Horror Writer Spotlight: An Interview With Russell James

Glenn RolfeHorror Literature2 Comments

Walk into your local Barnes and Noble and try to find some horror. Chances are you’ll see King, Koontz, and maybe even something from Richard Matheson, Jonathan Maberry, or Peter Straub.  People, there is an army of amazing horror authors out there right now that are not getting the love n’ shelf space that they so rightly deserve. There are readers who would fall in love with many of these ghoul-conjuring maestros if only they knew of their existence.

Now, many horror fans felt displaced a few years ago when Dorchester Publishing closed its doors. After all, Dorchester had a deal with Barnes and Noble. You could find the latest from Brian Keene and many others right there on the “New Paperbacks” display. The Leisure Book Horror Club fed many a devilish mind the kind of horror that hit your system like crack (not that I’ve ever done crack). You lit up, and instantly craved more. The man that spearheaded the Leisure Book Horror line is the man now doing the same for Samhain Publishing, Don D’Auria. If Don brings back a writer SIX fucking times…he’s pretty fucking good.

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When I first started here at iHorror, I introduced you to a few of my friends. Let me introduce you to one more. His name is Russell James. Russell just released his newest horror novel (and sixth for Don D’Auria and Samhain Publishing). It’s called, Dreamwalker, and it is terrific (I’ll have a review for you next week).

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Two realities. One hope.

What if you lived in two worlds, and could die in either?  Pete Holm can. He is a dreamwalker, able to travel to the realm of dreams, including the devastated world of Twin Moon City, where an evil voodoo spirit holds living souls in terror with his army of the walking dead.

In the waking world, drug lord Jean St. Croix knows only the power of the dreamwalker can stop him, so St. Croix vows Pete must die.

Pete is the only hope to rescue the lost souls in Twin Moon City…unless St. Croix kills him first. Can anyone survive when two realities collide?


Last week, I got to talk with Russel about Dreamwalker, and much more…

Glenn Rolfe: Your new book, Dreamwalker, is pretty damn amazing. I read it a couple weeks ago, and can’t see it not making my top 10 of 2015. I love that you included a little section in the back talking about the work put into this novel. Research, time spent actually working this story…Let’s open it up there.

How long did this project take from start to finish and why did it take so long?

Russell James: I just checked the date on my earliest version, and it was started October 17, 2005. Why did it take so long? Because in 2005, I didn’t know how to write.

This was probably the third novel-length work I’d attempted. I sent what I thought was a final version off to an editor who taught college out in San Francisco. Wow, did I learn a lot from her notes. I set the work aside after that, like leaving a wrecked car you really like in the garage. After I got Dark Inspiration and two other novels published with Samhain, I thought about Dreamwalker and went to dust it off. Apparently, I’d learned even more since I put it away. I lopped 20,000 useless words out, reworked Rayna so she didn’t have the dimensionality of a sheet of cardboard, and amped up the gruesome factor. I was thrilled when Don D’Auria bought it for Samhain.

GR: How does it feel to finally have it coming out?

RJ: It is amazing. I remember having the idea for this story, and starting to write ideas down on a spiral notebook. Being published was an impossible dream back then, so lesson #1 is that nothing is impossible. Lesson #2 is never throw away any creative idea. Tuck it away and its time will come.


I also recently finished, Blood Red Roses (another great piece). I know that one is part of the Samhain Gothic anthology, What Waits in the Shadows.  Was that a story you had already started prior to Don’s open call for the anthology, or did you start it fresh.

That one started fresh when Don told me about the submission call during World Horror Con. I did some Gothic horror research, remembered how much I loved Edgar Allen Poe, and devoured a few dozen of his stories to get the flavor of the period. That was the only story I’ve done so far where I consciously tried to change my style.

GR: How much research have you had to do on past novels?

RJ: Everything needs some research. Only a little for Black Magic, a lot for Dreamwalker, an enormous amount for a historical fiction piece I’m just finishing now.

GR: I know you write every day. What’s the magic time for you? Is there a time when you feel the force flows the best/the easiest?

RJ: I like to get up really early, exercise to wake up, then be writing by 4 AM of so. If I can get six hours in then do something else after 10 AM, life is good. Of course I fall asleep about 8 PM on those days.

GR: You say your wife reads your work. Has there ever been a piece you were afraid to show her due to its content?

RJ: There is a graphic rape scene in Q Island, my next Samhain novel, that I think I deleted from her version. She already gives me a lot of odd looks. We did have this conversation once. I was writing in one room, she was reading Q Island in the other.

Wife: Uh, I’m going to skip this section where the guy eats the brains, okay?

Me: No! You can’t skip that. It’s the best scene!

