FEATURED POST

Do you rate or review books once you've read them?

I've been chatting to some friends about whether they ever leave book reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, and I was quite surprised to learn...

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Author interview John Russo / Book review - The Race

I’m delighted to introduce my first short story book to Tweetables, The Race by debut author John Russo. And before we start with the interview, it’s important to point out that he’s not the ‘Night of the Living Dead’ writer, despite having the same name! I asked him about this and he says, ‘I chose a pen name due to privacy. I'm a very private person by nature. Unfortunately, I realized after I'd published that my pen name was the same as another author, an older gentleman who writes horror. That was an unintended, inadvertent accident which I've tried to amend by distancing myself from the horror writer as much as possible.’

So now we know! I asked John for a tweet-sized introduction of himself and he says (tweet here):

‘John Russo writes literary screwball comedies that not only entertain, but also ponder the meaning of life using down-to-earth characters and original storylines that are geared to stick with the reader for the rest of their days.’

Intriguing! I then asked John to expand on that and tell me a bit more about himself. He says, ‘The best word to describe me is hermit. Or maybe introvert, if you prefer. My home is in the mountains, away from town, which allows me to spend my time thinking and reflecting. I have lots of dogs, some cats. When the townsfolk see me out and about, they think to themselves, with a conspiratorial inner voice, he’s run out of food again.

They say this isn’t the most desirable life for a writer, and I agree with them (whoever “they” are), so I’m working on being more outgoing.  But lemme tell ya, it ain’t easy.’

Aww, I think John captured my heart at this point! However, the idea of being a writer and a hermit seemed a bit at odds to me, as you need a public profile in order to sell books. He had sent a photo of his back as his profile photo, so I asked him if this was to maintain his privacy and, if so, did locals know about his work? He replies, ‘Yes, the author portrait is done that way for privacy reasons. There's no local publicity or knowledge of my work yet, but I wouldn't be hostile to the idea of it. I understand that if I'm ever to establish myself as an author, folks have to find out about me and my work.’

And what about author PR events – would he be happy doing them?  ‘For book tours and signings and such, I would be open to doing such events, as long as there's no pictures. I would make exceptions to this rule only for special fans and/or friends and family.’

John writes in the humorous/comedy/satire genre and this is his first book, which is a short story which he published in 2021. He’s not intending to extend it or make it part of a series. I asked for a short synopsis:

‘Imagine a world where your Amazon package is delivered not by people, but by drones; not within days, but within minutes. This is the world in which Johnny and Robert Hesston find themselves. The problem is, those drones are looking more and more attractive . . . all those boxes and packages . . . almost like free prizes . . .’

I certainly think it’s likely that drone deliveries could be in our future! I asked John what inspired him to write it. ‘I can’t say for absolute certain. What sticks in my memory is an article I read a couple years ago about this delivery drone program Amazon was/is developing. My weird brain started mulling over the implications of such a program and it wasn’t long before I had the opening line for The Race. The rest is history. The whole thing seemed to click together on its own from that simple premise, which, as any writer will tell you, is a rare occurrence.’

And what started him writing in the first place? ‘The catalyst was quite simply my mother. She's a copyeditor and an avid fiction reader. She also writes books for children. Back when I was young, I would watch her in the throes of composition, yearning to try it for myself. Once I found the gumption to sit down and give it a shot, there was no turning back. I've been writing ever since.’

So what does he enjoy the most about writing? ‘Characters, without a doubt. While I am a hermit, I’m still very fascinated by people, how they interact with each other, and what makes them do the things they do. That’s what saves my work from being dry and unrealistic, I guess. Anyhow, the process of bringing characters to life is something that delights me to no end. I consider them to be of more importance than the story itself.’

So how does he select his characters’ names? ‘I just start pairing first and last names together until I get something that has a nice ring to it. Sometimes, for the protagonist, I’ll think of a person I admire or respect, and I’ll pair their first name with some random last name plucked from a stop sign. As odd as it sounds, doing this helps me connect and empathize with the protagonist a bit more.’

So we know what he enjoys, but what does he find challenging? ‘With writing, the uncertainty and self-doubt are the toughest challenges. My entire writing journey has been one long guessing game. I’ve never taken any kind of creative writing class, and have literally only read one book about the craft (Stephen King’s On Writing). I just tell stories to the best of my abilities, re-writing and polishing as I go, then cross my fingers, hoping that it resonates with readers. Trouble is, that entails a lot of self-doubt. You sit there and wonder, “Does this stupid thing even make sense? Are readers just going to shake their head and toss it aside because it confuses them? Should I give up and throw the computer into the lake?”

As for publishing, it’s been quite easy, but only because I’ve self-published thus far. All I needed was a professional cover, a hooking blurb, and access to Kindle Direct Publishing. I didn’t have to experience the trials of agent-fishing, nor those of trying to lure a publisher.  But, I have had to go through hell and back marketing it, so it all balances out.’

Having learnt about John’s lifestyle, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that his publishing journey has been so solitary, but most writers have an editor or a peer group to ask for help. We connected through Twitter so I wondered whether this has opened up new avenues for him going forward?

