Ep 345 Meet Mikey Robins, author of ‘Reprehensible: Polite Histories of Bad Behaviour’.

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In Episode 345 of So You Want To Be A Writer: Discover how to write during a pandemic. Meet Mikey Robins, author of Reprehensible: Polite Histories of Bad Behaviour. Want to win a Zoom call with A.L. Tait? Plus we have 3 copies of The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman to give away.

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Show Notes

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How to write during a pandemic

Writer in Residence

Mikey Robins

Mikey spent seven years behind the microphone as host of Triple J’s National breakfast show before becoming a team leader and audience favourite on the iconic Good News Week and its various franchises. On radio, Mikey’s also featured on prime time shifts for Triple M and vega. He continues to be a regular guest on several TV and radio shows.

Mikey has co-authored two books and been a columnist for The Daily Telegraph and GQ and has written for several publications including Men’s Style and Selector magazine. Mikey has recently added stand up comedy to his long list of achievements and has performed at the Melbourne and Sydney Comedy festivals.

His latest book is Reprehensible: Polite Histories of Bad Behaviour. 

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Interview Transcript

Valerie Khoo

Thanks so much for joining us today, Mikey.

Mikey Robins

No worries, Valerie, lovely to chat to you.

Valerie Khoo

This is a cracker of a book, Reprehensible.

Mikey Robins

Oh, thank you. Thank you.

Valerie Khoo

I think you've just hit the nail on the head on so many levels. But anyway, Reprehensible: Polite histories of bad behaviour. So for those readers who haven't got their copy yet, can you tell us what it's about?

Mikey Robins

Well, it's divided up into various sections, but it's the old saying my grandmother used to say: there's none as queer as folk. And it's the idea that yes, we are living through reprehensible times, but I find a small little smattering of hope in the fact that it's always been this way.

And I make some analogies. I mean, also, I must say that I'm not talking about the great crimes against humanity that come up on, you know, on a generational basis. I'm talking about the more venal pathetic silly behaviour of sometimes people who I thought were geniuses and are still geniuses. It's almost a comforting look back at shocking behaviour from the pharaohs right through to the guy who rigged the 1973 Soap Box Derby so his nephew would win.

Valerie Khoo

I mean, it totally is. And it's so true what you say. But I am curious to know what made you think I'm gonna write this book? How did that seed get sown?

Mikey Robins

Well, I've always been a bit of a history nerd. And I wrote my first book about two years ago, which is called Seven Deadly Sins and One Very Naughty Fruit, which was a sort of left field look at culinary history as divided amongst the seven deadly sins. And as I was researching, I kept coming across really good stories that weren't sort of food related. They sort of bubbled away in my brain.

And then, as you know, as you sit there watching the TV watching people behave appallingly or find yourself on Twitter, I started looking at those stories and went, you know, there's actually not a great deal of difference between some of the things I've seen our politicians do and the behaviour of a 13th century historian who wrote fake news stories about the Irish just to impress the king. Sort of think of him as a Norman Fox News.

Valerie Khoo

But you were researching that other book, you came across a bunch of other interesting facts. But did you retain them in your head? Did you write them down and file them somewhere? How did you actually collect all of this?

Mikey Robins

I'm a great believer in notepads. I have stacks of notepads. And that was the first process of doing this book was… Unlike the first book, which was divided amongst the seven deadly sins, I already knew what the structure was going to be.

With this one, it was a matter of finding stories and then sort of figuring out how they related to each other. And that was how the structure… And once I established that, that was the notepad process, so like, once I figured out a whole bunch of really weird stories about laws and power, that became The Problem with Power. Then I kept finding all these amazing stories about really vain silly behaviour and that became the Vanity chapter. And of course, you know, Misbehaving Royally, I had to do that.

Which is one of the strangest facts is like, you know, I talk about Henry the Eighth and we always think of him as the man who dissolved the Catholic Church in England, was a mad rooter and a dreadful husband and, let's face it, a mass murderer and a glutton. Also, on top of that, he was a dreadful gambler. And he would actually take part in gambling festivals, which would be something like the Queen going on one of those poker tournaments.

