Where would you hide if you learned the CDC and a major pharmaceutical company unleashed a hyper deadly microbe on the human race? ~Pandora’s Succession
Canadian author Russell Brooks is a former track star for the Indiana Hoosiers, and his debut action thriller novel is sure to keep your heart racing as his main character Ridley Fox is placed into one deadly situation after another in order to save the world from the deadly virus Pandora. I am please to introduce you to this up and coming writer. He is sure to have much success. His novel has been compared to movies like the Bourne Identity , and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels (another one of my favorite authors). I’m sure it wont be too long before his MC is up on Hollywood’s big screen for all the world to enjoy.
In today’s interview we talk about his trials as a new novelist and his tips for other authors coming up behind him. We better take note quick, because Russell Brooks is sprinting towards writing success and we will soon be left in his wake. His novel, Pandora’s Succession, is now a bestseller in 3 categories on Amazon.
I want to thank Mr. Brooks for taking time away from his writing to answer my burning and sometimes silly questions.
1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was in high school. I wanted to go to the Olympics but had difficulty getting a sponsor. I read somewhere a long time ago (I don’t know if it’s true) that Michael Crichton wrote books and depended on the sales to put him through college. My original plan was to help cover some of my track expenses.
2. What inspires you to write?
Usually it’s something that I may see in the news or something I may have read in a magazine, either about science or politics. I’m always on the lookout for fascinating story ideas.
3. What are your writing habits? Do you write a certain amount of pages per day? Do you write at a certain time of day?
I’ll write whenever my mind is most at ease. Most of the time when I get some quality writing is whenever I’m traveling. I’ll always have my laptop with me when I’m on a plane or on the train. Otherwise I’d go to my favorite coffee shop. When I start writing, I don’t stop until my eyes get tired.
4. Congratulations on the publication of your debut novel Pandora’s Succession. Where did the idea for the novel come from?
Thank you. I was riding the metro (subway) one winter while in high school when I spotted the words: Nuclear Winter, flash across the electronic display. It was part of a news blurb. I can’t remember what the news item was about, but the image that flashed in my mind was radioactive snowflakes. I already started to put together the first draft of the novel, but couldn’t think of a big enough threat that would motivate the protagonist to do what he needed to do. I spoke to a chemistry teacher and asked her about the possibility of a hostile nation spreading radioactive isotopes in the upper atmosphere to produce radioactive precipitation. She told me that it wouldn’t be feasible. But the idea still stuck in my mind. I later read about the sarin gas attacks that occurred in the Tokyo subway in 1995 that were perpetrated by the Aum Shinrikyo cult. I was amazed at how can someone as their leader, Shoko Asahara, be so charismatic to lure students and professionals to following him. It’s from that point that the story began to come together.
5. Can you tell us a little about it?
It’s a spy vs. spy vs. spy international thriller about bio-terrorism. I don’t want to give away any spoilers.
6. Pandora’s Succession brings to life the real fears that exist in our world today of biological weapons and who controls them. Are you a closet conspiracy theorists? And what do you think about all the birds falling out of the sky recently? What is the government failing to tell us?
When I first read about the falling birds, ideas started buzzing around my head for a follow up to Pandora’s Succession, not the next one necessarily, but for a future novel. I won’t jump to conclusions as to why the birds fell from the sky, but can only theorize that something they may have eaten was poisonous to them. I don’t consider myself to be a conspiracy theorist, but I have to admit that some of the theories I’ve heard got my attention and have some merit. I was a big fan of the X-Files, and will still watch it whenever it comes on because it wasn’t just great television, but I admired the great writing that went into those episodes. Come to think about it, there was an episode of the X-Files that involved birds falling from the sky in one scene.
(Lexi’s note: I will have to look that episode up.)
7. The Greek myth about Pandora’s Box tells us that once opened evil entered the world. Do you think that our quest for more and deadlier technology is our own sort of Pandora’s Box leading not only to evil but our eventual self destruction?
I believe that anything that is relatively safe, when put into the wrong hands, can be rendered dangerous. But in science, there are risks, such as nuclear technology. It can both be a beneficial source of energy when used properly but also a very destructive force when misused.
