July 10, 2015

Long Island's Short Fuse: an interview (and giveaway) with Russell James, author of "Q Island"

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 rrj@russellrjames.com

About Q Island: 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.

Available at:

Gef: You don't seem to be the type of author who likes to stick to just one genre, so what drew you to Q Island and an apocalyptic thriller this time around?

Russell: Ever since reading Stephen King’s The Stand, I’ve liked the apocalyptic genre. What really got me writing Q Island was watching the impact of Hurricane Katrina. That Category 4 hurricane isolated big sections of the city, knocked out power, and cut off communication. Post-apocalypse in a bottle.

What happened? Civilization shattered in hours. There were stories of people abandoning their jobs to save themselves. Looting was near immediate. The Superdome turned into a living nightmare. Some people say, “Oh, society would never disintegrate like in The Walking Dead.” Hell yes it would. And did.

I started thinking about what would happen if this occurred on a larger scale. I grew up on Long Island where a few bridges, a couple of ferries, and a tunnel are all that connect millions to the mainland, so ravaging the hometown would make a great quarantine story. I lucked out that for once my idea might have coincided with what is popular.

Gef: Was there anything writing-wise you had to approach differently with this novel?

Russell: This is the longest novel I’ve ever written, and the three main story lines, Melanie and Aiden in their condo community, Dr. Samuel Bradshaw at the CDC compound, and Jimmy Wade running the Belle Pointe criminal gang are all, until the last part of the story, only tangentially connected. It was like writing three stories, but I had to keep advancing one at a time, but not so much that another thread was left behind. For a seat-of-the-pants style writer like me, that was really difficult.

Gef: Patient Zero for this particular outbreak feels like one of the more original ones I've heard of. Is this inspired by anything specific?

Russell: I remember watching when scientists chopped a complete baby wooly mammoth out of the Siberian tundra. They helicoptered it out like a giant ice cube. My first thought was that there was no way that wasn’t getting cloned. Then I remembered stories of people in Victorian times and earlier actually eating frozen mammoth meat discovered in the Arctic. I did some research to confirm that viruses could live almost indefinitely frozen and a pretty bad scenario came to mind. And as with every fictional bad scenario, it has to be wrought upon the rest by the oblivious, privileged elite.

Gef: Having a good premise for an apocalypse can be tricky, though. What is the most ridiculous apocalypse tale you've watched or read? For me, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes springs to mind for some reason.

Russell: What irks me the most is the writer ignoring the reality of decay. Number one offense: gasoline. I have a few classic cars and trust me, over time gasoline turns into something closer to shellac. Within a year, all untreated gas is unusable. Worse, within months, every idle car battery is dead. Yet everyone still is driving cars in these stories and starting them in people’s garages. Oh, and food spoils. Everything refrigerated is bad in days, frozen is bad once it thaws, things in packages like cereal last at best a year, most other things way shorter. But everyone is still finding Ring Dings in a convenience store after two years and scarfing them down.

To work around this, Q Island gets resupplied. Realistically, the government and the rest of the country, in the beginning, wouldn’t let the quarantined starve and freeze. But clearly there couldn’t be enough supplies, and someone has to pay for all of this, so people inside still become desperate, and the people outside kind of get tired of the burden, the way the general public forgets about any ongoing tragedy over time. If you doubt me, check in on the semi-permanent refugee camps outside multiple warzones around the world.

Gef: Do you have your own sh*t-hits-the-fan game plan?

Russell: A 30 foot sailboat. Florida Keys. Spindle mounted .50 machine gun on the bow. Lots of fishing tackle.

Gef: These days we seem to be learning more and more about autism and people's reactions to it. With one of your characters being autistic, were there any trepidations in depicting and distinguishing his type of autism?

Russell: Oh, yeah. Here I deferred to my wife. She is the principal of a school for kids with learning disabilities. There are kids there from all over the developmental spectrum. She gave me a lot of insight into how autistic kids behave and what their special needs are.

Gef: How much emphasis do you place on setting as character? Was New York, with Long Island in particular, the place you had in mind from the get-go?

Russell: Long Island was the prime location because of the ability to isolate a large population there. There is also enough space to create a more sprawling story. My next novel is called The Portal and releases in June next year. That is set on a much smaller fictional island, and that story has a much smaller cast, a much tighter story.

Gef: At the risk of asking for spoilers, is Q Island the kind of novel you'd like to have kick off a series, or are you more of a one-and-done kind of guy?

Russell: I always write each novel as a standalone, but I have another story in the works set on Q Island. In this one, a twenty-something has lost touch with his family, and is trying to get back in. He gets more than he bargained for when he does.

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: The Portal releases from Samhain Horror in June 2016. I’m in a sci-fi collection called Return to Centauri Station that should be out before the end of the year, and in a time travel anthology called Forever Out of Time that will be out next January. There are a few other projects churning in the mix as well. Ideas outpace available time.

Anyone who wants to really be disappointed (joking) can see me in person at Scares That Care in Williamsburg, VA, July 24-26 or HorrorHound Indianapolis, September 11-13 or Stoker Con in Las Vegas, May 12-16, 2016. 

Gef: Thanks, Russell. As for the rest of you, here's a chance to win 1 of 2 audiobook copies of Q Island and all you have to do is enter using the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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