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."
I had the chance to ask Russell a few questions about his new book, Dreamwalker, so enjoy!
Gef: Where did you get the inspiration for Dreamwalker?
Gef: Where did you get the inspiration for Dreamwalker?
Russell: I have dreams the way the main character, Pete Holm, does, with recurring storylines. When I am in a dream, I remember previous dreams in that same imaginary location. I wondered what it would be like if one of those places was more than just somewhere in my head, actually happening in parallel on some other plane. I was also doing unrelated research on voodoo and the two ideas meshed pretty well.
Gef: With your previous books released through Samhain, the settings seemed to have a supernatural element imposing itself on a contemporary setting, whereas Dreamwalker appears to go one step further with a fantastical world setting as well. What was it about this book, if anything, that you approached differently from the previous titles?
Russell: Doing the world building for Dreamwalker was really fun. I can usually only to do it when I write science fiction. I liked building Twin Moon City and all the details of the castle Cauquemere, the voodoo spirit, rules from.
Gef: How intensive does the research process get for you? What little tricks have you picked up with approaching the research phase of writing?
Russell: Some books don’t need much research, like Dark Vengeance, where I did a little research on a South American horror myth. I just finished a historical novel that need a ton of research. Most books are somewhere in between. I can find most of what I need on the Internet, but for upcoming Q Island I plied a friend of mine who’s a nurse for lots of medical details. She still talks to me for some reason.
When I’m writing I have two files, one is the manuscript, and the other is research. That second file has notes and ideas about the story, and vast swatches of stuff cut and pasted from the Internet, some of which I only use a sentence of as a reference. It never fails that the research sparks even more items in the notes and ideas page.
Gef: Growing up on Long Island, was there any kind of local folklore to influence your taste for horror? How about living in Florida for that matter? The Sunshine State doesn't strike me as a place steeped in the supernatural like New England states.
Russell: Growing up, my horror tastes were more influenced by television. In those long-ago pre-cable/satellite days, there were the three network stations and two local independents. The locals played B-movies, Twilight Zone, and Chiller Theater with the creepy hand coming out of a swamp in the credits. Those got the ball rolling.
You would think that sunny, tourist-friendly Florida wouldn’t have its scares, but I set my novel Black Magic in south Florida. The Everglades is pretty chilling, full of alligators, boa constrictors and nasty insects, even before I layered in a little supernatural.
Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of the horror genre?
Russell: Horror lets us explore the human condition at a distance, look at the darkness within us without having to experience it first-hand. For example, The Walking Dead TV series lets us see the heights of people’s personal sacrifice and compassion right alongside the depths of their depravity and avarice. And you also get to watch people shove tire irons through zombie skulls, always solid entertainment.
Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?
Russell: I wish that people would stop encouraging writers to self-publish as a start to a career, unless the author is willing to make the investment needed to make it work. That means an investment in the author’s skills through practice and some sort of classes on writing. That means an investment in editorial services for content and proofreading. That means getting a cover and promotional blurbs that are professional grade. Badly prepared writing does not sell, and that failure makes people who have potential quit in frustration, and weakens the public perception of the market.
Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?
Russell: Comic books. My wife got me Justice League and Superman omnibus collections for Christmas. Each one is four inches thick. I could sit and read those all day, but I’m trying to pace myself.
Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?
Russell: I’m in two benefit short story collections that just came out, Still Out of Time (time travel stories) and Centauri Station (space-themed sci-fi.) Royalties from both of these go to Doctors Without Borders. A new Samhain novel, Q Island, goes on sale this summer. In that one, a plague breaks out on Long Island and it becomes a quarantine zone. Then there’s a mostly finished novel about the Devil trying to get his hands on a portal to Hell and a few other ideas in the half-cooked phase. Drop by at www.russellrjames.com or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Russell-James-Author/172907172791996 .
Gef: Well, thanks for stopping by, Russell. As for the rest of you, how about a little GIVEAWAY to sweeten the deal. Russell and Hook of a Book are offering up 2 of Russell's already published novels. If you'd like a chance to win one of them, just click on this link and fill out the Rafflecopter form or enter below. The giveaway ends on February 28th.