Saturday, May 12, 2007

Interview with the Author

Lorrieann Russell
Author of My Brother’s Keeper and In the Wake of Ashes

Lorrieann Russell resides in the small town of Merrimack, NH, outside Nashua, just north of the Massachusetts border. She is currently awaiting the release of her third novel in the series, actually a prequel, due out later this year.

Tabitha: What inspired you to write My Brother’s Keeper?

Lorrieann: I had been researching my family genealogy and found one entry with a single line: William Fylbrigge, Married 31 August 1597 to Mehlyndia Walford, Died 2 October 1597 in Aberdeen, aged 20 years. That was all it said, no elaboration or other details. I looked into the history of Aberdeen and found that particular year to be one of the most prolific for witch burnings – particularly in Aberdeen. A seed had been planted in my imagination and I began to wonder if William had been part of that horrible event. The story grew from there. It is complete fiction.

Tabitha: Is there a particular, actual person who inspired your lead character?

Lorrieann: Yes, and there are clues throughout – snippets of song lyrics worked into dialog that only other sharp-eyed fans would recognize. (Page 111, paragraph 2 for example.)

Tabitha: We have always been advised as authors to show, not tell, the characters and storyline to the reader, and you have apparently taken this concept to heart. Did you simply begin composing in this manner, or was it a concerted, learned effort?

Lorrieann: I wrote the story as I saw it in my head. I know that as a reader, I tend to become bored with too much narrative, and find myself skipping to the dialog, which is usually where the action happens. When it came time to write my own, I just naturally relied on the dialog to push the plot.

Tabitha: The characters in your books seem to come to life as I hold the books in my hands, reading their conversations. Have you envisioned what a movie version would look like?

Lorrieann: Yes! And I ‘cast’ the parts as I wrote them. I will not share who is on the list, however, as I think the readers should do that for themselves—though I have written in clues that only people who know me will recognize. It may be interesting to know that most of my cast is comprised of people who are no longer living.

Tabitha: I understand that My Brother’s Keeper was originally released by Xlibris before you selected iUniverse. That puts you in the catbird seat to tell us about your experience with Xlibris. Can you describe that experience for us?

Lorrieann: When I started with Xlibris, I should note, that the POD industry was very new, and there were a lot of quality issues yet to work out. When I received my first copy of my book to hold in my hand, I was devastated. The quality was horrible. The binding cracked, the pages fell out and the ink on the cover was so thin it came off on my fingers. This was the issue ordered directly from Xlibris! I was told it was a quirk, and they would replace that book. The replacements were just as bad. Interestingly, copies ordered from Amazon were better. I called Xlibris, and was told that quality all depended on whichever print house produced the book. That was not a good answer. I wanted to be certain that no matter where someone ordered my book they would get a quality copy. Xlibris told me basically, that there was no such way to ensure that. They sent me yet another replacement, and when I opened that one, not only did the pages fall out again, but the entire middle section of the book was upside down, and the epilogue came from another book entirely. I pulled the book from Xlbris and moved to iUniverse. I’ve not had quality problems since.

Tabitha: How satisfying has your experience with iUniverse been?

Lorrieann: I have been quite happy with the ease of use and the quality of the product. I do, however, wish they would do more to help their authors, and guide us in marketing. When In the Wake of Ashes received an Editor’s Choice, I thought that meant they’d take a little more interest in my success. All it did was make it possible for me to “purchase” more things from them. One of the ‘bonus’ offerings was a list of newspapers and contacts in my area – which is something I gathered for free on my own. Not terrifically helpful.

Tabitha: What is the most significant thing you have learned as a POD author? Do you have any advice to offer to new or prospective POD authors?

Lorrieann: It’s hard to be taken seriously as a writer, but it is possible. Be patient, and learn the craft and take your time. I rushed to press twice, for reasons that had nothing to do with the book itself, and I wish I had taken more time to polish.

Tabitha: Tell us about the faces that have been carefully integrated into the book covers. Whose face is it? How do the faces key into your intentions for the focus of the books?

Lorrieann: The image represents William. The eyes that are almost invisible in the flames above the castle came from a photograph of a friend of mine, who was the inspiration for the Sean character. He is up there in the flames looking on from a ‘guardian’ sort of perspective. The face lower down, you see the green eyes peering wide-open, belongs to William, and came from an illustration I made of him as I was writing. He is engulfed in the whole chaos around him, yet he does not close his eyes to it.

On the cover of Ashes, once again, I have William and “Sean” and the fire that is a theme throughout. Again, it is an illustration of the face I saw while I was writing. That was actually the last portrait I did by hand. I’ve moved on to digital media since then. The cover for By Right of Blood also features William and Sean, however they look more photorealistic.

Tabitha: I understand you have also published some poetry and a few short stories. Have these been in a print or online-only format? Where can we find these other works by Lorrieann Russell?

Lorrieann: I have been a featured contributor to The Writers Post Journal, published monthly out of Pittsburgh PA. ( I have also been featured in Layers, a local college publication, and in other local periodicals. I also have a personal blog where you can read some of my best short stories, and sneak a peek at a couple of works in progress: I once wrote a deliberately dreadful poem about celery and sent it off under the pseudonym of Abigail B. Wartybutt, that Poetry.Com told me was a finalist in their national contest – though I don’t usually list that in my credentials.

