Book Reader's Heaven is delighted to welcome Russell Parkway on his Blog Tour to announce his Debut Novel, Pandora's Succession. Russell, could you tell us a little bit about yourself--Where are you from?
When did you start writing? When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
When I was in high school. In high school I had several ideas that stayed in my head constantly. It became a distraction because I’d be accused of daydreaming when in fact I was playing scenes of a potential story in my head. One day I decided to write them down on paper until I had a novel.
Your first book was very ambitious, don’t you think? How long did it take you to write it?
It was a lot of hard work because of all of the research that went into it. I didn’t take any writing classes either, most of what I learned was from trial and error until I got to know my writing coach, Victory Crayne, back in September 2008. She coached me through the last two rewrites of Pandora’s Succession. From the day I first started writing to today we’re going back 22 years, and that mostly because of dividing my time between school, track and field, and music.
Where do your ideas and subjects come from?
My ideas come from all over the place, but mostly from scientific journals and news events. I don’t go out “looking” for an idea, that doesn’t work for me. Instead I’ll just read several articles or I may overhear a conversation or catch a blurb. After going through that, a “What if… ” scenario pops into my head.
Your book is full of action with a lot of detailed information—how did you learn so much about guns and details of events you describe?
Again, it was all in the research. I also read a few books on how to write novels. I was fortunate to be surrounded by some excellent people that offered to help. I knew of the importance to be as accurate as I could in describing either an event, a location, or an incident because I knew that potential readers would be current and former government agents, people in the military, martial arts enthusiasts, scientists or people with a strong background in science, aside from avid readers of the thriller genre. I consulted with Belgian martial arts expert, Wim DeMeere, who helped me to write the fight scenes. After I started promoting Pandora’s Succession online by posting a few chapters, a reader—Jim from California—wrote me and informed me that my protagonist, Ridley Fox, was using the wrong sidearm. He recommended that he not use a Ruger but the Hechler and Koch. He sent me pics and explained the specs to justify why the HK was a more likely weapon that Fox would carry. He had me convinced and I changed the weapon immediately. My brother, Randy, is in the Canadian military and he helped me with various military aircraft. I wasn’t fortunate to interview any assassins or spies so I had to pick up some things from reading Barry Eisler’s novels, who’s also a former CIA agent. Former CIA director George Tenet’s biography also helped me with regards to references.
Well, I for one, am certainly happy that you didn't interview any real assassins and are alive, here and well to talk to us! But it sounds like you did have good professionals helping. What is the basis of your novel’s title?
Pandora comes from Greek mythology. Succession comes from the term, Ecological Succession. If you know about the Greek myth and about Ecological Succession, then you’d have an idea what Pandora’s Succession is about.
Hmmmm, Russell, so I have to be a mythology fan to understand your title...maybe you'll give us more info at another time for those who are not familiar...LOL Your book includes many variables that creates an action-packed thriller...frankly, do you think you can “top” this, your first novel?
LOL. I hope so, otherwise I’d be a one-hit wonder, which I don’t want. Seriously, I believe that I’ll top this novel because I’m still in the process of developing my author’s voice. There were a few things that I wanted to do with Pandora’s Succession, but based on the advice of my writing coach, I had to leave them out because the story would’ve been too long. For example, an original draft had Pandora’s Succession begin in the Canadian Arctic rather than outside of Groznyy, Chechnya. However I was recommended to cut the entire chapter, not because it wasn’t good, but because my protagonist, Ridley Fox, was not in it. Rather it was the antagonist whom, according to my coach, readers might mistake for the protagonist; may not like the character and not buy the book. In other words, since this is my first novel and I’m unknown, there are certain things I should hold off. Until I become better known, my name will be able to sell the novel before the story.
By that, perhaps, I can assume you might be considering a series with Ridley Fox...I hope so because I enjoyed him very much. Does writing come natural to you or is it something that you had/have to work on?
I’d have to say that the writing was something that I had to work on. The ideas came more naturally.
Does your story/subject change direction after you have begun writing it?
Pandora’s Succession changed tremendously. When I first wrote it in high school it didn’t even have the same characters. The plot wasn’t even the same. The book matured along with me and I had to accept what I could include in the story and what I needed to cut. In the last few years the story has been more consistent.
Well, I certainly was impressed with your writing...and you can tell that your ideas flow freely--there was much to consider in your book and you certainly gave us many villains to "hate!" Do you see your future writing coming from your life or from other people?
If anything there’s more of a chance that I’ll be writing more about other people than myself. My blog, The Big Picture, is comprised of essays in Op-Ed format where I comment mostly about social injustice. One of my essays, “Why does Vancouver not deserve to host the 2010 Winter Olympics” was published by the National Post in their online Op-Ed section. I got a lot of praise for it. But I also pissed off a lot of people that didn’t approve of my pointing out the reality of the struggles that Canadian amateur athletes faced before the Olympic games were awarded to a Canadian city. This was even though I was speaking from personal experience of having competed for Canada on a few occasions. I literally became an enemy of the state with that essay. But I won’t apologize for setting the record straight.
Well, congratulations on your nonfiction writing efforts (and am wondering whether that is why you are writing under Russell Brooks)...Who were the people or person that inspired you to write?