8. People often say “write what you know”. Were you a ninja biochemist spy in a former life? Lol Seriously though, did Pandora’s Succession require a lot of research?
I disagree. I say “Write what you enjoy, the rest will come.” Pandora’s Succession took months of research. Fortunately I have a biology degree which was a big help. Other than that I had to research weapons, geographical locations, a bit in international cultures, the military, the CIA, etc. I knew the importance of research because many of my readers may be knowledgeable of the subject matter. If I want them to read any more books that I write then I have to be as accurate as possible in order to establish a certain level of credibility.
9. How long did it take for you to write Pandora’s Succession from conception to publication?
Over 22 years. It was all about writing, failing, and then rewriting. I lost count on how many rewrites that I did. But I learned a lot from the experience, and it allowed me to get to partner with professionals in the publishing business who were able to teach me about how the business worked, the changes that were going on in the publishing industry, and how to take advantage of them. For example, a few years ago, eBooks were considered a joke and were thought to never take off. But as it turns out, today eBooks are even outselling paperbacks and have revolutionized the publishing industry. I have a paperback edition of Pandora’s Succession that’s in the works in order to maximize on building my author’s platform since I realize that eBooks haven’t yet caught on outside of the United States, such as the Caribbean where I believe I may have a potential market. Even here in Canada, I have a lot of people writing me asking if a paperback edition is going to come out because most are still unfamiliar with Kindles or Nooks, or are just slow to change their reading habits.
(Lexi’s Note: That’s me. I love the feel of a good book in my hands. Besides with my luck if I were reading by the pool I would probably drop a Kindle in the water. If I drop the book at least it would dry and wouldn’t be so expensive to replace. LOL One day I may convert.)
10. Many people have unrealistic ideas about writing a novel. They think (or hope) that once published they will be an overnight success earning million dollar royalty checks. What were your expectations prior to publication, and how did it compare to the reality of being a published author?
I learned to prepare myself for the worst. I knew that not everyone would like my novel. I don’t expect to become a millionaire from writing, but I expect eventually to make a comfortable living, thanks to Amazon who’s made it easier for Indy authors, like myself, to sell directly to the consumer without big publishers acting as gatekeepers. I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from authors such as JA Konrath and LJ Sellers, who have left their publishers and self-published their works as eBooks, selling as many titles as 20,000 per month. In fact they’ve made a much more profitable living being Indy authors in one month than they were as traditionally published novelists, being forced under contract to give the lion’s share of their royalties over to publishers. But like in every profession, you cannot get rich overnight, unless you’re doing something illegal. It takes time, patience, and perseverance. With experience you’ll learn to make fewer mistakes and at the same time, build a platform (fan base).
11. What is harder writing the novel or promoting it?
For me it’s promoting it, because a lot of promotional efforts that may work today may not work tomorrow. Take for instance advertising. Back when the television was first invented, companies bombarded TV shows with commercials, and I was told that those use to incite people to buy. Nowadays with PVR, we can all fast-forward through the commercials that we don’t like. What I’ve found to be helpful is blogging and social networking. It’s important to interact with others and show an interest in what they do in order to win back some real followers by building relationships with them. That’s the best way to sell yourself, because in essence, that’s what I’m doing. If I’m successful in selling myself to a person, I won’t have to sell anything else to them because they’ll be the ones purchasing.
12. Pandora’s Succession has been compared to the Bourne Identity series. Do you think this has helped or hindered your book sales?
I’m flattered that Pandora’s Succession was compared to The Bourne Identity because I loved the trilogy in the movies. I believe that that alone has helped book sales because when you’re unknown, it helps if potential readers can associate a book written by an unknown author to one that is popular. Jason Bourne is a popular character and is well known. So when bloggers mention that Pandora’s Succession reminded them of The Bourne Identity, then I know that I’ve hit the right note. It’s surely better than hearing my novel compared to a movie or a book that was a total flop.
13. You have written novels, short stories, and non-fiction Op-ed pieces. Which is your favorite form of creative expression?
