Escape From Q Island: An interview with Russell James

Posted: July 20, 2015 in Interviews, Uncategorized
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Today I am happy to welcome back Russell James to The Horror Bookshelf for an interview in support of Q Island (review), which is out now through Samhain Horror. If you are a fan of apocalyptic fiction, this is one book you will definitely want to add to your summer reading list. We talk about Q Island, his upcoming work and horror conventions. A big thank you to Russell for stopping by to answer my questions and to Erin Al-Mehairi of Hook of a Book Media & Publicity for having me on the tour!

Be sure to enter the blog tour giveaway following the interview for a chance to win one of two audiobook copies of Dreamwalker. 

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Thanks for stopping by The Horror Bookshelf Russell, it is nice to have you back!

Thanks for having me back, Rich.

Q: What sort of events helped inspire you to create Q Island?

In 2008 I watched the events that unfolded in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina came ashore. Parts of the city were isolated, power out, communications disrupted. The scariest thing was how quickly the structure of society unraveled. Looting seemed to happen instantly. There were stories of people abandoning their public sector jobs to save themselves before others. I remember a nightmare scenario about people in a blacked-out hospital who were too sick to be moved, but caregivers had to evacuate. The Superdome became Hell-on-Earth. This was real life horror on a big scale.

I wondered what would happen on even a bigger scale, in a scenario where there wasn’t the knowledge that eventually, waters would recede and help would arrive. I thought about a quarantine, and hometown Long Island was the perfect candidate. A few bridges, a tunnel and some ferries were all that would kept people from getting out. Pretty easy to contain and all of a sudden millions of people have their own Katrina scenario.

Q: In the acknowledgements you mentioned that you started Q Island a few years ago and shelved the story for awhile. What prompted you to start writing it again and were there any major changes to the story from the initial version?

The world building aspect of the quarantine zone got overwhelming. Is there power and water? Who pays for that when hardly anyone can work? How are the seas sealed off? What about food? How are separated families managing? How quickly would the island run out of gasoline? Cell phone and Internet traffic would swamp the systems. It was just one thing after another, with me double thinking each scene to make sure that whatever the characters were doing would really be doable in that environment. I didn’t think I could keep it all straight for the year it usually takes to write a novel.

Then I read Quarantine by Joe McKinney, about a city in Texas isolated as a plague hot spot. He really pulled off the world-building well. That showed me it was possible, and while I’m no Joe McKinney, I thought I might be able to pull it off.

Q: The last time you stopped by The Horror Bookshelf to talk about Dreamwalker, you described yourself as a “seat-of-the-pants” writer. Q Island has a few different plot points taking place, was it difficult to keep them all moving forward and connected?

There are three plotlines in Q Island. One is Melanie Bailey trying to get her son Aiden safely off the island. The second in Dr. Samuel Bradshaw working with the CDC to find a cure in a makeshift lab at the closed JFK airport. The third is Jimmy Wade, a low-life crook who gets the opportunity to rise to the top of a criminal gang. Eventually, the stories all come together, but they were nearly unrelated in the beginning. I wrote chunks of them separately, then had to sequence the chapters so the stories unfolded in parallel. There was a lot of rearranging and rewriting so that the big picture of when quarantine drops, when supplies get short, when the military intervenes, all happened at the same time for everyone.

In the end, I lost a scene I really liked, where Dr. Bradshaw’s infected wife breeches JFK security. It just didn’t fit anymore.

Q: I loved your creation of the Paleovirus and its ability to infect people in a myriad of ways. Did you have any specific inspiration for the creation of the virus and its spreading mechanisms?

The Paleovirus mutates through its lifespan. Tadpoles into frogs and caterpillars into butterflies are the most well-known physical species transformations. The gender of alligator egg embryos shift in relation to external temperature while they are in the nest. I just took those ideas down to a more cellular level. The spore manifestation let the virus spread much more quickly to accelerate the quarantine timeline.

Q: Speaking of the versatility of the virus and its ability to spread, I also thought the effects that manifested in the victims were pretty unique! I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but while the victims display the same symptoms, it also has unique effects on each person. How did you come up with that idea?

It’s evolution. A million dead ends and a few successes. The virus did its last bit of dirty work tens of thousands of years ago on species now extinct. Now that it affects a new species, one with much more genetic diversity, a few outliers on the human genome bell curve will likely react differently. A few people in the story react VERY differently.

Q: The events of Q Island seem like they could take place over a few different books are there any sequels in the works? Possibly learning more about why the virus is so varied among its victims?

I’m 30,000 words into another novel set on Q Island. In this one, one main character, who was trapped off-island when the quarantine fell, has lost contact with his family and has to smuggle himself back in to help them. Life on the island has gotten even worse. The longer people exist without the framework of a moral society, the more depraved the scenario becomes. And it seems like evolution has indeed taken its next tentative step forward.

Q: One of the main characters in Q Island, Aiden, has autism spectrum disorder. What inspired you in creating Aiden’s character? Was it challenging for you to write?

Characters who seem useless or a burden can get very interesting when all of a sudden they are indispensable. People around them sudden realize, “Hey, that kid is a human being after all.” I wanted to have that happen here, and an autistic child is the kind of kid a lot of people just look at as an encumbrance they are glad they do not have to manage.

What did I know about autism? Nothing. But my wife knew it all. She is the principal of a private school for children with learning disabilities, almost all of them low and very low income. She’s had children all along the autism spectrum in her classrooms and worked with each parent on finding what their child needed to be successful. I spent an awful lot of time discussing Aiden’s character with her. The good news is it paid off because I’ve had a number of readers with autistic children tell that the portrayal rang very true.