Valerie Khoo

So the thing is that the level of research in here is profound, because it is so diverse and across such a broad range. Are you telling me that over the past few years, you, like a bowerbird, would come across these stories and write them in your notebook? And was it either an accidental process of discovery because you are a history nerd and you read stuff? Or did you go out in search of crazy stories?

Mikey Robins

Well, by the time I'd stumbled across the first few stories, I remember I was sitting with my manager and friend, and we were bouncing some ideas around. And originally it was just going to be a book on royal shenanigans from the Romanovs right through. And then he went, Oh… And then I thought, yeah, broaden it out to just more… Also, if I had just written about the sex lives of royals, the book would have been pretty scrotchy. And the book is scrotchy in parts. I'm the first to admit that. But I realized I needed to broaden it out.

And then of course, once I started finding out various other strange behaviours, like the fact that Sir Isaac Newton, the greatest mind of the Enlightenment, was a deeply disturbed teenager who wanted to set fire to his parents' house. And well the other bizarre one, too, so that filed away with geniuses like, Elon… Not Elon Musk. Nikola Tesla, the great polymath and genius, seems to have been sexually attracted to pigeons, which is deeply weird. So that was the Wayward Genius section

And then I had the Royals, and then I had the Problems with Power, I had Vanity. And then I of course by that stage thought, I really need to do a chapter on scoundrels. And let's face it, history does not let us down when it comes to scoundrels.

Valerie Khoo

No.

Mikey Robins

But they're not, that was the other thing too, which was… They really had to pass what I call the Tiberius problem. The Emperor Tiberius was a wicked, wicked man. And as I was researching, and he had all these orgies, all that sort of stuff, as I researched more into his behaviour, I realized that… Yeah, actually there's… Because the prime idea of the book is to entertain. And his behaviour crossed a limit where I was like, actually there's nothing entertaining here. This is actually just horrible. And so then I'd look at a story and I'd go, okay, does it have enough dirt in it for me to have some fun with it, but not be so wantonly evil that I can't be playful?

Valerie Khoo

So that was your yardstick. But I'm curious to know whether you actually had an oversupply of stories so that you had to cull or whether you had to search for more to get a book.

Mikey Robins

Seriously, when it comes to bad behaviour, humanity does not let you down. There's plenty of stuff that didn't make the book. And also to just… There's a few stories from the 20th century, but mostly the cut-off point is the late Victorian. And I did that for several reasons. One, I didn't want to get sued. And secondly, I wanted to show that idea I said before: it's always been a bit on the nose. We've always been a bit, you know, a bit naughty, and silly and silly, and vain and pompous.

Valerie Khoo

So this is one of those books where you could have the next three years, not you, but a reader could have the next three years of pub stories, the kind of things that they talk about at the pub. “Did you know that…? Did you know that…?” And it's a cracker.

Mikey Robins

Thank you. It's very much designed to be that sort of book. I always made, you know, I always maintain, even with my first book, and this one as well, if you're going to a dinner party, and you don't really know the people, just read a couple of chapters. You'll have stuff to talk about.

But, in fact, when you talk about research, a lot of the research was, and I'm eternally grateful to my friends and family, was I'd do a bit of research and some writing. Then I'd try out some stories on my friends. And they can, you know, I would buy the drinks because they knew they were being used as unpaid researchers. And the stories that I could see a sparkle in their eye, I went, yeah, that's a good one. Ah that one seemed to bore them, I might have to go back and rework that one a bit.

It's very nice when people call me an author, but I'm just a guy who collects pub stories really.

Valerie Khoo

Well, the section on some arcane American state laws is an entire stand up show. It's just brilliant.

Mikey Robins

And it was actually, you know… There was one law from New Jersey that says it's illegal to throw pickle juice at a passing trolley. I mean, why does that need to be a law? And then there are a lot of the laws that seem to be a moralistic fear of more than one woman occupying a place. Because apparently, you know, in the censorious mind of lawmakers, this would obviously lead to a brothel being established.

