Russell: Music! I have to write to music, I need background noise. That and an endless supply of cups of tea. I also tend to write in short blasts, then stop and edit, then write again. I try and also keep office hours when I write. When it's time to stop writing I make myself stop.
Paul: What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
Russell: I have a pretty broad taste in books. I'm willing to give most things a go. As such I tend not to stick to a specific genre when I write. I don't want to be known as only writing in one area; that would be far too limiting and very boring. People are often too quick to tag you to a particular genre. Favorite authors are Paul Auster, Charles Bukowski, John Sayles, William Wharton and Stephen King.
Paul: If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
Russell: I dread to wonder! They would probably see someone making it up as they went along.
Paul: Do you have a favorite character in each of your series, aside from the lead? If so, which one and why?
Russell: I love them all. If I didn't they would never be there.
Paul: In all the years you’ve been publishing your work, what is the biggest mistake you made that you could share so others can avoid making it?
Russell: It was in leaving the marketing late, I think there are many things you can do whilst still writing to start getting the word out there. Reviews, interviews; all these things take time to get replies and also, of course, people take time to read a book. There is rarely a quick response, so it's important to get marketing early. Ideally have reviews or interviews lined up to coincide with the publication date. I think it's important to have a plan and a strategy from early on and get moving on promotion as soon as you can.
Paul: How do you find the time to write?
Russell: It can be difficult but when I do write it tends to be to the detriment of other things I need to do. So when I start tackling a new piece of writing I have to pick my times so I can devote myself to it completely. That said, I do try and keep strict hours when working so I can actually have time in the day to get out in the real world!
Paul: What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
Russell: You can tell them anything. I can always deny it!
Paul: If you are self-published, what led to you going your own way?
Russell: I never even tried the traditional route, there seemed little point. My first two books were never going to be considered mainstream; they were never going to be easy to market to a wide audience; and as such a traditional publisher would never have touched them. I can understand that. There's not a lot of risk-taking going on with major publishers, so why bother to wait around for months on end for the inevitable rejection letter? Publishing isn't a level playing field. The important thing in going the independent route was the books have had a chance to find their audience, and the feedback has been great. You never know whether there will be an audience for your work as you can never second guess readers. So even if it were just to prove to myself that there were people out there that liked what I was doing, self-publishing has been worth it. Without self-publishing they would still be on my computer. Self-publishing can be a wonderful and liberating way of publishing. There are many advantages if you are willing to put the work in.
Paul: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Russell: I very rarely plot them extensively. I certainly wouldn't suggest it as a good way of working but I tend to find a vague idea or an interesting character and then just start. Usually the plot works its way together as it goes along. It keeps it fresh and interesting for me too and sets me a constant daily challenge in the writing. As I say, I don't suggest it. Planning and plotting is really the way it should be done. But this works for me and in the end the best way of writing is to follow your own instincts.
Paul: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Russell: Lots of editing and re-writing. There has to be. No one gets it right on the first draft. I often think of it as a sculpture - you throw everything at it first time around and then bit by bit you chisel away until you have something good. Also I think most writers tend to over-write, particularly at the start, and the old saying of 'less is more' is really true.
Russell: My most recent book is called Stone Bleeding and is a dystopian satire on a Britain that has fallen apart into anarchy and chaos. Law and order has broken down and it raises the question of 'if there were no laws and you could get away with anything, how far would you go?' At its center it is also, hopefully, very funny and takes pot shots at celebrity culture and sound-bite politics. There is also a love story running through it, so it’s not completely dark and disturbing; it has a heart too.
Paul: What inspired you to write this book?
Russell: Originally it was written as a stage play but I soon realized that it didn't fit the confines of a play; it needed to be a book because there was too much there. The essence came about from my dislike of the bombardment of reality TV and celebrity culture. It's everywhere - even in books. Become a celebrity - get a book deal! It also applies to politics to an extent. Politicians have to look good on camera, have to talk in sound-bites, it seems to be more about how you look than what you say. It's tedious and dull and also damaging. So the initial impetus for the book was to satirize that sort of thing.
Paul: Do you also write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Russell: I did write poetry many years ago and won a prize for it at school. I haven't done any since then though. I love short stories and my first book Silent Bombs Falling on Green Grass is a short story collection.
Paul: How much marketing do you do for your published works or for your ‘brand’?
Russell: Marketing is a daily job. It has to be. I think a lot of writers (independent writers certainly) forget that. I did with my first book. It can be frustrating and time consuming, but in the end you have to try and get people to take a punt on your work. I use social media a lot and that has been great in promotion, but beyond that it's constant emails, letters, books being sent out to review, and interviews. I think it's important to dedicate certain times of the day, or at least the week, to concentrate on marketing.
Paul: What’s your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Russell: For me it's not the writing that’s the problem, it's the marketing. It is such a huge field, and now with self-publishing it is even bigger. So it's a double-edged sword, self-publishing gives you many more avenues to get your work out there, but in doing so you're fighting to be noticed alongside so many other writers and books. That has to be a good thing though (opportunity is only ever a good thing), but you do have to try and find a way of standing out from the crowd. How do you get your book noticed amongst all those others? No idea! I'm still trying to work that out.
Paul: What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?
Russell: I love films. That's really my main interest outside of writing. Music too is a great love. So watching films or going to gigs are what I'm usually doing when I’m not writing. Though usually if I'm not writing, I'm working out the next book or script in my mind. So it's hard to completely switch off from writing!
PAUL: Well thank you, Russell. I have enjoyed our conversation and I wish you every success for the future.
His theatre work includes the plays The Seventeenth Valentine, Freestate and Cool Blokes: Decent Suits
Silent Bombs Falling On Green Grass, his first collection of short fiction, was published in 2010. His latest book Stone Bleeding was published this year. He is currently at work on his third novel, Bleeker Hill, a dystopian horror story.
Russell's Blog: RussellMardell.co.uk
Russell on Twitter: @russellmardell
Russell on Facebook: RussellMardell
Russell's latest book: Stone Bleeding (Amazon)