Robert Alvarez: Retired investigator, forever writer
Meeting the Rising Writer No. 36
Robert has been with Authors’ Tale almost since the beginning, and he has always been eager to share his thoughts and experiences. Unlike most AT members—and even unlike most writers—Robert doesn’t yet want to be published.
He just wants to share his story with anyone who’s willing to listen. And, today, he shares some of it here. As a retired police investigator, he has experience with things many people probably couldn’t imagine. As a grandfather and a man with a writing itch, he’s just like everyone else. And, he seems content to keep it that way. Either way, I’m honored to have been able to interview him!
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Retired police investigator. Do some work for various law firms. Usually appellate investigations on capital murder cases. When I am not doing that, I am reading or writing or spending as much time with my grandkids.
How long have you been retired? Was it hard to adjust?
Four years. A little. I would hear sirens or a friend would call me about a new case and I would start missing it. That was hard. Especially when I would hear about an unsolved case or something.
Do you have anything from your work that you’ve carried with you into retirement?
Yes. A lot of my stories that I write now on Wattpad are about those experiences I have in two ongoing series. One called “Police Stories-Moments in Time.” That one is about small moments in time that would happen during a regular day at work and would have a big impact on me or someone else. The other is called “Convict Chronicles.” In that one, I talk about many of the convicts I met during my career in law enforcement. In that one, I try and show how different and the same all our lives are.
Do you write both series in your perspective? How have people reacted to these stories?
I write them all from my perspective. I have a really good response to all of these stories. One of the stories has had over 70,000 reads and thousands of comments. I expected that though because most of my readers never read this kind of stuff. They don’t know what life is really like for an investigator. They watch too much TV and that is all mostly lies.
Have you read any realistic investigative books?
I’ve read a couple that try not to get too out of hand with unrealistic crap. But, most of them have the main character doing stuff that is just impossible to get done. Or, at least get done without being picked up by the FBI and arrested.
When did you start writing?
I started writing a few years before I retired. Not sure why, but the writing bug bit me. I started writing about my stance against the death penalty first. Then kept going with stories about my childhood. Then started writing about things people I had met during my time as an investigator. Can’t picture myself not doing it.
What are you currently working on? How did you begin working on it?
I work on several things at the same time. Nearly all of it non-fiction and most of it in short story form. Last year, I did finish a fiction story (about 70,000 words) and then trashed it. I liked the story but decided that was not the way I wanted to tell it. Am re-working it right now. I don’t use outlines or create characters, really. I just write. I’m pretty sure, though, that for the longer stuff I will soon need to employ some type of outline to keep it all together.
What do you write about on the non-fiction end?
On the non-fiction end, I write all kinds of stuff. I have a book about my daughter, Lauren, and all the crazy stuff she says called “Blonde Moments: Life with a blonde teenage daughter.” In addition to all the work-related stuff I have written, I also have several coming-of-age stories written. Stories about how I saw things when I was young. Stuff like that.
What inspires your writing?
I am not sure. I think people do. Just watching them go through life makes me want to share what I have seen. I think it’s always about the sharing. We gain a lot from it.
What/who are your favorite or most reliable support groups?
I love Authors’ Tale and Wattpad. Both groups are a good place to go to share writing. Wattpad has the numbers of course. I have gained thousands of followers and get hundreds of comments every week on my stories. But, Authors’ Tale is where I go and see what the writer life is like. I get to see people actually living their idea of a writing life. It’s a good thing to keep an eye on that. It keeps you grounded.
What is the biggest mistake you think you make while writing?
The biggest mistakes I make are not writing enough, not reading enough, and not thinking enough of writing as a “craft.” I think most of us that write get comfortable with our writing when we get to a certain level. We think to ourselves that we don’t need to improve. But, we all do. And, I am not talking just about grammar. I am talking about making sure we tell a story in the best way possible. I am talking about finding the best and truest sentences we can. Some people have amazing stories to tell, but not so many have the ability to tell that story in a way worthy of it.
How do you overcome it?
Read every day. Write every day. Re-write twice a day.
What do you hope to achieve with your writing?
I want people to see other worlds in my stories. I want them to see places and things that they have never seen. I want people to know they are not alone in this world.
When do you usually write?
Mornings are the best. You should always write when you are refreshed. Though I know most of us end up writing in the middle of the night when we are exhausted. It’s just the way it is. We write when we can.
What books or writing projects have you completed/published in the past?
I have many of my ongoing writings on Wattpad. That is really the best place to get a variety of solid feedback right away. I can update a chapter one day and wake up and find up to 200 comments on it the next day. You get a lot of fast critique and find many other authors to discuss your ongoing projects with.
Do you have any interesting stories about your life as a writer?
Just one that occurred recently. I was at a coffee shop that I frequent and I went up to order my coffee. The girl at the counter was a girl I had seen there before but had never spoken to (all the other employees I know by name). I was about to order my coffee when she said, “Texas Pecan? Half a cup.” (my usual order) I said, “Yes, how did you know?” She responded, “You’re Mr. Robert. The writer.” I was taken back. No one had ever called me a writer (to my face, at least). I asked, “Who told you that?” She explained that everyone at the shop knew about my writing. Apparently, I was ordering coffee the week before and a lady standing behind me let one of the girls know that I was a writer after I sat down. She even gave them my Wattpad link. They all follow me on Wattpad now and frequently discuss my stories among themselves. I have no idea who that lady was. I thought that was a cool thing.
How long have you been on Wattpad? How did you get followers?
I think, in July, it will be two years that I will be on Wattpad. But, the first seven months, I did not add any stories. Then, I pasted my stories over and started getting some reads and then it just kept growing. Finally, one of my stories got “featured” in the non-fiction section of Wattpad, and I started getting more followers and it continues today. I average five new followers a day. I am getting close to three thousand followers.
It’s not easy to get followers. It does take a little work. You have to have good book covers and good stories to attract people to your profile. You also have to engage people when they vote or comment on your stories. It really is a good place to get a feeling of how your story will do out there (especially for fiction). If you put all my stories together, I can tell you that my chapters have had a total of over 100,000 reads right now and that grows every day. But, it isn’t all easy. You have to keep updating and writing and keep people engaged to keep the moment up. As a matter of fact, I write a series about the Wattpad experience called “Chasing Wattpad” that has about 50,000 reads where I often write about all the negative things about Wattpad. It’s not for everybody. But, I do think everybody should give it a try. Especially if you want to test your book out. I have seen many authors who go from Wattpad to the bookshelves in a bookstore. If that is what you want, Wattpad can help you get there. For right now, I am just there to share some words.
Do you have any advice you’d like to give other writers?
Before you get all stupid about wanting to publish something, just write. Write because you want to write, not because you want to be a writer. Wanting to be a writer is a stupid thing. It really is. Wanting to write is a wonderful thing. If you just do that, you might just have a shot at the other one.
Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Thanks to Cayce for this site. It has meant a lot to me and a lot of people.
(Editor’s note: Aww! As odd as it is to be in my own post, I appreciate this!)
How can readers and fellow writers discover more about you and your work?