Hello, and welcome to “WHO’S ON THE SHELF?” with yours truly, Nonnie Jules! Since we are a book club, you know we had to offer something that included a bookshelf. A lot of interviews merely cover an author’s work or an individual’s career stories. Here on this “SHELF,” we get down and dirty and ask the questions no other interviewer dare ask. We ask the questions that you want to open up a book and find the answers to on your favorite authors and fellow book club members, but, no one has dared to cover them. We get personal! Because, when you sit on this “SHELF,” YOU are an open book! Even if I have to pry you open!
Today, we have a very special guest on the SHELF with us, RRBC member and our March “SPOTLIGHT” Author, ROBBIE CHEADLE!
NJ: Before we get started, are you comfy? We’ve made a few changes since you were last here, and I want to ensure they are to my guests’ liking.
Robbie: I love the design of the eagle carrying a book. The eagle signifies inspiration, victory, speed and pride, all of which are important qualities for writers.
NJ: Well, thank you. I’m glad you like our new logo. I designed it myself! Let’s start by confirming whether or not your author name is your birth name or a pen name.
Robbie: I use two versions of my name for publishing purposes: Roberta Eaton is my maiden name and Cheadle is my married name. I use Roberta Eaton Cheadle to publish my YA and adult books and Robbie Cheadle to publish my children’s books and poetry.
The reason I use two versions of my name is to prevent confusion. I wouldn’t like someone to purchase an adult book under the mistaken impression it was for children.
NJ: OK. Makes sense. Tell us where you were born? Do you still live there now? If not, what city and state are you calling home these days?
Robbie: I was born in Knightsbridge in London, UK. My biological father died of a heart attack when I was three months old, and my mother decided to move to South Africa. Her sister, Wendy was living in Johannesburg and she offered to take care of me while my mother worked.
NJ: I’m so sorry to hear about your father, Robbie. I, too, lost my father early. Actually, I’ve never met my father. He died while my mom was carrying me. So, are you married, single, happily divorced?
Robbie: I was married for 20 years on the 9th of February 2021.
NJ: Robbie, we have so much in common already. We’ll have to chat after the show. Any kids? What kind? Do you like them?
Robbie: I have two sons, Gregory and Michael. I am very fond of my children … most of the time.
Gregory is a loner, very academic and introverted. He gets these characteristics from me. He is also mathematical, scientific, and logical – he does not get those characteristics from me. He always asks me to test him on his IT, science, and maths. I concede, but I have told him that I think the person who donated the maths gene should suffer through testing him on these subjects – and it’s not me!
Michael is artistic and creative. He is also a last-minute Joe. He takes after me in the first instance and after someone else – maybe the milkman – in the second instance. It causes some interesting clashes to have a laid-back child like Michael living in the same house as three obsessive workaholics. We are lucky to have him to make the sun shine for us.
NJ: They both seem extra special, Robbie! But, that being said, if you’re not there already, when you’re old and cranky, which one will keep you at home to care for you themselves, and which one started seeking out the A PLACE FOR MOM franchise facility in your area when they were 9?
Robbie: At the moment, Michael is planning to live in our house. His brother may continue to live in his bedroom [Michael, his wife, and four diverse adopted children will live in the other rooms]. My husband and I will live in the cottage where my parents currently live.
NJ: Haha. Well, at least there’s a plan in place already. Any pets? What kind? They act like kids, too, so I have to ask the same question … do you like them?
Robbie: Two cats reign on our property. Queen Push-Push bestows a visit on me when she feels she needs some petting. The rest of the time she ignores me and resides on my mother’s couch.
Queen Smudge only has eyes for my dad and follows him around like a dog. When he goes out, Smudgy cries for him until he gets home again.
NJ: Robbie, I could coo and say something clever like, “Oooooo, how cute,” but, they’re cats, you know? By the way, my daughter now has a cat and whether or not I’m moving over to the other side, is still up for debate in my home. I can look at this cat, sometimes. I still can’t look at other cats … so, there’s that problem. Robbie, what’s the food that’s so good to you, you go to bed dreaming about it, and you forego breakfast just to get to it? I know it’s not a food, but I dream about coffee and would probably go on a hunger strike if I couldn’t have any.
Robbie: I am very fond of tea and would struggle to get going in the morning without it. I am not much of a foodie and sometimes I forget to eat if I am doing something very absorbing like writing. I enjoy making cakes for the artwork involved, but don’t have a very sweet tooth.
