Rob Widdicombe was born on the Virginia banks of the Potomac River in a military hospital on a typical Wednesday. A former singer, guitar player and songwriter for Richmond-based bands The Wiggins and Flying Shovels, Widdicombe has held a variety of both day and night jobs over the years, including gas station attendant, landscaper, encyclopedia salesman, cab driver, truck driver, maintenance man, cook, dispatcher, piano salesman, catering captain and paralegal. He received an MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College and his interests include staring out the kitchen window and falling asleep on the train. He also likes monkeys, clowns, robots, thunderstorms, chocolate, cheese, coffee, thrift stores, existentialism and tiny things.
Tee: How did you come up with the idea for this novel?
Rob: There was a news story some years back about a grown man who went on a quest to confront the pedophile who molested him when he was young. But instead of having a satisfying, cathartic confrontation, he ended up getting arrested for stalking the pedophile guy. The idea of that type of confrontation appealed to me and the idea of it somehow going all wrong and backfiring really appealed to me.
Tee: How long did it take you to write it?
Rob: About fourteen years, on and off.
Tee: What kinds of books do you enjoy reading?
Rob: Old noir crime fiction, magic realism (really just Marquez), short stories by Thom Jones and Tobias Wolff. Anything that has some life to it, some truth and humor, really. I don’t care much for pretty, literary writing unless it has some raw honesty underneath it, something you can really sink your teeth into.
Tee: Your book revolves around the theme of paedophilia. What made you come up with such a theme. How difficult was it to deal with this theme in your book?
Rob: Like so many others, I am an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, which is the true “inspiration,” (for lack of a better word), for the novel. I found writing the book to be highly therapeutic. It wasn’t difficult to deal with pedophilia as a theme per se, although the pedophile character in the book is based on the real pervert who molested me, so writing him felt creepy at times. Ultimately, though, the process of writing the book was liberating and empowering. Revisiting that creepiness forced me to confront and process those old feelings once again which is a big part of the healing process, in my humble opinion.
Tee: How did you go about your research for this book?
Rob: Aside from fleshing out some minor details, (e.g., the exact type of motorboat owned by one of the characters), I did not conduct any research. I lived the life of these characters in Richmond, Virginia, where the novel mostly takes place. And as I mentioned earlier, I was sexually abused as a child like the main character, so I had that experience to draw on. So, you might say that my biggest source of research was my own mind. And of course, I made a lot of stuff up.
Tee: What are you writing next?
Rob: I’m writing a comedic novel about a perfectly harmonized futuristic society in which there is no disease, the water is sparkling clean, sadness is illegal and death arrives painlessly as you sleep on the night of your 86th birthday. Of course, all is not as wonderfully utopian as it seems…
Tee: What according to you are the pros and cons of the indie publishing industry?
Rob: I’d say the number one pro is independence. I had the absolute final say on what went into my book and onto the cover. My wife and I designed the cover ourselves. I have a great indie publisher, Saltimbanque Books, and its owner/editor Jim Boyett had very helpful and extensive input, but I ultimately had the final say on everything. Another pro would be the feeling that your destiny is in your own hands. That could also be a con, though, of course!
I think it’s safe to say that some of that independence might be compromised if you were signed to a major publishing house that provided manufacturing, distribution, advertising and marketing support, but it’s really hard to know what’s going on nowadays exactly. Those big houses seem to want you doing a lot of this stuff yourself, anyway. Everything is changing so fast, what might be considered a pro of indie publishing today could be a con tomorrow, and vice versa. Right now I think it would be a pro to have the support of a big publishing house, but it would also be a pro to be a billionaire, have wings, everlasting youth and clear skin. These opportunities aren’t falling off of trees, which leads us to one of the big plusses of indie publishing: it’s there for you when those apples are out of reach. And for all we know, indie publishing of the future could be the dominant force and what used to be known as big publishing houses could either disappear or serve as a kind of support system for independent authors and small publishers. Kind of like Planet of the Apes, where in the future, the apes take over. But who knows what will happen. The only thing you can say for sure is that media in general is changing at supersonic speeds – the way content is created, distributed and consumed. People are trying to keep up with it all but it’s an almost impossible task. I think you can say with some measure of certainty that 10 to 20 years from now, the world of book publishing will look quite different than it does today, as will probably everything else.
Tee: How important is a catchy title for any book?
Rob: I guess it depends on what you want the title to do for you and your book. If you want the title to grab a prospective reader’s attention and inspire them to purchase the book, then I’d say a catchy title is very important. If you don’t care so much about sales and marketing and attracting a readership, etc., and you just want the title to reflect what the book is all about, then thoughtfulness and relevance become more important than catchiness. I suppose that the perfect title would capture both ends of that spectrum.
Read the review of Cold Plate Special Here.