Interview – Russell Blake – International Best - Selling author of Fatal Exchange, a ground-breaking genre – blending thriller set against the counter – culture back drop of New York's seedy underground
1. Briefly tell us about Russell the author.
I live on the Pacific coast of Mexico, where I've happily resided for eight years. I have three dogs, and spend most of my time writing, playing with them, fishing, boating, and collecting and sampling tequila (wink wink).
2. When did you start working on your first book?
Over a decade ago, but I tossed it in the dumpster, as I did with books two and three. They weren't up to par, or at least to where I wanted to be. My first self-published book, Fatal Exchange, released in June, 2011.
3. For how long did you pre - market it?
I'm ashamed to admit it, but I did zero pre-marketing on any of my books. Twelve books in 2011, and no pre-marketing. Maybe I'll do some in 2012. If I knew how, I'd probably be more likely to do so...
4. Did you know what kind of novel you were going to be writing from the word go or was it only established afterwards? Absolutely. With Fatal Exchange, I had a very clear idea of the plot and the conclusion. Some of the later ones, I just sort of let take their own course.
5. What is your ultimate goal in writing? To be viewed by readers as in the same league as the big brand thriller writers.
6. Where should a writer begin their journey? I have written a novel and now what? I think the first thing to do is get an editor. A real editor, not a friend or relative. Someone who will tell you the work stinks if it does. Part of the problem in any performing art is selective filtering of our own work. For the same reason the girl on America's Got Talent goes up to sing, and clearly can't, writers routinely publish drivel that should be tossed in the rubbish. It's hard to be objective about your own work. But I can't tell you how many marginal books I've read or been sent. It's getting to where I won't accept any - partially due to time, but also partially because, if the author hasn't bothered to get professional help with it, I won't bother investing my time in reading it. Seems simple, but you'd be surprised.
7. When is the right time to get an agent? I think it depends upon your objective. So far, for me, it's been never, or at least, not for years. I had one once, but we agreed that unless we could get a big deal, it wasn't worth doing. Mid-list authors tend to make less than peanuts, so I've never been interested in being one. And these days, I don't think that the dream of an agent selling a book for six figures happens for new authors. So I've chosen the self-publishing path. Running the numbers, it will wind up being far more lucrative than being a mid-lister, and if something breaks big, then I can always look at representation for film and foreign rights.
8. Any tips on pitching a novel in general. Get it down to a single sentence. If you can't express the idea in a single sentence, you don't know what your book is about. As an example, my assassination thriller, King of Swords, would be summarized as "Day of the Jackal in Modern Mexico." The shorter the better.
9. Anything you would like to say to new and aspiring writers. Write because you love to do so, and because you aspire to get better at your craft, and understand that practice makes perfect. Malcolm Gladwell concluded that it took 10,000 hours of doing something to master it. Run your own numbers and figure out where you are in your development. But recognize it will take time, and that writing is a crapshoot when it comes to making it - your odds are probably better playing the slots. So write because you love to, and because you have something compelling to say.
10. Current work you are busy with. Just finished first draft of my latest WIP, The Voynich Cipher, yesterday night. Will be rewriting and polishing for seven to ten days, and then off to the editor. A departure for me, Voynich is a cross between Clive Cussler and Dan Brown, with a lot of Blake seasoned throughout. Next will be a sequel to King of Swords, or maybe Fatal Exchange. Still ruminating on that.
11. What inspires you to write? Telling a story in a manner nobody else can. Being able to create whole universes without restriction. And the satisfaction of connecting with the reader in the personal, intimate manner that only the one-on-one of a book can do. That, and the beer.
12. Tell us a bit more about RABMAD – read a book, Make a difference. I joined up about three months ago. It was recommended to me by another author, and seemed like a neat way to publicize my interest in donating to animal shelters. Rather than belabor it all here, I'd encourage readers to go to the website. There are a lot of neat authors there, giving back.
13. Why the leap from fiction to non-fiction ? A story's a story, whether fictional or non. I wanted to lampoon the writing self-help books, so wrote How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated), then wanted to tell the story of my partner in crime, Lobo. Non-fiction was the best way to do so.
14. What is your preference self-publishing or official publishing? For where I am now, self. If I could get large deals done that would lead to film treatments of some of my books, then obviously traditional. But someone would have to make a pretty compelling argument for me to accept 15% of every dollar instead of 100%. In reality, the vast majority of traditionally published authors get less than peanuts, so why do that? Seems better to build a following to the point where you have something to offer and aren't going begging, hat in hand, from a virtual monopoly.
17. What message have you got towards aspiring African writers? African or otherwise, it's a global market, so write books that will appeal on a global scale. And always write like you mean it, or rather, mean it when you write. Write like whatever you're doing is your only, or last, book, and make it as good as it can be. Then go back and polish.
For more info you can go to http://russellblake.com/