Creative expression is my Op-Ed pieces. Those allow me to take serious issues by the horns and write about the aspects of it that are often not mentioned in the media. My first big Op-Ed was one that was picked up by The National Post in Canada where I spoke about Canada’s hypocrisy of bringing the Olympics to Vancouver. My opinions were based primarily on the fact that I used to represent Canada in Track and got very little support in terms of sponsorship and that Canada’s up-and-coming athletes were given next to nothing in terms of financial support. I got a lot of hate-filled replies when the essay was published, but at the same time I had more people write me personally to thank me for getting the truth out.
14. Many authors are choosing to self publish instead of waiting for a contract from the major publishing houses. Why did you choose to go this route?
I was tired of waiting on agents and publishers to judge my work. And even though most agents I queried were interested in reading the first 3 chapters, it didn’t grab them. Not to sound pretentious, but I felt that there was an audience for my novel, so I wasn’t going to let that discourage me. I’ve read several blogs that explain why a good book may be turned down. According to Jeff Rivera, the publishing industry puts money before art. This was later confirmed by bestselling author, John Irving, who once said in an interview that he worries for new writers and admitted that his first novel would have never been published had it been written today. Further proof of that fact came when Rupert Murdoch biographer, Michael Wolff, wrote in his column that Sarah Palin’s publisher, HarperCollins, “Does not really believe Sarah Palin has written a valuable book-or even that it is really a book, not in the way HarperCollins has historically understood books, or in the way that people have counted on Harper Collins to have understood a book” Newser.com To add insult to injury, Palin did not even write her own book. Yet, her book outsold Dan Brown’s latest thriller, The Lost Symbol. This illustrates how publishers are so desperate that they will even peddle celebrity junk to bookstores before effectively marketing quality books that are written by real authors. So when it comes to debut authors, like myself, not only now do I know that I stand very little chance against established authors or celebrities, but I even know why. Fortunately the team that I’m working with, consisting of Victory Crayne my editor; Jerry Simmons and Jeff Rivera my advisors; and Signe Nichols and Carol Webb of Firebird Designs, all have experience in the publishing industry and have helped me to put Pandora’s Succession together. Hopefully the general public will learn what goes on in the publishing industry and give Indie authors a chance. But right now with Amazon revolutionizing the publishing industry, the day will soon come when authors will no longer need major publishers and will be able to sell directly to the consumer—no more middle man. Am I happy with my decision? Yes. Because although literary agents didn’t want to give me a chance, I have over 28 blog reviews (and counting) from book bloggers who have given it 4 and 5 star reviews. I’ve been asked frequently by my Facebook and twitter fans if there will even be a sequel. So I know that I have my work cut out for me.
15. Do you write full time? If not, what do you do while waiting for your spot at super stardom as an author on Oprah’s book club list?
Right now I’m a sales manager for an insurance company. I write in my free time so I’m busy all day long. I was told that I have to have written at least three novels before I can think of quitting my day job. The good thing is that I have a biology background that has helped me to write Pandora’s Succession and which will help me to write the follow-ups. I also have experience in sales so it will help me to sell my novels to the public. So I’m taking advantage of everything.
16. What are you working on now?
I’m currently touching up my second untitled novel for a fall 2011 release and then I’ll begin writing the sequel to Pandora’s Succession.
Take a sneak peak at Pandora’s Succession here then buy your own copy.
CIA operative, Ridley Fox, never stopped hunting his fiancée’s killers—a weapons consortium called The Arms of Ares. When an informant leads him to an old bunker outside of Groznyy, Chechnya, Fox is captured, beaten, and left for dead. When the informant rescues him, Fox learns that his capture was no coincidence: someone had set him up—possibly another government agent. Fox barely escapes after learning that Ares has acquired a hyper deadly microbe—called Pandora—that is believed to have wiped out ancient civilizations. The trail leads Fox to Tokyo where he discovers that people within the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Japanese Intelligence want Pandora for themselves. The only person Fox can trust is a woman from his past who he nearly got killed
- Book Review: Pandora’s Succession by Russell Brooks (blogcritics.org)
- The 39 Steps to writing a perfect thriller by author John Buchan’s grandson (dailymail.co.uk)