Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Interview with Russ Colchamiro, Author of Genius De Milo

Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure Crossline, the hilarious scifi backpacking comedy Finders Keepers, and the outrageous sequel, Genius de Milo, all with Crazy 8 Press.

Russ lives in West Orange, NJ, with his wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ is now at work on the final book in the Finders Keepers trilogy.

As a matter of full disclosure, readers should not be surprised if Russ spontaneously teleports in a blast of white light followed by screaming fluorescent color and the feeling of being sucked through a tornado. It’s just how he gets around — windier than the bus, for sure, but much quicker.

His latest book is the science fiction novel, Genius De Milo.
For More Information

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I’m married with four-year-old twins – my little ninjas. A boy and a girl. We were living in Queens, NY, until about 18 months ago, and now we live in West Orange, NJ, so it’s back to the suburbs. And I’ve got a birthday coming up – 44 in May. Yikes. How did that happen?

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Hempstead, but grew up mostly in Merrick, both on Long Island.

What is your fondest childhood memory?

One great memory I have is a picnic I went to when I was about nine or so – I believe at Eisenhower Park on Long Island. I went with a friend of mine, someone I’m still friends with today. We ate corn on the cob and sausages and watermelon, and I hit a home run in softball where I slid under the tag at home plate. I’m not actually sure if I was safe or not, but the call went my way, so it was awesome.

That was a good day.

When did you begin writing?
I started tinkering with stories as early as the 4th grade, got serious for a while in high school, and then again in college. By the time I was in my mid-late 20s I started throwing myself into it full bore. I also became a journalist along the way, so I’ve been writing my entire adult life.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

Predominantly at night, after my kids go to bed. I used to write early in the morning, but since I became a dad, that’s not really possible.

What is this book about?

My debut novel Finders Keepers is loosely based on a series of backpacking trips I took through Europe and New Zealand, set against a quest for a jar that contains the Universe's DNA.
My newest book, Genius de Milo, is the second book in the trilogy, where our bumbling backpacking heroes Jason Medley and Theo Barnes are once again tasked with retrieving a radioactive jar filled with the Universe’s DNA … before it wipes out the galaxy.
Genius de Milo (and Finders Keepers) is for fans of authors such as Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Christopher Moore, and movies and TV shows such as Harold & Kumar, Bill & Ted, Hot Tub Time Machine, Time Bandits, Quantum Leap, Groundhog Day, Northern Exposure, and Third Rock from the Sun.
And whereas Finders Keepers was set predominantly in Europe and New Zealand, the action in Genius de Milo has shifted mostly to the U.S. And, of course, there's lots going on in Eternity, the 'cosmic' realm where the Universe is created.
So for Genius de Milo, think Midnight Run meets Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

What inspired you to write it?                                             

It’s the second book in the series, which wasn’t always inevitable. When I wrote Finders Keepers, in my mind it was a single, stand-alone novel. But I left it open-ended in case I thought of something later.

Which I did!

But I wrote Genius de Milo with the understanding that it needed to work on three levels: as a satisfying, self-contained novel that new readers can enjoy even if they haven’t read Finders Keepers; as the second novel in the Finders Keepers trilogy that both continues and enhances the overall narrative and individual story arcs; and structurally as a lead-in to the final, upcoming novel that will conclude the trilogy.

Who is your biggest supporter?

My wife. Her total faith in me makes it easier to keep on going, even when it’s difficult. She gives me my space to do what I need to do.

Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?

I used to belong to critique groups –- including one I started and ran -– but they really don’t work for me, because as a novelist I want feedback all at once on the entire manuscript. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much unworkable when you are sharing the group time among various writers.

Instead I work with 2 or 3 trusted beta readers who give me the kind of feedback I need. Two of them are great at calling b.s. on me whenever something doesn’t seem to work, make sense, or has gaps in logic. Another is great about structure and pacing. And then I hire an excellent copy editor to go through the manuscript line by line, word by word, to make sure there are no spelling mistakes, bad grammar, etc.

If you’re getting feedback like, “I like that,” or “I didn’t like that,” or “you’re great,” then to me it’s not helpful. I need –- and believe what all writers need –- is specific, technical notes that go towards a clean, tight manuscript.

Nothing wrong with getting some cheerleader-type feedback, but if that’s all you’re getting, it will be very difficult to improve your manuscript, or as a writer.

Who is your favorite author?

My favorites include Kurt Vonnegut and David McCullough, but if I had to pick just one I’d say Christopher Moore. To my mind he’s the consistently funniest author of our generation. If we’re including all fiction writers I’d add comic book creators Alan Moore, Kurt Busiek, and Frank Miller in his prime.

Do you have an agent or are you looking for one?

I had an agent, but with the shift in the industry it hasn’t been as necessary for me to work with one. I’m open to working with my agent again –- or a new agent –- but for the time being I don’t feel any pressure to go that route.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

When I published Finders Keepers in October 2010 … I didn’t know it then, but it was right before e-books took over the market … and also in the middle of what turned out to be the biggest economic downturn in a century. Ouch.

Three different publishers wanted Finders Keepers, but they were gun-shy at the time because of the economy. So I went with a small indie publisher, Three Finger Prints, with success right away.

I was able to land a national distribution contract (uncommon for a first-time author), with Finders Keepers carried by several Barnes & Noble stores throughout the U.S. Finders Keepers also received very supportive write-ups, including one reviewer who said I belong in a group that includes Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Christopher Moore. I have to say, that was pretty cool.

And then right after Finders Keepers debuted, e-books revolutionized the way readers consume novels, and since then, for authors it’s been a new and ever-changing world. I wound up reprinting Finders Keepers through Crazy 8 Press so that I now have my entire catalogue under one imprint, and control all of the rights.

If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?

Hell yes! I would have pushed to finish my book about a year earlier -- before I  had my kids! LOL! I also would have done an initial POD print run instead of making a bulk order. I’ve moved a lot of my original copies, but it wasn’t necessary to print so many.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

Do you have a video trailer to promote your book?  If yes, where can readers find it?

What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?

I hired a terrific illustrator to produce a series of character cards, which you can see here.

I’ve sold many books as a result, particularly when I showcase them at signings.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

Be clear with yourself about what you hope to accomplish. Writing and then getting published are exciting accomplishments you should be proud of. But selling books is quite another side of things, and there’s no way to know how many – or how few – books you will ultimately sell.

If you are going in with the idea that you’re going to make lots of money, well … I wish you tons of luck. But as they say, don’t quit your day job!

What is up next for you?

I’ll be doing a bunch of signings and appearances this year, while I write the third and final book in the Finders Keepers trilogy, due out in the second half of 2016. I’ll also be contributing a short story to Pangaea, the alternate world anthology from my partners and me at Crazy 8 Press, and was successfully funded through Kickstarter. Pangaea will be out in the fall of 2015.

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