Friday, February 18, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Randy Russell

Please join me as I get to discuss a world of wonders with Elevensie author Randy Russell!
Randy Russell is the Edgar-nominated author of five published novels for adults.  His first young adult novel, DEAD RULES, will be published by HarperTeen in June 2011.  He lives outside Asheville, North Carolina, at the far end of a long, curvy road through a shady mountain cove marked by a sign that reads “No Exit.”  Randy thinks that means he will live forever.
RB:  Hi, Randy! Please tell us a little about yourself and why you write paranormal fiction.
RR: First, I write paranormal fiction because I am scared all the time.  A little bit about myself would have to include my fascination with and study of ghosts.  I am an academically trained folklorist and I specialize in Southern ghost lore.  I also collect first-person accounts of ghost experiences by interviewing people who have encountered a ghost. 
I guess another thing to know about me is that I grew up in a circus family.  My brother and sister, both older me, were trained athletes fond of outlandish performances and costumes.  Both my father and my mother were adept at walking on their hands (and swinging from ropes, etc.), which made trips to the mall a little different for me when it was time buy clothes for school. 
In the meantime, my parents were perpetually holding me up by the ankles when I was toddler and walked me around the house and the yard like that.  For years (literally!) I always fell over when they let go.  So they didn’t let go as much as I would have liked. 
Luckily, I was a circus failure.  Or I’d probably be spending this weekend walking around somewhere on stilts dressed like Uncle Sam.  Let’s just say when they put me on a trampoline, I didn’t bounce.  I clung to the outer frame with both hands and cried my ass off.  When they put me on a unicycle (which my father could ride on a tight wire with his eyes closed), it fell over sideways.  I still have a scar on my chin from that little episode.  And don’t ask about eating fire.  I gagged and spit, and burned the front half of my shirt away in single flash.   

RB: Yikes! Describe your novel writing process- is it the same for all books that you write?
RR: I’d like to say I write what I see.  But, remember, I tend to see the world upside down.  So my writing process rarely varies.  I like taking an idea and turning it upside down, then seeing if I can make it walk.  I start all my books that way. 
For example, I am currently working on a YA utopian novel.  I’m not kidding.  It just seemed like the opposite thing to do.  It’s really cool, by the way.  Everyone in the story is fucking happy.  And that turns out to be a very eerie thing from beginning to end.   
It’s a world of wonders out there when you turn things upside down.  If you turn love upside down, for instance, it looks like a snow globe that’s just been shaken, only the snow lifts into the sky and disappears in the clouds.  Okay, this probably sounds crazy.  I better stop now.

RB: Don’t worry, we’re all crazy here. 
J What kind of research did you do for DEAD RULES?
RR: First of all, I went to high school.  As you can probably guess, I was mostly home schooled, but my parents would also plop me down into a public school when the circus season came to a close.  Oddly, I was very successful in public school.  By being successful, I mean I didn’t get beat up a lot.   This is probably because I had a car and was driving on my own by the time I was 14.  I used my brother’s driver’s license.  Of course, the car was small, but you could get a large number of clowns in it.
The rest of my research was noticing at a very young age that people died.  This is also one of the reasons I’m scared all the time.  Death does not make sense to me.  And I would like it to.  I want it to make sense very badly.  That, and love, I think, should make sense to. 
Basically, you have DEAD RULES in these two obsessive concerns of mine.  Originally titled DEAD SCHOOL, it’s about kids who are dead having to finish up high school on the other side.  It’s a romance because, well, what matters more to person than love?  And high school is when most of us first learn what love is… and isn’t.  
The best idea I had for the story, though, is that the kids still have their bodies in Dead School.  It’s a boarding school, of course.  So they have their bodies in the dorm, too.  Love works best when you have a body, I’ve found.  It’s really difficult to get a girl to notice you without one. 

RB: Did you write as a teen?  What kind of stuff did you read? 
RR: No, I did not write as a teen.  I was far too busy with other things, like trying not to fall down when I walked in and out of a room.    
As a pre-teen I read scads of True Romance type magazines.  My mother was addicted. While the other guys my age were talking about Batman and the Green Hornet, I was worried silly about whether Louise Mae was going to be raped in the backseat of that lying city slicker’s convertible and whether he would end up falling in love with her, after all.  That, and the bra ads.  I studied those ads with a rabid intensity I now wish I could bring to other things, like finishing a book on deadline.
As a teen, I read stuff like: VALLEY OF THE DOLLS; LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR; BOB AND CAROL AND TED AND ALICE; and COFFEE, TEA OR ME?  You know, the classics.  Anything with a bra in it. 

RB: What advice would you give other debut authors?
RR: Oh god: Me?  Advice?   Those two words don’t go together…  Okay: don’t set yourself on fire unless you have a real good reason to.  And even then, maybe just a little bit, like a thumb or something.  By the way, I always thought that having opposing thumbs meant they didn’t like each other. 
Thanks, Randy!  That’s very sound advice, especially if facing the apocalypse armed with a flame thrower.  (Checks flame thrower for safety mechanism.)

Intrigued by ghosts?  You can read more about DEAD RULES at Randy’s website here:  Don’t miss the spooky trailers created by M2 Productions!


  1. haha this is one of the most entertaining author interviews I have ever read. hilarious

  2. Wow, Randy! If you could've added another 179 pages to this interview, you'd probably have a bestseller in the humor market! Oh Mylanta!

    Crystal Allen

  3. Okay, Randy. I've known you for a while now. Is this the honest truth, dude? Either way, you've absolutely fascinated me (as well as entertained).

  4. Your life is a novel, Randy. And you bring back high school memories with your references to True Romance and Jacqueline Susann (I favored The Love Machine, personally).

  5. Thanks, Liana and Caroline!

    Crystal, the thing about humor and real life... and love... Well, it isn't funny when you're the one on fire. :-) Otherwise, sheesh, it's a big ol' goofy world and you may as well get goofy right along with it, no?

    Dang, Kathy, how did I miss THE LOVE MACHINE!!

    I have only one word to say about Gae : mermaid!

  6. That is BY FAR the best author interview I have ever read. Am RUSHING to buy your books now :)

  7. I love the part where he goes on and on about his circus family and all you say is yikes! HA! (oh, and the parts about the book were good, too. :)

  8. Great interview! But I'm worried about this man's thumbs.
    Randy. Do not set your thumbs on fire!

  9. This guy Randy must be an absolute genius and a funny one to boot. Geesh....was he REALLY raised in the circus?
    Fantastic interview.

  10. I could read Randy interviews all night long.

  11. This was, without a doubt, the BEST way to start off my day--Randy has never failed to make me laugh :) Can't wait for Dead Rules!!

  12. I just fell out of my chair. My Randy is so funny, this is why he is my Internet boyfriend.

    A circus family - who woulda of known?

    Funny, funny, funny.

  13. a utopian novel! randy you kill me.