Sunday, November 20, 2011

Being called disturbing is a compliment: An interview with horror author Todd Russell

Today, I'm talking with Todd Russell about his horror novel Fresh Flesh.

1) Tell us about your book.

Thank you for the interview, much appreciated. Fresh Flesh is about a rich woman who is shipwrecked on a mysterious island and rescued by a man who is not what he seems. It's very fast-paced with numerous twists and turns and contains characters that the reader will be interested in and care about.

2) What was the inspiration for this story?

On inspiration was being fascinated by the island and thinking of someone who could have anything that money can buy being thrust into a place where money is meaningless.

3) This novel was twenty-two years in the making. That's a rather long time. It makes even Jonathan Franzen look speedy. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of creation of the work?

Fresh Flesh is my third completed novel and it's only taken up about two years of actual work time. Yes, it has been 22+ calendar years since the project was first started until it was first published. I started the first draft on November 2, 1988 and finished it in January 1989. It sat for a month and then I reworked it and started sending off query letters to literary agents. I had interest from an agent right away and was very excited.

I signed on with a literary agent and that version of the book made the rounds with the major publishers in 1989. Pretty much after that until 2011, we didn't do anything with the novel. Got a lot of good, helpful feedback from editors and I soldiered on to complete four more novels from 1989-1994.

I kept thinking about the island and characters over the years and in 2011 sat down and wrote a third draft and sent it off to a group of beta readers. After receiving positive feedback I went through it one last time incorporating some of their suggested minor changes and then mailed it to proofreaders. It was also 2011 that I realized the book provided a framework for a series of adventures. Fresh Flesh was originally a standalone novel, like my other six novels, but I saw several other stories and began to make notes for future stories in the series.

For NaNoWriMo 2011 I started working on the first draft of Fresh #2 exactly 23 years later (November 2, 2011) from when I started the first draft of Fresh Flesh. I'm about a third through the first draft as of this interview. Readers shouldn't worry about Fresh #2 taking as long to be published as Fresh Flesh. My plan is to establish a routine publishing books in the Fresh series. What that routine will be isn't clearly defined yet, but I don't want it to be as spread as far apart as one Fresh series book every 22 years. At that rate, I'd be lucky to make the Fresh series a trilogy before death claimed me!

4) Why did you choose to have a female lead?

Because Fresh Flesh would not work with a male as the lead. I don't mean that in any kind of sexist way, but characters fill my stories based on what fits each story best. I want this series to be surprising and unpredictable with many creative twists and turns with characters, settings and plots.

5) In the past, some people have called your work "disturbing". Arguably, that's not such a terrible thing for a horror author. What motivates you to explore the dark corners of the human mind and fear?

I consider "disturbing" a compliment. I'm often trying to invoke strong emotions with my stories. The world is a dark place, but at the same time, I do believe that good triumphs more often over evil. What I don't want to be is an author who always produces predictably happy (or unhappy) endings. That's not very creative, entertaining or, let's face it, realistic. I want readers to get to the end and be surprised and hopefully enlightened by the tale feel like it was well worth their time reading. I want the stories to stay with them and be something they might want to reread another day. And, of course, be eager to read my next story.

6) What frightens you the most?

A lot scares me and these fears work their way into my stories.

From a career standpoint, I am frightened that I won't have enough readers to support writing full time. My dream has always been to sell enough books that I can write full time without financial concerns. I don't need to be the next Stephen King, heck, I just want to do well enough to make a living writing. I realize this is a dream many, many writers have and few are fortunate to achieve. If I don't have enough readers buying my work, I'll have to continue doing other work that takes time away from writing and that is a shame because so many stories I want--need--to tell will never happen.

I do a series on my blog called What Scares Authors and have reserved #666 in the series for myself to delve into my fears in greater detail.

7) A lot of people may live in area with tornado sirens, but most people don't live in areas that have volcanic pyroclastic flow warning sirens. Has Mount Rainer ever entered your mind as a possible story element?

Yes, the mountain is in mind for a future novel I've been noodling for the last six months or so. I'd like to begin writing this book soon. Maybe next after I finish the first draft of Fresh #2, although another novel I started is also calling to me.


Thanks for stopping by, Todd.

Fresh Flesh can be found at Amazon (ebook and print), Smashwords (ebook only), and Barnes and Noble (ebook and print.

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