My First Motivation Was To Write a Story: Rob Shackleford

  1. It seems there are 2 parallel stories in the plot of Traveller Inceptio – the not so advanced and extremely advanced human lifestyles. What was the inspiration point combining these 2 themes?

The story develops best when taking the events of the 11th Century Traveller, and then the events with the modern 21swt century university researchers. The idea is to mix the story and have the reader guess as to the connection between the two streams. Part 1 of the book is essential to describe the invention of the Transporter and the adventures of Michael in the Saxon village of Giolgrave. It is not until the end of the part when it is confirmed that(Spoiler alert) he is, indeed, a Traveller from the 21st Century.

2. There is a considerable amount of details related to many things in the background. How extensive was this and what was the most interesting aspect of your research?

I spent about a year researching Traveller Inceptio before I had the courage to actually write. My fears involved being incorrect, that my understanding of the Saxon period was too out of touch. At one stage the local library banned me because I had a book on Saxon history out for 6 months – when it should have been restricted to two weeks.

My belief is that in understanding the topics of interest, I can write a story that is more realistic.

Can I also say thank goodness for Google!!

3. Which among the characters was the most difficult one to develop and why?

The lead character, Michael, became the most challenging character as I had to better understand his past, his experiences as a SAS elite soldier in Australia and the various fields of conflict, yet I definitely did not want him to be a clichéd, two-dimensional ‘soldier’ character. As a highly trained researcher into the period of a thousand years into the past, he had to be a man of many abilities, a person who was personable rather than a mindless grunt.

I understand that in real life many such Special-Forces soldiers are versatile and quite likable, that they are not a cliché at all.

Once I grappled with his basic features, I wanted to show that he changed over time, that he is really a human with passions and feelings and not some kind of super-hero, which can be the case for the hero in so many stories. To develop a three-dimensional character was my goal and challenge.

I hope I achieved that.


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4. Was there a breakdown point where you went clueless with the story? How comfortable were you creating back stories with the available subplots?

There were many places where I was lost. My response was to research some more, then write. Because Traveller Inceptio is my first novel, I think I made every writing mistake one can make. Not only was it recommended by my first editor to drastically cut content from the book (yes – 50,000 words to be exact), but it also became a kind of apprenticeship in writing. He was pretty blunt about how many changes I had to make.

While I am happy with the story at this stage, I now recognize how I could have done things differently.

One strange phenomenon was when I sometimes wrote I found the story progressing in a manner I had not initially planned. Through that process of almost channeling I was able to work through the blocks in the story to build a series of events that many readers suggest are their favourite parts of the book.

From there the back story was easy to develop.

Thank goodness for the ability to proofread, edit, and polish up the storyline some more. I think Traveller Inceptio was rewritten a dozen times at least!

5. Do you use storyboarding or mapping processes to develop your plots and interactions, or do you go with the flow and follow your instinct?

I have engaged in limited storyboarding. Sometimes I simply use notes in future chapters to indicate where I think the story can go. Whether that actually happens depends on the writing at the time.

My main mapping process was in regard to the timeline – to make sure I had continuity. I hope I have been dutiful in having the story run cleanly.

6. What is your writing routine like?

I generally like to write in the morning. The first draft for Traveller Inceptio was written when I worked full time – so I would write early in the morning, late at night, and on the weekends. It became my passion and, while I appreciate I am now better at writing than I was, I find the morning routine suits me best. Sometimes that can start at 4 am.

Naturally, I take time throughout the day to jot notes on areas to research or take note of things people say. My phone is a useful notepad.

My aim is to have characters and situations as realistic as possible, to remove them from obvious fabrications and make them real. In Traveller Inceptio many of the situations encountered by the young researchers were stories from my son, who is a skater and surfer. The craziest stories are the true ones.

7. How much time do you spend on writing compared to promoting your books?

Ha! Good question!

Writing is my passion, but now Traveller Inceptio is published I am required to attract attention to the book. I must treat the book in a similar manner as does the Publisher, which is as a product to be sold. At the moment, a good half of my day is spent in marketing pursuits, both through social media and engaging with the Publisher.

I think a ‘new’ author has to work very hard to raise a profile and to reach a point of spontaneous combustion. I seek for Traveller Inceptio to sell well enough for me to then concentrate on preparing Book 2 of the Traveller story – Traveller Probo – for Traveller Inceptio does lend itself to a sequel.

So alas, I currently spend more time in marketing than writing, though I hope for that to change soon.

