A little while back Russell James sent me a couple of copies of his books, including his most recent novel, Q Island, which I’ll be reviewing later this month. He even took the time to sign them and to warn me about some questionable dietary choices. I’d like to say thank you for the kindness, Russell, and for the wise culinary advice. I’d also like to say thank you for being kind enough to take the time to do this interview today. Without further ado, let’s hear what Russell’s got to say.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up on Long Island, New York, which has worked into the settings of a few of my novels. After college, I spent five years flying helicopters in the U.S. Army, which worked into the characters in a few stories. Now I live with my lovely wife in Florida, which is the setting for several other novels. I just realized how completely uncreative I truly am.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Dark Fiction is probably the best descriptor of the kind of novels I write. Sometimes people associate a lot of gore with the genre name horror, and while there are some violent scenes in my books, especially Q Island, I think that there are more scares to be found elsewhere. My stories more frequently visit dark places (like the alternate reality of Twin Moon City in Dreamwalker and the post apocalyptic disaster in Q Island) or dark characters (like the Woodsman in Sacrifice or the witches in Dark Vengeance).
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
When is that? Seriously, as a hobby I restore classic muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s. The current project is a 1968 Camaro convertible with a fire-breathing inline six cylinder and a four speed manual transmission. I picked her up in Wichita and her name is Dorothy because she’s not in Kansas anymore.
Who are your favorite authors?
I’ve been trying to stay caught up with the horror releases from Samhain, though it is pretty much impossible. Lately I’ve really enjoyed Kristopher Rufty, Hunter Shea and Matt Mannochio.
Who was your biggest influence/inspiration as a writer?
Stephen King would certainly be an influence. His were the first big fat books that I could sit and read for hours and wonder where the time went.
What is your favorite book?
My favorite horror book is probably The Stand for its epic sweep and excellent characters. I also liked how much effort King put into figuring out the practical necessities in that world. That part so impressed me that I put Q Island off for a while, intimidated by having to tackle the same problem in my post apocalyptic world.
What is your favorite film?
Robin and Marian (1976) with Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn. Old Robin Hood returns from the Crusades to see how much his lost youth he can revive. Excellent themes of true love, true friendship, and true rivalry. This has been my favorite film since its release.
Any standout favorite book(s) of 2015?
I really hated Kristopher Rufty after reading his latest, Desolation. It is an excellent, no-holds barred suspense thriller. Made me so jealous.
Which of your own works is your favorite?
Lately I’ve been partial to Dreamwalker. Pete, a college kid, learns that his vivid, recurring dream isn’t a dream at all, but an alternate reality, a bombed out cityscape populated by zombies who hunt the terrified souls trapped there after death. It is run by an evil voodoo god. Pete has to come up with a plan to rescue the soul of the literal girl of his dreams. But if he dies in that world, he dies in both. Most of my stories have a supernatural element in a real world setting. In this novel I had the freedom to create an entire supernatural world, with its own magic system. That was a lot of fun and I think the enthusiasm I had showed in the finished work.
In your opinion, what are the elements of a good story?
The first is, you must have good characters, ones that people can connect and empathize with. If the reader doesn’t care what happens to the hero, there is zero tension when he is put in danger.
In no particular order after that, a story has to move. No navel-gazing introspection, no four-page back story, no meandering conversations. Every chapter, every paragraph lives to advance the story. Then, horror/thriller readers want a roller coaster with more downward rushes then upward pulls. I also like a thriller to have plenty of twists, plenty of “Oh wow!” reveals that sent the hero in a different, untraveled direction.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
It’s hard to say because each one is different. Dark Inspiration is a haunted house story, Sacrifice has a group of guys battling an evil spirit across three decades, Dark Vengeance has witches, Black Magic is about an evil sorcerer who sets up a magic shop for kids. I don’t know how to compare them. I guess people should just see which aspect of paranormal thrillers is their favorite, and go for that one first.
What is your latest novel? Also, can you talk about any of your upcoming publications or anything you’re currently working on?
Q Island is my latest novel. In it, a virus that turns people into psychotic killers breaks out on Long Island, New York. The government drops a quarantine and no one can leave. Melanie Bailey and her autistic son, Aiden are trapped there. Aiden becomes infected, but does not get sick. In fact, his autism gets better. She realizes he may be the key to more than one cure, if she can get him off the island. She has to get him past the crazed infected, past the government troops, and out of the hands of a gang leader who has his own designs on a boy who may be the cure.
My next novel is called The Portal and comes out in June 2016 from Samhain Horror. Three hundred years ago, the Devil tried to open a portal to hell on a small island between Massachusetts and Long Island. He failed, but he’s finally back to try again. Only Allie and Scott hold the key to stopping him. But they haven’t seen each other in the ten years since their relationship ended, and the baggage they both bring with them may prevent them from keeping the Portal closed.
I also have two manuscripts in the works, a follow-up to Q Island and a thriller manuscript about a guy who has premonitions about serial killings, then realizes that might be because he’s the killer.
If you could write a collaboration with any other author, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Mark Twain. Then I’d just sit and watch him write.
Any other thoughts or information you’d like to share before we wrap this up?
I hope that Kindle readers will try some of the sci-fi and time travel short story collections on my Amazon author page. I put these together with my awesome Minnows Literary Group and we send all the royalties to Doctors Without Borders. All the collections sell well, have a pile of great reviews, and have generated thousands of dollars for a worthy cause. Each is only 99 cents. You can also read them on Kindle Unlimited and that earns money for the cause as well.
Amazon author page:
Thanks for the opportunity for the interview!
Q Island Synopsis:
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.
About the 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 firstname.lastname@example.org