‘While I didn't necessarily have a support group, I do have a very supportive family. And, as you say, the writing community on Twitter has been helpful. I've formed some solid friendships there, which I intend to maintain for the duration of my career if possible. Be that as it may, I will never fully trust anyone online, especially not representation agencies or publishers. I'm very leery of anyone who might want to control the themes and overall arcs that come out in my work. There's a lot of entities out there bent on directing the narratives through fiction, and I go against the grain in many respects. As a result, I'm probably going to do my best to tough it out as a self-published author, and work my way to success with my sleeves rolled up. Not to say I don't appreciate any help from my fellow wordsmiths. I'm nothing but grateful for what they've done so far.’

Now that John has gained all this knowledge, I wondered what he would go back in time and tell his younger self? ‘Never stop being humble. Keep listening to criticism. Humility and criticism are the crucial ingredients of a good writer. Without them, you’re dead in the water.’

So the big question from me, does he fancy penning a novel now? ‘Absolutely. I've got dozens of novel ideas, as well as a few more short stories planned. I'm currently piecing together a novel in my head which I intend to write and publish within the next ten years. I realize that's a long time, but hopefully I can put out some more short fiction to appease my readers until then.’

It's good news for John’s readers then! And what about John’s favourite novel? Innocence by Dean Koontz. Apart from it being an awesome story told by a master storyteller, I love it because of the messages and themes woven throughout it. The book as a whole is basically a mirror of humanity, revealing who we really are, not who we want to see ourselves as.’

And what about reviews on his book– does he read them and what does he feel about them? ‘Absolutely. I need that feedback as a writer. Without it, I’d go crazy. When good ones come along, I smile really wide, drink some root beer, and praise God.

Bad ones are a little trickier. If the criticism is constructive and meaningful, I file it away to remember when I’m writing. If they didn’t like the story for reasons beyond my control, then I move on. I don’t hate them, nor do I turn bitter. That’s stupid. People aren’t always going to love your work. Simple as that. Plus, being in the genre I’m in, I know that humor is subjective, so not everyone will laugh at the same things. Can’t blame ‘em for that.’

And what would he like to say to you, his readers? ‘Above all: THANK YOU. If you were willing to take a chance on a nobody like me and read my stories, then I can’t thank you enough. Even if you didn’t care for it, I still thank you for the time you spared to read it.

If anyone out there has enjoyed my work, I ask that you please tell a friend about it. Word-of-mouth is how an author sells books, so if you could help with that, I’d be all the more grateful.’

Please read my featured post on this (press here) as reviews are so important to authors.

 

BOOK REVIEW

The Race is set in the not-too-distant future, where Amazon is sending out deliveries via drones. Its test warehouse is situated in Farliment, Louisiana, where locals are predominantly farmers or ranchers aged over 65. Their reaction is:

‘They just shook their heads, despondent that technology had prevailed over tradition once again. A few rejoiced in the fact that they could finally prove they had seen a UFO.’

And this sets up the tone for the book – humour and pathos sitting side by side!

The book is only sixteen pages long but within it is set a fun story of two brothers, Johnny and Robert Hesston. They watch the drones flying over their farmland and as they stop their tractors for lunch one day, Robert hatches his harebrained scheme and a bet is made, which becomes the adventure they then embark upon. To give you a tiny taster:

“Hey, this idea of mine just might change our lives.”
“Our lives?”
Robert nodded. “Absolutely.”
“Last time my life changed, I lost a gallbladder. Not sure life-changers are my thing.”

I’m not giving away any more of the story, but I will say it’s fun with a capital F! Being British, I was fascinated with the Louisiana backdrop and I entered that swamp alongside them.

The dialogue between the brothers is very realistic and witty (as you can see above!) and there’s even a twist at the end, which I did guess, but it still didn’t take away my enjoyment.

John’s style is easy to read and he’s a great satirist. The plotting’s pacy and it’s a quick read which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I would recommend The Race to anyone who has a spare hour and fancies a giggle – it will definitely lift your spirits!

Why not visit the author's pages for more information:

Author page: Amazon

Twitter: @WritetoMusic

I'd love your feedback, so please leave me a comment (some browsers might not work, Google Chrome works best!) Thank you šŸ˜ƒ  

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out by following here.

13 comments:

  1. Interesting interview. I appreciated the brief bits from the book so I could experience the writer's style and decide if I wanted to give the story a go. I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at this author and his creative process, and I will definitely visit this site to read reviews again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for the lovely feedback ☺️
      I'm very grateful to the authors for being so honest in their answers and allowing me to include extracts. It's only due to their generosity that these interviews are so amazing and I hope their efforts are rewarded with more book sales šŸ¤žšŸ“š

      Delete
  2. What a brilliant interview. I'll definitely put this on my list of books to buy as John sounds such a character, just my type of author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Harry, I'm delighted you feel that way! Enjoy ☺️

      Delete
  3. Really enjoyed this interview and book review, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Really enjoyed reading this, what a character John sounds and Jane has done a great job interviewing him. Will definitely be returning to this blog again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Julia and I'm delighted to hear that you'll be returning! There are so many brilliant authors and books lined up that I can hardly contain my enthusiasm!

      Delete
  5. I love this interview and I'll be buying this book to support this author - all the best to him, he deserves great success. And thanks for another great interview.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Penny and I agree with you about supporting John, he definitely deserves it!

      Delete
    2. Thank you Penny! I hope you enjoy! And thank you Jane!

      Delete
    3. You're most welcome John šŸ˜„

      Delete
  6. D.S.Marquis (via twitter)June 1, 2022 at 9:01 PM

    Wishing John many readers, Jane! Excited to share a twitter journey together!šŸŒ·šŸ˜Š✍šŸ»šŸ“š

    ReplyDelete