” by Stephen King,  which I thought was  brilliant and would recommend it to any aspiring author.

What’s your overall impression of self-publishing?

With self-publishing any writer has the opportunity to publish their book, making the whole industry more accessible to new writers who no longer have to rely on the big six publishing houses.  It allows them to bring their books to the public without accumulate a pile of rejection letters.

However, for every good book self published there are a dozen not so good.

I think any new writer should consider very carefully the cost implications before self-publishing in paperback, a tough decision.

That said, if I hadn’t been lucky enough to get a publishing contract myself, it is a route I may have taken.

Where’s your favourite place in the world, and why?

The Greek Islands.  I’ve been to Greece every year for goodness knows how long.  You just can’t beat the blue skies, the beaches, the food and the people.  And of course, the ouzo.

How do you handle negative feedback from readers?

At the beginning I used to take it to heart as if it was a personal attack, but now it’s like water off a ducks back.  As long as the good reviews outweigh the bad, I’m happy.

Do you use social networking such as Facebook and/or Twitter, and if so, how do you find it?

I’ve only recently started using Facebook and Twitter after my daughters introduced me to them and I think it’s a useful tool to keep in touch with existing readers and for attracting a new audience.

How do you market yourself and your book/s?

I’m using Facebook and Twitter.  I’ve used printed postcards and book marks, distributed them to local businesses.  Also, the local newspapers and radio have been very supportive.   I’ve got some local book signings lined up for my forthcoming book “Just Whistle”.

If you could sum yourself up in one word, what would it be?


Thank you, Alfie, for your your Interview responses!

Alfie Robins is the penname for UK writer Tony Smethurst.
Please support our Indie Authors by checking out his work.