Valerie Khoo

That's right. Because in Ohio, it's illegal for more than four women to share the same house.

Mikey Robins

Yeah. And I was thinking about that. It's actually this dreadful late 19th century morality. And men would see that as obviously a brothel. And then there's… They've got a lot of problems with dildoes. I must admit, dildos do run as a theme through the book.

When I started… It was so funny emailing my editor back and forth, I said, do we have too much dildo stuff? And he went, you've probably reached dildo limit. I went, I've got one more. I got one more about the Ancient Greeks. And he said, okay, you can have that.

Valerie Khoo

I want to just mention a couple more of these because this is… And everyone should go and buy this book, even just for this list. But the whole book's fantastic, but this list is great. So Michigan, a woman's hair is considered her husband's property and she cannot cut it without his permission.

Mikey Robins

I know! And here's the weird thing, too, these laws are still on the books.

Valerie Khoo

It's crazy, right?

Mikey Robins

Yep. But as I said, when you go through it, a lot of it is, there's a strong anti-woman bias in these laws, which should come as no surprise to a lot of people. That it's illegal for a woman to appear in a house coat on the highway. I think that's in Arizona.

Valerie Khoo

Yes! That's hilarious.

Mikey Robins

And the weird thing, too, was I was kind of thinking I don't think anyone's worn a house coat since my mother and Bewitched.

Valerie Khoo

Yes. So true. And they might be anti-woman, but they're pro-dog because in Oklahoma, you can get busted for making faces at a dog.

Mikey Robins

Yes, indeed, but you could also get charged in another state if you allow your dog to have sex within a certain area within a church, a school and I think a post office.

Valerie Khoo

That's insane, right.

Mikey Robins

Well, that's the thing. People care about these things.

Valerie Khoo

Yes, yes.

Mikey Robins

And people with law degrees sat down and constructed… That's probably one of the themes of the book is the amount of thought that people, intelligent people, have put into moralizing the rest of our lives. I found it amusing, no, not amusing… The whole campaign against allowing women to ride bicycles at the end of the 19th century.

Valerie Khoo

Oh yes!

Mikey Robins

That it would cause something called ‘cycle mania' and ‘bicycle face.'

Valerie Khoo

Bicycle face, yes!

Mikey Robins

And the pleasant vibrations of the seat might end up with a loosening of the morals. I mean, it's just all… It's amazing to think that the patriarchy was terrified by a Malvern bicycle.

Valerie Khoo

Now, the thing is, some of these stories are so wacky, when you came across them, you must have thought for some of them, “that can't be true.” And therefore had to verify it in your research process.

Mikey Robins

Very much so. In fact, that's one of the things that people sort of underestimate. Particularly with a book like this. I mean, obviously, there are books where I can start from. But you do end up doing a lot of research online, which everyone thinks, “Oh, well, that's easy.” It's like no, it's not. Because when you find a fact online, you've got to triple check it, quadruple check it.

Valerie Khoo

Yes.

Mikey Robins

Just to make sure it's right and also to see what the source is. I'll give you an example. When I was writing my first book, I'd spent most of the day writing what I thought was a very funny piece about a low-calorie toothpaste. Until I eventually, I double checked, and I went, “this is a parody site.” And I'm thinking, “I've wasted most of the morning on this.

So there is that thing, if you're doing… I mean, like, proper academics would know this a lot more than I because I am not an historian, I'm just a guy who watches way too much History Channel. But, you know, online is a boon for finding information, but you've really got to verify it. Because as much as my idea of… Yeah, I want people to be entertained by the book, informed, hopefully, but also to… I don't want to muck it up. You know, if I'm making fun of something, you've gotta get the dates right, you know. It's just, it's the form of the joke works better, I think.

Valerie Khoo

So did you… I'm interested now in the actual writing process when you sit down, I'm going to write it and I'm going to craft it, you've got your bits and pieces that you've gathered over the years, tell me about that and whether you had some kind of routine. Or did you do it, you know, in between doing other projects? Or yeah, just talk me through that.

