It is my great pleasure to introduce one of the true heavyweights of Indie publishing, New York Times bestselling sensation Russell Blake. With fifty (count them, 50!) novels under his belt since he started out just five years ago, Russell has built up a tremendous following and caught the eye of thriller legend Clive Cussler. They have collaborated on two books to date, and Russell’s Jet series has been given its own Kindle World by Amazon.
What was it like teaming up with Clive Cussler?
As you might imagine, getting to work with a living legend was an honor and a thrill. He’s very much a gentleman, and knows more about writing a bestseller than I ever will. I learned a lot, and got the added bonus of having his agent, also an erudite fellow, represent me. So a win all around.
Your latest work is the superb post-apocalyptic dystopian thriller The Day After Never. What is it about, and what inspired you to write it?
I’ve been saying it’s the best writing I’ve done, and I stand by that. It follows an ex-Texas Ranger in the days after the collapse of civilization due to a confluence of economic and disease-related events. Think Clint Eastwood from the spaghetti western days, set down in a Mad Max world, and you pretty much have the idea.
I know you manage an extraordinary daily word count. What’s a day in the life of Russell Blake actually like, and does it really involve so much Tequila?
Is that some kind of a dig? “So much?” I prefer to think of it as just the right amount. As to a day in the life, I wake up (always good), feed the dogs, eat breakfast and gulp down a cup of coffee, and then begin writing. I’ll break for lunch and at the end of each chapter, and motor through until I hit my word count for the day, which is usually 5K. When really roaring, maybe 7K. Then comes dinner, which yes, often includes something to soothe my brutalized nerves. That will usually end in jail, at a strip club, or spooning a 300 pound Samoan cook on a tramp steamer to Jakarta. But always making for a good story.
I mentioned the Jet series being one of Amazon’s Kindle Worlds. What does that entail, and how can other authors participate?
Amazon approached me to put JET into their KW program, wherein interested readers and authors can pen stories in that world, using my characters, and those they dream up, in any sort of story that doesn’t involve pedophilia or a donkey. Their rules, not mine. Anyone can write in the world, and they get to keep their characters as their intellectual property. Several talents have sort of kick-started their careers doing it, most notably Jason Gurley and Tom Abrahams, who have gone on to huge success, so it can be a great deal all around.
To be a successful writer, you also have to be a reader. Which authors float your boat?
Besides the masterful Alan McDermott, you mean? James Lee Burke, David Foster Wallace, Lawrence Block, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Hugh Howey, Ben Fountain, Boston Tehran. I could go on for an hour. I love a lot of authors for different reasons, but those are my faves at the moment.
Your blog has some fantastic advice for new authors, but what would be the one thing that they need to get right?
From a business perspective, to view the creation of content as a separate endeavor from operating a publishing company, and to develop the necessary skills and devote suitable time to both. The biggest mistake I see beginning authors make is to eschew the crass commercial aspect of selling books because they are arteests. Creating content is the artistic endeavor, but the day you want someone to care and buy it, that’s publishing and retail, and any competence as a content creator won’t help in the retail marketing business. They are distinctly separate businesses. From a writing perspective, it’s to ensure they can tell a hell of a story that compels readers to turn the pages. Craft, lyricism, grammar, all important, but if the story ain’t racing along, it won’t matter. Assuming competence at crafting a sentence, it’s all about the story.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Marry rich and loaf all my life. Perhaps whip the servants when they misbehave.
What jobs did you have before you became a writer?
Ha! Name it. Everything you can think of. I ran companies in high tech and import/export, made wine, played and produced music, started an architectural and construction business, did some small venture capital – the gamut. I can’t say I was cheated out of opportunities, that’s for sure.
Is there one question that you wish interviewers would ask you, but they never do? If there is, what is the answer?
Tough one. I usually just rant about whatever pops into my head, so they’re lucky if they get to even ask the ones they want to. You’ve done a remarkably good job with yours, so I defer to the master.
If you could go back to 2011, when you published your first book, what, if anything, would you do differently?
I would write in one single genre instead of a mishmash, and I would stick to a series rather than writing stand-alones. Don't get me wrong, I love Fatal Exchange and The Geronimo Breach and Zero Sum, but readers like series, and you either give the reader what he wants, or he goes elsewhere. I didn't want to limit my literary genius to any one thing, which was a mistake. Fortunately, I figured it out toward the end of the year, but doing so ate 6 months I'll never get back.
Where can we find out more about you and your books?
I blog at RussellBlake.com. Have an author page at http://www.amazon.com/Russell-Blake/e/B005OKCOLE where you can find all my books. My facebook is www.facebook.com/Russell.Blake.Books - that about covers it!
Thanks for having me on, Alan. Very kind of you to sully your reputation with the likes of me. Appreciate it.