An Interview With Horror Master Russell James
I was lucky enough to spend some time with one of my favorite guys in the horror biz, Russell James. I’ve been hooked on his writing ever since I read his debut novel, Dark Inspiration. And lucky me, I get to hang out with the guy at horror cons! He has a lot going on this year, publishing enough fresh terror to keep his fans satisfied.
Your latest tale of terror, Dark Vengeance, was just released through Samhain Horror in March. What are readers in store for this time around?
Laura and Teresa, the heroes from DARK INSPIRATION, are back. A coven of witches has taken up residence in their small town in Tennessee. The coven’s plan is to resurrect an Aztec demon that really has it in for the male of the species. They need to perform a human sacrifice to make the demon’s transformation complete, and they will need to use children.
Laura and Teresa are the only ones with the clues a bout what evil is to come, but their experiences in DARK INSPIRATION were too much for their relationship to bear, and they’ve moved apart. They have to pull theirrelationship back together in time to save the children, includingTeresa’s son.
Your debut book. Dark Inspiration, just blew me away. I knewthat I was in great company with the new line of horror authors that Samhain had gathered. What made you decide to write the follow up, Dark Vengeance, and can we expect another in the ongoing saga?
I had readers of Dark Inspiration ask for more stories about Laura and Teresa, so I got to thinking about the effects on them from what they endured in the first book. I wanted that impact to follow through, toaffect them in the second story, not have it like sitcom episode where everything starts fresh. The new character in this book, who ends up being named Dawn, really intrigues me. We may hear more about her.
You also have a novella, Blood Red Roses coming out on May 6th (the day before my birthday in case anyone wants to buy me a cake). Tell us a little about it.
This novella is one of four that won the Gothic Horror Contest with Samhain. Mine is set on a cotton plantation during the Civil War. An orphan is sold there to work in the stable under an evil overseer, and uncovers a series of slave killings. The more he investigates it, the deeper and darker the story gets, until he finds himself a victim. I read a lot of Edgar Allen Poe ahead of time and tried to put a bit of his style into it to make it feel period-correct.
I’ve found a common theme with horror authors in that so many were inspired to pursue the genre by those 70s staples, In Search Of and Kolchak The Night Stalker. What are your favorite episodes of each?
In Search Of was just excellent. The episode explaining the Nazca drawings, the enormous etchings on the plains that can only be seen from above, made me convinced to this day we were visited by aliens. Kolchack? Was there a bad episode? Loved that show. And if anyone says Twilight Zone had no impact on them, they are lying.
You’ve also been self-publishing short story collections and collaborating with other writers. Tell us about those collections and where people can find them?
I started a critique group with five other writers after we finished a Gotham Writing class. All of them have since gone on to be professionally published or to win writing awards, including several Honorable Mentions in Writers of the Future contests. We decided to self-publish a collection of time travel stories called OUT of TIME, and donate the royalties to Doctors Without Borders. It has sold over 5000 copies and generated a nice stream of checks for DWB. I think that having five other good writers deliver some no-holds-barred criticism forced all of us to write better, and it shows in the end product. It is even a hot seller in Great Britain for some reason.
We also just put out a fairy tale collection called In A LAND FAR AWAY, also supporting Doctors Without Borders.
In the horror realm, I have two collections of short stories, TALES FROM BEYOND and DEEPER INTO DARKNESS. I wanted to give readers an easy way to sample my style before they bought a novel. Both of these have done very well.
All of these collections are at Amazon, and listed on my Amazon author page.
As one of the privileged few to get an early look at your next novel, Dreamwalker, I’ve come to think of you as the Samhain Magic Man (cue the Heart soundtrack). You definitely have a deep interest in all things magical and mystical. What attracts you to magic?
It does appear I have a subconscious pull to power drawn from the supernatural. In DREAMWALKER, the characters use voodoo to access that power. That was some seriously creepy research that convinced me voodoo taps into something truly dark and powerful. In Haiti, voodoo was illegal at one point. Most governments don’t ban something that isn’t a real and present danger. If you ever want to get your family to second guess you, start checking voodoo books out of the library.
