Monday, October 5, 2015

THE GAL'S 31 DAYS OF HORROR: AMONG THE STACKS: Russell James


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Hi, Russell!  Welcome to The Gal.  Thanks so much for being a part of The Gal's 31 Days of Horror.  It's great having you here today.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Russell James:
I was raised on Long Island outside of New York City.  I spent five years flying helicopters with the U.S. Army and now do technical writing full time.  Q Island is my sixth novel released through Samhain Horror.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Russell James:
I'm having trouble thinking of five interesting things, even ones that people already know.  Most people don't know that I was born in California and we moved to New York when I was four.  I love going back to visit California.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Russell James:
My parents taught me to read before I entered kindergarten.  My kindergarten teacher called my mother to say I was "pretending to read."  I'm old enough that I actually read the Dick & Jane series of primers in school, the See-Spot-Run stories.  We finished the first story, and then went back to read it again.  I remember thinking "I already know how this ends.  Don't we have another book somewhere?"

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Russell James:
Darkness Rising, the latest novella from Brian Moreland.  It is excellent!

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Russell James:
When my wife and I would make a long drive, I'd tell her about story ideas I had, things I thought would make good movies.  She eventually said, "You need to write these stories down and get them published."  I said, "Seriously?  No one would ever want to read anything I've written."  Well, I was wrong on that one.  I started writing about 2006, but my first novel was published in 2011.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Russell James:
The dining room has great sun, with a southern exposure, so that has become my favorite spot.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Russell James:
I'm big on having total silence.  Auditory distractions, especially music, really derail the thought process.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Russell James:
Getting started for the day is the hardest part.  Once I start writing, I can often get quite a bit done, time permitting.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Russell James:
Stephen King's books were really the first that I read that could devour time.  I'd be reading them and all of a sudden a big chunk of the day is missing.  I also loved that he writes in the genres that I love to read, crossing over between horror, thriller, fantasy and science fiction.
            Recently, I've been impressed with Jonathan Janz for his precision-guided vocabulary, Benjamin Kane Ethridge for his surrealism, and Hunter Shea for his mastery of all things monster.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Russell James:
A character that I can love and empathize with.  Without that, it is just an empty plot.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Russell James:
The character has to be real, to have actual, non-fatal flaws and then work to overcome them.  In Q Island, the lead character, Melanie, is married to a real jerk.  The stockbroker got her pregnant while she was a temporary secretary and the firm convinced him to "do the right thing"and avoid a lawsuit.  She starts out mousy and defeated, but she really loves her son Aiden, who has autism.  The infection that quarantines the island is the catalyst for her growth.  Her husband is separated from her on the other side of the Williamsburg Bridge and in no hurry to get home.  She had to fend for herself and her son and ends up doing things she never thought she could.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Russell James:
Nope, I hope, are as boring and pedestrian as I am.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Russell James:
It shouldn't, but a bad book cover will sour me on a book.  And I mean ones that look slapdash, not ones that are good art done in a cheesy style.  It telegraphs, right or wrong, that what is inside is of poor quality.
            I have a lot of input on the covers of my Samhain novels.  They ask for cover ideas and use them, a publishing rarity.  I can show the drawings I made of reach one and almost all of the finished products look just like my design, only way better.
            I have designed all of the covers for all my independent releases through Amazon.  I'm really proud of the time travel anthology covers and Outer Rim, a collection of space stories.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Russell James:
The big discovery was in meeting all the great people who are part of the writing community.  Horror writers especially are some of the nicest folks anywhere, very supportive.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Russell James:
Q Island has a rape scene that I really hated having to write, but it was a turning point for Melanie so I kept it there.  I like to engage my imagination 100% when I'm writing, and that wasn't anything I wanted to imagine being any part of, giving or receiving.  I even cut it out of one beta reader's version and just in "There is a rape scene here."

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Russell James:
The positive reviews from Publisher's Weekly all point out that I have deep characters, both the good guys and the bad guys.  I like to think that is true.  There are a lot of horror writers brought up watching cheap slasher films with two dimensional characters who are there to be victims.  They tend to write books like that.  I try to do the opposite.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Russell James:
The book title is critical.  So critical that publishers will override your stupid idea for one that might sell the work.  The title for Q Island came to me while I was still thinking of the plot for the story.  I just knew that was the one.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Russell James:
I do both, and they are both fulfilling because I try to use the form that best matches the story.  Q Island is a sweeping story of three lead characters and how they react to the infection and quarantine on Long Island.  I couldn't write that as a short story.  But my short story Island Girl is about a 19th century castaway who encounters a spirit on a Pacific island and falls in love with her.  The reveal is the big part of the story, and there is only so much lead up to that you can do without boring people.  So that was most rewarding to do as a short story.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Russell James:
I think of my books as more paranormal thrillers than straight horror.  There's a significant horror element in each, but I think suspense is scarier than gore.  I don't start writing each book with a message for the reader, but a theme usually surfaces by the end.  In Sacrifice, it was about the bonds of friendship.  In Black Magic, it was about the importance of family.  Q Island seems to be that people as a whole are pretty awful, but the ones who aren't make up the rest.  At least that's what readers tell me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Russell James:
I had a scene in Q Island where Doctor Bradshaw's wife, driven mad by the virus, breaks through security to the medical facility set up in abandoned JFK airport.  All hell breaks loose with a horde of the infected behind her.  I loved it, but in the end it just didn't fit as well as the scenes I used instead.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Russell James:
In the beginning of the year, I'll be in a third travel anthology called Forever Out of Time.  It follows Out of Time and Still Out of Time.  All three are benefit anthologies for Doctors Without Borders, each put out by my writing critique group.  By the time this is posted, we will have donated about $6,000 to the charity through our royalties.  So anyone who wants to sample my writing, please start with those and help a worthy cause.
            A bit before that, I'll have a time travel novella out called The Antikythera Answer.  Two time travelers go back to the Roman Empire to find out the history of the Antikythera Device.  That is a real life mechanism found in a shipwreck in the early 20th century that dates back to ancient Rome.  It can determine the position of the moon and stars with a precision unheard of even centuries later.  They go back to discover who made it, and get to answer they can't believe, and that might get them killed.
            In June 2016, my next novel, The Portal, comes out from Samhain.  In it, the Devil returns to a small island town in Long Island South in search of a missing portal to Hell.  It is up to Scott Tackett and Allie Layton to stop him.  They have just been reunited ten years after their breakup and both have some significant personal problems to work through if they are going to foil the Devil's plan.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (You know, STaLKeR links.)

