Publisher's FAQ (15)

Do you supply sound effects?

No, but there are links to websites where you can find good pre-recorded sound effects and libraries on our resources page. We also supply instructions for a do-it yourself sound effects kit in each of our publications.

Are there recordings of these scripts available?

No, these scripts are designed for dinner table performance only.

Have you simply recycled these scripts from public domain radio shows?

No, all of our scripts are original – written by Philip Craig Robotham – and prepared in the style of Old Time Radio. With regard to radio shows in the public domain, firstly, we feel very strongly that it is unethical to rebrand and sell public domain works. Secondly, even if we did not think it unethical, the scripts for the majority of radio shows in the public domain remain under copyright as unpublished works (broadcast is not equated with publication) and it would be illegal to reproduce them for sale.

What about your Sherlock Holmes stories? Aren’t you just recycling Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories?

No, our “Sherlock Holmes: Ghost Hunter” stories are genuinely original stories based on tales that are currently in the public domain in all known jurisdictions. We are confident that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never faced his character off against, were-beasts, ghosts, spectres, sorcerors, and ghouls. These are genuinely original stories based on public domain works.

How do I host a script reading dinner party?

Instructions are provided in each of our publications but in a nutshell; provide food, invite the guests, distribute the scripts, and read an act between each course.

Who should I invite?

That’s entirely up to you of course, but generally you will want to invite people who are adventurous enough to enjoy reading aloud, who are willing to laugh at themselves if they happen to mess up a line, and who don’t mind stories that include exaggerated adventure and a touch of the supernatural.

How do I distribute the roles?

The number of roles vary in each script (with a minimum of eight). Usually there are two leads and numerous supporting roles. The lead roles are so substantial that they should usually be handled by one guest each, but the other guests will usually be required to take on more than one role. This was common in the days of live radio and also gives the guests who have taken on small roles a chance to participate more widely. You can pre-assign the roles or take a few moments at the beginning of the night to assign them to volunteers. We find the latter is the best option as it gives shyer individuals the opportunity to take on small parts while leaving the larger parts to the more outgoing. It is worthwhile to have read through the script at least once yourself so that you can avoid assigning roles in such a way that participants end up talking to themselves.

Are the scripts written specifically to provide a balanced experience for all eight participants?

No. The scripts are written primarily to tell entertaining stories. For this reason the number of roles varies according to the requirements of the story and have neither been expanded nor contracted to provide equivalent “screen time” for each participant. Our experience has been that participants enjoy the story more where it has not been padded or restricted to create an artificial sense of involvement.

What genres are represented by these scripts?

At present we have stories reflective of pulp adventure, gaslamp mystery, and fantasy noir. We have plans to release scripts in the western, science fiction, and horror genres in future.

What are your titles?

Our titles can be found on our products page.

Do you provide free samples?

You can download free samples of our scripts from our products page.

What do you have planned for the future?

You can check out the titles we are preparing for publication on our coming soon page.

Where can I find your titles?

Our titles are distributed by Drivethru fiction, Smashwords, and Lulu but can also be purchased in pdf form here on our website.

Is Philip Craig Robotham any relation to the crime novelist Michael Robotham?

Yes, he is. They are cousins but have no professional or financial relationship whatsoever (though Philip wishes he had an ounce of his cousin’s talent and strongly believes you should buy Michael’s novels if you enjoy crime fiction because Michael’s writing is just plain awesome!).

I’ve got this great idea/script/story I’d like to market. Can you help?

Thanks for thinking of us, but we have enough on our plate publishing our own original scripts and cannot undertake work for anyone else.

Author's FAQ (6)

What inspires you to write?

For me writing is enormous fun. I do it because I love the thrill of creating and allowing my imagination to run wild. I’m also an old-time radio fan. I enjoy everything from adventures like “Gunsmoke”, “the Green Hornet”, “the Saint”, and “Yours Truly Johnny Dollar”, through comedies such as “the Goon Show” and “Fibber McGee and Molly”, through science fiction like “X Minus 1” and “ProjectXx”, through to horror and suspense like “the Inner Sanctum”.

