Headline is the first book by author Robb Sheppard. In the book, Robb demonstrates a fascinating insight into the world of music journalism. It presents a fantastic narrative about a rock-and-roll band Cntrl, Alt, Delete, and their controversial rise to fame. I had a chance to speak with Robb via email; picking his brain at the same time, I delved more deeply into his work. Here are the results of this dialogue.
I first started by asking Robb what gave him inspiration. I was keen to learn what drove him to become a writer.
Robb: “My inspiration? I’m plagued by pure contempt and absolute admiration for whoever can get up on stage and perform. Writing Headline felt like a form of bloodletting.
“As for writing in general, it’s self-expression in a controlled and considered manner. It’s quietly extroverted. As for what drives me? I got sick of being a spectator.”
It was apparent to me from reading Headline that Robb has the soul of a performer inside him. From start to finish, the book is littered with details about the sights, the sounds, the entire atmosphere of the venues our POV character attends.
Another thing that struck me about his first answer was a sense of inherent desire to create, but not without strife. I found this quite relatable, which prompted me to ask: From initial idea, all the way to publishing, how long did Headline take to create? How many working hours and what was the schedule of those work hours?
Robb: “I’d say the writing went from weeks into months. The band names were made up on my phone during coffee breaks, lying awake at 4am, or sitting at traffic lights, whilst the gig venues were places that I’d played before. As for the President’s and terrorist’s names, they took a tad more research.
“I’d pore over every sentence, one by one and in order, rather than getting the bare bones of an idea down before fleshing it out. And only when it was finished would I read through. Maybe that shows. Then I left it alone for four years and came back to it to see what jarred.”
I think you can tell that from reading Headline that every sentence is carefully considered to make all the imagery, descriptions and overall feel a success. It’s a strange combination really, because it’s accessible, even if you’re a music novice, like me; however, I did notice that it features some very sophisticated language that may require a dictionary on hand. I must confess that only upon my second reading did I fully understand the ending, which was no fault of Robb’s of course.
After finding out that the novel had been left untouched for four years, I was curious to find out more. I asked Robb, “Why did you leave it alone for so long? What did you get up to in the meantime? What brought you back to it?”
R: “The longer Headline sat on my laptop, the longer I was an 'unpublished author' rather than possibly being a s**t author. Whilst that was unreleased, I had an excuse to not be completely present at anything else that I was doing.
“A few things brought me back to it though: Bowie dying in 2016, my submission to depression and the birth of my son. Like I said, it was time to stop spectating.”
In his reply, Robb mentioned his son, which led me to my next question: “What do your family & friends think of your writing? Creating can often be deeply personal thing, so on the opposite end of that, if you haven't shown anyone close to you, why is that?”
Robb explained in his reply that “‘Coming out’ as depressed is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Without meaning to come across like a sound bite: you either own it or it owns you, and it owned me since I was a teenager.
“I barely showed a soul anything I’d written until 2016, so I’ve spammed friends to make up for it since and they’ve been nothing but supportive. My wife Suzanne painstakingly created the cover for Headline and constantly puts up with my bellyaching, whilst my longest-serving friend and harshest critic JJ picked Headline to pieces, just like I wanted him to.
“As for my family? They’re proud I’m doing it, but have they actually read it? Good question.”
It was time for my final question: “What advice would you give to me, and the many other quiet extroverts reading this, about writing and publishing?”
R: “I think it was Ryan Adams that said that ‘the only rules about writing are 1: put your ass in the chair, and 2: .f***in’ write.’ It’s pretty hard to argue with that.”
Indeed it is.
If you would like to read Headline by Robb Sheppard, which I highly recommend, it’s available on Amazon Kindle.
And if you would like to share your thoughts on the book, feel free to write your own review in the Super Ink comments section, or the customer review segment of Kindle.
Robb Sheppard was interviewed by Kyle J. for Super Ink Arts