Name: Daniel I Russell
Age: Physically 34, mentally about 14 1/2
Where are you from: Originally Wigan in the UK, now living in a tiny town called Greenbushes in rural Western Australia.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc: I have four children between ten and one that constantly touch my things. I swear they could break into Fort Knox if they knew the last Twix ice cream – which I was saving, mind – was in there. I have a degree in chemistry and physics and am currently studying a second one in psychology, to offer post traumatic stress comfort after the last Twix ice cream is taken.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
This week saw the release of Grimorium Verum, which I’m honoured to be a part of. I’ve worked with the editor Dean Drinkel a few times now, and he always picks a great line up. Those who are keen readers of horror should recognise a good number of names in that TOC!
My story A Picture Tells, involving a witch in the closing stages of WW2, can also be found for individual sale at Amazon, and to promote Grimorium Verum, is FREE this weekend.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
When I was originally at uni, and this was around 2003, I dabbled with screenplays: finding novels I liked and trying to convert them. No idea why. I was then pulled towards writing my own fiction, starting small, with short stories. I progressed by joining critique groups and learning all the language stuff I thought I already knew from high school but had already forgot! The shorts became novellettes, then novellas…and once he first novel was done it was business as usual.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Tough question as even today I question myself, particularly during long stretches of inactivity. Am I a writer, or have I merely written? Plus I impose a certain measure of success to my work to still be considered a writer. Anyone can write and thus call themselves a writer. I don’t consider myself as a WRITER, more someone who tries to write when he can!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
As mentioned above, the initial progression to a novel was inevitable. The book, Samhane, was set in the town I was living in at the time…like an evil, twisted version of the same streets and monuments.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
At that time I did. As it may have been the one and only novel I ever wrote, I wanted to have fun with it, and therefore have fond memories of the process. I wrote quick and fast, very Richard Laymon, a good quick pace and snappy dialogue. Now I’ve aged and so has my style. I’m more confident to slow things down when required, and to hold back on the gore, which is something I never thought I’d do when I was in my early twenties!
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Samhane is a blatant rip off of Samhain. I just thought the spelling looked a bit more towny. I was young…
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In this one…no. I remember an ex of mine was a writing student who swore that every story was based on a message, and I argued that a story can exist solely to entertain. This was the seed with Samhane. It wasn’t written for arty reviewers or awards, just the horror fan waiting for his train with a paperback in his hand.
I’ll admit that things are different now. I don’t preach and don’t aim to slip a message across, but there’s a bit more meat in the conception of the story. Besides, messages in horror can come across as a bit Mr. Makay from South Park. This story tells us that drugs are bad, mmkay? And in this one, that environmental pollution is bad…mmmkay?
As I write more psychological material now, I suppose the messages would be: what would you do in this situation? You do know that people actually find themselves trapped in this hell, right?
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
In Samhane the settings are. You can physically visit the town and spot all the landmarks. As for the rest…while there are rapists and murderers about the place, Samhane can be a tad extreme. The original publisher really went to town on making this a more toned down book, and it still stands as one of my most extreme novels.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I find events and settings from my past creeping into my work more and more. The last book I wrote was set in the eighties and contained a lot of childhood memories for me.
I’ve always liked to play around with character names, and most of mine have some meaning to them. And yes, my friends have tended to pop into my books from time to time, either as themselves or thinly veiled!
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I remember Richard Laymon’s Endless Night had a huge effect on me. I read it pretty much in one sitting when I was around fifteen. It was the book that, after finishing, made me think I can do this. I can write a book like this.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Between books! I finished Snow by Ronald Malfi last night. I am still within a collection of Marvel’s The Warriors Three though.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I wouldn’t say new writers, but more established writers who I’m going back to check out. Malfi was a new one for me and his book had a great 30 Days of Night vibe to it. I’ve finally got a Wrath James White novel on the pile after enjoying his short work (I was published alongside him in DOA2 and he has a doozy in that book), as well as John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
The novella I finished has been edited and beta read, so now comes the stage of trying to find a home for it. I have two half-finished novels, one of which is already at 80k words and started six years ago! I’ll probably go back to a novella I started last year as this is more psychological and in line with my current direction. It’s a book about how a man hides his obsession over depression and suicide, and the trauma he is subjected to after he seeks out help.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The pub. Har! Seriously though, the pub has come through for me when I’ve needed some peace and quiet to meet deadlines. I have my ‘writing spot’ in both the Bridgetown and Exchange hotels. Yes, many pleasant afternoons have been spent during the winter, snug and warm next to the potbelly fire in the back room of the Exchange with an ice cold pint and the laptop!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I did, definitely, when I was younger. Now I’m a little jaded and well aware that the chance of being able to make a living from writing horror is incredibly low. Yet I still push on, trying to make the next book better than he last one, hoping it will reach new readers, make more sales, pay a bill or two. Yet I find that success follows the person rather than the work, and the better a writer is at marketing or getting attention or having a sparkling personality. That certainly isn’t me. I’d be a hermit if I had the choice. However, the books keep on coming.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would have taken more time with it. It was written to a tight deadline so it was not the most relaxed and pleasurable experience. Even now I keep going back and adding to it, which might not necessarily be a good thing.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’ve always had it. At primary school I would fill exercise books up with stories…perhaps spending more time on the illustrations. Even then it was still horror, but the classical subgenres: vampires, werewolves, that kind of thing. My interest resurfaced in high school during English Language classes. I could always manipulate any assignment guideline into crafting a good horror tale!
