Featured Author: Jeff Russell
Q: In one sentence, tell me something that describes you as a person?
A: I am fascinated by often overlooked elements of the world around us and the history that brought us here.
Q: How many books have you written? How many of those are published?
A: I’ve written six books to date, five of which are self-published. Traditional publishing has its benefits but requires resources that I’d rather spend on writing my next book.
Q: Do you have an upcoming release? If yes, tell me the title and impending release date.
A: I’m working on a new story but that release is at least a year away. I’m a slow writer.
Q: Tell me about how you come up with your titles for your stories. Do you create the title before or after you write the book, and does it ever change from the initial title?
A: The title will usually come to me when I’m about half-way through a project. Candidates come and go until the perfect one pops into my head. Often this happens when I’m not consciously thinking about the story.
Q: Out of all your characters in all of your books, who/what (sometimes a setting can also be an important “character”) do you think is the most interesting and why?
A: I’ve become very good friends with each of my characters, even the antagonists, and so it would be difficult to pick one as a favorite. From a reader’s perspective I think that Gus Henderson from The Dream Shelf would qualify as most interesting. Gus talks in riddles (“Look at the book you took, kid. Look at the book you took and remove the common denominator. Come back when you figure it out.”) His daughter Karen fears that her father is suffering from dementia. Sam Archer, the protagonist, thinks that Gus may be playing some twisted sort of game. It is up to the reader to decide if Gus has a hidden agenda.
Q: If you could “create” your own genre of what you write, what would you call your books?
A: My books are about ordinary people caught in extraordinary situations, people who must think their way through unprecedented challenges, usually with a touch of light romance tossed in. Something simple like ‘How do I get out of this mess and when did I fall in love?’ literature would suffice.
Q: Without quoting your back cover synopsis, tell me about the last book you published.
A: The Perpetual Order of Old People was written for a target audience of a dozen guys, some of whom contributed their personal stories to add authenticity to my otherwise fictional tale. It was my way of documenting a portion of their lives, for those are stories that deserve to be retold.
Q: Tell me something about yourself that is separate from writing.
A: I am a distance runner and going out for three hour jogs is not unusual. Running is therapeutic and a great opportunity to work the kinks out of a broken plot. I am also a model-maker, focusing specifically on props related to my stories. The ship-in-a-bottle and ship’s lantern seen on my website were inspired by Cab’s Lantern. I also have a full-size replica of the ‘dream shelf’ hanging over my desk.
Q: Who is your favorite Author?
A: This may sound sacrilegious but I don’t have a favorite author. I write for entertainment and read for education, specifically studying the techniques different authors use to connect with the reader. In that sense all authors become my teacher and since most of those authors teach the same lesson from one book to the next I seldom read more than one or two from each before moving on to someone new. If I had to pick an author who made the greatest impression it would be a tie between Jules Verne and Hemingway.
Q: What is the last book that you read? (Not counting anything you wrote)
A: Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson. I chose that because it was a PEN/Faulkner Award winner and because the story is a dark drama, a subject I would like to master.
Q: When writing, do you have a system or something you plan, or do you just write?
A: I am definitely a planner. The idea that eventually spawns a story always begin with a ‘what if’ question. What if I found an antique lantern that still glowed deep underwater? (Cab’s Lantern). What if I could condition a person to dream something specific? (The Girl Who Watched Over Dreams). When I settle on an intriguing premise I then look for some way to make that scenario technically feasible so that no suspension of belief is necessary on the part of the reader. Typically this requires months of research and only those processes that pass the reality test become actual stories. Flow-charts, story boards and character/conflict arcs go up on the wall over my writing desk. Then I get to work.
Q: Why do you write?
A: Purely for the challenge and love of the creative process. Once I feel the inspiration for a story I will write it even if there is little chance that anyone will ever read it. Clearly this is not the path to fame and fortune but those were never part of the plan.
Q: Do you read your own work a lot? If so, what does it do for you?
A: I read and re-read a given work in progress countless times but once it is published I may wait a few years before going back to it. When I do I am usually pleased. Revisiting Cab’s Lantern inspired me to write the sequel, Afterlight.
Q: What is your favorite type of music? Is there one genre (or song, band etc...) that brings out your creativeness more than others?
A: I find that light jazz with no vocals provides a soothing, non-distractive environment that helps clear my mind, however I need absolute quiet (or as close as I can get) when I sit down to write. Early in the morning works best for me.
Q: As an author, I find that the hardest thing to write (for me) is the synopsis that will be on the back cover or book’s description. When you write, what is the hardest line to write, the first line, the last line or the synopsis for the book?
A: Definitely the synopsis, though I usually work on that first, writing something that sums up what I want the story to mean to the reader. Once I am satisfied that it represents an intriguing premise I build an outline to match the synopsis and everything pretty much falls into place after that.
Q: If you could sit down and have a coffee (or whatever beverage) with anyone, living or dead, from any era, any time, who would it be and why? (You can pick up to 3 persons).
A: First, Jules Verne, to tell him that a his wildly imaginative tale of a submarine that traveled Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea using a revolutionary power system would someday be realized and that the first such vessel would take its name – Nautilus – from his story.
Second, Victor Appleton II, to tell him that his Tom Swift series of books would inspire a wide-eyed youngster to pursue the sciences and that after a long and successful career in the technical field the grown-up version of that youngster would turn to writing stories in the hope of inspiring others.
Finally, Groucho Marx, who once said “Outside of a dog a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” He might be interested to know that with today’s back-lit e-readers even that feat is theoretically possible.
Q: Any final thoughts that you want to give to your fans or even future authors?
A: I am always happy to find new readers and content to give my stories away. Drop me a line at JeffRussell@CabsLantern.com and I will send an ebook copy in whatever format you prefer.
For aspiring authors … write for the pleasure of writing, as that reward is guaranteed.