Q: Put yourself into the shoes of a resident on Q Island. What would your plan be for survival?

It is all about self-sufficiency and security. Those two things are kind of mutually exclusive, because both are full time jobs. So people would have to band together to specialize in tasks. And I’m not trusting any of those crazy people trapped here with me. I’m kind of thinking sailboat, fishing tackle, and lots of firearms. Put some water between me and those Paleovirus victims.

Q: Similar to the previous question, based on a pure survival standpoint, which character of Q Island would you want to form an alliance with in the event of an outbreak?

I’m sticking with Tamara. She’s the kick-ass nurse who takes no crap from anyone and is so cool in an emergency that she can treat herself when she gets stabbed in the eye with a butterfly needle. She has medical skills, and her toughness is well-tempered with the compassion to apply those skills with care.

Q: Your next novel for Samhain is called The Portal and is scheduled for release next June. Is there anything you can tell readers about that?

The Portal is a return to seriously supernatural thrillers.

It seems that there is a device that can open a permanent doorway between Hell and Earth, and the two realities align to make that possible every three hundred years. The Portal is hidden in a small island community off the north Atlantic Coast and Satan has arrived to find it and open it up. Scott Tackett runs the hardware store and discovers a disconcerting family connection to the Portal. Allie Layton has limped home psychologically spent after a flame-out of a Hollywood career. These two former lovers see if they still have any common ground as they try to stop what would certainly be the end of the world. And the bad guys are sure lined up against them.

Q: You are going to be at Scares That Care in a few days. What are some of your favorite things about going to conventions?

I always go to horror cons, and the people are the greatest. Fans there are commonly characterized by non-attendees as sick, twisted weirdoes. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

They are people who love the genre, appreciate a scare, like to peer over into the dark side without actually stepping in. They get into the Halloween spirit out of season and wear some amazing homemade homages to their favorite characters. Everyone is just having a blast.

Now that I’ve been to a few cons more than once, I have returning fans that say how much they liked my last book and are back to buy an inscribed version of my latest release. That is just so amazing. I wrote for years with an audience of one, nearly every author does. When you finally get published, you wonder if the book will connect with people, if readers will enjoy it. Online reviews are a great boost, but inperson reviews can’t be beat.

Thanks again for stopping by The Horror Bookshelf Russell! Is there anything else you would like to let readers know?

A good portion of horror readers cross over into sci-fi. If you are one of them, I’m in several anthologies that benefit Doctors Without Borders. One is space opera, the other two are time travel-themed. You can go to my Amazon page and see all of them. They are under a buck or free through Kindle Unlimited, so give them a try knowing that every cent of the royalties go to Doctors Without Borders the day after the monthly the Amazon deposit happens.


Russell James’ Official Website

Samhain Horror Official Website

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Purchase Q Island: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Samhain Horror

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About Q Island

Q Island is the sixth novel (a novella collection with three other authors makes seven) that Russell James has published with Samhain Horror under legendary horror editor Don D’Auria! He’s also published various other books and short story collections that may be found on Amazon.

It’s an epidemic. An ancient virus is loose on Long Island, NY. Its black-veined victims become sociopathic killers, infecting others through body fluids or a post mortem release of spores. Chaos rules. The island is quarantined.

Melanie Bailey and her autistic son Aiden are trapped. Aiden is bitten, but survives. He might be the key to a cure, if she can escape what the world now calls Q Island. Further east, gang leader Jimmy Wade has also survived infection, and become telepathic with a taste for human flesh.

Wade sets his followers on a search for the immune boy who can make him a god, if only Wade can consume him. A scrappy, one-eyed nurse and a retired pipeline technician agree to help Melanie escape, but it’s a long shot that they can avoid the infected, Wade’s tightening grip and a military ordered to keep everyone on Q Island.

Praise for Russell R. James

“James has a talent for combining action-packed vignettes into a powerful, fast-paced whole.”

Library Journal on Black Magic

(Five Stars, A Night Owl Top Pick) “I loved the story so much that I’m eagerly waiting to read more from him. He carefully and very intricately wove his storyline to have elements of mystery and suspense throughout. I now have a new favorite book I’ll read over and over again.”

Night Owl Reviews on Dark Inspiration

“The book had me at the edge of my seat. The writing is so vivid I even jumped a few times. If you’re a fan of the genre, love ghosts and are drawn to the supernatural, then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book!”

Long and Short Reviews on Dark Inspiration

James fills the novel with compete characters that are easy to care about and cheer for (or against) when appropriate. There is a very strong human element to the novel that allows the reader to sink into the story and become involved in its events.”

The Examiner

Dreamwalker is the first Russell James novel that I have had the pleasure to read and it was an absolute blast! I am definitely looking forward to exploring his previous and upcoming works. There is something for everyone in this novel – action, horror, fantasy and a hint of romance. Highly recommended!”

The Horror Bookshelf

“This could very well be the best horror novel of the year.”

Examiner on Q Island

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 several horror short story collections, including Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness, as well as some science fiction collections. Now, Q Island, released July 7, 2015 and he’s already under contract for his next book for 2016.

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


Rafflecoper giveaway for two audiobook copies of Dreamwalker. Two winners will each win one code for a free audio book, open everywhere. 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 August 31, 2015. Other contest questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, Hook of a Book Media at

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