It’s typical of me that the genre of writing that gets me excited the most is one which died out more than forty years ago. All the same, it’s what I love and seems to be having something of a resurgence lately via the internet. There have been some great examples of audio drama made available recently from podcasters online. These include the fabulous “Adventures of the Red Panda”, the haunting and creepy “Wormwood”, the extremely professional “Leviathan Chronicles”, and far too many others to list. I’m not a particularly florid writer. I like plain speech and simple exposition. I’m also not overly fond of having to write lengthy descriptions of people and places. As a result radio writing seems to have been made for me.

How does writing an audio drama differ from other genres?

Writing for the ear is very different to any other kind of writing that I have ever done. For one thing everything is exposition. In real life no-one ever says “look out Claire, he’s holding a gun!”, but in an audio drama it’s essential to spell out what is happening for the listener. It’s also very hard to write an audio drama with a lone character in it. If you do then you’ll find yourself forced to have the character talking to him or herself constantly. The old Sam Spade voice-over was probably invented for radio shows relying on a single main character:

“I walked the last 18 steps to the battered old front door. The lock had been jimmied and swung creaking on its hinges in the evening breeze.”

There’s great atmosphere in these monologues but, personally, I like my characters to have company and it lets me indulge my taste for banter:

“What are we doing here, boss?”

“Old man Cranston invited us to come visit him up at the house.”

“Yeah? Battered looking old place isn’t it? Give me a second and I’ll try the door… Hey, the lock’s broken! This door’s been jimmied open.”

“What gave it away, genius? The fact that it was swinging back and forth on its hinges or the crowbar lying in the dirt beside it?”

I also like conflict and a bit of “sass”. It’s harder to have that with a lone character. One thing you really develop when writing an audio script is your ability to do dialog and characterisation (especially dialog). That’s simply because dialog is all you have to work with most of the time. You don’t have to spend a lot of time labouring over descriptions of people and places when you write for radio – the listener will supply all the detail with their own imaginations – but you do have to manage dialog. In fact a judicious lack of physical description engages the listener’s imagination more effectively and helps them to identify themselves more fully with the characters. The other thing that is surprisingly hard to do in audio is action. A fight scene needs to be over really quickly because otherwise the listener is being treated to a whole series of bangs and whaps that don’t provide anything much for the listener’s imagination to grab onto… and a blow by blow description (while in keeping with many of the conventions of the genre) starts to sound like a commentary at a prize fight. When it comes to descriptions of what the characters see, hear and experience, you want just enough to tell the audience what they need to know about the environment without it sounding so unrealistic that it jettisons them out of the story.

Another thing that’s easy to forget is that the listener will not know who is speaking unless someone among the characters refers to that character by name. My very first (and thankfully long buried) attempt at script writing suffered from this problem but I still have to go through my completed scripts and make sure all the characters have been properly identified out loud before I send them off to my editor.

BTW – finding a skilled editor to whip my work into shape is an absolute must as a self-publisher. I can’t begin to say how much embarrassment I have been saved by the sharp eye of my editor, Margaret Wilkins. That isn’t to say that there isn’t plenty more embarrassment to be had for which I am solely responsible.

How do you structure your work?

I write in episodic format. That is, I write as if I’m writing episodes in a radio serial. Most of the old radio stories of the past were limited to around twenty to forty minutes or so. I find that twenty minutes is too short for telling the kind of stories I want to tell (though the discipline of paring back a story until it can be told in twenty minutes is a good one). I write what I call “feature length” plays to be read over an hour and a half to two hours and while I am writing self-contained episodes they do each contribute to a larger story.

When it comes to the structure of my writing I find the good old three act story structure really helpful. I know lots of writers hate it, find it confining and formulaic, and in some cases even deny that it exists, but I find it helpful as a way of keeping momentum in my writing and stopping me from becoming dull. It also gives me a bridging structure for the wider story arc of each serial I write. Personally I’m not a high-concept kind of writer. Don’t get me wrong, I wish I had the talent for that and envy those that do. Instead I write the kind of stories I enjoy; adventures, usually with a deal of mystery and supernatural suspense thrown in for good measure. I also write to entertain. While I like to have good-guys who are good and bad-guys who are bad, I’m not writing to instruct or make any deep moral statements about the world. I leave that kind of thing to better writers than I am. I’m simply having fun and hoping my readers do as well.