NJ: WOW! A cake maker with no sweet tooth? That is so odd to me! But good for you – can you imagine the pounds you pack on if you ate everything you made? Robbie, what’s your favorite color?
Robbie: Sunshine yellow
NJ: Honestly, Robbie, you do remind me of sunshine! That should be your nic-name – Sunshine! Your smile is so warm and bright, it lights up the room for us virtually so I can imagine what it does for a real room! Do you have a favorite sport, Robbie?
Robbie: I am not very sporty, but if pressed would choose tennis.
NJ: Oh, tennis is for me, as well. How about a favorite TV Show?
Robbie: I don’t watch TV, but I used to watch Friends. I would still be my favourite as I haven’t watched another series since.
NJ: I loved Friends! Phoebe, Rachel, Monica and the rest of the gang! Favorite Actress/Actor?
Robbie: Oooh, such a hard question when you don’t watch TV or movies. I like Olivia Newton-John in Grease. I wanted to be just like her when I was a girl.
NJ: No way! One of my favorite musicals – “You’re the one that I love, the one that I love, woo hoo hoo!” We have way too much in common! Do you like to exercise to stay fit OR do you not mind walking around with a beer belly?
Robbie: I like to walk. Since the pandemic started, I have walked around my garden every day. I like to see the changes in the flowers, trees, and birdlife. I listen to audio books while I walk. I am currently nearly finished A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.
NJ: Good for you! I am one of the few humans in this world who absolutely LOVE EXERCISE! I’ve a full gym right inside my home so I never have to leave to take up any new anything in the exercise realm. Robbie, during this pandemic which we are all still living through right now, what is the one thing you find that relaxes you and calms your mind and spirit, aside from walking?
Robbie: I like to write; it is a meditation for me. I am transported away from my work and home and disappear into a past situation and life.
NJ: OK, what’s your favorite kind of music?
Robbie: I like Broadway music
NJ: Favorite song?
Robbie: Open a new door by Angela Lansbury as performed in Mame
NJ: Slow dance or jumping around the floor making a fool of yourself?
Robbie: Jumping around the floor, although I did attend months of ballroom dancing lessons when I was in high school.
NJ: In 15 words or less, what is the most common thing that the people who really know you, ALWAYS say about you? For instance, everyone who knows me all say: “You always know where she stands on things,” OR, “There’s not another like her in the world,” OR, the one I’m most proud of, “God broke the mold with that one.”
Robbie: How do you fit in all the things you do?
NJ: Biggest pet peeve that makes you want to spit nails? (For the record, NJ does not condone violence, but she does believe in being honest, so she admits that there are those times and there are those people, who do cause her to want to spit a few nails in the direction of their foreheads. Just being honest. It’s the only way I roll).
Robbie: I am a perfectionist, so I get upset about small things that don’t bother other people, especially on the work front. My job is pernickety and detailed, and I get upset when people think it takes 5 minutes to update an entire spreadsheet and the related documentation for a stock exchange filing.
NJ: Perfectionist, huh? I resemble that remark! So, are you neat or messy?
NJ: Me, too! The only messy place in my home is my office, but you have to remember that a clean, uncluttered desk is the sign of a sick mind and my desk is way messy! Robbie, are you nice or mean? Is that your perception of you, or is that what others think of you? I’m mean and I know it. There’s no sense in denying it, because if I did, it would be a lie. I doubt that many refer to me as nice and I’m OK with that. Quite often, people mistake your directness for something else anyway, and, I’m OK with that, too!
Robbie: I can be both. I try to be nice, but I am sometimes mean. This is usually when I am stressed and overworked. I try to help people and am patient when showing people how to do things at work and at home. I get annoyed if people are lazy though, and aren’t motivated to embrace learning and personal improvement.
I have been called a philanthropist by my colleagues because I like to help people in need. I am part of my firm’s outreach programmes and my family also do our own private outreach for select organisations.
NJ: Good for you, Robbie! Some of us have been encountering people lately who appear to be sweet, kind and gentle sheep on the surface, but then, there comes a time when they make the mistake of letting their real self shine through. Have you run into any of those kinds online?
Robbie: I try to be understanding about people, and not judge them when they do something out of character or that I don’t like. As an outsider, I don’t know what is happening in someone’s personal life that could make them lash out or be upset about something that doesn’t bother me.
