Author Ingrid Hall recently interviewed me on a whole range of topics, including what makes my wacky author brain work. Enjoy …
Hi Russ, lovely to meet you and by the way you have the best website I have seen in ages!! Spill the gossip!!
Hi Ingrid, great to meet you too! Okay. Here goes. I’m 42, married, with two young children and living in the Queens section of New York City, although I’m on the verge of buying a house in New Jersey. I’m a former journalist, now working in public relations for real estate companies. As a fiction writer, I’ve done some comic book scripts and short stories, but now I purely write novels. My debut novel, the raunchy, sci-fi backpacking comedy Finders Keepers, was very well received. Think American Pie/Superbad/Hot Tub Time Machine meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. My new book, the mysterious, action-packed space romp Crossline, is getting similar buzz. It’s fun.
Sounds like you are a busy bee and your novels sound like they would be totally up Lenora’s street! So, is writing your full time career?
Not yet, but I’m working on it! I’ve had some Hollywood interest in my projects, but nothing serious to report just yet. Certainly my goal is to write fiction and have that pay for my life.
What is the worst job that you have ever done, and why?
I scrubbed pots in a bakery one summer when I was a teenager. It was hot as hell, it was hard work, it paid lousy, and the owner was kind of a jerk. Other than that I loved it!
We’ve all done jobs like that, it’s a rite of passage! If you could have written any other book by any other author, what would it be, and why?
The Stand by Stephen King.
I am a huge fan of Stephen King, however I have never come across The Stand. I might have to check that one out! How would you think your parents would describe your book? Does this differ from how you would describe it?
Ha! My parents don’t read my books. I think they’re afraid they won’t get them, or won’t like them. That’s okay. I get it.
You’ve already mentioned that you write Sci Fi, do you have any plans to work outside of that genre?
My first few books have been science fiction, with a heavy dose of humor. The next few will remain in that genre. But I have plans down the road to branch out, with a few murder mysteries on the way, and maybe a spy novel, or even a series.
I love it when authors can be versatile! What inspired you to write your first book?
It’s a long story! My first book, Finders Keepers, is loosely based on a series of backpacking trips I took through Europe and New Zealand. Those adventures were not just truly exciting times in my life — and they were — but they helped shaped my perspective in many ways. They had such an impact upon me me personally that I wanted to capture their spirit — and in some cases, the details — in a way a reading audience could join in, as if it was their journey, too. Separately, I had an idea for this outrageous, comic lunacy-style sci-fi adventure about a jar containing the Universe’s DNA. The two ideas may seem totally isolated unto themselves, but I found that they blended wonderfully into a novel that is fun, funny, and outrageous, but with some real heart to it. I’m actually working on two Finders Keepers sequels, to complete the first trilogy.
I’m definitely hooked! Do you ever get moments, and if so how do you hang onto them?
Definitely. I often get that thunderbolt a-ha! moment where I’ll frantically write ideas down on whatever I can get my hands on. Torn off pages of newspapers, napkins, the inside cover of a book I’m reading. Whatever. As long as I can take the notes. I just never know when or where those kooky ideas will come.
Or when you will use the kooky ideas if you are remotely like me! Do you have a structure when you are writing, and if so what?
I’m very big on getting the ending right. Of course it’s a matter of opinion if I’ve done so, but in my eyes I nailed the ending for both Finders Keepers and Crossline. I also know where the Finders Keepers sequels are headed, and the endings of both books are going to be awesome, if I do say so myself!
What are you reading at the moment, and why?
Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, by James Hollis, PhD. It explores some themes that are important to me and I’m also reading some Batman graphic novels, because, you know … Batman is awesome!
What is your favourite movie and why?
Raiders of the Lost Ark. There are many others I love across various genres, but if I only get one movie, it’s Raiders. If there’s more fun to be had at the movies, I haven’t experienced it.
Do you have an opinion on life after death, and if so what?
I believe there’s a force to the Universe far greater than we can understand. We got here somehow! Whether it’s the gods, it’s magic, purely organic, or it’s just part of some wild dream, I’ll probably never know. But there seems to be some connective tissue in the Universe, some energy, that we’re all a part of. So that when our physical bodies die, I think our energies, or soul, drifts into the ether and finds its way … somewhere. As a parent, I want to believe I’ll always be connected with my children, even after we’re done on the Earth, but that could just be wishful thinking. I suppose we all have to move on, sooner or later.
We do and I am a firm believer in the continuation of the soul…Totally changing the subject, when you eat out would you choose Chinese, Indian or Italian, or other, if so what?
Depends upon the specific restaurant, but generally speaking … Chinese. Chicken with Cashews.
London, Paris or New York and why?
I’m a New Yorker, so big love there. I’m a huge fan of London as well. But, Paris? Not so much. We haven’t gotten along too well.
Ah, sounds like there might be a story or two in there somewhere about Paris…What do you have in the pipeline?
I’m halfway through the first of two Finders Keepers sequels. My plan is to write them back-to-back, wrapping up the first trilogy. After that, I have a baseball-themed sci-fi novel in the works, and then we’ll see what I’m in the mood for. My plate is full for the foreseeable future.
Yeah, I have lots of books lined up…It’s just so difficult trying to find the time to write them all! What inspired you to be a writer?
It’s not so much that I’m inspired to write … it’s that I have to write. Have to. It’s who I am. It’s what I do. It’s as essential to my personality as my DNA. That either means I’m really passionate, or crazy. Possibly both.
Do you write poetry or short stories as well? If so what?
I am so bad at poetry. I mean … so bad. It’s embarrassing. I’ve dabbled with short stories, but I have a tough time with them. I tend to write big, so I need more room to explore. Although I’ve written some comic book scripts, and I think I have a good feel for them. I quite like it, and hope to do it again at some point.
I think, poetry is one of those things that you can either do, or not do. I definitely fit into the cannot do category! How do you overcome writers block?
Step away from the project, and let myself be distracted by something else. Anything that keeps me busy and out of my head. I like to exercise, so that often helps. I’ll watch TV, clean my apartment, go for a walk. Or I’ll just go and break things in frustration. Kidding! But distraction is a great way to get unstuck.
If you only had 60 seconds remaining on this planet, what would you say, and who would you say it to?
I would tell my children that I love them dearly, that I’ll always be with them in one way or another, and that I hope they build a life for themselves that makes them happy. That they should laugh and have as much as fun as possible along the way.
Do you have any pets – If so what?
I was always a cat person, but we’ve had a dog – Simon – for the last four years. He was a rescue. He’s a great dog. A little crazy at times, but a good dog.
Our friends have a dog named Norman, I’ve always found it strange how people give animals “real” name instead of crazy ones…
What advice would you give your 18 year old self?
Ha! Where do I begin? I would encourage my younger self to stay in good physical shape, say yes to many more opportunities, be responsible to myself, my family, my friends, and colleagues, and then make decisions based on what I think is important to me, based on my values, not what others think. And I would encourage my younger self to write every day, no matter what. I would also strongly recommend – if not insist – that I ignore the clerks and bullies of the world. Don’t let those fools get in the way of becoming who you are. To steal a line from Billy Joel as he ends every concert, ‘don’t take any shit from anybody.’ Laugh every day.
Russ, it has been my absolute pleasure meeting you today!
You can check out Russ and his AMAZING website at http://russcolchamiro.com/
This Q&A interview was originally posted at http://www.ingridhall.com/