Hello, I’m A.T. Russell. I was raised in a suburb on Chicago’s southside. However, I do claim Chicago as well as my hometown of Markham. Consistent with being a southsider, I’m a White Sox, Bears and Bulls fan. I enlisted in the U.S. Navy after high school, retiring as a Chief after 22 years of active service.
Today I live near Chicago with my wife of 22 years and have two children in college. Writing is my passion and I hope to share many stories in the near and distant future. The Little Things Publishing will release my book, Generations:Sacred Puppies in early 2012. I can be found at:
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Sure. I’m a retired veteran of the U.S. Navy, having spent 22 years on active duty service. After spending a semester in college right after high school, I’d lost interest in the classroom at that point and enlisted. I was an IT specialist in the Navy, which has helped me quite a bit post military retirement. Of course, now as a part-time mailman, not so much IT going on. I’ve also been married for 22 years, with both of my children currently in college. My daughter is a senior and my son a junior.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I started writing May 3rd, 2009. The computers my family had were old and needed to be upgrated. So, my wife and I went shopping. We decided that everyone needed laptops, except for me, of course. I got the desktop. Since the kids were in college, I put in a wireless network for when they decided to spend the night at home, and for my wife to use as well.
All was cool and everyone was happy. I’d gotten the family off my back too, which was the whole point. Then one day, I went into my den and saw a mound of dust covering that brand new desktop. That’s when I decided use the thing and I wrotemy first book. Two weeks in, I was hooked like a crack addict. In fact, in 2009, I pumped out a million words and had the rough draft for the entire New Alpha Rising Saga. I just couldn’t step away from the keyboard.
How did you choose Sci-fi-fantasy as your writing genre?
Actually, my muse developed in 1994. I was onboard the USS Carl Vinson at the time, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean when it hit me. I was re-reading Donald Goines back then. Anyway, somewhere in the middle of one of his gritty urban novels, I was struck with the thought of Werewolves. Crazily, I’d imagined one of the characters in his book was actually a werewolf. Then over the years, New Alpha Rising developed in my mind and came out the day I dusted off that brand new desktop computer.
Where do you get your ideas?
My ideas come from everywhere. Being a ‘pantser,’ I can work with just about anything. Personally speaking, my muse doesn’t buy into feral vampires and werewolves. IF these are highly evolved species’, and IF they’ve been around for hundreds or thousands of years, they ARE NOT going to bug-out over a drop of blood or the scent of fear. After all those years in existence, they’ve obviously overcome their primal ways in order to live among human beings and go unnoticed. It just seems logical to me. But then, that’s my muse. Accordingly, I write from the standpoint that those types of creatures deal with the same or similar societal challenges humans do. After all, they do live among us. It just makes sense that they suffer from assimilation, which is also a logical pretext for my stories.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Actually, I’ve never suffered from writer’s block. Reason being, I regularly write down detailed story ideas and keep copious notes. So, when I get the itch to write, I open one of my notebooks and get to work. The challenge for me is choosing the right story. Having written out of series order, now I’m in bit of a tough spot because I have to redesign a story idea.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Absolutely. My first book, New Alpha Rising: Ascension, is my favorite book ever,bar none. And not merely because I wrote it. When I was stringing the words together for that story, I experienced every possible emotion. Then, when I had typed the last period of that book, I needed a vacation. I haven’t had that type of feeling since. Now I’m rewriting, revising, and re-editing Ascension so I can share it and have others experience the passion that went into crafting the story.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Well, Generations: Sacred Puppies is the first volume of a six book series, to be published in early 2012 by The Little Things Publishing. It’s an Urban Fantasy tale, with Werewolves being the primary characters. As I expressed earlier, these creatures experience the same social challenges humans do. Essentially, Sacred Puppies is a story of origins, love, growth, and perseverance. The world is full of violent supernatural creatures and some of them die every night. Therefore, puppies have to make a way for themselves until they can mature and stand together with the strength to claim a place in the world.
What was your favorite chapter to write and why?
I loved writing a mating scene. I can only tell you that it’s powerful. It took me five tries to get that scene to work. Honestly, writing it opened my eyes to a long standing fact. A man will do almost anything to claim the woman he wants, if she’s willing to have him. But, will he consciously relinquish control of his mind to get her?
How did you come up with the title?