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
You hear horror stories of authors posting unpublished material online and getting into all kinds of bother with it. How about a sample of latest novel Mother’s Boys from Blood Bound Books? Look inside!
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Other people’s success. LOL! Not that I begrudge other people’s success but sometimes it can be a challenge to try so hard only to see a poorly edited or insipid book set the world aflame with marketing. But hell, that’s life. Roll with the punches.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I would have to say, mainly due to his consistence, Jack Ketchum. I do so love a build up of dread, something that I can find lacking in some books from the last few years that are considered as horror. With Ketchum anything can happen at any time, and he covers ground that some authors fear to tread.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I feel I have enough travel under my belt to inspire the locations in my books, having grown up in the UK and now living in Australia. I’ve been to America and around Europe to, so plenty to draw on. As for travelling after the writing, I’d love to be able to attend more conventions both here and around the world…but can’t afford it!
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
If I had to plug one of the many cover artists I’ve worked with over the years, James Powell deserves special mention. He did a beautiful wrap around for The Collector, and has produced quite a few of the covers of anthologies I’ve featured in.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I always find endings hard. Every time. If I don’t have an ending in mind before I start the book, I don’t start. Endings can change depending on how the actual writing of the book goes, but it’s an awful feeling as a writer to find yourself caught short, especially with the bulk of the word count behind you.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I’ve learned that (ghost writers aside!) there’s no easy way to do it. There’s no short cuts. Writing a novel demands time and continued motivation. While you might grow in confidence with each book you write, the demands stay the same. It’s all or nothing.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read lots, but in particular, have a spell working for a publication and get into the slush pile. You’ll read hundreds of stories from all over the world by lots of different people. You’ll see similarities. Cliches. Overused plot devices. You’ll learn what to avoid!
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Hi Dan and Rachel!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I can remember the first adult horror book I read from start to finish, and that was The Funhouse by Dean Koontz. Other than that, my mother taught me to read at a very young age on Peter and Jane books! Anyone remember them? I naturally progressed to the Mr. Men.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I don’t cry, and that’s not me trying to sound all macho. One of my Asperger’s symptoms is not feeling that particular emotion. I mean, I do…but… For example, at the last funeral I attended, everyone was upset and weeping, and I was aware that I was sad and should be the same as everyone else, yet the emotion was simply put aside and I ended up looking a bit like a cold-hearted twat I guess.
Yet on the flipside I find lots of things amusing, more than most.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I had a long think about this, but I’d fear to meet the people I hold on a pedestal. What’s the saying? Never meet your idols: you’ll only be disappointed. I’d hate to say “I loved the work of such and such all my life…but it turned out he’s a dick.”
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
No dancing, because I’m a miserable bugger.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I love gaming, but I’m more of a single player campaigner rather than online tomfoolery. I’m also a keen dart player and have captained a team in the South West Australian tournament. What else do I do…? Play guitar, bass and drums. Beer, obviously.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I have four kids so my horror movie viewings have become rare. We don’t tend to watch TV at all but instead binge on dvds. Walking Dead, Supernatural, Thrones, things like that. Also a huge Archer fan.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I miss English curries! If I returned to the UK the first thing I would do is head straight to my old local for a few pints and then over the road for a chicken pathia.
I like black, green and purple.
The Vandals, Veruca Salt, Art vs Science.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I always wanted to be a musician and had a good go at it in my early twenties. I’m suited to writing though, as it’s a more solitary lifestyle!
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I occasionally write nonsense that no one reads at http://www.daniel-i-russell.blogspot.co.uk but join me on Facebook, Twitter and all those places.