I acknowledge that what I want my readers to know about me and what they might wish to know – if anything at all - maybe very different things.
I sometimes worry that my readers may know too much about me. As a writer and an actor, I’m aware that publicity is a built-in part of the business of both disciplines. When I’m in a TV series or a stage play, the broadcaster or producer, understandably, use PR and marketing professionals to promote their shows. It means I can find myself being interviewed across a range of mediums and have my face turn up in some exciting, strange or unexpected places. My interview with Pest Control Weekly is, for some reason, still talked about today. Judi Dench says that actors should attempt to remain mysterious. Too much knowledge of the actor gets in the way of the characters they play. Perhaps that should apply to writers as well. I did an interview last week and was asked, ‘What’s your second favourite jam?’ Hard to remain mysterious when your answer to that question is in the public domain.
My second favourite jam is strawberry. My first favourite jam is something I will keep to myself. Mysterious? Moi?
I like writing about places I know and like. Sitting here in my study on a cold May afternoon, I can easily see why I like writing about life lived under a Mediterranean sun. However, its climate was only one of many reasons I chose Gibraltar as the setting for my novels. The people of Gibraltar, its history, and its unique geographical setting were also a huge influence in the decision. It also has the second oldest police force in the world, based entirely on the British system. The Royal Gibraltar Police Force has a hugely varied and challenging job. It seemed the perfect place for my main protagonist, D.S. Tamara Sullivan, to begin her new and exciting life as a police detective.
I play the trumpet. Or at least I did for many years. This has nothing to do with my writing, except perhaps for my more long-winded passages.
Until the age of five, I had to walk with the support of leg irons. I was born with a medical condition known as talipase – in those days, more commonly known as clubfoot. Having a clubfoot was not enough for me, which is why I popped out with two of them. My poor mother had to look on as the doctor swiftly broke both my baby ankles – a necessary procedure, apparently. Did I suffer? Do I feel sorry for myself? Not at all. I’ve walked perfectly well ever since I was five-years-old – the doctors did a miraculous job, and there's barely a scar left behind - and to tell the truth, I was probably spoilt stupid growing up. I am, however, drawn to characters in my writing that have obstacles to overcome and things to prove. I find it easy to relate to that.
I love roast dinners, and so does Chief Inspector Gus Broderick. Readers of the first two Sullivan and Broderick Murder Investigations will not have come across this detail. I can, however, reveal that Broderick’s penchant for Yorkshire puds and gravy will be unveiled in the third novel, The Killing Rock. Broderick’s mother was from Gibraltar, but his father was born and bred in Scarborough and loved his beef and horseradish. A roast dinner is a huge favourite in the Daws household, and much enjoyed on Sundays and great feast days throughout the year. Writers are much encouraged to write about what they know, and there's not much I don't know about this particular meal. I love it – as PG Wodehouse would have said – ‘from soup to nuts.' Nut roast a specialty.
My second favourite roast dinner is chicken. My first favourite roast dinner is something I will keep to myself. Still pushing the ‘man of mystery' bit but with diminishing returns.
I love literary festivals. Festivals of all kinds have taken off in the UK over recent years. Among the most popular, are literary festivals, and I can understand why. I'm lucky enough to be a guest speaker at some of these, but that doesn't mean I don't go out of my way to meet and listen to some of the best writers and storytellers alive today. Each writer has a different story to tell and a different process to reveal. As a writer, you learn so much from listening to other writers talk about their journeys and creative insights. Festivals offer so much to people interested in all areas of storytelling and readers and writers from all walks of life. The cakes, wine, and banter are also a jolly good incentive to go along.
My second favourite literary festival is... I don’t have second favourites, only first favourites. The wonderful Gibunco Gibraltar International Literary Festival and the hugely exciting Theakstone’s Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate, are both splendid. They’d be my first favourites, but then what about the Whitstable Lit Fest, Ampthill Lit Fest, and Wimborne Lit Fest? Include those and I have five first favourites, and I’m only getting started.
My favourite spot in Gibraltar is Europa Point. One is spoilt for choice, due to the large number of extraordinary places to visit and admire on the Rock. Why Europa Point? It’s the most southern tip of Europe. Behind you, the magnificent limestone Rock rises to over a thousand feet, while before you, across the Straits, lies the wonders of Africa. It is where two mighty continents meet, and the thought of that never fails to thrill my senses.
The Rock and The Poisoned Rock by Robert Daws are published by Urbane Publications.