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, Dreamwalker and Q Island. He has two horror short story collections, Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness. His next novel, The Portal, releases in 2016.
His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.”
Visit his website at http://www.russellrjames.com and read some free short stories.
Follow on Twitter @RRJames14, Facebook as Russell R. James, or drop a line complaining about his writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
An ancient virus has surfaced on Long Island, NY, turning its victims into black-veined, infectious, psychopathic killers. Chaos and madness rule.
In desperation, the military quarantines the island, trapping Melanie Bailey and her autistic son, Aiden. Somehow Aiden survives infection. He could be the key to a cure…if Melanie can get him to the mainland.
Gang leader Jimmy Wade also survives the virus, but he’s acquired a hunger for human flesh. Believing consuming Aiden will make him all-powerful, he and his gang hunt the boy. Melanie and Aiden must evade both Wade’s tightening grip and the growing army of the infected in an impossible escape from what all call Q Island.
Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about your writing background?
I started writing fiction after I earned my Masters degree. I took several on line courses and hired a writing coach. Over ten years, I had two short stories published and several novel manuscripts roundly rejected. Then I heard about an open call for novels at Samhain Horror under the legendary editor Don D’Auria. I sent in Dark Inspiration to earn it’s first rejection, and instead it was accepted.
My wife decided for me. On long car trips, I used to tell her plotlines for stories I thought up. After years of enduring this she said that I should write them down and get them published. I told her that was stupid. No one would want to read anything I’d ever write. She gets real smug every time I retell that story.
Do you have another job besides writing?
I’m a technical writer with a Fortune 50 company.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
I was reading about age three. My kindergarten teacher called my mother, upset that I was pretending to read things in class. Mom had to enlighten her that I actually was reading. One of the first things I loved to read were Hardy Boys mysteries. They were hardcover and seemed like real books. Spoiler alert, they don’t hold up well over time.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
In my latest book, Q Island, a virus that turns victims into psychotic killers sweeps through Long Island, NY. The government declares a quarantine, closing all bridges, tunnels and ferries. Melanie Bailey and her autistic son, Aiden are trapped on the island. Aiden is infected, but he does not get sick. In fact, his autism gets better. She realizes he might be the key to more than one cure, if she can get him off the island. She has to get him past the crazed infected, past the government troops, and out of the hands of a gang leader who has his own ideas about the usefulness of a boy who might be a cure.
One of the inspirations for this story was watching what happened when Hurricane Katrina isolated parts of New Orleans. Society melted down in what seemed like hours. It was quickly everyone out for themselves. I wondered how that would play out in a larger area, and in a situation that everyone knew would be permanent, unlike New Orleans. Long Island came to mind because it would be physically easy to isolate and give me a rich range of people to use as characters.
How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?
I had a beginning and I had an end. I knew the heroine, and at least one villain. After that, it was stream of consciousness, seat of the pants, organic (however one describes it) writing. But during the process, I have a separate list of plot notes and things that I’ll want to incorporate later. About two-thirds of the way through, I do an outline of what was done so far, and what points to cover before I finish. That really helps me get a better grip on how the story is progressing.
Did your book require a lot of research?
I did a lot of research on viruses, especially polio. Too many post-apocalyptic books completely skip any explanation of the cause of the doom of mankind. It is just there. I wanted the virus to be believable, and since one of the characters is a doctor out for a cure, I had to make what he was doing stand up to scrutiny of any reader with medical knowledge. Fellow author and professional nurse Rita Brandon was a huge help with that part and with all the details about how hospitals run.
From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
This book took over a year. Mid-way through, I was overwhelmed by the world building aspect of it. How would society continue in isolation? How would people make a living if so many jobs were now useless? Who would pay the people like police officers whose jobs were still critical? How would food and electricity get to everyone? It kind of overwhelmed me. Then spent some time subconsciously gearing up for the task, and was finally ready to take it on.
Describe your working environment.
I’ve written in many different places, but I like the dining room in my house. The dining room window is large and faces south, so there is always sun. I need silence to best concentrate, so it is usually scary quiet until one of the cats needs some attention.
What types of scenes give you the most trouble to write?
The hardest thing I had to write in Q Island was a rape scene. I didn’t want to imagine it as the victim, and I certainly didn’t want to imagine it as the assailant. But it was the turning point for Melanie’s character and I couldn’t find something else as strong to use. It is probably only a page long, but it took me forever.
Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?
I complete the first draft, then go back and edit it.
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
I’m at www.russellrjames.com as well as Facebook as Russell R James and Twitter @rrjames14.
Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
My next book is called the Portal and will be out in June of 2016. Three hundred years ago, the Devil left a portal to Hell on a small island off the Massachusetts coast. He’s back to crack it open and he brought a coven of witches and a gang of thugs with him. Can the town stop him? You’ll have to wait to find out.
As an author, what is your greatest reward?
When a total stranger comes up to me at a convention or a signing and says that something I wrote really moved them emotionally. That makes it all worth it.
Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?
That has to be more than enough. I’m keeping your readers from some excellent cat videos on YouTube.