Thursday, April 01, 2010

Randy Russell Pay It Forward Interview

This week, I'm participating in Pay It Forward Interview Week. For more info, check out Monday's post.

Today, I'm interviewed over at the blog of Carrie Harris.

And my interview here is with Randy Russell, author of DEAD SCHOOL (HarperTeen, 2011).

Tell us about your book.

DEAD SCHOOL, HarperTeen, Summer 2011. Sometimes being in love means you’ve got to kill somebody.

In my book, dead people are not zombies. They’re as real as toast. A girl in high school finds reason, in love, to kill her boyfriend. She needs help to do this. She hooks up with a couple odd-ball sorts to get it done. That’s pretty much the story. Except it doesn’t turn out the way she hopes it will.

Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication?

I write ghosts. I stopped writing book-length fiction years ago. As a trained folklorist, I began researching true ghost encounters exclusively, although I can still tell you how to read your fortune by the number of seeds in an apple. I’ve collected hundreds of ghost experiences from the people who’ve had them. Many of these encounters are personal, involve close family members, and only a few have ended up in my books of ghost stories from the South.

I conduct a week-long annual “Ghost Seminar” for the state of North Carolina and appear regularly at The Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitor centers through the summer, sharing true ghost stories from the surrounding area where I live (Asheville). I’ve written two books of short stories involving ghost dogs and ghost cats. So with me, you get ghosts.

My road to having DEAD SCHOOL published begins with those two books of ghost stories. By writing more than 40 short stories I was able to develop a comfort with the craft of story structure. This is critical in writing a successful novel. But I didn’t know that until I learned it.

Except for those 12 years or so when I wasn’t writing a novel, my road to publication was sort of easy. I still feel like there is an element of magic involved with this book.

The day after I completed the novel, I began emailing agents. I picked the best there was as best I could tell. Approaching publishing on-line was new to me. I had no idea agents might respond quickly. This was a Saturday.

I was out of town and away from my computer on Sunday. On Monday, I had two requests for fulls, a couple passes, and a couple requests for partials. I sent off the two fulls on Tuesday. One went by email, and one as a paper copy to an agent’s home address (which I would later and with some anguish have to withdraw from consideration before it was received).

The agent who received the e-manuscript read it that night after work, she said when she called me Wednesday morning to offer representation. Magic. I cried. My wife cried. The agent is with one of the truly exciting agencies working today. Magic. The manuscript went out to editors without revision of any sort. Magic. It sold within a few weeks. Magic. Magic. Magic.

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up? Why didn't you?

Oh, I did give up. I started writing book-length fiction right out of school. It didn’t work out. So I wrote other things over a 12-year period, telling myself that I would eventually come back to noveling. When I was able to do it right. It was a long time before I was ready again.

For more info on Randy and DEAD SCHOOL, check out his blog!

Then check out the other Pay It Forward Interviews on the following blogs: Elana Johnson, Lisa and Laura Roecker, Beth Revis, Leah Clifford, Victoria Schwab, Kirsten Hubbard, Susan Adrian, Dawn Metcalf, Carrie Harris, Amy Holder, Kathy McCullough, Gretchen McNeil, Tiffany Schmidt, and Suzette Saxton/Bethany Wiggins.


  1. Very magical, indeed. Way to go, Randy! And hooray for ghost stories!

  2. Randy, that is a magical story. I am really looking forward to reading Dead School.

  3. Thank you so much for letting me be on your blog, Kim! It is such a treat. Ghosts are real, btw. If you haven't met one yet, you will. :-)

    Off I go to read the Pay it Forwards!

  4. What a great interview! I want to attend the Ghost Seminar!!!! And I'm veeeerrrry intrigued by his book now. (Isn't everyone? Don't you all want to know why she has to kill her boyfriend???)

  5. Very cool ghost stuff! Dying to read DEAD SCHOOL!

  6. I love that you're a folklorist, how fascinating. as a kid I was obsessed with Alvin Schwartz books -- not just the Scary Stories trilogy, but all of them. I can't think of a better way to find infinite fodder for fiction. Can't wait to read your book!

  7. Wow, Dead School sounds absolutely amazing! Thanks for sharing this story -- and congrats on your book! Magic.

  8. What a magical publication story! This just goes to show that when something's meant to be, everything will work out seamlessly. I can't wait to read DEAD SCHOOL! Congrats on such an abundance of magic (and talent), Randy!

    Also, I'd really love for you to tell me how to read my fortune from apple seeds!

  9. Thanks everyone and thanks to Randy! :)

  10. I love this story! Incredible! Thanks for sharing and I can't wait to read DEAD SCHOOL.