Robert Plant is a Northern Ireland-based evangelist with a special interest in children's work, and the author of a number of children’s books, both factual (Discover Britain series, and Emerald Isle Adventures), and historical fiction (Escape from the Island of Occupation, Return to the Island of Occupation, and Titanic: The Ship of Dreams). His latest book, Outstanding Orkney, part of the Discover Britain series, is due out within the next fortnight. Robert kindly agreed to answer a variety of questions about writing and books, and you can read his very interesting answers below.
Tell us a little about how you first began to write books.
I use a lot of books as prizes in my children’s meetings and when we first commenced working with children, Karen, my wife, read every book that we gave out. When our daughter, Grace, was born, Karen had other responsibilities, so we just used books that others had recommended or that looked good and were from reliable publishers. One day, I decided to read a few myself and was greatly troubled at the lack of Gospel content in them. I stated to Karen, “I could do much better myself,” to which she replied, “Go on, then!” I took up her challenge and commenced writing a book that I still have not completed!
Which has been your favourite book to write so far?
That’s a very difficult one to answer. I love real-life events and history so I really enjoyed researching for the three that I have so far produced about places, countries and islands. That said, I also enjoy stretching my imagination and trying to tie real events into a fictitious story, so perhaps my favourites would be those based on events in the island of Jersey during World War 2.
Describe the place where you usually write.
I am so well blessed to have a sizable study with windows looking out across fields towards the cliffs of the Giant’s Causeway, which I can see in the distance. I also have a bird table just outside my window which is always well stocked with food and active with my feathered friends. I just have to look up from my desk and out of the window for a few moments in order to think and gain a little inspiration for the next paragraph or page.
What is your least favourite part of the writing process?
That is a very easy one to answer. I really hate punctuation. I was never able to grasp what full stops, commas, colons and semi-colons etc. were really for or how they fitted in to the scheme of writing. Thankfully, my wife has a better understanding of these complex issues and can sort some out for me. I also have a truly wonderful world-class editor that patiently, generously and uncomplainingly fills in all the required punctuation in order to make my work in some degree presentable.
What keeps you going when you want to give up?
It is simply the thought that I am producing something that in some way God can use to point someone to the Lord Jesus as their own Saviour. That is the main and really only reason that I write.
How and when did you become a Christian?
This could be a long story so I will try to keep it short. I was not brought up in a Christian home so never went to Church or Sunday School except for weddings or funerals. A school friend commenced to witness to me at secondary school and after four years I was reading a booklet late one night called ‘Heaven and How to get There.’ As I read this booklet, I was convicted of my sin and got out of bed, onto my knees and trusted Christ as my Saviour. That was in May 1981!
As a child, what type of books did you enjoy?
I loved reading (and still do), especially adventure books with lots of action. The Biggles books by Captain W E Johns were perhaps my favourites. I also loved anything to do with the police and catching criminals, simply because all I ever wanted to be through school was a policeman. Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books usually came into this category when the four children and Timmy the dog usually got the better of any criminals they came across. I also loved the James Herriot books about his work as a vet in Yorkshire. I was brought up in the neighbouring town to his and saw him occasionally when he was in Harrogate.
What books do you enjoy reading now?
I still enjoy reading books about true-life events or factual books. I just love acquiring knowledge about places, people or creation. However, I mainly read commentaries on the Bible or any book that helps my understanding of God’s Word and its relevance to my life. I guess that I have well over 3,000 such books.
Both your fiction novels and the Discover Britain series reveals an interest in, and love for, a wide variety of locations in the British Isles. What is your favourite place, and why?
I would have to say that two places would tie as to being my favourite destinations. They are the Island of Jersey and the Highlands of Scotland. Jersey has the sea, sun and fantastic beaches as well as the continental climate and wonderful people. I am thankful that I am able to visit the island each year in order to conduct assemblies in the schools. The Scottish Highlands and islands have a unique beauty and attraction that draws me to them time and again. The mountains, the cliffs, the wide, sandy beaches that are usually empty, the incredible and diverse wildlife, as well as its history, really does captivate me in a way nowhere else does. I have always desired to have a wee cottage there where I could go to be alone with God and write in uninterrupted solitude, whilst marvelling at the incredibly beautiful scenery of the area! However I do have a sneaky suspicion that such a desire might just be me being a tiny bit covetous!