Friday, September 10, 2010

Rebecca Ryals Russell - Interview Part 2

What is your greatest fear about being an author? What about in life?

My greatest fear about being an author is probably pretty normal. I desperately want my stories read and would really like to make some money from my efforts. But I’m scared to death of ‘real’ success. If I was invited to Oprah’s show I’d probably pass out on her stage. My fear in life is that I will somehow die before finishing my two series.

What was your favorite subject in high school and why? Least favorite and why?

Of course my favorite subject has always been English. Particularly literature and Creative Writing. My least favorite is Math. I’m horrible at Math and really came to understand it when I taught it.

How did your high school English teacher(s) respond to your writings back then?

I always got good grades in English. My teachers made the typical red mark corrections but comments were always favorable.

What was your favorite book as a teen and why?

I had several books that I absolutely fell in love with and one author in particular. I LOVED Lord of the Flies. I’ve always enjoyed anything psychological and questioning. I also fell in love with Lord of the Rings. I love the whole quest thing with the various obstacles along the way. In fact, that is what I ended up writing. The whole time I kept LOTR in mind while I wrote. And my favorite author or all time is Ray Bradbury. His stories are intelligent and creative with twists and odd perspectives. I try to emulate him as well. The other book I adore is 1984 by George Orwell. I have a dystopian novel planned for my NaNoWriMo this year.

If someone told you everything you write is junk and worthless. Would you continue to write? Why or why not?

To be honest I’m not sure how I’d react. I would be devastated, for sure, but I think I would write – I just wouldn’t show it to anyone. I have a pretty fragile ego where my creations are concerned. I guess I’m always unsure whether anyone will like it.

What classic literature would you recommend teens to read and why?

Having raised three teens so far I had an opportunity to do just this. They read 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, A Brave New World by Aldus Huxley, Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, Edgar Allen Poe, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee , Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger, Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. My son even read Dante’s The Divine Comedy as a sophomore in high school. There are probably more but these are what come to mind. Having them read these classics gave us something to discuss and broadened their horizons. Since reading them they have found references in movies, magazines, commercials and conversation.

What one book do you think everyone should read and why?

That would be a toss-up between 1984, The Giver and Lord of the Flies. Each of these explores the human condition.

What would you tell teenaged writers about the submission to publication process?

Don’t give up. No matter how many rejections you receive, rework the submission until it gets accepted. Take each rejection as a lesson that the manuscript needs more work.

Why do think teenagers are so fascinated by the paranormal and fantastic? (vampires, werewolves, ghosts, faeries, elves, demons)

Teenagers feel immortal. Their brains tell them they can’t die, so they search out fearful images to test themselves. That’s why slasher films are marketed at them. But this fallacy in thinking is why there are so many teenaged driving deaths/accidents, suicides and pregnancies.

You’ve been asked to choose 5-10 books for a space capsule. What would you choose and why?

1-1984 by George Orwell, it shows what can happen to society that is too tightly controlled; embodies the Dystopian novel
2-Brave New World by Aldus Huxley, it embodies futurism in literature
3-Harry Potter by JK Rowling, helps give kids hope they can make a difference; interesting use of magic overlapping with the ‘real’ world
4-Lord of the Flies by William Golding, shows what happens to society without controls
5-How To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, demonstrates man inhumanity to man
6-Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mead, historical about the Civil War, hopeful about overcoming oppression
7-anything by Shakespeare, incredible use of language, structure, symbolism
8-Dante’s Inferno, amazing imagination and use of language
9-Fairy Tales by Brothers Grimm, classic stories that change as you grow

If your child declared they were going to be an author while a senior in high school, how would you respond?

I’ve actually been faced with this scenario. Two of my children are headed for the publication field. One is interested in the Graphic Arts field after taking two years of Journalism in college and the other wants to be a gaming journalist. He’s the editor of the high school newspaper this year. My response was and is – get a degree and go for it.

If you weren’t an author what other job would be doing?

I loved teaching and would still be doing it had it not changed so dramatically.

How is being an author different from what you thought it would be like?

I thought being an author meant someone paying me to write books while they did the marketing and selling so I could then write more and more. However, writing has changed so much the author must now do much of their own marketing and selling which reduces the time spent writing.

When you decided to pursue publication, did you realize what marketing and promotion would entail?

I hoped to find a publisher that would do it all. But things didn’t work out that way so I’m learning more about marketing than I ever thought I would need to know. I decided to go with a new small publishing house because of the ‘family’ atmosphere (which has lived up to the promise) and while they do some promoting, most of it falls on the authors’ shoulders. But that’s the way the business is evolving at the moment.

How has your concept of marketing, platform building, promotion changed since you wrote your first word?

I’d never heard of platforming or branding before writing my book. Now I’ve built a pretty sizable platform, which means getting my name into the Internet in various ways. And I’m still putting it out there. I recently began a grog (group blog) with several YA/MG authors for giving teens advice for writing and publication.; I have several websites and another blog not to mention all the writers’ sites I have profiles on and the various readers’ sites I belong to. All of this can be seen at

If technology did not exist, would you still pursue writing and publishing?

Yes. I wrote via pad and pen long before computers came along.

Do you prefer publishing fifty years ago when the big houses ruled or today when eBooks and POD allow anyone to publish?

I think I prefer today’s publishing atmosphere because while ‘anyone’ can get a story ‘out there’, readers also have an easier time accessing books via eReaders and computers.

Come back tomorrow for the rest of the interview.

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