Tabitha: Do you think these publications have helped establish your status as a writer or increased interest in your two books?

Lorrieann: Yes, definitely. I’ve sold more books after people have read my short stories.

Tabitha: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What genres do you like to read?

Lorrieann: My all-time favorite book is Stephan King’s The Stand. I love the way he builds a character and a scene. I love good storytelling, whether it is horror, drama, science fiction, or fantasy. I do not stick to a genre. I am a Harry Potter fan, and I also like Philipa Gregory, who writes Historical Fiction primarily.

Tabitha: What have you been reading lately?

Lorrieann: The last book I finished was Joe Hill’s The Heartshaped Box. BUY IT! Wonderful story telling.

Tabitha: What sort of educational experience do you have, and is it relevant to your writing or the subject matter you have chosen?

Lorrieann: My educational background is in music. I was trained as a coloratura soprano and pianist. Music didn’t pay the bills, however, and I found that I enjoyed eating on a regular basis. I do, however, still compose piano music, and write songs. I sing mostly by request at weddings, funerals and the occasional family lobster bake.

Several of my songs were recorded by New Hampshire folk singer Thom Fury, who was also my musical partner in crime, and life long friend. He was an unwitting catalyst in jumpstarting my writing, when he presented a piece of music he’d written to the words of a Lord Byron poem “Stanzas for Music”. It was very old-worldly, and the mood sad and longing. As it happens, he presented it to me the very day I found the notation about William in my genealogy. When Thom sang the song, I was still thinking about William. When he finished he asked me what I thought, and I looked up and said, “I think I’m going to write a book.” So I guess you could say, my education influenced my writing – sorta. (You can hear the song at: click on tearhwithHarmony.mp3)

Tabitha: What about your work career? Has your choice of profession influenced your writing?

Lorrieann: I would say not so much the work I do, but the people I meet find their way into my stories. Some of them may not be flattered to know this.

Tabitha: Your artwork in the computer graphics field can be viewed at the link in the review of My Brother’s Keeper. What would you like to tell us about your artistic hobby?

Lorrieann: I make my living as an illustrator, so it is a bit more than a hobby, though I never consider it to be ‘work’. I am lucky to have a geeky-technical brain that marries well to the artistic side. By day, I render robots, nuts, bolts, and machine parts for a high tech robotics company, and by night the geek turns off, and I render people. Having a technical background helps me use the software to its full potential, and having an artist’s eye helps me to use it to create the exact image that is in my head.

Tabitha: I understand that you have landed a contract with a traditional publisher for your books. Could you tell us how you have accomplished this highly prized milestone in your career as a writer?

Lorrieann: Lots of submissions and lots of rejections. It was through my poetry and association with the Writers Post Journal that I landed my contract. WPJ was produced by LBF Books, which has recently been acquired by Lachesis Publishing out of Nova Scotia.

Tabitha: When and where will the next release by Lorrieann Russell be available?

Lorrieann: I am happy to say, By Right of Blood is in final polish with Lachesis, and is on the schedule for a July release. I’m very excited as this will be my first traditional publication. Hopefully, coming to a brick and mortar store near you, but definitely through Amazon or Barnes & Noble online.

Tabitha: What’s next for Lorrieann Russell, the writer?

Lorrieann: I am working on three other novels, all of different genre. Notably, Passages, which will be the fourth in my Fylbrigge series, and takes place after In the Wake of Ashes. I am also working on The Last Ballad of Amelia White – which is a horror story set in 1960 New Hampshire and Farewell Arcana, which is speculative fiction about a certain archangel who wants to quit his job but must find a replacement first.

Tabitha: Do you have any final remarks to address to your readers or our audience?

Lorrieann: When I set out to write, I only write to please myself. I tell a story that I would like to read, and in the end, I have found I’m very hard to please, which is why my stories tend to be complicated. I was very reluctant to share my stories until my friend encouraged me, saying he’d love to see me in print before he died. That was the rush to press I mentioned earlier. Thom was my biggest fan, and loved reading my stories. He passed away in 2002, and I have since become a much slower writer. I think he’d be pleased that I have another book coming – one I didn’t rush through.

Ode To Celery

Munchy crunchy in my lunchy
Built in strings to floss my teeth.
Snappy happy never crappy
Impossible to overeat
Cooked or hooked or overlooked
Best when eaten raw, of course
Winny mini, keeps me skinny
So I don't whinny like a horse

L A Wieczhalek aka Abigail B WartyButt


JVRC said...

Only one comment to make--POD is a technology, not a publishing choice. EVERYONE is POD now, including J. K. Rowling. I think you mean "subsidy press," which is what iUniverse is. As opposed to which can be considered subsidy or self-published. POD is no longer synonamous with either.

I think you've captured the lady very well. She is just that articulate in her work as well. Thank you for shedding some more light on a brilliant author.

veinglory said...

I think its time to realised words mean what people use them to mean, that particular horse has bolted.. ;)

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Mary Ann said...

Dear Tabitha,
You say you dont' get many requests for reviews, but I can't find a single way to contact you except by posting a comment. Can you get back to me via my website? www. authorsnusbaum . com Many thanks.