Author Russell James is making the rounds for his new Samhain Horror novel, Dreamwalker. And I’m more than happy to have him by to pick his brain about his book, his writing habits and the future. Here’s my first question to him: Russell, why on earth did Pete Carroll call a pass play instead of giving the godd*mn football to Marshawn Lynch to run into the end zone? My wife, who admittedly doesn’t know anything about football, knew that throwing the ball in that situation was terrible play calling. I’m sorry. That’s the question I’d like to ask Pete Carroll while I’m watching those cheating New England Patriots celebrate winning the Super Bowl. But whatever. This blog post is all about Russell. He’s a cool guy and I can’t wait to meet him in person at a horror convention down the road. So let’s get down to business!
1. Here’s a question you’re probably never seen before: What on earth inspired you to write Dreamwalker?
I have dreams with recurring storylines. I’ll be in some fictional place, and remember dreams where I’d been in that fictional place before. I wondered what it would be like if one of those places was real, another parallel reality to the one I was awake in. Dreamwalker came from that idea.
2. I understand there’s voodoo involved in Dreamwalker. Did you go about researching voodoo, and what it is and isn’t? And did anything surprise you about voodoo?
The voodoo research was interesting. I really didn’t know much about voodoo except for the casual and usually incorrect portrayals in movies. I hit the library and checked out two voodoo books. That got a pretty strange look from my wife when she saw those on the living room coffee table. “It’s research for a novel” is the world’s lamest excuse when you haven’t published a novel yet.
All the beliefs about the good loa and the evil petra loa really fired up my imagination and gave me the antagonist, Cauquemere, a real voodoo petra loa. All the voodoo in the book is as close to actual as I wanted to make it without printing a how-to guide, because I wouldn’t want that responsibility. The thing that surprised me about voodoo is how ingrained it is in Haitian customs and beliefs. Enough people believe it dangerous that in was made illegal in Haiti in 1952. After reading some pretty hair-raising firsthand accounts, I was creeped out enough that I don’t want to get anyone messing with it.
3. I always ask authors about their writing habits, so: where do you write (home office, on the couch)? Do you have a specific word count you try to hit, or a number of hours you try to work?
I like to write in the dining room, which has all day southern exposure and excellent sunlight. Four or five hours a day is my maximum. At the point where everything I put down sounds perfect, I know it’s time to quit for the day.
4. Forget about all time: What’s the most influential work of horror you’ve read in the last five years, and why do you consider it as such?
I had an idea for novel about a plague that turns Long Island into a quarantine zone, and a mother has to escape with her son, who maybe has the answer for a cure. I did some work on it and thought I could never pull it off. Then I read Joe McKinney’s Quarantine, about San Antonio being sealed off after an outbreak. It was so damn excellent, and it showed me that kind of world building was possible. I’m no Joe McKinney, but I thought my novel deserved a second look, and that became Q Island.
5. Can you tell us about any of your future projects? (I know authors like to keep mum until contracts are signed.)
This is a busy year. The above mentioned Q Island is due this summer. I also just had a historical novel of the life of John the Baptist published under R.R. James.
My writing group puts out science fiction anthologies that benefit Doctors Without Borders. We’ve published Out of Time, Still Out of Time and Centauri Station. All of them regularly rank in the anthology Top 50 on Amazon and we have sent thousands of dollars to Doctors Without Borders. A second space-themed collection is due in June.
I’ve got an almost finished horror novel about Satan trying to open the gate to Hell. Disney wants it as a movie, but I’m thinking of offering it to Samhain Horror first.