Author Interview with A. T. Russell
August 20, 2015 Leave a comment
This month I bring you an interview with a good friend of mine, A.T Russell. He referred me to Michelle Picarella who offered me a place in the 7DS Slayers anthology. We’ve even done a couple video chats together; the last one can be seen on the 7DS web page.
1 Let’s get to know you a bit. Where are you from, and in what genre do you write?
I was born in Chicago Heights, IL, a southern suburb of Chicago, and I grew up in Markham, about 20 minutes from where I was born. Having said all that, Chicago is the main city in Cook County, and everywhere I roamed was within county limits. Widely reported in U.S. news, online, radio, and television, Chicago and its surrounding area is enduring major crimes, murder being the worst of it all. This isn’t new stuff, as I grew up in the same environment that exists today. From that, I guess one would assume I would write gritty crime novels, or maybe crime thrillers. Perhaps I can and should, but I mainly write Urban Fantasy.
2. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?
To me, for me, losing myself in story-crafting is a mental escape. Sure, every emotion is engaged during the process, and sometimes I’m passionately overwhelmed by a theme or thread I’m engaged in, but I don’t live there. I can escape back to the real world when that happens. Yet, being in the story, living it mentally, isn’t that what readers do? I think so, and as a voracious reader, I certainly do. Therein is my answer. Finding success in publishing industry is quite the challenge, as well as finding readers to tantalize with my stories. The alien escapism, however… ahh, I write for the sheer passion of the story(ies).
3. Writers often call their books their ‘babies’, and therefore have a difficult time with editing or critics. How do you handle the editing process? Do you have a hard time cutting scenes or even characters?
I don’t refer to my books as my babies, actually. Sure, I get the gist of the meaning and how emotionally authors are attached to their works. Heck, I’m one who takes that ownership to the next level. Still, I get fully on-board with the editing process. A simple stroke of the pen can turn a nightmare into a cinematic dream come true for some of us, and that can only happen as a result of good editing. As for dumping characters, I have no problem with it. I also think cutting a scene works wonders, as it requires the creator to know their story details as well as they know the characters they create. In fact, I have found that cutting scenes in the drafting stage allows me to focus more attention on the story and find points in which I can make details ‘pop’ for the reader during more integral scenes.
4 Now that you have a few books under your belt, what’s your take on the whole process? What was the hardest part for you? What was the easiest?
Editing bites! It really chafes my… Okay, so editing is the hardest part for me. The idea of dreaming up this epic story, only to have some mean-ass come by with a scythe and behead the darn thing can be terrifying. But I’ve found that the most enduring authors are the ones who stand up to the reaper/editor and take every hack without flinching. Those authors endure because they learn over time and face less hacks as their initial talent becomes superior skill later on. Yes, I will overcome… someday.
The easy part for me is creating tough female characters. I don’t understand why any author would have a difficult time imagining and then creating a tough female. Badass Women and Ladies are everywhere, all the time handling their business, and doing it as well as and better than most men in every capacity known. Here’s a hint – tough females say what they mean and mean what they say, then they back it up. It really ain’t hard.
5 As a reader, what are some things that attract you to a story?
I like a story to give me something different, to take me away from the same ole – same ole. The hero saves the day and gets the girl, and that’s just dandy. But, and here’s where it’s big for me, give me some interesting story vines. Take zombies for example; they eat brains, flesh and all that. How about if they eat certain parts of the brain and certain body parts, maybe because they, in their mindless state, are drawn to devour the mechanical and central processor they lack in their undead realities? Just something different.
Or, how about a guy in love with a woman he can’t be with because of the cosmetic changes she’s undergone in her pursuit of popular beauty standards? Let’s say this guy is a werewolf, and we all know that wolves don’t run in vinyl forests that sprout silk leaves. Interesting? Maybe/maybe not… but certainly different.
6 What books (if any) have influenced you over the years? Have you put those influences into your stories?
Kim Harrison’s Mercy Thompson novels have been quite the influence for me. I like the laws of her stories, how consistently and unfailingly she follows them in her story-crafting. Mercy is quite the underdog and certainly not as physically powerful as her Packmates. But then, is she really?
Principally, though, David Baldacci crafts a pretty good story and his flow is cerebral all the way through, even during the action scenes. I enjoy reading his books because I find myself inside the story, as opposed to the story being simply black and white. Baldacci allows me to have my imagination, without inundating me with details I can clearly see that he’s researched, only to spout them off like an items list he must hit.
And yes, I try my best to incorporate those perceived philosophies into my own story-crafting.
7 Is there a genre that you would like to write? Something you would find a challenge?
I would love to dig into a crime thriller. With all I have going on, doing so would take me a year to produce a final manuscript. In fact, when I wrote ‘No Man’ for the A Man’s Promise anthology with 7DS Books, the ideas for the story I have in mind began to pop vividly in my mind. Indeed, I would love folks do dig into that anthology.
8 Expanding on your answer for question 5, what do you hope readers will find interesting or unique about your stories?
To open my mind’s eye to romance, as it pertains to writing prose and delivery, I read a whole lot of romance novels. What I found was quite upsetting. While each story was good, and they really were, the romantic formula for writing leaves greater stories on the cutting room floor, so to speak. My opinion is that, with many romance stories, a reader can rip the covers off of several books by several authors and many of the stories could appear to have been written by one author. Now, I’m not here to knock a tremendously successful way of doing things, a style that has stood the test of time, but again, greater stories are left untold using that tried and true style.
I try very hard to round up the lost elements in my stories. No, they aren’t romance novels, per se. Take ‘Sacred Puppies’ and my Generations Series for example; the females in the story are sexually progressive and they are mature women. Neither of them are wilting lilies, they know what they want in a man, and they are old enough to know that espousing such desires is a must, not a test to be delivered to a hopeful guy they allow to take them on a date. When they become wolves, they kick more backsides than their male counterparts. Here’s a line… “If I have to fight my own battles, what the hell do I need you for?” That’s what one of those females says to her mate. It’s the perspective I write from, and I certainly hope readers will take to it.
Succinctly, the females in my stories are capable of fighting on the highest level and they have their mate’s backs all the way. They only wilt when their mates treat them right… and that works both ways.
9 What is the best thing you like about writing?
Ahh… writing is, for me anyway, like living inside a dream for months at a time. A reader only gets one to three days of what I call an imaginative vacation, but I’m in the story for at least two seasons. From each character’s perspective, the landscape, the buildings, all aspects of the story is vivid to me, the creator. Hmm, maybe that’s why I don’t write horror.
10 After all is said and done, at the end of the day, what makes you happy?
As it pertains to writing, connecting with readers is what it’s all about for me. When someone links to my imagination, when they feel like they know one of my characters and can envision that character acting in a particular way, I feel something akin to a super injection of adrenaline going through me. An event like that, when it happens, says a lot of great things about how powerful a story can be, and truly is. Even critics provide that same shot for me. So, when someone engages my imagination through a story I wrote, and then provides some form of feedback, I am happy.
Other than that, a good cup of strong coffee at any time throughout the day often provides me a “yeah, that’s it,” groove… then I dig into my current story and run away from real life for a few hours.
Where to find A.T online: