This interview originally appeared on the Literary Magic blog of Lee Libro. Please visit her website when you get a chance. I have reproduced the interview here in its entirety.
Lee Libro: Robb Skidmore, a writer of short stories and novellas, recently released his first novel. The Pursuit of Cool, a coming of age novel set in the 1980’s explores the pressures of that era through brilliant character development. I’m pleased to interview Robb here today to give you an inside look at his writing process and a behind-the-scenes view of this colorful novel.
LL: Tells us about yourself. Describe The Pursuit of Cool and tell us why you were compelled to write it.
RS: I started writing in college, scribbling rants and autobiographical bits in journals. I’ve been writing fiction in a serious and constant way since the mid 90s. I published some short stories starting in the late nineties. I knew early on writing fiction and attending workshops that I wanted to write The Pursuit of Cool. Once I started I went into this long series of drafts and edits. It became a personal crusade. Writing a novel is kind of a love affair: there is beauty, triumph, difficulty and heartbreak. In a very general way, The Pursuit of Cool is everything I learned about myself and America up until the age of 25. I think writing it was a way for me to understand my youth.
LL: Who will enjoy reading this book and why?
RS: People who like a strong narrative story with carefully crafted characters. I think Gen X and Gen Y people will recognize all the pop culture references. I’m a big fan of music and movies and all the characters in the novel are influenced in this way as well. But there is a universality to the struggle and self-delusion of youth and I think just about anyone can relate to that. Adult readers of YA might also enjoy it since it is a coming-of-age story.
LL: Character development is key to a good story? Introduce us to the three main characters shown on the cover of The Pursuit of Cool.
RS: None of the characters translate directly, but the fellow on his knees would have to be the protagonist, Lance Rally. He’s a ragingly ambitious, pop culture obsessed, tragically romantic young man. He has big dreams and is a sponge to everything around him. He’s a guy who both men and women can relate to. He is desperately trying to understand the feminine other.
The woman on the left is probably Lynn Van Oster. She is a very driven, serious psychology student and a gifted dancer who dominates every dance floor. She’s the kind of girl who gets all the guys without really trying. But she is secretly very insecure.
The woman on the right is Veronica Boyer. She is a gothy feminist who is summa cum laude student. Kind of a wild child who is fond of ghost pink lipstick. She knows all the coolest bands, is always cutting edge and will rip your face off if you get her mad.
LL: Some of us are familiar with your short stories, such as “We Were Gods “ and your ebook novella, The Surfer. Tell us a little bit about the themes you usually include in your writing. Is The Pursuit of Cool an extension of any of these themes, or is it a departure?
RS: “We Were Gods” has a collective narrator and is about our tendency to separate ourselves from and demonize others. The Surfer is about the resilience of the human spirit under horrible circumstances, and the beauty and cruelty of nature. The Pursuit of Cool also has some intense externals that the protagonist is struggling against while an internal struggle takes place. Pop cultural notions, family obligation, academic pressure, and social expectations — all these pressures converge on Lance.
LL: Tell potential readers what you hope they will come away with after reading your novel, The Pursuit of Cool.
RS: I hope they will look at all the characters in a sympathetic way. I hope readers will question some of the choices they have made, or are making, and that they question if they are living an authentic life. It takes a lot of courage to do that. It takes courage just to figure it out. I also hope they will question just what “cool” actually is, and who invented this. I thought a lot about the 1980s and what was going on then while I wrote the novel, and I hope people relate it back to their own lives.
LL: Is there any one thing in particular that you’ve found helpful in your writing regimen? It could be a program, an app, a piece of advice from an old elementary school teacher, even a favorite chair.
RS: I always do a meditation before writing to clear my head. I write on a computer, but I like to write notes and outlines on a legal pad. I find it helpful to organize my thoughts and keep focus, and it’s easier to free associate on paper. I have found that music can help writing because it frees something in my head and adds its own emotional nuance. I like to listen to jazz, specifically Miles Davis, or classical music, or New Age.
LL: What advice do you have for other writers looking to self-publish a novel?
RS: Go for it. Now is a great time to get work out there to pick up readers and build a following. I do think it’s a good idea to blog for awhile and get on some social networks before you put something out. Write stories for awhile and improve on your weaknesses before you publish your best work. I am convinced this is the best time ever to be a writer. With technology, the ability to directly connect to readers has never been easier for writers. Blogging, social media, ebooks, publishing on demand – these are powerful tools that writers now have on their side.
LL: What have you published? What else have you written? Do you have any unpublished manuscripts laying hidden in your desk drawer?
RS: I have published short stories in Gawker, New Orleans Review, New Millennium Writings, South Carolina Review, Oasis, and Twelve Stories. I have also written a novella about a high school science student who is sucked into being a scam artist. I’m debating if I want to expand it and make it a novel or clean it up and publish it as a novella.
LL: Can we look forward to more novels by Robb Skidmore?
RS: Yes, absolutely. I am excited about writing more novels! I have a sequel to The Pursuit of Cool in mind. It involves the character Ian LaCoss during the 90s. Also, I have half-written a treatment for a futuristic series of novels I would like to write. It’s about the way technology is challenging human beings as never before. To me, the most exciting thing about being a writer is that on any day I might get an idea that might turn out to be the next thing I devote years to writing.