Read Also – Karma is a bitch and we get what we sowed | Ruchira Khanna

8. What authors have you most admired and which one has influenced you the most and why?

In my extensive reading, I have trawled through many authors whom I have loved. In the science fiction field, I adored the classic tales by Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and H.G. Wells, while in historical fiction Colleen McCullough’s Rome series, and of course Bernard Cornwell has inspired. Others are Simon SebagMontfiore’sheavily researched treatises on history, Gregory David Roberts’ Indian masterpiece Shantaram, and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. I also recognize the more relaxed style of Stephen King as a brilliant storyteller.

Maybe being a terrific storyteller will be enough?

9. Are you working on any new project? Can you give us some insights?

Traveller Inceptio – Latin for ‘Beginning’ – does lend itself to a sequel. I did not plan that when completing the book, but the story insisted on being extended, so I have completed Traveller Probo – meaning to ‘Prove’, and Traveller Manifesto.

These are in the final throes of being edited and, I hope, with the success of Traveller Inceptio can see the light of day.

I have also written a few other novels that are in the editing process.

Everything has to start somewhere.


“I understand that in real life many such Special-Forces soldiers are versatile and quite likable, that they are not a cliché at all.”


10. Few words to your readers.

Thank you for reading Traveller Inceptio. I dearly hope you enjoy.

In writing, I have made every effort to embrace a set of realistic consequences from a fanciful scenario. If one could be sent back 1000 years, why would anyone be sent? Who would be the most likely to go? Where would they be sent first?

Please forgive the occasional outbursts of violence. Though graphics, they have been placed into the story in a judicious manner, to highlight the unsettled nature of such potentially dangerous times.

Alternatively, I have made every effort to describe the humor and loving nature of peoples, both ancient and modern, and how we have a lot more in common with our ancestors that we might at first imagine.

I sincerely hope you enjoy Traveller Inceptio, that the time spent reading is time well spent.


11. What are some ways in which you promote your work?  Do you find that these add to or detract you from your writing time?

I am currently working through Social Media and, in conjunction with my publisher, Austin Macauley, aiming at the first run of book signings in stores. As book marketing has largely changed when it comes to new authors, placing more emphasis on my personal efforts, so it does detract from writing time.

I think today’s marketing emphasizes becoming a success on our own merits, so I expect there will be periods of creativity, then marketing, then back to creativity. Soon I hope to have established enough of a profile for the promotional role to fall more to the Publisher, rather than to rely almost solely on me.

12. How do you feel about eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

Publishing is like music in that it is going through an intensive wave of change. Traditional business models are crumbling, with many publishers going broke while others establish new business models that aim to promote both electronic and physical books.

While I prefer to read a physical book, the cost and convenience of electronic books dominate the industry. It means fewer book stores, more sales in electronic copies and perhaps even concentrating on selling electronic copies. It places less of an emphasis on publishers, with so many self-published books making their way onto the market, most with questionable quality.

I still like the prestige and security that a Publisher can bring – though they have to do their work too!

It is a tougher gig now.

13. In your opinion, what is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre, which they need to know?

Traveller Inceptio is Science Fiction meets Historical Fiction. It is very soft Sci-Fi –so should not challenge anyone new to the genre. Surprisingly I have found the title popular with women who like the romantic element, even though violence might challenge.

So Traveller Inceptio is an adventure novel with romance and action thrown in. The Historical and Sci-Fi elements only provide a framework from which it can work.

14. What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?  

My first motivation was to write a story. I was going through an unfortunate period in my life where I was recovering from the dishonest actions of a crooked business partner. The story developed as a form of therapy and was called ‘Traveller’ – then changed to ‘Traveller Inceptio’ because Traveller is such a common title.

Eventually, I desire my writing to become my means of financial support, or maybe to become a highly paid, best-selling author. Just putting it out there!

15. If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?

Probably listen to my English teacher more than I did – then practice the writing skills taught in school.

Please respond to these questions in one line or one word wherever possible –

  1. Your all-time favorite author/writer?

I can’t decide.

2. Do you believe in writer’s block? Did you have it anytime or not?

More writer’s exhaustion. I get tired of writing, so I take a break to refresh my brain.

3. Your favorite place to write your book(s)?

My home writing desk with the sound of the sea.

4. Research and then write or research while writing? Which one do you prefer?

Research while writing – find a gap in my knowledge and target that!

5. What do you do in your free time?

Swim at the beach, hike, and travel. Read. Play PS4 games badly.

6. How many hours a day do you write?

About 4.

7. Do you Google yourself?


8. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

No – I am not that clever – yet.

9. If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?



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*Interviewed by Swapna Peri

This Interview was first published in Storizen Magazine May 2019 Issue

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