“Storytelling is an ancient and honorable act. An essential role to play in the community or tribe. It's one that I embrace whole heartedly and have been fortunate enough to be rewarded for.” Russell Banks, author of The Darling, The Sweet Hereafter. Like Banks, J Russell Rose is a story teller who embraces the honourable act wholeheartedly. Born and raised in Virginia and travelling far and wide, he has returned to the mountains that he loves and now spends a great deal of his time entertaining people who love a good story.
He says the stories are not simply a product of his imagination; he feels he’s something of a middleman. He knows the stories of Dolores’ life (a character in Looking Down on the Moon), but can’t fully explain why he knows them. All he’s done is put her stories down on paper. When readers ask, “Why did you make that happen?” He explains, “That’s what happened. I didn’t make it happen.”
J Russell Rose writes in a way he hopes is inspirational, employing inspirational characters who have the heart and the fortitude we all want. His characters stand up for what they believe in, regardless of background, social status or even memories.
Tell us about your current book in a few sentences.
I have 5 books currently available – my latest effort is going to be (hopefully) the first in a series with this character – P J BARNES – PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR.
P J, who begins life in the rural Appalachian region of Virginia, is a gifted individual who chooses to marry her High School sweetheart instead of following her dream of getting an education at the University of VA.
After 12 years of marriage to an unfaithful spouse, my heroine seizes an opportunity to pursue her original goals. Upon arrival in Charlottesville, VA, she happens upon a help wanted add – working for a Private Eye, Rick Beeson. Shortly after starting her job, she finds herself dangerously close to people from the “under-belly” of society – drug dealers, assassins, and greedy corporate types.
What qualities do you need to be a successful writer?
I’m not really anywhere near what I would call “successful” as a writer, but, in my opinion to be a good writer, which would hopefully lead to being a successful writer, you have to be a good listener – my grandfather used to tell me stories which I treasured and filed away in my memory bank – some I’ve already used, others I plan to use; be an observer of human nature – I’ve met so many different people (individuals and classes, ethnic and social); be analytical – don’t take things at face value. Look for deeper meaning and reasons why someone behaves as he or she does.
What is your working method?
My writing methods are not the best, I’m not as disciplined as I need to be. I once read a comment from a successful writer which made a lot of sense to me. He said, (paraphrasing) I write when I’m driving, or when I’m mowing my yard, or wherever I happen to be. When I sit in front of my typewriter (word processor) I’m transcribing. I realized then, that’s how I write. Very rarely do I sit down in front of the computer without having worked out mentally what it is that I’m going to write down.
What is the single biggest mistake made by beginners to writing?
In my opinion, new writers make one big mistake – they don’t write what they know. It doesn’t matter whether you grew up on a farm, in a small town or in the city, there’s a story there to tell. Write what you know, what you’ve lived and learned.
How did you come to write this particular book?
I get asked that question all the time – Where did this story or that story come from? I don’t really know where my story ideas came from, I’m just glad they did come to me. Once I get an idea going for a story, these characters become very real to me – almost taking on a life of their own.
If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one?
My favorite character in all my novels would have to be Dolores from Looking Down on the Moon. P. J. Barnes is a strong character, but I really don’t know her that well yet – after three or four books, I may like her best. But Dolores is someone I’ve known for a while – I’ve talked about her at “Meet the Author” events; I’ve explained what motivates her, what makes her happy, what she wants out of life. I don’t know all that about P. J. yet.
How can people buy your books?
My books are available on Amazon (amazon.com) and on LULU (www.lulu.com), but, I don’t recommend that people necessarily buy them from those two sources, because of the retail markup, which I don’t like, nor do I really understand. The best way to get one of my books is by writing to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) – that way, they get a good price, as much as $10 less and an autographed copy.
To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?
Grammar and spelling are essential – my main weakness is punctuation. My editor (my daughter) while working on one of my books exclaimed to me – “Dad, I’ve never seen so many semi-colons in my life…” What can I say? I like the semi-colon. I hate short choppy sentences. So, if your grammar or spelling aren’t great, make sure you have a good editor.
How much revision of your MS do you do before you send it off?
Write, Re-write, then Re-re-write.
Where and when is your novel set and why did you make these specific choices?
I write mostly in the present time or within the past 50 years – my life span.
To what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?
My latest – P. J. Barnes, is the closest to genre that I’ve done consciously. Someone said she liked my book Looking Down on the Moon, even though she didn’t normally like “love stories…” I was quite perturbed by the comment. To me, the book is not a love story – it’s a “multi-generational family story.” But, since most people want to know is it Mystery, Crime, Love Story, etc., I guess we’re stuck with genre.
How do you know where to begin any given story?
Some will say to “start at the beginning…” I prefer to start at or near the end and tell my story in retrospect.
What sort of displacement activities keep you from actually writing?
Time and family constraints. I still have a full-time day job, so my time for writing is somewhat limited.
Do you have support, either from family and friends or a writing group?
I am currently a member of a wonderful writers group – The Appalachian Authors Guild. These folks have been so very helpful and supportive.
How long does it normally take you to write a novel?
Anywhere from a few weeks to several years.
What are your inspirations?
If there’s a single aspect to writing that really frustrates you, what is it?
No comment to make on this. I enjoy writing; I just wish I had more time and could break-through to a much larger audience.
Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?
I don’t think writing is something that can be taught – other than technique.
What are you writing now?
I’m working on half-dozen different things. Hope to have something soon.
Is there any aspect of writing that you really enjoy?
I enjoy meeting readers and talking with them about my writing. It’s a really wonderful feeling to hear someone say – “I read that book. You are a very good writer.”
Do you have a website or a blog that readers can visit?
My website is www.jrussellrose.com. It actually needs a little work done, I’m currently trying to decide whether to take the site down or put out some money to upgrade.
Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?
That one’s easy. I want a house on a lake and a dog named Rex. That’s all.
Where do you actually write?
At home on an old laptop.