I first became acquainted with Russell James through Facebook. He sent me a wonderful email, introducing himself. His debut novel, DARK INSPIRATION was going to be released soon. In the email, he told me he was about to read my debut novel, ANGEL BOARD. I was tickled, because it was only the second time somebody had emailed me to tell me that. The first time was from my stepmother, so naturally I was pretty giddy. We kept in touch through FB for a long time after that. I'll never forget his encouraging email after Publishers Weekly released a not-too-kind review of ANGEL BOARD. I knew right away this was a nice guy, with a sense of humor that matched my own. We finally got to meet at Horrorhound, and our reunions are a huge part of my going back. I enjoy our conversations, though we're sometimes too busy to communicate during the event, it's the big dinner afterward where we get to cut loose and talk about writing.
Here's Brian Moreland and Mick Ridgewell--the meat of a James/Rufty sandwich.
I read Russ's second novel, SACRIFICE, and fell in love with, not just the story, but the way he wrote it. He writes in a style that shows his influences, yet is still all his own. As I read it, I was amazed at how natural it seemed to flow. To me, it felt as if he didn't have to struggle to explain something. He put words on the pages that easily transformed to visuals in my head. And since that book, I have been a Russell James fan. I've quickly devoured everything he's written. I'm equally hungry to dive into his newest release--DREAMWALKER.
When I sent out the offer to have him come on my blog, I was ecstatic that he said yes. Below is what he wrote, and in it, you'll see his personality and his dedication to writing. Something I admire wholeheartedly about the guy. Thank you, Russ, for stopping by!
Dreamwalker Took A Long Walk
Days. Months. Years. Once you accrue enough time, you need to change the unit of measurement. Each jump up adds gravity to whatever the endeavor is, or highlights a significant lack of progress. Someone asked me how long it took to write Dreamwalker, my latest release from Samhain Horror. I checked the start date of the first version, which was just the first electronic version. A handwritten version preceded that. I shook my head in wonder.
A decade. I’d been working on this novel for a decade.
Not a decade straight, of course. A big flurry of work for a year or so, another push a year later, then nothing, then another chunk over the past year. The latest file is named Dreamwalker 4.5, so it has been through a few revisions.
What took so long? Simple. In 2005, I didn’t know how to write.
Dreamwalker was probably my third attempt at a long form story. I finished it. My mother loved it. So did my wife. I mailed copies out (yes, it was that long ago) to agents and publishers, and got a collection of SASE rejections. Pretty humiliating to have bad news sent to me penned in my own hand, with my own saliva on the back of a stamp that I bought. One publisher did bite, provided that I shorten the 100,000 word story to 70,000 and pony up $10,000 to buy myself a garage full of copies. I passed, money aside, because I thought I couldn’t possibly make the thing shorter without ruining it.
A family connection got me in touch with an English college professor in California who for a reasonable fee would check my novel and provide some coaching. With nothing to lose and an income tax refund in the bank, off Dreamwalker 1.0 went. Months later it came back, with more scrawled notes than a wall in a truck stop bathroom.
Looking back, I’m embarrassed by the things she explained to me. Point of view. Passive sentences. Filtering. Showing versus telling. Basically, Writing 101. I sucked up the knowledge and made a new version. But it sat in a metaphorical drawer. New projects had my attention and enthusiasm. I had this haunted house story called Dark Inspiration I was really excited about.
That was the one that sold, as did three more after that. Out of curiosity, I re-read the synopsis for Dreamwalker one day. It sounded pretty good. The original enthusiasm I had for Pete Holm and his adventure in Twin Moon City reignited. I had the bright idea that I could pretty much check for typos and send this baby out to the world. A month to make a novel this time, instead of twelve. I called up Dreamwalker 3.0.
What a pile of crap. On every page, unnecessary words sprouted like weeds. One protagonist was unrealistically perfect, the other two-dimensional. A Swiss cheese of plot holes made me cringe. Apparently I’d learned a lot more since 2007. Two online classes and the real world had provided Writing 201. This rewrite wasn’t going to take a month.
It took nine. The story pared down to 75,000 words (maybe the scam publisher had one thing right.) Pete, the hero, had to struggle more to beat the evil voodoo spirit. Rayna, his girlfriend, had to be won over. The sappy happy ending…well, you need to read it to find out where that went. Don D’Auria, the horror editor’s editor at Samhain, bought Dreamwalker 4.5.
So the lessons here? Get some education about writing from a pro. Tim Waggoner’s college classes, RJ Cavender’s Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat, the Gotham Writers’ online classes like I took. All of these are taught by published, experienced writers who know what they are talking about. Even Luke Skywalker needed to listen to Yoda. Then be open to criticism and improve.
Second lesson: never toss any ideas away. Their time may come.
Visit Russell James on the web HERE