GR: Obviously, as writers, we pull in the things we’ve experienced, and often things the people around us have been through. It’s part of the brave, honest thing we do by opening ourselves up to connect with the readers. Is there any part of your life that is off limits when it comes to writing?

RJ: I have trouble writing about real horror. Ghosts, sorcerers, zombies. Piece of cake. Kidnapped girls transported to a foreign country as sex slaves? Way too real. The slavery scenes from Blood Red Roses are all drawn from actual contemporary accounts that make you ashamed to share a genetic design with slaveholders. That stuff was hard to write.

GR: Before I read your bio, I caught the helicopter knowledge you dropped one scene in Dark Vengeance, and said, “this guy knows how to pilot a helicopter!”  I can’t even imagine what that must be like. What’s your favorite part of flying and do you still get to do it?

RJ: When I was in ROTC, I went to U.S. Army Air Assault School with the 101st Airborne Division. The training is grueling. I sat in the back of a UH-60 on a night mission, watched the pilots and the cool displays and said, “I need to do that job.”

Four years later, I’m flying a mission for the Air Assault School one night. I turn around and see a wide-eyed cadet, mouth open in awe watching the show from the back seat. The circle was complete.

I don’t fly anymore. Helicopter flight time is very expensive. I’ll need to sell a lot more books.

GR: The authors at Samhain, besides being a talented batch, are so welcoming and gung-ho for one another. Personally, you’ve been there for me whenever I have any questions, and I totally appreciate that. What do you think it is that makes it really feel like a family?

RJ: I think that Don D’Auria, our editor sets that tone and we all pick up on the vibe.

GR: What should we expect next from Mr. James?

RJ: Lots going on this year. Sci fi short story collection OUTER RIM came out a month or so ago. I’m in two benefit anthologies for Doctors Without Borders, time-travel-themed OUT OF TIME and space-opera-themed CENTAURI STATION.  Samhain novel Q ISLAND, the story of a plague that turns Long Island, NY into a quarantine zone, comes out in the summer. And of course other stuff is simmering.

Okay, some rapid fire:steve and bruce

Favorite band?

Aerosmith and Springsteen in a tie.

Beer or wine?

What kind? Non-drinker.

Best pizza topping besides pepperoni?

Hawaiian- pineapple/ham/bacon. Yeah!

Author who most inspired you to write?

Stephen King. Hands down.

Author who inspires you most now?

I can name about four Samhain authors off the top of my head who really piss me off because their books are so good they make me have to write better. Hunter Shea, Jonathan Janz, Catherine Cavendish, JG Faherty. And there are way more where those came from.

First thing you do after finishing a new piece of work? Start on the next one.

If you had to write a book outside the wonderful world of horror, what genre would you choose? Science fiction. And if I ever get horror breathing room, I will.


Thanks for your time, Russell. I wish you the best with Dreamwalker. I’ll see you in Cincy.



Purchase Links





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  • Open reviewer giveaway: Anyone who reviews Dreamwalker on Amazon and one other site like GoodReads, etc. and sends Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, their links to [email protected] will be entered to win a $20 Amazon gift card. This contest ends on Feb. 28, 2015.
    • Rafflecoper giveaway for two copies of Russell’s previous books. Two winners will each win one of two books, Black Magic and Dark Inspiration. US only, no international shipping. Must use a valid email that you can be reached by. By entering the giveaway, you consent to allow Russell to have your email for very infrequent newsletter updates. Contest ends Feb. 28, 2015. Other contest questions can be referred to Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, Hook of a Book Media at [email protected].


    Direct Link:



    Praise for Russell R. James

    “James has a talent for combining action-packed vignettes into a powerful, fast-paced whole.”

    —Library Journal on Black Magic

    (Five Stars, A Night Owl Top Pick) “I loved the story so much that I’m eagerly waiting to read more from him. He carefully and very intricately wove his storyline to have elements of mystery and suspense throughout. I now have a new favorite book I’ll read over and over again.”

    —Night Owl Reviews on Dark Inspiration

    “The book had me at the edge of my seat. The writing is so vivid I even jumped a few times. If you’re a fan of the genre, love ghosts and are drawn to the supernatural, then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book!”

    —Long and Short Reviews on Dark Inspiration

    Russell R. James, Biography

    Russell James grew up on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and The Twilight Zone, despite his parents’ warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn’t make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.

    After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales best read in daylight. He has written the paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic, Dark Vengeance, and Dreamwalker. He has two horror short story collections, Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness. His next novel, Q Island, releases in 2015.

    His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.”

    Visit his website at www.russellrjames.com and read some free short stories.

    He and his wife share their home in sunny Florida with two cats.

    To find out more about Russell R. James, please visit his Website or follow him on Facebook! Join him on Twitter, @RRJames14. Also, feel free to drop him at a line at [email protected].



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