Social media doesn’t reflect the truth of peoples lives as people don’t hang their dirty washing out for others to see. They share pictures of the good things in their lives, but rarely the negative things. I had a friend who got divorced and never once had I seen any hint that all was not well between her and her husband on social media. All the photographs were ‘happy family’ types.
It is also much easier to write doubled edged comments on social media when you don’t have the person you are hurting visibly in front of you. These are the downsides of social media, but there are also lots of positives. Like everything in life, you must apply your mind and make your own decisions about things you see and read.
NJ: That sounds sweet. I just have a knack for seeing people for who they really are and not for who they would love for the world to believe they are. I call that my “gift” and it serves me very well. Now, Facebook or Twitter?
Robbie: They have different purposes and strengths and I use both. I believe I get the best from both too.
NJ: OK. Snapchat or Instagram? By the way, I use neither.
Robbie: I have never tried Snapchat. I do like Instagram. I like the small peeps into peoples lives that photographs offer. I enjoy seeing pictures of flowers, places, and even food and drinks.
NJ: Now we’re getting into the hard questions – Coke or Pepsi, Robbie?
Robbie: It has to be Coke. Pepsi isn’t big in South Africa.
NJ: Diet soda or regular?
Robbie: Diet, but only 1 a day. I can’t say I limit myself with my tea though. I have about 5 cups of tea a day.
NJ: We’ve come to realize that the internet is giving way to tons of budding friendships. Who would you say is the one person you’ve connected with the most…your internet BFF or buddy?
Robbie: Oh, Nonnie, I can’t give you one person. I have so many wonderful supportive friends in the blogosphere. I have found the writing, author, and blogging community to be a generous and supportive one and I have met many wonderful people.
I am in email contact with some of my blogging friends. I especially enjoy older people who have the time to share pictures and fun bits of information about their lives. I like that.
NJ: Good for you, Robbie. And you know what? I enjoy the company of much older people than I do any other group of folks. They have so much to share and their stories are always so interesting. Who do you favor most: Nonnie Jules or Wonder Woman? Be honest.
Robbie: Ha! Well isn’t Nonnie Jules Wonder Woman?
NJ: Well, I know that she used to be but, she’s getting way older now – not sure how much wonder is still left in that woman!
Robbie, we all know that Wonder Woman has her truth lasso and Nonnie has … well, just her truths, in the no-nonsense way she forces us to be honest and tell it like it is, whether it makes others uncomfortable or not. In your opinion, which one does a better job of making the world a better place? You can be honest here, too.
Robbie: I think that Nonnie Jules and Wonder Woman appeal to different groups of people. Wonder Woman is a fictional cartoon person aimed [I think] at influencing mainly young people to discover their truth and live a better life.
Nonnie, on the other hand, could positively influence young people, but her reach would be more among adults who have experienced more of life. I believe it is harder to make an impression on, and change the thinking of, people who are older as they have often been influenced by hardship and bad experiences. Young people are of an open mindset and embrace change with great passion. Older people are cautious and more difficult to shift in their ways. Of the two, Nonnie’s job is harder than Wonder Woman’s.
Robbie: Thank you, Robbie. By the way, I have mentored young girls since my eldest daughter was in 3rd grade – so, for about 25 plus years, I’ve molded young minds, believe it or not. Name two favorite INDIE books that you’ve read by RRBC members.
Robbie: Of my recent reads [end of last year and this year], the books by RRBC members which have impacted me the most are Mennonite Daughter by Marian Longnecker Beaman and The Jewel, a short story by Breakfiedl and Burkey.
NJ: ONE good INDIE book you’ve read written by an RRBC member that was so good you wished the entire world would read it.
Robbie: From a content perspective, it would choose Vanished by Mark Bierman.
NJ: What was so great about it?
Robbie: Mark deals sensitively, but revealingly, with the shocking topic of child trafficking. This is a terrible scourge in southern Africa and close to my heart. I can’t bear to think of children being mistreated like this.
NJ: After you read books, do you post reviews?
Robbie: Yes, always
NJ: What do you think readers should base their reviews on?
Robbie: I can’t comment on other readers review, but I base mine on the following 5 points:
- Uniqueness / importance of the topic and content. If it’s a fictional story, it should be unique and different. If it is a book with a non-fiction topic, like child trafficking or war, or a memoir, then it should be relevant and meaningful.
- Characterisation – How did I relate to the characters? Did I care about them and feel their pain?
- Use of language – Was the writing interesting and passionate? Did the writer care about the characters and themes of the book? Did this come across well?