Mikey Robins

No, I, um, I was sort of lucky. Lucky, not lucky. I wasn't doing much last year. I was doing live work, which, of course, all finished earlier this year. So I mean, that sort of funded my life. And I do a fair bit of corporate stuff, which is money, it's nice.

So my working day was… And I'm a deeply, deeply undisciplined person so the only way that I knew I could do it was actually pretend I was going to work. So I put in at least four hours a day. This sounds so silly. I had to shave before… Not a shave. I'd have a shower. I'd also have a shave. I'd have a shower before I went into the home office. And I never wore a T shirt. I always made a point of at least wearing a polo shirt or a collared shirt.

Valerie Khoo

Great.

Mikey Robins

Because it made me feel like I was at work.

Valerie Khoo

Yes. Right.

Mikey Robins

And then my thing was I would write and write and write. Sometimes you write in bursts, and sometimes you… I found that I couldn't get off, even if I'd done four hours, if I had only written 1000…. Well, if I hadn't made 1000 words, I would keep going.

But then some days, three or 4000 would come out very quickly. And then I realized, too, that if 3 or 4000 words are coming out pretty quickly, about 1000 or 1500 of them aren't going to be that great. So you know, if that would happen, I would take a little break and then come back and go, Yeah, let's… I call it killing puppies. I know it sounds dreadful. But it's that thing no one wants to do. You don't want to sit back and look at something that you think is really good and go, “Yeah, you know what? It doesn't serve the narrative. Time to kill it.”

Valerie Khoo

Yes. Okay, so, the thing with this, you've got lots of anecdotes, lots of vignettes, and you know, pub stories, as we've said, but there's lots. And as you say, it was initially going to be about Royals, but you broadened it. And the danger of broadening something, of course, is that it becomes too broad and there isn't that thread. But you have this, there is a great thread in this. It hangs together really, really well.

Mikey Robins

Thank you so much. I worked on that.

Valerie Khoo

Oh, yeah. So I'm interested in that. So because it's made up of so many small things, but yet it's very cohesive as a whole. How did you… Did you have them on little index cards and then shuffled them around? How in the world did you decide on the order and how it was gonna run?

Mikey Robins

I would love to say I was that organized. I would tend to jump around from topics to topics, but I always had an overview of the book. And the tone I wanted for it and how the stories would sort of… It's not that I'm setting out a thesis, but I have a general theory on human behaviour, which is couldn't we all just be a little bit less judgmental.

And, and I had a fantastic editor, Brandon VanOver.

Valerie Khoo

Oh, Brandon.

Mikey Robins

Yes, Brandon. Brendan did… And then a woman called Siobhan came in later in the end. But Brandon edited my first book. We built a very good relationship with that. So Brandon edited this one and he was fantastic for guidance. I don't think we even argued once. Oh! Yes, yes we did.

Valerie Khoo

About dildos?

Mikey Robins

No, it was actually about Edward the Seventh, the son of Queen Victoria who was a notorious glutton of both sex and food. There was an insult that Lily Langtry, the actress, who he was having an affair with, threw at him across a theatre foyer that Brandon thought was too crude to go in the book.

Valerie Khoo

Oh, okay.

Mikey Robins

And if it's too crude to go in the book, it's probably too crude to tell you.

Valerie Khoo

Okay, well, we might leave that for offline. Now another section is the signs that people used to put in front of their houses in ancient Roman times or in Pompei.

Mikey Robins

Actually, not just signs, graffiti.

Valerie Khoo

Graffiti.

Mikey Robins

I was just watching CNN before I came to talk to you, and they were talking about Portland and most of the problems are graffiti. But I mean, well, graffiti comes from the ancient Latin word, ‘to scratch'.

Valerie Khoo

Some of these words are, again, crackers. They range from “I screwed the bar maid.”

Mikey Robins

Yeah. Like, it's like you're not the first guy to say that. And two and half thousand years later you won't be the last.

Valerie Khoo

To on a tavern: “Restituta, take off your tunic, please, and show us your hairy privates.”