The title, ‘Sacred Puppies,’ didn’t come to me until after the book was written. I’d drafted a list of possible titles and none of them seemed to fit. I poured over that list for weeks, too.However, when I began to re-read and polish the manuscript for a fourth time, I came across a particular dialogue point more than mid-way through. Then it hit me. I’d realized the theme of the story was appropriate to the statement I’d just read. Still, even to my ears, it’s such an unusual title. But the story and title together are a perfect fit. That experience led me to titlemy books based on the themes of the stories. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but the process usually leads to something I can work with.
What project are you working on now? Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Yes and yes. I’ll be editing book two of the Generations series, ‘Alpha and The King,’ immediately following the work on ‘Sacred Puppies.’ Obviously, I can’t go into detail about ‘Alpha and The King’ at all, but I can tell you that it was nothing less than a joy to write. I’ve never laughed as hard or been as angry while writing any other book.
Then there’s the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ anthology I’m involved with. Michelle Picarella invited me and five others to participate in the collaboration and I can’t tell you how awesome the experience has been. We don’t have a publish date yet, but when it comes, this thing is going to be great. I get to write a short based on ‘Greed.’ All I can say at this point is that, this short is going to be gritty, dark, twisted, and as ugly as the sin itself. Here’s the initial promo trailer and the writers involved.
What has been the toughest criticism you’ve received about your writing? And the best compliment?
Wow. Let me see. I’d have to say the toughest criticism came from inside my family. And though it wasn’t really that bad, I took it personal. I guess it was the emotional values involved that stung me so deeply. That’s also when I learned that I could take it like a champ.Becauseinstead of lashing out, I swallowed really hard and went back to the computer. In fact, that’s when ‘Sacred Puppies’ came forth. I know criticism will come and I’m cool with that. It can only make me better. I also know the difference between criticism and personal verbal attack. The latter doesn’t bother me at all and never really has.
The best compliment, however, I still hear it ringing in my ears. See, during an interview with John Rakestraw, he emphasized hearing the passion in my voice and in my p.o.v. To recognize what goes into my writing and also comes from my voice, it means a lot to me. Many of us writers work from some emotive source, to meet some end. Be it success, measured by wealth or number of books, or readers even: something internal is the engine that drives us. For me, it’s passion. Passion in the romantic scenes, fighting scenes, and even in the story’s theme. I want readers to feel the story while they read along. Having empathy for a character is cool, but it’s the story I’m working with.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
The best advice I can give, being a newbie myself, is find your mantra. Your personal mission statement, of sorts. Mine is: “History is a point of reference, not an anchor.” That means, what once was, is there to learn from. More importantly, to grow from.
Secondly, believe in yourself and work damn hard. No one will believe your story if you don’t, and no one will reach for it on the shelf or download it if you don’t work your butt off to make it available. That’s the beginning and end, but it’s equally important to recognize the middle. That meansbuilding a social platform, connecting with other writers, learning from their experiences, taking harsh criticisms, and especially, giving back to the same folks you connect with is critical to achieving any degree success. You see, what you think you know pales in comparison to what others can and will openly share with you. Just make sure you give of yourself as well.
Finally, don’t give up.
A.T., tell us something about you. Something people wouldn’t know unless they knew you personally.
That’s easy. I like regular ole’ black coffee. I laugh when I hear folks order their coffees from Starbucks. I’m even amazed they can remember what it is they actually like sometimes.
I also don’t take myself too seriously. While I love writing, I also know it’s a business. And even through the work involved, I spend most of my day laughing. I thoroughly enjoy what I’m doing. More than that, the people I’ve met are incredible. As an example: I met you, Jen. How cool is that? Now I’m answering questions from you. I just doesn’t get any better than this. Unfortunately, words in print do not convey tone of voice. I can only hope that folks I communicate with know that I’m smiling from ear to ear when they talk back to me.
I also love sports. Football, baseball, and basketball are the escapes from everything for me. Conversely, something about running off to the forest all alone doesn’t work for me. Just because I write about werewolves doesn’t mean I wanna meet one. I don’t even want to meet a regular wolf. Not in person, anyway.
I guess there’s a lot about me I could share, so let’s try this: I’ve lived half my life already. Raised two children and been married half my life too. Life’s been beautiful. Now I’m ready to laugh and smile, constantly. I worked hard for a long time and, while I still have some physical strength left, I want to thoroughly enjoy this second half. I’m not making time for anger and frustration anymore. To know me is to know that. And remember, “If you ain’t having fun, you ain’t doing it right.”