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Interview with Kath Russell, Author of Deed So

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Kath Russell received her Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and her Master’s degree in journalism from Boston University.  She also has a Master’s of Business Administration from the Kellogg School of Management. For over 35 years she has worked in marketing and communications management in the biotechnology industry. She was an executive with one of the first genetic engineering companies and was also the president of Russell-Welsh Strategic Life Science Communications, Inc.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Finishing it. I enjoyed creating this fictional community and ‘living in it’ as I wrote the book. I cried when I completed the last chapter. Although I don’t have any immediate plans to return to Wicomico Corners, I know I will go back someday to develop another story idea. William Faulkner returned again and again to a fictional community to write his masterpieces. He is just one example of authors who craft a special place that becomes the stage setting for their literary exploits. Fantasy writers do the same when they develop future or past worlds, new planets or stellar empires. Or how about Sue Grafton with her California town frozen in time in the days before cell phones?

When did you first start writing and when did you finish your book?

I started writing Deed So while I was pursuing my certificate in creative writing at the UCLA Writer’s Program, a program I highly recommend to anyone who wants to take their writing to the professional level. I was able to share chapters of Deed So in several of my classes, getting helpful feedback from my instructors and fellow students. I finished the manuscript shortly after completing all the course work for my certificate. At that point I was able to take advantage of another UCLA resource, the manuscript critique program. For a fee (but this is a very wise investment in your project) an instructor will read your work, give you extensive notes, and discuss your work with you in conference. I chose Lynn Hightower who is a perennial favorite of the program’s students. Lynn gave me some tough love on plot arc, character development and other issues. Over several more rewrites I tried to incorporate her sage suggestions. I had other readers as well. A court case is embedded at the heart of this novel, so I had a friend of mine who is a judge read the manuscript to make sure I had not committed any legal or procedural booboos.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Deed So is my second book. My third is a children’s and dog lover’s book called Buddy’s Tail which came out in April. My first was a mystery entitled A Pointed Death. So my mystery was the book I cut my teeth on, the guinea pig book I used as my vehicle to learn about the publishing and book promotion business. Although I feel it came out rather well, I certainly made a lot of mistakes along the way, particularly in choosing certain promotional opportunities which were costly duds that contributed nothing to raising the profile of my book and increasing sales. You and I know the PumpUpYourBook people. They are one of the organizations that add real value for authors and readers, but the web is awash with little businesses who promise big and deliver next to nothing. Authors beware! 

Have you written a book that you have not been able to get published? If so, can you share a little about it with us?

We have advanced to an era where people can publish pretty much anything they want. The flood gates are open. For the author, the challenge has now shifted to maintaining quality control, achieving optimal distribution and gaining recognition for her titles. In terms of quality control, I have recently identified and opted for a new, more experienced editor. With distribution, I have taught myself to load all my eBooks directly to Kindle, Nook and iPad. In terms of recognition, I have shifted a portion of my writing time to short stories. Short form fiction is a way of getting your name before more and more readers. If they like your stories, they will check out your novels. I have a mystery piece coming out in an anthology next year and had another story recognized in a writing competition. I also will be introducing a mini collection of stories as an e-offering in another week or so, called Ghostly Tidewater Trilogy.

How did you come up with the title?

Deed So is a colloquial usage of the expression ‘indeed so’ which has roughly the same meaning as Amen. It is an affirmation of a truth. I remember this saying from my childhood and it has come to connote for me the ability to endure, sometimes against formidable odds.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Deed So takes place right at the beginning of a difficult decade in American history. We are in another of those difficult times right now. It is interesting to go back in time to other periods to reflect on what worked and what didn’t in bringing people together and helping them cope with troubles. Of course I was a history major, so perhaps I like to do this more than others. But I believe that sometimes, if we are objective and observant, we can find the seeds of a solution to our contemporary problems in our past travails. In Deed So, family and community are a refuge in turbulent times.

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