Mikey Robins

Yes. Which I don't know how Restituta felt about that. Or did it even work? And then there's another one which is: “Ladies, I've given up on the delights. My penis is only for bottoms of men now.”

Valerie Khoo

Oh my goodness!

Mikey Robins

Which is rather a roundabout way of saying that you've had a midlife crisis.

Valerie Khoo

Yes. And also this one is my favourite. “Floronius, privileged soldier of the Seventh Legion was here. The women did not know of his presence. Only six women came to know. Too few for such a stallion.”

Mikey Robins

Yes, yes, he had quite an opinion of himself, didn't he? Then there's another one by another soldier, I think in the same tavern, trying to one up him.

It is a bizarre thing that, you know, once again, it goes back to our point that people have been behaving like this, like idiots, for a very long time.

Valerie Khoo

Now, this might be a difficult question to answer because it's no doubt something that comes naturally to you. And so you might not be able to deconstruct it. But of course, the stories themselves are entertaining, funny, interesting. And, you know, they can speak for themselves. However, you bring another level to it in that obviously your voice comes through very strongly.

Mikey Robins

Thank you.

Valerie Khoo

Did you make an effort to make it even funnier? Because obviously, it's laugh out loud.

Mikey Robins

Thank you. A) Thank you. And B) not an effort. I did put in my voice and how I like to think I can tell a story humorously. But sometimes it was actually a matter of, you know, you'd write something and I'd think, you know, putting a joke in this, it's like putting a hat on a hat.

Valerie Khoo

Right.

Mikey Robins

You know, the story itself… I found this, something I sort of discovered when I wrote the first book and was very conscious of here is, I'll put a joke in if it works and it doesn't stuff up the narrative. But my first job is to tell the story. And tell it in my voice. And then, you know, but there are sometimes where I can't help myself. And I will actually say when I do it, in parentheses, “I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself.”

Valerie Khoo

Now, this might sound like a stupid question because, like I said, it's something that I think obviously comes naturally to you. But how does one put a joke in? I know there's lots of people where humour doesn't come naturally to them. They might be great writers, but humour doesn't come naturally to them. They're always wondering, “well, how do you inject that humour?” How does it even come into your brain for you to put it in? Like I said, it might be instinctive for you, you see.

Mikey Robins

I will say I can't tell someone how to how to create a joke. You can't, I can't explain that. But what I can… Well, it goes to the old sort of John Donne concept of wit, which is finding a common thread between what seems to be two disparate events. And that common thread will then illustrate something about humanity that you find amusing. That was incredibly longwinded.

But the one thing, when you are trying to put it down on paper, is read it back to yourself out loud. And if… Because a lot of comedy, particularly performed comedy, is rhythm. And so the skill, or not the skill, the job is getting that rhythm on the paper so that when your eyes run across it, it hopefully lands in a place that lets the reader smile or even laugh. Which is very different to performing on stage.

Valerie Khoo

Yes, very different. Because I've actually read some books by comics that I read them and they read like they should be a script for the stage as opposed to… And I can see it working on the stage, but it just doesn't quite work on the page.

Mikey Robins

I mean, that's, it's… I don't know whether that's the challenge. But I wanted to write a book that was entertaining, for me, entertaining. I mean, I'm glad you said you laughed out loud. I've had people say that. But even if people read it and they get a couple of smiles, I'm happy.

Valerie Khoo

So what's your test? Is your test your editor? Like how do you… Because when you are too close to a work, it is hard to figure out whether it is actually funny. What was your test?

Mikey Robins

Um, my wife is a woman of infinite patience. It was funny. In fact, the box of new books arrived today. And I said, “are you going to read it?” And she said, “Read it? I lived it!”

Valerie Khoo

Fair enough.

Mikey Robins

So, yeah, and my answer, obviously, in particular, but I would bounce ideas off my wife, because she's incredibly clever and very, very patient with me.

Valerie Khoo

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Mikey Robins

Oh, that's a good question. To be honest, Valerie, I had so much fun writing this book.

Valerie Khoo

Really?

