Interview with Russ Linton, Author of CRIMSON SON

So this week I’m reading Crimson Son by Russ Linton. It’s funny and poignant, about the teenage son of a super hero. And even though this novel would be classified as “genre fiction,” it so far has the hallmarks of good literary fiction: tight writing, solid story, layered characters, excellent pace. (We can get into why I think “lit-fic” and “genre-fic” should come out of their respective fabricated corners and start kissing and making up at a later date.)

Russ generously accepted my request for an interview, so here you are, dear readers. Enjoy. (Oh, and you might notice a tidbit or two about his next novel buried in his comments, too.)

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Describe Crimson Son in 15 words or fewer.
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The powerless son of a superhero’s emotional journey through his father’s secret world.
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All genres have conventions and tropes which, when handled with finesse, can be executed beautifully even though they’re familiar.  What was the most interesting thing you learned about your genre while working on Crimson Son?
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I embraced tropes in Crimson Son. Since the focus was on the powerless, the superheroes and villains are exactly what they always are — bigger than life, quasi-celebrity, borderline stereotypical personas. Almost like a pantheon of greek gods, they are forces of nature or perhaps, part of the setting. The POV is zoomed in on the real, and fragile people that get mixed up in this world. As a genre, I learned that superhero fiction has no genre! I’ve seen it under science fiction, I’ve seen it under fantasy and even urban fantasy at that. On Amazon, superhero lists as a category for paperback books but not eBooks. It is a very much a cross-genre topic and that’s one thing that drew me to it.
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What’s your favorite aspect of your protagonist’s personality?
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He’s a bit like me. A smart ass with an occasionally colorful vocabulary and a love for geekery. I wasn’t interested in delving too far into “the other” with my first novel. My next novel though, well, I go to a bit of an extreme.
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Describe your writing process and/or your day-to-day writing life.
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I’m a pantser. I sit down and type and see what happens. As the story develops, I do get a sense for the direction I want it to go (or it wants me to go, not sure which) but even then, I let spur of the moment decisions surprise me. I keep writing and taking in sections to my crit group each week until I get a first draft under my belt. I’m usually shooting for 1000 words a day so I get pretty far ahead of the weekly crit group. Once I feel I’ve completed a draft, I take a bit of a break, rope some people into reading it, and then tear things apart based on my own reflections and their critique. After draft 2 or 3, I round up some beta readers and depending on their feedback, dive in again.
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With the release of Crimson Son, I find my daily writing life is out of whack as I navigate marketing and other unfamiliar territory. However, I’m still plugging away at my current novel and hope to be done by the end of this year.
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Authors usually have lots of influences that inspire them. What book or author have you found to be most influential. Why do you choose that one out of all you could pick from?
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The first books I ever read that left a lasting impression were Lewis’ Narnia series, especially The Magician’s Nephew. I was so entranced by Lewis’ style, imagery and even the British spelling of things, it sunk deep into my subconscious.
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I didn’t realize how deeply that story affected me until I launched this full time writing journey and sat down to re-read that book. I’m not an overly emotional person, but I got a bit misty-eyed when I read the description of the Wood Between the Worlds after so many years. When the children surface in a new world, you realize that they came from a single pool and the wood they left behind is filled with more and more pools and the possibilities are endless. He created a place where every writer stops before picking a pool and jumping in head first.
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I have a few nods to this book in my current fantasy piece which has the working title, First Song.
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You’ve elected to go the self-publishing route with Crimson Son. What’s been the most rewarding part of this process? What’s been the most frustrating?
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Most rewarding is hearing people’s reviews of my book and seeing that my work has affected them in some way or that they clearly understood the ideas and themes I was trying to convey. As a writer, your work always sounds good to you (or terrible for that matter) so having the connection between written word and reader affirmed is the the most rewarding thing I can imagine. Of course, this happens with traditional authors as well, but in the self-publishing process there is no giant corporation between myself and the reader. I can’t sit back and wait for a marketing machine to make something of my book, I have to be in the trenches every day and talk directly to the reviewers and readers who have connected with my novel.
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Most frustrating is the snobbery I’ve encountered for traditionally published works. Many reviewers are reluctant to even look at self-pubs. I get it, I’m sure they’ve been burned many times by poorly edited, poorly written stories that were rushed to press simply because the author “could.” However I have put much effort into making Crimson Son as professional as possible. The quality, I feel, could rival many traditionally published works — from the meticulously edited manuscript down to the professional cover and quality paper the text is printed on. Overall though, it makes me want to work harder to share this story with the world and prove that I can hang with the best of them.
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What three pieces of advice would you give to writers interested in publishing?
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One — Don’t rush the process. Way too often people hit “publish” before the book is ready. Professional editing, line and copy, is essential (developmental you can perhaps handle with a solid crit group). Keep editing until you get to the point where you think “oh, I need to do this” and when you check, you find you’ve already done it. You owe it to your potential reader to provide a solid story.
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Two — Whatever you do, don’t design your own cover. Find a pro, preferably someone who has designed book covers before. The old “don’t judge a book by its cover” is perhaps the most oft-ignored piece of advice in the online marketplace. If a cover looks cheap or is unreadable at the tiny thumbnail size, your potential customer will ignore the book.
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Three — Never assume you are going to upload to Amazon or B&N or whatever retailer and then sit back and collect royalties. This is equivalent to tossing your book in the ocean and assuming it will wash up on a shore and someone will read it. You have to hustle that book DAILY to make even a few sales and every sale counts. Building momentum for a book is tough and keeping it going, even harder. If you don’t plan to devote some time every day to selling your book, don’t bother placing it online.
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It’s summer, and everyone and their hamster are doing “You Must Read This” book lists. What’s the #1 pick — other than Crimson Son, of course — that you think people should read this summer?
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I’m reading the Bhagavad Gita to provide some inspiration for my current fantasy novel. I recommend picking up something outside of fiction and grounding your work a bit with it. On the fictional front, I plan to chase down some Ursula K. LeGuin this summer, particularly her Earthsea series which I have sadly never read.  I enjoyed the subtlety of her Tales from Earthsea and hope to write quietly epic fantasy like that someday.
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In the fourth grade, Russ Linton wrote down the vague goal of becoming a “writer and an artist” when he grew up. After a journey that led him from philosopher to graphic designer to stay at home parent and even a stint as an Investigative Specialist with the FBI, he finally got around to that “writing” part which he now pursues full time.
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Russ creates fiction in many genres. His stories drip with blood, magic, and radioactive bugs. He writes for adults who are young at heart and youngsters who are old souls.
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Thanks again to Russ for sharing his expertise and experiences with us. Check out his blog here, where he has detailed more episodes on his journey to self-publication. You can find Crimson Son in most distribution channels, which are listed on his blog.
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3 thoughts on “Interview with Russ Linton, Author of CRIMSON SON

    1. Thanks! I stole that term from elsewhere in the writing world. Yeah, the route to publication all depends on the book, the author and what they can commit to the project. Both ways have their merits to be sure.

      Like

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