Here’s our latest author interview, with author and clown-hater extraordinaire, Russell Blake. Enjoy!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I like to say that I’m a broken down carny barker with a bad attitude and a suitcase filled with faded dreams. I’ve done a host of things during my life, some of which I’m proud of, many that I’m not, and none of which I like to talk about, but which have proved to be fertile ground for my stories to grow in, and have provided an extensive depth of arcane knowledge that only my readers seem to value, which is as it should be. I rescue dogs whenever I can and tend to like them more than people, drink wine and tequila (sometimes in excess, which will shock and surprise many of my fans), and despise clowns, which is a prudent stance everyone should take. I live in Mexico, within a mile of a gorgeous beach which I see all too infrequently lately due to my insane writing pace.
According to Amazon, you’ve published close to 20 books so far. Tell us a little about your work in general – are they all thrillers stories, do you move across genres, why/why not?
First and foremost I write action/thrillers, with occasional detours into police procedurals (like Fatal Exchange and Silver Justice) that my readers seem willing to accompany me on. I’m very fortunate that people seem to like them – I sold over 100K novels in 2012, so somebody is coming back for more. All my fiction involves a backdrop of some kind of conspiracy theory, and part of the art is to make readers wonder where the truth lets off and the fiction begins. I’m just finishing up my nineteenth release in nineteen months (if editing is done by the end of January), of which all but two are in that action/thriller/police procedural genre, except for my two non-fiction books, which are my lowest sellers and some of the work I’m proudest about. I learned from writing and publishing those two that it’s best to stay true to your genre so that your readers know what they’re getting and don’t get confused. Genre hopping is a bad idea unless you want to piss everyone off and lose your readership – as an example, they buy and love your two detective novels, and then move to your science fiction romance…and go, WTF, and are disappointed and hate the work because it’s not a genre they expected, and then are unlikely to give your next release a try, because…well, because they don’t know what they’ll get, and they don’t trust you anymore. Genre hopping is very freeing as an author, but a bad idea if you want to build an audience. I’d counsel to use pseudonyms. I plan to when I pen “50 Shades of Yarn for Mr. Mittens,” my new cat-based erotica knitting tome with a splash of kink (but only where it’s important for the story).
[Note from Morgan le Fay: I'm pretty sure he's serious about that, folks.]
Do you have anything new coming out soon/or did you just release something? If so, tell us more about that specifically.
It’s been a wildly busy holiday season, during which I released four novels – the JET series. The short description is a female Bourne with a hint of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo that moves at Jack Bauer pace. It’s an unapologetically fun, overblown tale of a female ex-Mossad operative that’s a Lamborghini-on-the-Autobahn race of a read. I think it’s some of my best writing, and I’m very fortunate that the four books – JET, JET II – Betrayal, JET III – Vengeance, and JET IV, Reckoning, have sold extremely well, with almost thirty thousand copies sold within three months.
My next release will be Requiem for the Assassin, the fifth in my popular Assassin series, which should launch end of January/first week of February. It’s a strange and compelling book, in that it continues the saga of El Rey, who goes by the moniker the King of Swords (after the tarot card he leaves in his victims’ mouths), the deadliest hit man in Latin America, but I wrote it in such a way that it can be read out of sequence and still be coherent and entertain. It didn’t start out that way, and is a bit of a departure in that the rest of the books in my series are intended to be read sequentially, but hey, it is what it is. I think it might be my best work to date, in that it takes everything I have learned about pacing, story, character development and craft, and synthesized them into a thoroughly gripping 100K words that would easily give Day of the Jackal a run for its money. I hope my readers are as excited when they read it as I was writing it, because if so, it will be a huge win-win for all.
Am I correct that you self-publish? If so, why? What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of that endeavor?
I self-publish, and gladly so. The reasons I chose to go that route were obvious to me – I can release what I want when I like, I don’t have to create work by committee, I make more per unit, I don’t have to wait 18 months for a book I just finished to come out, and I don’t have to answer to anyone but my readers. I take great pains to hire a professional editor (who works for a number of Big 6 publishers as well) and a proofreader, as well as a pro cover designer and formatter, so my books are as good or better than anything the traditional publishers put forth, but at half or less the price. I have established a reputation for quality at every level of the process, which is key for readers – they want and expect a professional product, and that’s what I deliver. My least favorite aspect of self-pubbing is that I don’t get the visibility in physical stores as I would if I did a traditional publishing deal, but I’m willing to forego that if it means I can put out six books a year instead of one.
On your blog, you seem to take on a sort of brutally honest, at times self-deprecating, humorous voice. Would you say that’s prevalent in all your writing?
To one extent or another. I write intelligent stories for adults, and most adults realize that the world isn’t candy-coated or all warm, cozy edges, so I think they appreciate a level of grit, of realism, to their fiction. Realism involves honesty, even if it’s in the creation of an invention, like a fiction novel, and I think readers can sense whether you’re being honest with them – if you are telling it like it is. For good fiction to resonate, it has to have that unflinching sincerity to it, which I strive for.
As to my humor, it’s like my honesty – dark, at times brutal, but always true to form. It manifests to varying degrees, but I think the best example of it in my fiction is in The Geronimo Breach – the story of a malingering misanthrope, the most unlikely hero in modern fiction, a fat, lazy inebriate with few redeeming qualities that the reader winds up liking by the end of the tale. I
In my non-fiction, my parody of self-publishing and writing self-help books, How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated), is without question a disturbing example of my humor allowed full rein. A lot of people, mainly authors, don’t find it funny because it hits too close to home, but that’s what makes it funny for me. The world is absurd, nobody gets out of it alive, we’re constantly being marketed crap we don’t need by people who despise us with a single-minded cynicism that would make a Bolivian customs inspector blush, and that’s the optimistic view. So of course, I respond to all of it with humor and mockery, which is the only sensible approach, in my opinion. That sneaks into my writing, but I think it provides a little comic relief from sometimes very intense treatments.
Along those same lines, when we arranged this interview, you said you “suck at guest posts.” Is that really just your way of saying you’d rather avoid them?
Was it that obvious? I thought it was a clever deflection. Shows you what I know.
[Another note from Morgan le Fay: Wouldn't you guys love a guest post from Russell's voice?!]
Tell us about Lobo and your Pet Wall.
Lobo was the furry love of my life, and the subject of my international bestselling pet biography, An Angel With Fur. He was a remarkable spirit and a fascinating companion, and inspired me to write not just the book, but to create a Pet Wall section of my blog, to memorialize the images and stories of reader pets, and honor them for their selfless devotion. I’ve had a lot of photos sent in, and gotten hundreds of e-mails from readers who say that Angel is the best book of its kind they’ve ever read, and touched them at a deeply personal level.
What are you working on now/next?
I’ll be doing third draft on Requiem then sending it off to the editor, and then after a whole week off, will begin JET V, which should release mid-March.
Where can readers find your works and follow you?
My Amazon page lists ‘em all, at http://www.amazon.com/Russell-Blake/e/B005OKCOLE/ – although I am also available on B&N and Kobo and Apple and Smashwords. My blog is mostly geared towards other authors, at http://RussellBlake.com – and I can be found on Twitter as @Blakebooks and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Russell.Blake.Books.
Thanks, Russell, for graciously agreeing to be interviewed by us. Now, who else wants to read Jet?!