01 February 2014 by Published in: Uncategorized 10 comments

The Chicago Tribune featured me the other day in an article about mid-list authors and their unfortunate demise.

It’s not a bad piece. I mean, there’s kind of a backhand in it about my writing the equivalent of Jason Stratham flicks, but hey, there are worse things in the world, and people do seem to like em. And the author arguably conflates “mid-list” with “literary fiction” in the closing comments, but everybody’s a pedant, right?

What unfortunately gets lost in these articles is that my production speed is a function of the hours I work, not some freakish desire to vomit forth the equivalent of literary comic books. I mean, I fully understand that what I’m writing is not going to be taught in high school English class or gazed upon fondly by literature professors. It’s entertainment, and cheap at the price.

But in my defense, I strive to balance the sheer, unbridled joy of an over-the-top action romp with a certain literary flair, particularly in the vocabulary and the descriptions. There’s a fine line between purple prose and evocative language, and I try to edge right up to it and dance on the razor’s edge, rather than taking the safe route and crafting what to me are plodding, sophomoric sentences. And I’d wager I spend, in total, about the same number of hours on one of my novels as many of the big names do – I just cram six months of an hour here, an hour there, into a month of fifteen hour days. If it takes 200 hours to do a first draft, that could be 100 days if your muse only dances a couple hours a day. If you drag her kicking and screaming to the table and force her to perform for 12 hours a day, you wind up with a book completed a hell of a lot faster. No trick to it.

That’s not to say that my oeuvre is in any way important work. If you look at my biggest sellers, they’re the pure adrenaline rush series: JET, and to a lesser extent, the Assassin books. I personally like both, although it depends on the time of day which I’ll claim are better. I do like the grittiness of King of Swords a lot, but it’s also hard not to love Jet’s breakneck saga.

My standalone novels tend to tackle more challenging subjects, but they don’t sell as well. Upon A Pale Horse takes on a very difficult topic – the likely lab origin of certain viruses – and Silver Justice attempts to inform the uninitiated about what really took place in the financial crisis. They’re both good reads, and a lot of fun, but they aren’t as popular. Some of the negative reviews, and even some of the positive ones, allude to not being able to understand the “technical” details, which is fair enough. But then again, sometimes I write things that take a little work on the reader’s part. Many don’t want that – they want a fun, fast, furious read to make the time go by and transport them to a different world for a few hours. So I don’t invest a lot of time in writing anything but what readers clearly desire.

But the article’s point is a valid one. I write what readers want to read, not what I in my lofty wisdom have determined they “should” want. I don’t pretend to be the arbiter of the public good, nor evolved enough to dictate to the masses what they ought to read. I write what readers pay to read, nothing less. It’s my job, really. If I write works nobody wants, it’s not because the world sucks or everyone’s a moron or nobody understands just how ferociously clever I am. It’s because I lost sight of my primary mission: to keep the reader entertained.

As authors, we all dance at the pleasure of the king: the reader. Fortunately my readers like their heaping dose of ass kicking with some literary flair. I’m grateful they indulge me – I like to think it makes it more interesting for everyone, author and reader alike.

That’s all I have, folks. I’m busy editing away at BLACK To Reality, the fourth BLACK book, which should be ready for release in March, and then will be penning another JET, slated for June. I was going to write an Assassin book for June, but it will have to wait for Q3 – the JET story is more intriguing to me right now, so I’ll go where the muse takes me.

BTW, my co-authored romance series with Melissa Foster is shaping up. We’ve batted around some concepts and have a good one, I think. I’m very excited about this – she’s burning up the charts and becoming a mega-name in romance as we speak. If you haven’t checked out her work, you should. The Braden series, especially, is selling like hotcakes. She’s like the #50 author on all Amazon. Yay, Melissa! You go, girl!!!

Oh, and here’s a cover reveal for Fatal Exchange. While I love the old covers I developed for this novel, I really dig the new tone of this one. Check it out.

FatalExchange_Cover small

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Comments

  1. yoon
    Sat 01st Feb 2014 at 2:02 pm

    I don’t know, slacksbookssnob. It seems like he’s just jealous rather than things “unfortunately gets lost” as you put it. One of the reasons I hate talking to a reporter is that they have an angle or agenda when they decide to write an article, and whatever I say, they can pick and choose to fit the angle, like what “got lost” conveniently in this article. Another thing is that, as he pointed out, you didn’t sell many books at first, which implies you were one of the countless mid-list or bottom of the barrel authors.

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 01st Feb 2014 at 2:28 pm

      Well, I make no secret that it took a while for the work to catch on. Fortunately, that’s changed.

      Agreed about reporters, though. While many are fine folk, there is usually an agenda. Human nature. I didn’t talk to this fellow, so I didn’t get to offer my spin.

      Reply
      • yoon  –  Sat 01st Feb 2014 at 6:01 pm

        Well, that’s what I was saying, actually. You were a mid-list who persevered until readers discovered your books and you are not any more. He’s sort of contradicting himself.

        Reply
        • Russell Blake  –  Sat 01st Feb 2014 at 7:33 pm

          I thought I was the only one who noticed that…

          Reply
  2. Sat 01st Feb 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks for the mention, Russell. Lifting my glass to one of the only other authors I can email at 6am or 2am the next morning and know I’ll get a response, because you’re just as crazy as I am. So happy for all of your success. You deserve it. xox

    Reply
    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 01st Feb 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Yeah, but look who’s burning up the bestseller’s lists! High five! You have to name your big yacht The Russler. It’s only fair.

      Reply
  3. Sat 01st Feb 2014 at 5:41 pm

    The reporter is from Chicago. That means his brain is frozen. And he’s probably never read one of your books.
    You are ferociously clever. But I admit to liking Jason Stratham movies too.
    If Melissa’s naming the big yacht The Russler, it’s only fair to make you the entertainment for the WLC crew. Just saying.

    Reply
  4. Wed 05th Feb 2014 at 3:01 am

    In my opinion, Mr.Warner, was doing exactly what you said he did – “a backhand…” I think if you were somehow able to taste the slap/compliment there would be a hint of sour-ish grapes on the landing place.
    The classic critic’s frustration at having been in no way responsible for an artist’s success. See Rolling Stone and Led Zeppelin, circa 1969/70.
    To me, 435,000 books sold is nothing to sneeze at. Or to look down your nose upon.
    Keep writing like a madman and people will be drawn to the madness. Human nature.
    Give the people what they like, not what YOU think they “need” or “should have”. Need? Should have? Pish tosh. The classic academic intellectual ivory-tower dweller’s trap.
    Smell the coffee, dumbasses!
    Hmmm. A little vitriol. Wonder where that came from.

    Reply
  5. Amber
    Thu 06th Feb 2014 at 11:19 pm

    You are an inspiration, Russell. Keep doing what you do best all around. Love the new cover!

    Reply
  6. Robert Jones
    Sat 08th Feb 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Russell,

    Any press is good press, or so they say. Seriously, I think that what people will take from that article is the fact that your numbers rank you up there alongside some huge names in writing. Whether they believe you’re as good, or just have the nerve to be mentioned in the same sentence, that incites curiosity. And curiosity sells books.

    Way to go, I say!

    Reply
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