- Research – Are there historical or other errors in the book? Was the author able to suspend my disbelief and keep me engaged in the story? Did the behaviour of the characters ring true?
- Formatting and editing – Were there errors in the book and was the formatting poor. These are things that distract me as a reader and are correctable. I feel it is necessary to mention poor editing or formatting as a warning to other readers who may find them more distracting than I do. This being said, if a story is engaging, I may miss these sorts of things as my eye jumps over them or automatically corrects them.
NJ: Are you one of those who are afraid to be honest in their reviews lest the author gets upset with you, or is honesty your best policy, especially in reviews?
Robbie: I do my best to be honest. As mentioned above, I read quickly and become very absorbed by stories. Things that may annoy other readers may not even blimp on my reading radar. My main objective when reviewing a book is whether I enjoy it and it kept me entertaining, informed, and engaged.
NJ: Read any poorly edited or poorly written books lately?
Robbie: No, none that have been very badly edited. Most authors seem to have ways of reducing editorial errors through writers’ groups, the use of private editing services, or Beta Readers. I have read a few books that have been disjointed and difficult to follow. The author has jumped around from scene to scene randomly with no common thread. It disturbs the flow of the book and sometimes the scenes never come together. This is more of a developmental editing point.
*How many poorly written or poorly edited books have you read that you gave high marks to in your reviews, when you knew they didn’t deserve the high marks? Be honest, I won’t ask you to name the books here in public.
Robbie: My ratings are largely driven by the quality and uniqueness of the story and the characterisation. I read for pleasure and rarely read a book that doesn’t teach me something new and interesting. I do not read with a writer’s hat on and things that might upset other author-readers do not bother me. I read a lot of classic books and those don’t follow modern writing rules. Many of them go into lengthily descriptions and do lots of telling and not showing, but that doesn’t deter from my rating or enjoyment of the story. Every person’s enjoyment of a story is individual and no two readers will express the same opinion about the same story.
NJ: Robbie, I beg to differ on that last statement you made – I feel that readers can absolutely have the same opinions of one book. Either they all notice the hiccups in a story, or they all notice none. Either they all found that a book was a great read, or they didn’t.
There are some INDIE authors who have come onto the scene and have given our literary playing field a new look. Can you name two INDIE authors who have done this in your eyes? And, how have they changed the field for us?
Robbie: I think Nonnie Jules has provided an excellent platform with RRBC for Indie authors to learn and develop, meet other like-minded individuals, and also learn from reading and reviewing other writers’ books. RWISA is an extension of this platform for writers who have taken their involvement and learning to a higher level within the club.
There are a number of individual bloggers who have helped me significantly with learning how to blog and respond to comments, put together blog tours, and meet other authors, writers, and bloggers through participating in writing prompts.
NJ: Are you an author? Are you a good one? C’mon, we love honesty here.
Robbie: I am an author, but I am new to fiction writing having published my first children’s book in August 2016. I am learning and can see the progress and development from book to book. I have only recently launched my first adult novel about the Second Anglo Boer War (Great South African War). I am good at research and my pernickety job has stood me in good stead in the genre I believe is my niche which is paranormal historical. I have written several non-fiction publications for work purposes and learned a lot through the editing and publishing process these large volumes went through.
I believe my story ideas are good, my research is excellent, and my writing skills such as dialogue and showing not telling have improved significantly so I think I can now say my books are an entertaining read. I believe writing is an area where you never stop learning and improving.
NJ: How long have you been writing?
Robbie: I have been writing fiction since about June 2015 and published my first children’s book in August 2016.
I started writing non-fiction publications in 2012. My job, however, has involved writing circulars, pre-listing statements, announcements and other formal documents for companies listed on the JSE Limited (Johannesburg Stock Exchange) since 2001. Prior to that, I wrote due diligence reports for use by transaction companies. Reading this over, I see that I have always written large documents.
NJ: This is the most important question that you’ll get here today. Are you able to take constructive criticism of your written work?
Robbie: Yes, as mentioned above, my work has always involved a lot of report writing and documentation and have always been subject to scrutiny and commentary from other advisors including more than one set of lawyers and tax advisors as well as the regulators at the stock exchange. I have learned to accept feedback and comments as a necessary part of learning and personal growth. These same benefits apply to fiction writing and constructive criticism [or in my case developmental editing] from others.
NJ: How do you handle negative reviews of your work? Are you able to shake them off and move on?
