Russell James was born in California, but raised on the opposite coast on Long Island, New York. He graduated from Cornell University and spent five years flying helicopters with the 101st Airborne Division in the U.S. Army.
He is now a technical writer by day and spins dark stories at night. He’s published six novels, two novellas and several short story collections. He founded the Minnows Literary Group, which publishes charity short story collections.
He lives in sunny Florida with his wife and two useless cats.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Q Island. When did you start writing and what got you into horror?
I started writing around 2001 after I earned my MBA. I’m not sure why I chose horror. I think it kind of chose me. I loved reading Stephen King and Poe. I grew up on The Twilight Zone, Kolchack: The Night Stalker, and Chiller Theater. So maybe all that stuff just poisoned, uh, directed me into horror.
What is your book about?
A virus that turns people into psychotic killers sweeps through Long Island, New York. The government drops a quarantine. Melanie Bailey and her autistic son Aiden are trapped on the island. He gets infected, but does not get sick. In fact, his autism gets better. Melanie realizes he might be the key to several cures, if she can get him off the island. She has to get him past the crazed killers, past the government troops, and out of the hands of a criminal gang leader, who has his own ideas about what to do with a boy who might be a cure.
What was your inspiration for it?
My inspiration was when I watched what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit. A soon as people were isolated, society imploded in hours. I wondered what would happen if that occurred on a larger scale, and in a circumstance where it would be permanent, not like New Orleans. Long Island was the perfect candidate, just a few bridges, tunnels and ferries from being cut off from the world.
Did your book require a lot of research?
Many post-apocalyptic books gloss over the cause of the cataclysm. It’s just there. I wanted the cause to be more believable, so I did a lot of viral research, especially on polio. One of the characters is a doctor seeking a cure, and I wanted his research to hold up if someone with medical expertise was reading the book, or at least not be embarrassingly ignorant.
What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?
I make him work anyway. Usually once I start writing, even when I don’t think I can, the creative juice start flowing. It’s like I primed the pump.
How do you keep your narrative exciting?
My rule of thumb is that if I get bored writing it, you will probably get bored reading it. Something interesting has to happen in each chapter, something that moves the plot forward or piques your interest in what’s about to happen next.
Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this?
Absolutely. I’m certain that everything I’m about to put to paper will be terrible. I often still feel that way after it is done.
How do you celebrate the completion of a book?
By starting a new project. Seriously. It takes me about a year to make a novel. A year with the same characters in the same place. I’m editing the same story several times. During that time, I’ve had other ideas that I’m excited about, but I have to finish this one first. After a year, I’m so ready to let this thing go, and get on to do something fresh.
How do you define success?
Certainly not by money earned, or most writers would be considered failures. I guess I measure success as how many people read my work, and at the end want to read more.
I’ve put together four short story collections from members on my Minnows Literary Group, a critique group: Out of Time, time travel stories, In a Land Far Away…, fairy tales, Still Out of Time, more time travel, and Centauri Station, space sci-fi. The royalties from all four of these go straight to Doctors Without Borders, no deductions. Cumulatively, we’ve sold or loaned over 10,000 copies of these collections. I write checks for hundreds of dollars every month to DWB.
I have novels with starred Publisher’s Weekly reviews. One was the Staff Pick of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine. I’ve had an Amazon #1 Best Seller. Those charity collections are what I think of as my success story.
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?
I’m at russellrjames.com, on Twitter @rrjames14 and on Facebook at Russell R James.
Where is your book available?
On Amazon, B&N, and at almost any book seller.
Photo and cover art published with permission from author Russell James.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=161922979X]