It’s hard for me to remember a time when I didn’t want to be a novelist. I grew up in a family of readers, and even in public school I began to write stories. I followed the usual route for a writer – took every English course I could in high school, studied English literature at university, took a year off to write a book and found I couldn’t write more than a chapter.
I took a detour. I went to law school in Toronto and graduate school in London, worked as a magazine editor in Paris, then came back to Toronto and published my own city magazine for six years. I also worked as a film executive and as a producer at CBC Radio.
At last I opened my criminal law practice (the only part of law that ever interested me) and started writing my first novel. That took 10 years. It is still in a drawer. I spent the next decade writing Old City Hall, which was published in 2009. My newest novel, which will be out February 2021, Downfall, is my sixth.
I’ve also dabbled in screenwriting. I’ve co-written two Murdoch Mysteries, and sold a TV series proposal that I co-wrote with an experienced screenwriter. I’m currently working on a number of TV and film projects, as well as my seventh novel.
I’ve always loved teaching. When I became serious about writing my own novels, I took both the two-week summer course and the correspondence course. Since that time, I’ve been teaching at the Humber Correspondence Course for years, as well as working with a number of private students.
My core message to students is this: there is a great deal to learn. We need to start with small steps – I work in great detail on writers’ first chapters. This is intense work. There is nothing easy about writing, but when it works it is rewarding. Then I want my students to take the lessons they’ve learned in this “micro-management” and move on to the broader scope of numerous chapters and story structure and storytelling. I’m proud to say that many of my students have moved on to graduate courses and one has got a major agent and we hope soon a publishing deal.
Feel free to look up my website to get a better feel for my own writing and teaching at www.robertrotenberg.com