Robbie: Yes, negative reviews fall into two categories in my opinion. Comments and criticism that I can address and use to improve or comments and criticism that relate to aspects that are outside my control.
If the comments relate to editing or writing methodologies, then I take them on board and either correct my book [editing issues] or try and improve in the identified areas going forward.
If the comments relate to the genre of the book, its themes or plot, or things like late delivery by the retailer, then I consider them, but generally accept that not everyone will like my book and I can’t control all aspects of its sale.
NJ: Good answers. Name two books that you’ve written?
Open a new door, a collection of poetry
Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River story and cookbook
NJ: Which one do you think is the best?
Robbie: They are not comparable as one is for adults and one is a picture book for children. I like to think they are both enjoyable. The poetry book is special to me because it is specifically about life in South Africa and the poems discuss poverty, corruption, beauty, corporate live, and family life. They are quite personal and meaningful to me.
NJ: Do you have a blog or website? I love GREAT blogs, so would you say that yours is written well enough for harsh critics like me to enjoy?
Robbie: I have two blogs and I have been trying to ensure I read my posts more carefully before sharing. I am making an effort to avoid silly writing mistakes and spelling errors caused by hasted. I was given some advice in this regard and an endeavouring to implement that advice.
NJ: Good for you, Robbie! Which online resource or organization has helped you as an author the most?
I belong to a few on-line organisations including:
A writer’s group; and
An on-line book club
NJ: How were you helped by them?
RRBC is a supportive club for authors and writers and provides a platform for learning about writing through its on-line writing conferences, and other programmes. Members can also meet and engage with new authors and learn about their books, as well as participate in on-line meetings to discuss reviews of various books. There are all useful opportunities and I have benefited from them all.
NJ: Since you’re sitting on the SHELF, you’re obviously a RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB member, so what do you think of the club?
Robbie: As mentioned above, I think RRBC is a supportive community of talented writers who work together, under the excellent leadership of Nonnie Jules, to provide a lot of interesting discussion groups and learning opportunities for members. As I’ve mentioned before, the opportunities are there for the members to grasp and make the most of, it is up to individuals to do that and become involved to the extent possible for them, given their own life situations and circumstances.
NJ: Have you come across any other online entities like it?
Robbie: No, I think RRBC is unique.
NJ: We definitely are. Many have tried to copy our model but there’s only one RRBC! Would you recommend it to your friends and family?
Robbie: Yes, definitely!
NJ: Why, thank you, Ms. Robbie! Are you a member of the prestigious RWISA? If so, what do you think of it?
Robbie: I have not yet achieved membership of RWISA.
From my perspective, RWISA is an extension of the comradery and support provided by RRBC, offered to people who have worked hard at fine tuning their writing and taking it to a higher level.
NJ: I like your “not yet” … that means you will one day join us. I know of no other organization like RWISA where the standard of your writing is first and foremost regarded as top priority, so, I am extremely proud of RWISA.
Robbie, what’s your most favorite program or place here within RRBC? (#PUSHTUESDAY, RAVE WAVES Shows, Block Parties, Writers’ Conference & Book Expo, BOOK OF THE MONTH discussions, “ON THE SHELF” interviews, etc.)
Robbie: I liked the writers’ conference best. I learned a lot of new things during that period and met more members of RRBC.
NJ: Robbie, it is our most anticipated event of the year. Now, this shelf is getting hard on my hiney so we’re going to wrap this interview up. Any final words for our audience today?
Robbie: I hope that readers of this interview have enjoyed learning a bit more about me and my books and also the on-line platforms, like RRBC, which have helped me develop as a writer and learn about the craft of writing and about publishing and marketing.
Thank you, Nonnie, for this lovely interview and opportunity.
NJ: Thank you, Robbie, for joining me here today – it was such a pleasure to have you again. You were with me last October so it was a treat to see some of your changes . Visitors, I ask that you pick up a copy of either of Robbie’s books above. Please be sure to leave her a comment below as she loves to chat!
Have you joined RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB yet? Well, here’s your chance! And, since Robbie was on the “SHELF” today, tell them she sent you.
Until next time, take care. We’ll see you in May, right here on the “SHELF” with another INTERESTING GUEST!!!
DISCLAIMER: RRBC does not alter the writing of any guest who has participated in our interviews. As we do not know the author’s intent in their writing, it is not our place to make any changes, therefore, we post material exactly as it is submitted to us.