Do you have a specific process or schedule?

I have two small children and a day job so writing is something I do in my spare time. I try to write something every day but I don’t always get the chance. I don’t beat myself up over this. Life happens and if I get to spend some time writing four days out of seven, I call it a win and move on. I begin with a fairly detailed outline, breaking down the acts, plot points, and character points in the story. I don’t bother breaking down the scenes at this stage but I do build a pretty clear outline of all the events in the story before I sit down to write the first draft. For me an outline is essential – it gives me confidence that most of the plot problems have been solved before the writing begins.

I write the first draft straight through. Not necessarily in one sitting but usually without going back over the text until it is all complete. I have found that if I start polishing before the first draft is complete I waste a huge amount of time writing and re-writing the same material over and over and eventually abandon the whole thing.

Once the first draft is written I go back to the beginning and start revising. I look for plot holes, stuff that doesn’t make sense, redundancy, places where my pace is either too slow or too quick (still working on this one), and points at which I can punch up the character interaction. I also check to see that I’ve been able to maintain the voices of my characters authentically.

Finally, I revise for spelling, grammar, and punctuation problems.

Technically I guess that’s just three drafts, but my second and third drafts are a form of death by a thousand cuts where I go over and over the text until I feel that I can stand to look at it without complete embarrassment. I’m not the kind of writer who will spend forever perfecting every turn of phrase. I like telling stories and am too impatient to connect with an audience for that kind of perfectionism. Besides I’ve ruined more than one story by overworking it. They say that no work of art is ever finished, merely abandoned, and I guess that’s true of my writing (though whether it qualifies as art is something I’ll leave to the reader).

What’s the most unique thing about your writing?

A Probably the most unique thing about my writing is its packaging. The plays I write, while fun to read in their own right, are designed to be performed as part of a dinner party by a group of from 6 to 8 participants. The six episodes I’ve published so far include everything you need to host a fun dinner party and script reading; costume ideas, period recipes, instructions for a “build it yourself” sound effects kit, and, of course, an original script. I came up with the idea as I puzzled over how I might take part in the apparent revival that audio drama online has been enjoying in recent years. Unfortunately I don’t have the technical expertise to create a podcast, nor access to the acting talent necessary to create an audio drama.

In light of this I spent some time thinking about what I really enjoyed about the radio dramas of yore and I was suddenly struck by something. For me, the fond memories are all tied up with the time spent listening with family. It was about the fun we had together living the experience in our imaginations. I would laugh myself hoarse listening to the Goon Show and other programs. They were great times of fun, family, food and community.

As I thought about this it occurred to me that, as much as I love professionally produced audio drama, there might be a way to recapture some of that sense of fun and community without necessarily having to invest heavily in technology and good actors. Earlier this year we held our first dinner party/script reading with an original script that I wrote to celebrate my forty third birthday. We had a blast. Food, friends, fun, and one thing more that I don’t think you get by merely listening; a sense of being inside and part of the story.

Where do you get your ideas?

Most author’s hate this question. Not because it isn’t interesting – we love to hear other authors answer it – but because most of the time we don’t know. For myself, ideas come from a process of free-association and brainstorming, often started by posing a question beginning with the words “what if…?” For example, what if a 1930s hard boiled detective was recruited to enforce a peace treaty between mortals and faery folk? Or alternatively, what if Sherlock Holmes was really engaged in a battle against supernatural forces? It’s rare for me to settle on an idea straight away. For every twenty ideas I generate there might only be one that I think would make a worthwhile story.

Like most things in life. Coming up with story ideas takes practice and persistence. Others may have figured out a more articulate theory of creativity – though I have yet to meet any of them – I just muddle along… and when I do have a good idea I often feel like a passenger in my own mind going “Wow! Where did that idea come from?”.

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