Hi Russell, thanks for taking the time to answer a few of my questions.
You have retired at a young age. What made you decide that?
I was tired of the rat race, had made some money when I sold my company, and decided that my life was better spent hanging around on the beach drinking tequila and playing with my dogs rather than trying to figure out how to make even more money so I could buy a bunch of crap I didn’t need. I had grown deeply dissatisfied with the whole consumer society thing, where if you have a car, you need a better one, if you have a house, you need a nicer one, if you have a nice house and car you need two, if you have two you need a boat, and then a bigger one, and then a plane to get you from your houses to the boat…it just seemed like a silly treadmill where the only winners were those selling the crap. So I got off the merry-go-round, and have never been happier.
How long did it take you to get ‘bored’ with spending time doing not much?
About two years. So I started a design and build company where I did the home design and then built the full custom homes. I want to say I designed about 65 homes and built 13 of em. It was enormously gratifying from a creative standpoint because I could create new ideas in a variety of styles, but the building part was a pain, and it grew tedious, so I got out of it. I then started a wine company, where I made wine in Argentina and imported it into Mexico, and that was fun, but again, the dealing with distributors and the like grew old quickly. And then along came Amazon. The rest, as they say, is history.
If you would now suddenly be offered a deal from the Big Five, would you now still take it, or politely tell them ‘thanks, but no thanks’?
Depends on the deal. I’m not married to any one approach. Whatever gets the largest readership on the most equitable terms. The truth is I make more than I ever thought possible from books right now, so I feel zero pressure to do anything, but am willing to listen to anything. This is a business, and so discarding any approach based on philosophy rather than financial outcome is dumb. Listen to everything, evaluate, decide. Trad pub is just another route to getting visibility, in my opinion. With 25 books out, if I did a trad pubbed series, a book every six or eight months, that would increase my visibility in places like airports, where genre fiction like the sort I write does well. I think it’s a natural, but hey, what do I know?
To me it seems you have more than an inkling of how to go about things.
Is writing an addiction, or an affliction? Or just plain, good, old fun?
For me it’s a little of both. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love it. I was writing for my own amusement before publishing, so obviously it was something I enjoyed. I think it’s a good idea to write because you love it. If the money comes, super, but write because you have passion for writing and a compelling and entertaining story to tell.
What is your favourite holiday destination? And would you go there to be lazy, or would you cram the time with activities?
These days, Buenos Aires. And if you count gourmet meals, wine tasting, gelato sampling, and napping as activities, then it’s crammed with activities.
Hahaha, sounds like an action-packed holiday I would enjoy too. 🙂
Thrillseeker, or sloth? (I know you’re far from a sloth in your daily life, but if you ever take time off which one is it then?)
Total sloth. I’m fundamentally lazy. I know, with all the hubbub about me writing 15 hour days, that seems antipodal, but there it is. I’m either 110% on, or 110% off.
Nothing wrong with that, me thinks. 🙂
What is the title of the book you would like to talk most about, and can you give us a small taster of it?
Well, JET is my most popular series.
It’s a cheerfully over-the-top action thriller that’s crafted in the mold of Bourne or Kill Bill, with a female protagonist fighting for survival. It’s lightning-paced and intended to be just a whole lot of fun – it’s not Tolstoy. Probably my other current favorite is BLACK, which is my new noir detective mystery series, about a down-on-his-luck Hollywood PI with anger management and alcohol issues. A lot of humor, a la Get Shorty. Both very fun, guilty pleasure reads, and very different.
Sounds great! For those who would like to read a sample please hop on over to Amazon and read it there, but remember to come back and finish reading this interview because Russell has more interesting things to say.
Did you have difficulty coming up with the title? Do you ever have difficulty coming up with titles?
Nah. First thing that pops into my head winds up being the title. With JET, I actually was out hiking and the name and book cover popped into my head, although the final cover wound up being nothing like what I’d initially imagined, which was a black cover with the word JET in metallic red and a Kanji symbol beneath it. Odd how my brain works. It’s a disturbing place to reside – trust me on that. On BLACK, I originally saw it exactly as it is currently executed on the cover, but as HUNTER. I changed it to BLACK when I learned there was already a Hollywood PI named Hunter. Go figure.
What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?
The first book in the series for free gambit worked well for a long time. I stopped doing that about a month ago to see how it would impact sales, and so far no negative impact, but I’d say as an unknown it was instrumental in helping me build a readership. But also, having a regular publishing schedule also is important, because you can hit the Hot New Releases lists for 30 days after release, so if you release a book every couple of months or so, you get a lot more visibility. And discoverability is everything in this game, presuming the writing quality’s there.
Ah, yes there you touch on a subject I could get on my soapbox for, but that is not why the readers are here. Sorry for the interruption, on to the next question.
Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?
In my life? Chicken and red wine. Specifically, Shiraz or Malbec. I’m a huge red wine enthusiast, and have been my entire adult life.
We share a love for Shiraz, but I haven’t had Malbec ever. I might try it one day, if I can get it in the UK.
What is your favourite dish and can you give me the recipe?
Ha ha ha. I can’t even boil water. But I love a fresh pasta pesto or an oven baked seabass in a pesto crust, as well as pasta pizzaiola (sp?).
How do you feel about being “outed” by the WSJ?
It’s funny, because after the WSJ feature, I’ve gotten so many emails discussing my “real” name and my background. I mean, it’s no secret that RB is a pseudonym – I wrote a whole blog about it around two or three months ago. But to spare me the emails, let me just say this. I wasn’t always a home developer. Let’s just say I’ve had an eclectic and unusual past. I won’t go into it any more than that, but suffice it to say my biography would be different than just about anyone else’s in the world. As to my real name, for literary purposes it’s Russell Blake. I’ve even considered changing my name, just to make everything simpler. To me, a name is a moniker, a way of identifying someone’s traits and qualities, nothing more. I’m more Russell Blake than anyone else, and frankly, Russell is me, toned down a little – the Lite version. If you think Russell’s colorful, trust me, after 24 hours in my life, you’d be begging for a break. So I’m Russell to one and all, and that’s how I identify myself. I chose a pseudonym originally because there are very real safety issues in Mexico if you’re successful or suspected of being so – kidnappings, robberies and the like – and you become a target. So Russell was born in order to shield me from that sort of thing. Now that the WSJ has published my legal name, that might change, but there’s nothing I can do about it. Fortunately not a lot of folks in my neck of the woods read the WSJ, so for now, I feel safe.
Thank you Russell for being here and sharing all of this with the readers. I’m sure many of them eagerly await the next chance to read one of your books. (I know I am)
For those that just want to follow you they can go to your site and read their hearts out.