There were a few, such as my family, close friends that gave me their electronic typewriter as a gift when I was 12 when they learned that I was writing a novel. But I have to give special mention to my 6th grade teacher, Ms Bédard (back in those days, first names of teachers were classified (lol)). One day I decided to write a mystery short story. Ms Bédard saw it on my desk one day as she walked by, asked me what it was, and read it out loud to the class. I was surprised when she led the class in applause. She wrote me a note saying that one day she hoped one of my detective novels would get published. It was one of the nicest things a teacher has ever done for me and I still remember that day as though it was yesterday, right down to the location in the classroom where I was sitting and where she stood when she read my story.
That is indeed a wonderful memory for you...it shows the very real potential that teachers play to influence our young people! Sooooo, How many different drafts of a manuscript did you go through before you published?
Pandora's Succession took about 15-19 rewrites. So much has changed in terms of technology that I had no choice but to change things. For example, the internet and cell phones didn’t exist when I started writing. Even the publishing industry has changed tremendously over time. The story I have now, had it been written the way it was back then, would’ve fallen in the science-fiction category.
Very good point, especially for those authors that have written stories in the past and pull them out from files...lots of catching up to do on technology alone! What has been your favorite story/subject that you have written about and why?
In February of this year I wrote an essay titled, “I was fired for voicing my opinion. I guess I should’ve shut up.” This was about former CIA agent, Valerie Plame Wilson, and her husband, Joe Wilson. I recommend her autobiography to everyone. Anyone that has the courage to stand up for their rights, especially when they’re alone, deserves every form of recognition possible. I also did a video blog about her book on The Russell Show.
Hmmm, I like that! I've have to tell you why I was fired once for wanting to actually "work" on my job...But that's another day...What kind of environment do you prefer when you’re writing?
I’ll either write at home or in a coffee shop. I like writing on the train or the plane when I’m travelling.
What tips do you have for aspiring writers?
Be patient. It’s very important NOT to rush into writing or publishing without conducting proper research. Depending on how serious you are with your writing, I strongly recommend that you research any literary agent or publisher you may want to do business with. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Visit the Preditors and Editors website. They research everyone in the publishing business and list which ones are recommended versus the people that you ought to avoid.
Keep reading. It’s important to keep up to date with the changes in the publishing industry. And most importantly be passionate about what you do. Your own passion will drive you to do all of the necessary things that you need to do in order to become a successful published author.
I especially like your feelings about being passionate. Frankly, Russell, your first novel demonstrates the driving passion you have and I can only see you getting better and better in the future! Where do you see yourself and your writing in 10 years?
I’d like to eventually write screenplays. My dream was to write a screenplay for the next Superman movie. I have some ideas I believe Superman fans would like. If given the chance I’d love to present them to Warner Bros. I wouldn’t mind co-writing a script with Quentin Tarantino and acting alongside Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson. Okay, that one’s a little out there, lol, but there’s no harm in dreaming big.
Hey, dreams are the beginning...Frankly, I love Samuel L. Jackson, especially in my favorite movie, The Long Kiss Goodbye...and I can see Ridley Fox gaining a lot of training and experience from an older character played by Jackson... In fact, I'm already seeing your book as an action movie! So just keep on dreaming big! What do you do when you get stuck in writing?
I play my violin. My best ideas come when I’m not sitting in front of the computer and thinking about how to write a scene or come up with a plot.
Cool, a man of many talents! Have you ever wanted to quit? What did you do when that thought struck you?
No. I’m the person that likes to finish what they start. The day that I think of quitting something is the day that it’s time to move onto something else.
What are you working on now?
I’ll be doing everything possible to get my name out there so even after the virtual book tour ends I’ll actively be promoting Pandora’s Succession until Christmas 2010 and beyond...
What projects do you have for the future?
I have an untitled crime/mystery novel that I’m finishing right now. If all goes well I’d like to have it available sometime by Winter 2011. I’m currently outlining the sequel to Pandora’s Succession.
It looks like from some of your pictures, that you have some other interests in your life besides writing—tell us about those activities...
I was on the Canadian Track team and represented Canada at the World University Games in Palma di Mallorca, Spain in 1999. I was also the top sprinter at Indiana University while I studied for my BS in Biology. I play the violin, and once played four other instruments while I was in high school. I mostly sing right now in my church choir (I responded to a dare where I sang and posted it to YouTube. It’s in my blog under the Russell Show). I’m also active in an online poetry group called: The Artist Lounge, and I regularly participate in their radio show every Sunday as the resident poetry recitor. I started my own show on YouTube called: The Russell Show, where I’ve expanded on what I do on The Artist Lounge. Recently I’ve started promoting other authors by reciting excerpts from their novels. So far I’ve done this for JA Konrath and Cherish D’Angelo.
Can we find you anywhere online? Where?
I’m Russell Parkway on myspace and facebook. I’m AuthorRussell on Twitter. My website is http://www.russellparkway.com/.
Russell, thank you so much for allowing me to talk with you here at Book Reader's Heaven. Next up is my review of Pandora's Succession! Which I thoroughly enjoyed! Best wishes for the remainder of your Blog Tour and marketing efforts!