We’ve both had personal contacts with things beyond what we see as reality. There’s a whole different level out there we’ll someday understand.
What’s one thing you can tell people about yourself that you haven’t revealed in other interviews?
I went over twenty years without watching a horror movie. When I was about seven, my father took me to see Vincent Price in House of Wax in 3D. Between the 3D and the Technicolor melting faces, I was duck-down-in-the-seat terrified. Except for the 1930’s Universal classics, I didn’t see another horror movie until well into adulthood. Now they are a blast.
What was your path to publication like? If you could give aspiring writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
I lucked out. I was in that Gotham writing class I mentioned and the teacher said Samhain had opened up a new horror line under the respected editor Don D’Auria. I’d had two short stories published and DARK INSPIRATION’s manuscript was sitting on my hard drive awaiting the slew of rejections that my prior three manuscripts garnered. I figured I might as well start my rejections with one of the best, so I sent it off. I literally dropped to my knees in shock when I got the acceptance email. I honestly still didn’t believe it until the books showed up at my doorstep.
Advice to new writers? Write, read, submit. Just keep going. Writing is a skill. Some are gifted at it, but it is still a skill everyone must master. A gifted swimmer still has to train to win an Olympic medal. And that’s what getting published is like, like winning an Olympic medal. The more you write, the better you get. And if you are going to quit when you get rejected, don’t bother trying. I have five published novels, and I get rejections all the time. That part won’t get better.
Your future is as bright as a supernova. What’s next for the Magic Man?
Before the end of the year, I’ll be in two more benefit anthologies, a space/sci-fi one called CENTAURI STATION, and a second time travel collection called STILL OUT OF TIME. In January next year DREAMWALKER releases from Samhain. I just finished a post-apocalyptic novel manuscript called Q ISLAND, and have a few other cards up my sleeve after that. Don’t blink. You’ll miss something.
About Hunter SheaHunter Shea is the product of a childhood weened on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and In Search Of. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter Shea is the product of a childhood weened on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and In Search Of. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. His novels, Forest of Shadows, Evil Eternal , Swamp Monster Massacre , Sinister Entity, Hell Hole, The Waiting and Island of the Forbidden are published through Samhain Publishing’s horror line. Hell Hole was named Horror Novel Reviews #1 horror novel of 2014. His first thriller novel, The Montauk Monster, was released June, 2014 as a Pinnacle paperback, and was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the best reads of the summer. His follow up Pinnacle novel, Tortures of the Damned, a post apocalyptic thriller, will be out July, 2015. That will be followed up by his latest cryptid tale, The Dover Demon, in the fall through Samhain. His horror short story collection, Asylum Scrawls, is available as an e-book, straightjacket not included. Hunter is an amateur cryptozoologist, having written wild, fictional tales about Bigfoot, The Montauk Monster, The Dover Demon and many new creatures to come. A copy of his book, The Montauk Monster, is currently on display in the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, ME. He wrote his first novel with the express desire to work only with editor Don D’Auria at Dorchester (Leisure Horror). He submitted his novel to Don and only Don, unagented, placed on the slush pile. He is proof that dedicated writers can be rescued from no man’s land. He now works with Don, along with several other agents and publishers, having published over ten books in just four years. Hunter is proud to be be one half of the Monster Men video podcast, along with his partner in crime, Jack Campisi. It is one of the most watched horror video podcasts in the world. Monster Men is a light hearted approach to dark subjects. Hunter and Jack explore real life hauntings, monsters, movies, books and everything under the horror sun. They often interview authors, cryptid and ghost hunters, directors and anyone else living in the horror lane. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to get Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits. His daughters have also gotten the horror bug, assisting him with research, story ideas and illustrations that can be seen in magazines such as Dark Dossier.
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