Interview: Russell James

Posted: February 17, 2015 in Interviews, Uncategorized
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Today I am happy to have Samhain Horror author Russell James on The Horror Bookshelf for an interview following the release of his stellar new novel Dreamwalker (review). Also, be sure to enter the blog tour giveaway following the interview for a chance to win one of Russell’s previous novels! A huge thanks to Russell for answering my questions and to Erin Al-Mehairi of Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for inviting me to participate on this blog tour!

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I have read in other interviews that you got your start in writing through joining a writing class. Do you still belong to a literary group and if so how has that helped you in your writing career?

I am still a member of the Minnows Literary Group and it has been a great experience. We give each other feedback on novels and short stories we send out for submission, and we collaborate on sci-fi benefit anthologies. Our latest anthology STILL OUT OF TIME has been in the Amazon Top 25 Anthology list since it came out and has earned a nice sum for Doctors Without Borders.

Our group works for several reasons. The first is that it is honest. If something doesn’t flow for one of us, we will talk about it, politely, professionally. The second is that the group is diverse. We are a stock broker, a Broadway musician, a homesteader, a legal assistant, a tech writer for a Fortune 50 company, and a full time writer. We live in two countries, and in locations as dissimilar as New York City and rural Idaho. Everyone adds a different perspective during feedback. I embrace the recommendations that hit home, and even the ones that don’t force me to mentally defend my writing decisions. I’ll admit losing a few of those internal arguments.

All my teammates there have given me excellent writing coaching, and I do consider us a team.
All of your novels have been published through Samhain Horror, which is one of my favorite publishers. How did you end up joining Samhain?

During a writing class, the instructor mentioned that Samhain had an open call for horror novels with a new top-notch editor, Don D’Auria. I had just finished a fourth novel manuscript that had yet to make the rounds for agent and publisher rejections. I thought “Well, might as well get rejected by one of the best.” So I sent DARK INSPIRATION off. The note came that it was accepted and I literally fell to my knees, breathless. Since then, the excellent thing about Samhain is the feeling of family from the organization and other authors. Don is excellent to work with and I’m happy to always send the next novel manuscript there first.
One of the things that I loved about Dreamwalker is that even though there are elements of interacting with dreams, parallel worlds and evil spirits, the story still feels realistic because Pete also faces very real danger in the real world. Was it challenging to blend the two elements together?

Creating Dreamwalker was like writing half the book as a straight up thriller, even though both realities intersect and impact each other. When Pete is in Twin Moon City, my imagination could run wild with zombies driving Jeeps and spirits spinning nightmares in a castle. But once Pete reawakens in Atlantic City, I had to switch mental gears and be sure everything was grounded and believable. Locations had to ring true to life, drug lord Jean St. Croix had be threatening without becoming cartoonish and outsized. It was work, but I really enjoyed the detail of setting up the parallel worlds.

I loved the world building that takes place in the novel, particularly the dream realm of Twin Moon City. What was the inspiration behind the depiction of this city in the dream world? Was it difficult fleshing out the details to create such a vivid world or did it just come naturally?

I wish I knew where Twin Moon City came from so I could go back to that well for more future inspiration. I think that place is cool. To read about. Being stuck there would be hell. Some of the feel for the place came from watching newsreels from Europe just after World War II, where whole cities were devastated. People were still cleaning up that mess in the 1950’s. The more time I spent in Twin Moon City in my head, the more details came about. I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, so that’s how things go in my process.

While Dreamwalker ends on a pretty definitive note, there are elements of the story that seem like they could expand into future books. Do you have any plans to continue Pete’s story and/or other people who may share similar gifts?

I wasn’t planning on it, but a few ideas have surfaced. Pete and Rayna’s story could certainly have another chapter. And if Cauquemere had his parallel realm, there may certainly be others. We’ll see if a lot of people want to read more.

How did you get inspired to use voodoo as a central element in Dreamwalker?

I had the idea of making dreaming important in the story, and started doing some research on dream mythology. The story of the petraloa spirit Cauquemere and his delivery of nightmares fit right onto what I had in mind, and voodoo joined the cast of characters.

In your afterword, you mention that you did a lot of research regarding voodoo while writing Dreamwalker. What was it like delving into that world?

Scary as hell. Imagined horror, like vampires, werewolves, space aliens, those are all fictional exercises. I can write those with a bit of detachment. Real life supernatural stuff, like Ouija boards, ghosts and hauntings, and I’ll toss documented demonic possession in there, those things set my hair on end. Voodoo did that big time. For Haiti to legally ban it gives it a legitimacy that tarot cards and séances just don’t have. I believe that voodoo reaches over into a darker plane of our world, as other practices do. It concerned me enough that while all the voodoo practices described in the book are documentedin my research, I altered bits to keep the book from being a how-to manual. I don’t want that on my conscience.