Russell James:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Russell James:
Keep reading.  Ebooks, real books, I don't care.  Just keep encouraging the entertainment that forces you to actively engage your imagination.  It can't be all movies, television, and video games.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Great advice, Russell!!  Thanks for stopping by today :)  It has been a pleasure.


About the author:
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 InspirationSacrificeBlack MagicDark VengeanceDreamwalker and Q Island.  He has two horror short story collections, Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness.  His next novel, The Portal, releases in 2016.
            His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says "There is something seriously wrong with you."

About the book:

Dark Inspiration
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication date: 2.7.2012
Pages: 248

Doug and Laura thought they bought Galaxy Farm, but the old house is possessing them instead.      

Doug and Laura Locke are New Yorkers who need a fresh start, so they move to Galaxy Farm, an old thoroughbred stable in Tennessee.  There Doug finds inspiration to write his epic novel and Laura renews her love of teaching.  They also redisover the love that first drew them together.
            But the home has many secrets.  There's a graveyard hidden at the property's edge, and tragic deaths stalked the previous owners.  Doug has become entranced by the abandoned taxidermy he discovers in the attic.  And Laura falls under the spell of the ghosts of twin girls she meets in the old nursery.  Only a local antiques dealer senses the danger.  She has gruesome premonitions of horrible events to come.  She knows she must convince Laura of the threat before the dark force in the house can execute its plan.  But time is short, and something seems to be very wrong with Doug...

Sacrifice
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication date: 11.6.2012
Pages: 280

Who can save the children from the Woodsman?

Thirty years ago, six high school friends banded together to confront the Woodsman, a murderous specter whose prey was children.  None of the friends will ever forget the horror of those weeks...or blood chilling image of the Woodsman.
            Now the six have returned to town for a long overdue reunion.  Except the Woodsman hasn't finished with them yet.  As a new nightmare unfolds, ripping open old scars and inflicting fresh terror, what will each of them have to sacrifice this time to keep the children safe and the Woodsman at bay?

Black Magic
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication date: 5.7.2013
Pages: 280

In this magic shop the magic is real.  And the trick is on you.

Citrus Glade is a dying town that needs new businesses, but the one that just opened is doing much more harm than good.  Stranger Lyle Miller's magic shop seemed to only stock what its select customers desire.  When four outcast boys buy common party tricks, only Lyle knows that those tricks can really do.  As subtle changes occur around town, a few residents realize that something is amiss...and getting worse.  But it may already be too late.  Lyle's black magic has empowered more townspeople to help him execute his Grand Adventure, a plan that will reduce the town, and half the state, to rubble.

Dark Vengeance
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication date: 3.4.2014
Pages: 264

Will the blood of innocents release the evil trapped at Galaxy Farm?

A coven of witches has moved into the tiny town near Galaxy Farm.  They know about the evil entity that lies trapped there, and they hope to resurrect it and set it free to renew its hunt of mankind.  All they need for their sacrifices is the blood of innocent children.  Only Laura Locke and Theresa Grissom have the skills to defeat this supernatural danger, but their previous brush with the evil at Galaxy Farm has shattered their relationship.  If they can't work together to stop the coven in time, hundreds will die.  Starting with Theresa's son.

Dreamwalker
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication date: 1.6.2015
Pages: 274

Two realities.  One hope.

What if you lived in two worlds, and could die in either?  Pete Holm can.  He is a dreamwalker, able to travel to the realm of dreams, including the devastated world of Twin Moon City, where an evil voodoo spirits holds living souls in terror with his army of the walking dead.
            In the waking world, drug lord Jean St. Croix knows only the power of the dreamwalker can stop him, so St. Croix vows Pete must die.
            Pete is the only hope to rescue the lost souls in Twin Moon City...unless St. Croix kills him first.  Can anyone survive when two realities collide?

Q Island
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publication date: 7.7.2015
Pages: 306

Epidemic!

An ancient virus has surfaced on Long Island, NY, turning its victims into black-veined, infectious, psychopathic killers.  Chaos and madness rule.
            In desperation, the military quarantines the island, trapping Melanie Bailey and her autistic son, Aiden.  Somehow Aiden survives infection.  He could be the key to a cure...if Melanie can get him to the mainland.
            Gang leader Jimmy Wade also survives the virus, but he's acquired a hunger for human flesh.  Believing consuming Aiden will make him all-powerful, he and his gang hunt the boy.  Melanie and Aiden must evade both Wade's tightening grip and the growing army of the infected in an impossible escape from what all call Q Island.

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