Mikey Robins

Yeah. It's sort of weird. I mean, as I said, this is my second book. And I've been, you know, I've been knocking around God since the late 80s now doing silliness for a living. And it's really sort of weird, you know, at this stage of my life and now my late 50s to actually find something that I really like doing. And I really, I really like writing. I really enjoy it.

And the good thing is, I didn't start doing it 30 years ago, because I think I've got about four or five ideas. So hopefully, I won't run out.

Valerie Khoo

Right. So have you already started working on your next book?

Mikey Robins

I've just finished actually scripting a podcast series with a with a real historian, a guy called Paul Wilson, who is an Oxford graduate. He's best known for writing a book The Silk Roads, which was very…

Valerie Khoo

Oh yeah.

Mikey Robins

Yeah. And Paul and I, this may come as no surprise to anyone, met in the pub. And we started knocking around and, you know, he said, “what are you up to?” And I'd just finished writing this book, it was early this year. And I said, “what do you do?” And he says, “I'm an historian.” And so we've just…

I mean, the original idea was we were just gonna have some history chats. And then we realized that it probably would work better if we scripted it. Because there's just, there's so much information you have to get across. And yet at the same time craft it and make it interesting.

So it's called And The Rest is History. And it's basically going to be where history turns… Well, you've read Reprehensible, so you know what interests me and Paul as well. Well, history turns on bizarre little circumstances and mistakes and follies. The way I can describe it is the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand which started off World War I. Well, his chauffeur, this comes down to the very gist of the story, the very heart of it, it all comes down to his chauffeur taking a wrong turn in the streets of Sarajevo and still in the car, right out the front of the coffee shop where Princip, the assassin, was having a cup of tea.

And so it looks at history through that image. Like the role that gout played in the American Revolution.

Valerie Khoo

The…?

Mikey Robins

Gout. Gout. Yeah.

Valerie Khoo

Okay.

Mikey Robins

It actually played quite a bit. So it's looking at those moments in history where things have turned on… We like to think, well we say in the show, we like to think of history as being a broad march of intellects. But sometimes things happen because we stuff up.

Valerie Khoo

Or it's a sliding doors moment.

Mikey Robins

It's a sliding doors moment. And so we've just finished scripting that. And I'm thinking about my next book.

Valerie Khoo

Which is going to be?

Mikey Robins

The working title at the moment is Idiots, Follies and Misadventures: The fine art of being wrong. In a similar vein to Reprehensible. I've got the opening line, which is always good. My grandmother used to say, “stupid is as stupid does and stupid has been doing very well lately.”

Valerie Khoo

Haha. Yes, okay.

Mikey Robins

So in a similar vein. But at the moment, I'm really excited about getting this podcast up and running. And then probably time to think about another book. Because a) I really enjoy it. And quite frankly, it doesn't look like there's going to be much live work in the next few…

Valerie Khoo

So tell me about, so you've got this idea for your next book. And are you… I'm interested in the information gathering process of this. What's the likely scenario over the next X number of years, months, you tell me, that you'll start.

Mikey Robins

Months.

Valerie Khoo

Right.

Mikey Robins

Months. With the last book and the one before, it's usually about four months before I even write a word.

Valerie Khoo

And do you think you will find your topics first and research those topics or you will gather like a bowerbird again, and then cluster them?

Mikey Robins

Yeah, I will… My first thing is to compile a list of about 150 stories and reference points to go back and find them. And then I'll look at that and I'll decide, is there a book in it? Is it fun? And how can I structure it?

Valerie Khoo

Interesting. And why don't you do it the other way?

Mikey Robins

Because I hadn't thought of that.

Valerie Khoo

Haha.

Mikey Robins

I'm sorry, but I hadn't thought of that. You know what, I might do that. Let me get a pen and paper. Do it the other way.

Valerie Khoo

Well, it just seems a little bit more efficient, that's all.

Mikey Robins

It does but that's sort of not how my brain works. It does tend to fly off on tangents.

Valerie Khoo

Yeah, right.

