Interview with Jeff Russell

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Connecticut, and while my early years were not 'privileged' they at least were secure enough to let me daydream. I did this often, looking for interesting ideas and observations, and then building complete stories around them. As I aged and moved about the stories became more involved and the plot more challenging but always with the goal of creating a rewarding saga based in reality.
How would you describe your characters?
They are you and I ... ordinary people with their share of faults and emotional baggage but who rise above the norm when pushed by extraordinary circumstances. For the most part they are people who come to accept that they need other people - friends and significant others - to make their lives complete.
What makes your novels different?
My stories incorporate a central 'hidden in plain site' element for astute, puzzle-loving readers who enjoy discovering the solution before it is formally revealed. Those who piece together the clues can give themselves a pat on the back and those who don't say "Very clever ... how did I miss that?" Intrigue, adventure, peril and romance are there to make for a worthwhile reading experience but hidden inside is always that little gem waiting to be discovered.
When did you first start writing?
Early high school, although back then the objective was merely to let the creative juices flow. Those stories had no destination. Things changed when I added poetry to the mix. That was when I learned to start at the end ... to visualize where I wanted the reader to end up and then work backwards from there to a logical point of origin. That technique changed my stories for the better.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is 'The Dream Shelf', which describes the trials of Sam Archer as he attempts to piece together his father's hidden past. My hope is that the reader will share in the excitement, shame, desire and despair that Sam encounters along the way. The story is an exercise in human emotion and motivation, and as with all my stories it includes puzzles placed there for the astute reader and enough romance to make the journey rewarding.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
The desire to share what I create. With due respect to traditional publishing, I could (and have) waited years trying to gain the attention of a literary agent. Publishing independently - specifically in ebook format - allows me to put my stories in the hands of readers now, sharing with them and also learning from them.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Where to start? Publishing and marketing advice, access to retail partners, offering a single channel for producing multiple e-reader formats, providing dashboard and account visibility and tracking ... the list goes on. I cannot imagine having moved so far, so fast, without Smashwords.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Hearing readers recount how much they enjoy my stories. The reviews posted on Smashwords make the whole process worthwhile.
What do your fans mean to you?
They are my boss, the reason I write and the audience I need to please.
What are you working on next?
My current focus is to strengthen my marketing platform ... I have much to learn there ... but in the back of my mind another story is taking form and I hope to get to work on that soon. This one will differ from the previous works ... considerably more of a challenge but hopefully a very rewarding reading experience.
Who are your favorite authors?
I'm old school. As a child I read all the 'Tom Swift' books by Victor Applegate and in high school I was deep into Hemingway and Steinbeck. I've read a lot since then but keep referring back to these literary benchmarks when assessing new authors.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
With few exceptions they come from other self-published authors that I've met on social media. To be honest, I've read too many books by 'best selling' authors that have disappointed me and enough by unknown indie authors that have impressed me that I firmly believe there are real gems out there waiting to be discovered. I enjoy being in the hunt.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Absolutely! It was a children's book about a pair of golden retriever puppies. I still have the ms in my drawer and know I'll revisit that someday.
What is your writing process?
I run, often for long distances, and on those runs 'unique' ideas will pop into my head. A lantern on a sunken ship that continues to glow deep underwater, a side-project to the program to develop the atomic bomb, the moral acceptability of allowing a person to live guilt-free by erasing the memory of some grievous transgression ... these have all started as spurious thoughts and evolved into full-length novels. Once I know the question (e.g. how could an antique lantern continue to glow underwater?) I look for a rational, scientifically sound explanation and build a story around that. No science fiction, no superheros, no government operatives with unlimited financial and physical resources ... just ordinary people like you and I caught in extraordinary circumstances.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember being mesmerized by the Tom Swift books written by Victor Appleton. They were my introduction to science fiction and I still have some of those books. They led me to Jules Verne and a serious love of reading. Hemingway came after that with a great admiration for the trials and triumphs of real people caught in real situations.
How do you approach cover design?
We've all heard it ... don't judge a book by its cover. For too many books coming out of the 'Big 5' this is true because the publisher selected a cover most likely to sell the highest number of copies regardless of whether the artwork relates to the story. Sad but all too often true. I prefer truth-in-advertising and aim for images that will provide an appetizer for the pending literary feast.
What do you read for pleasure?
More often I read for inspiration - looking for that special quality an author has to offer. Typically I come away impressed ... and just a little bit jealous :-)
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I use a Nook because my family gave it to me as a gift, and sometimes use a Kindle-for-PC app.
Published 2016-06-30.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Perpetual Order of Old People
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 43,250. Language: English. Published: July 13, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » War & military adventure, Fiction » Inspirational
A fictional tale based on the real-life adventures of some truly inspirational people. This book was written to share their wit and wisdom.
The Girl Who Watched Over Dreams
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 80,580. Language: English. Published: September 30, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » General, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Thriller and Suspense
(4.00 from 1 review)
What if you could live your dreams? What if the power of imagination could erase the inequities of life? The staff at Eden makes that possible and Kat Hammond turns to them when nothing else can erase the pain of her mother’s progressive illness. But something sinister takes place there and when Kat learns the truth she becomes trapped in a nightmare from which no one returns.
Afterlight: The Sequel to Cab's Lantern
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 46,410. Language: English. Published: July 20, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Sea adventures, Fiction » Romance » Action/adventure
(4.00 from 1 review)
Cab Marin struggles with giving up the security of his island paradise to be with Vicki, his long-distance love. He envisions a bold new career that will close the gap between them but is side-tracked when news of the lost treasure ship El Conquista tempts him into a daring adventure with great potential but even greater risks.
Cab's Lantern
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 78,870. Language: English. Published: July 17, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » General, Fiction » Romance » Action/adventure
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
A struggling dive shop operator and a marine biology graduate student happen upon an antique ship's lantern that continues to glow deep underwater, along with a massive barracuda that appears to be standing guard. Their subsequent search for rational explanations takes them on a journey of scientific and emotional discovery that puts their dreams, and their lives, in peril.
The Dream Shelf
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 63,940. Language: English. Published: July 4, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Romance » General
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
The Dream Shelf follows Sam Archer on a journey of hope, frustration, elation and shame as he struggles to uncover the secret of his father’s hidden past. Along the way it examines the basis of human motivation, asks whether doing the wrong thing can sometimes be the right thing to do and highlights lessons in sacrifice and integrity that one generation must pass on to the next.