Writer Wednesdays – Mike Robbins
A man with strong convictions and a true sense of self and determination. After taking 20 years to publish his first book ‘Even the Dead are Coming’ he has a few more books under his belt and with his true grit at writing about the truth of a place, it’s people and culture I’m sure there are much more to come!
Writer Wednesdays would like to introduce you to Mike Robbins.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am English. I was born in London in 1957 and brought up mainly in Oxford. I was at school with several people who are now quite well-known writers, but my own education was a disaster, and I was expelled from boarding school at 14. I left school altogether at 17 and worked for the Oxford University Press. In the 1980s I did a number of journalism and media jobs in London, including traffic broadcasting, music publishing, and writing about the fishing industry. In 1987 I got fed up with Thatcher’s Britain and joined VSO, the British equivalent of the Peace Corps. They sent me to the Refugee Settlement Administration in Sudan. I’ve spent much of my life since then on the move. I currently live in Harlem, New York City.
How many countries have you visited?
Actually fewer than 30. But I’ve lived in about 10 of them.
What is your favourite place and why?
Difficult to answer that because you like different places for different reasons. Bhutan rates very high on the list, as do Ecuador and Italy; in all three cases, landscape and culture were both important.
If you could describe your method of travel in one word, what would it be?
I go to places to work. But as I get older, that will change.
What is your most memorable travel moment?
Very difficult to pick just one. I suppose cycling to the top of the Dochula pass in Bhutan and seeing the high snowpeaks for the first time.
What is your dream destination?
Right now, Chile.
How has travel changed you?
Travel doesn’t change you. You think it does, but you just see a stronger reflection of yourself.
As a writer do you feel you see the world and approach travel differently than if you didn’t write?
Ideally one shouldn’t, but I think I do. Sometimes I find myself looking at things and thinking, “Can I communicate that?” And if I can see how I would do so, I do take a greater interest. I take a lot of photographs as well, and I think it has the same effect.
How long did it take for your first book to come to fruition? (From concept, writing to published)
About 20 years. I left Sudan in 1989 and wrote Even the Dead are Coming within the year, but I published it in 2009.
Do you have any new books on the horizon?
Yes. The Nine Horizons, a collection of nine pieces from different countries; the title is a quote from a Bhutanese national epic. It is already available in some eBook formats and the paperback should be widely available in April 2014. I have also just published a novel, The Lost Baggage of Silvia Guzmán, that reflects my feelings about South America, the drug trade and the experience of asylum-seekers in England. It too should be generally on sale in April. There are two more books, both fiction, being edited or written.
Do you have any upcoming trips? If so, to where?
I plan to “retire” in the next three or four years and will do some travelling then. Chile and Spain are high on the list, and maybe Kyrgyzstan.
What is your must have travel accessory?
It used to be a short-wave radio. Now I’d say a good-quality, unobtrusive compact camera – I use a Panasonic Lumix with a superzoom.
What is your favourite travel book?
A hard question! I suppose Fitzroy Maclean’s Eastern Approaches, or maybe Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts. Also Nick Danziger, Danziger’s Travels. I want to read more by Pico Iyer and Colin Thubron.
What is your favourite travel quote?
“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
I’d like to thank Mike for being the first male writer in my Writer Wednesdays series, and for not being afraid to speak his truth and show the world as he sees it, as well as for the great photos he’s contributed to this piece.
To learn more visit http://www.mikerobbinsnyc.blogspot.ca/