Mikey Robins

And then the job is… I'm just thinking, it's like my super ego's job is to be the blue heeler and my brain is a bunch of sheep. And the sheep go running out and eventually when it's time to get the work done I call out the blue heeler and we put them all in the paddock where we can actually shear the fleece and get the stories off them.

Valerie Khoo

Oh my god! So what is your go to – I know you've done research online, sure – but is your go to, you know, books, academic stuff, or television?

Mikey Robins

Books. Actually, no, and quite frankly, yeah, I do watch a lot of History Channel. And I'd be lying if I said… Some of the starting points for both books I've written have been things I've seen on TV and I go, well that's interesting. Then I'll go off and research it. Now whether I do that with a book, because, you know, I said before I'm a middle-class old guy. My books, my bookshelves are filled with nonfiction. My best friend constantly rides me that I don't read enough fiction. I mean, and he's right.

I'll start with books or I'll go online. It's sort of surprising. And then sometimes something will, you'll be looking at something, and you'll go down the rabbit hole and what you come out with is not the story that you started off to find.

Valerie Khoo

Yeah.

Mikey Robins

I'll give you an example. It was actually in my first book and I was researching about how modern chefs were doing the wanky thing and using ash as an ingredient. So I started researching ash in cooking. And that story sort of went away. But what I found by a day's research on that was that the Roman gladiators actually had a health drink that involved ash and vinegar and herbs. In fact, it was high in electrolytes. So in fact, the ancient Roman gladiators invented Gatorade. The first sports drink.

And so there is that sort of constant surprise. It's happened in this book as well. And it will happen in the next one. I'll start at one premise and then I'll end up somewhere else.

Valerie Khoo

Right. What was the most rewarding thing about writing this book?

Mikey Robins

Um… Actually, that's a good question. Um, finishing it? No.

Valerie Khoo

Well, apart from that.

Mikey Robins

No, actually, the fact that I find this stuff interesting. And the fact that when you look at stories of… I'll give you an example of when I was writing it, and there was this pope who sort of rose through watching, who rose to power by watching all the other contenders to be pope tear each other apart through scandal and shouting and charges over blasphemy and all sorts. And it was basically watching this rather ordinary guy just steer his way through by keeping his head down and becoming Pope. As I was writing it, Scott Morrison was coming to the leadership of the Liberal Party. It is those moments where you look at something and you go, yeah, oh, I get it. Yeah, we're still doing that. Okay. Yeah.

Valerie Khoo

Yeah.

Mikey Robins

And nothing against Scott Morrison. I mean, look, people know my politics.

Valerie Khoo

Sure. And finally, what would be your top three tips to somebody who is keen to get published and write?

Mikey Robins

First off, write. I know everyone says that. And I've got so many friends who are saying, you know, “I've got this great idea.” Well, start writing it. Start writing. You know, when…

And then once you've got something, show it to people. I know that sounds ridiculous. Show it to people.

And, you know, just go through the phone book and find a literary agent, if that works. I actually have management.

But the most important thing is to… Whether you're… It's just to set aside, I know that's really hard, particularly these days. But don't talk about doing it; do it.

I mean, one of my best mates who's never written even an article in his life, has just finished… He was talking about he was going to do it. I ran into him the other day and I said, “What have you been up to? And he said, “I finished that detective novel I was talking about.” I said, “You've finished it?” And he said, “Oh yeah, I've actually sent it off to an agent and they seemed to like it.”

Valerie Khoo

Oh wow.

Mikey Robins

It was like, great! I said, “Well, you know, just do it.”

Just do it.

And, also, don't worry if the first thing you put down you hate, because you can always fix it.

Valerie Khoo

Yep, great. So number one, write. Number two, show it to people. And number three, set aside the time set to make sure you actually make it happen.

Mikey Robins

Yeah, make it happen, make it happen. And once again, too, the first thing you put down on the page doesn't have to be the thing that goes out with a cover on it.

Valerie Khoo

Yes, right. Great. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Mikey. Reprehensible: Polite histories of bad behaviour. Cracker of a book. It's going to sell its socks off. Congratulations.

Mikey Robins

Well, thank you so much. You've been very, very kind.

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