What is a typical day of writing like for you?

My favorite writing day is to get up a few hours after most people go to bed, exercise, and then start writing before the sun even comes up. I quit for lunch, do something physical for a while, then do a few more hours in the afternoon. That is an excellent 3000+ word day. What do I usually get? An hour or two before or after the day job each day.

What drew you into the world of horror and what is your favorite thing about the genre?

I grew up reading King and Koontz and Serling and Matheson, so that pretty much pigeon-holed me into an appreciation of the horror genre. There is something alluring about exploring the darker side of humanity, and existence in general, through fiction. I love that moment when a chill races up your spine.

What horror novel has had the biggest impact on you as a writer and who are some of your favorite current writers?

Recently I had a story make a big impact. I had an idea for an apocalyptic novel where Long Island, NY becomes a quarantine zone for a resurrected virus that turns people into psychopathic killers. Part way onto that, the whole world-building process seemed too overwhelming, and I shelved it. Later, I read Joe McKinney’s excellent QUARANTINE about cops solving a murder in plague-ridden, quarantined San Antonio. I’m no Joe McKinney, but it showed me how that kind of world-building could be done. So I dusted off the file and went back to work. The finished product, Q ISLAND comes out in June.

If you could choose any writer to collaborate with, who would you choose and why?

I’ve done two kinds of collaborations. The first was around a theme. I was one of four winners in Samhain Horror’s Gothic-themed novella contest. JG Faherty, Devon Govaere, Catherine Cavendish and I all had novellas published in one book called WHAT WAITS IN THE SHADOWS. We all worked together a lot after that on cross promotion.

The second kind of collaboration is much more direct. Janet Guy, Kelly Horn, Teresa Robeson, Paul Siluch and Belinda Whitney are my critique group members who create the short story benefit anthologies. Each author in the collection heavily critiques the work of the other five, and I respect all of them so much. All the short stories in those collections certainly were enhanced through suggestions by those great folks. Our first collection OUT OF TIME has sold strong for two years and earned thousands for Doctors Without Borders, so that testifies to the quality the cooperative effort delivers.

I think a novel would be tough to collaborate on. I’m a seat-of-the pants writer, so I don’t fully know where the story is going while I’m writing it. I think I’d torture another writer putting him through that.

What other stories are you currently working on?

I have a manuscript about Satan trying to find a lost portal to Hell that had been hidden by 18th century witches. He puts a town under siege to find it. One couple might be able to stop him, but Satan had a corrupt police chief and some dedicated mercenaries on his side. There also seems to be a few problems with the town’s pets turning killer. Another family classic in the making.

I’ll also be in another benefit sci-fi anthology RETURN TO CENTAURI STATION in June and time travel collection FOREVER OUT OF TIME in December.

Thanks for answering my questions Russell and I am definitely looking forward to your next book!

Dreamwalker tour logo

 Giveaway

1. Open reviewer giveaway: Anyone who reviews Dreamwalker on Amazon and one other site like GoodReads, etc. and sends Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, their links to hookofabook@hotmail.com will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card. This contest ends on Feb. 28, 2015.

2. Rafflecoper giveaway for two copies of Russell’s previous books. Two winners will each win one of two books, Black Magic and Dark Inspiration. US only, no international shipping. Must use a valid email that you can be reached by. By entering the giveaway, you consent to allow Russell to have your email for very infrequent newsletter updates. Contest ends Feb. 28, 2015. Other contest questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, Hook of a Book Media at hookofabook@hotmail.com.

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/231aa30b16/?

About Russell James

Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and The Twilight Zone, despite his parents’ warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn’t make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.

After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales best read in daylight. He has written the paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, and Dreamwalker. He has two horror short story collections, Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness. His next novel, Q Island, releases in 2015.

His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.”

Visit his website at www.russellrjames.com and read some free short stories.

He and his wife share their home in sunny Florida with two cats.

To find out more about Russell R. James, please visit his Website or follow him on Facebook! Join him on Twitter, @RRJames14. Also, feel free to drop him at a line at rrj@russellrjames.com.

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Comments
  1. hookofabook says:

    Thanks again, Rich. Great interview!

  2. It’s an honor and a pleasure to be in the same critique group as Russell. He is super talented and a consummate professional.

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