Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Russell Day #interview #writerslife

Today I am delighted to feature Russell Day.

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
Beyond saying ‘crime’, it’s difficult to narrow my writing to a particular genre. At some point my characters will break the law or be brought to justice (or injustice), but I tend to mix elements together from the different sub-genres. 

Doc Slidesmith, my amateur sleuth, is a tequila-swilling tattooist who never leaves home without a pack of tarot cards. His personal motto is WWMMD: What Would Miss Marple Do. The first book he appeared in, Needle Song, had different reviewers describing it as dark, humorous, gritty, traditional, urban crime noir and a homage to Agatha Christie. Ink to Ashes, Doc’s second outing, appears on Amazon under Cosy Mysteries and Organised Crime.

On one level, crossing genres is a problem because it makes the books hard to market, but it’s nice to see people taking different things from what I’ve written. What I aim for is a book that Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler might have written if they met up in a tattoo parlour, then got drunk and woken up to a shared hangover.

What made you choose that genre?
I joke that it’s because I’m from north London and grew up in a high crime area. There’s a grain of truth in that, but mainly I write about crime because I like storylines and characters that can’t be trusted. Writing crime makes that easy; as soon as you put a robbery or a murder into a plot, the characters have to start lying and cheating.

It doesn’t hurt that I’ve got a soft spot for antiheroes. Not that I consider Doc Slidesmith to be an antihero; I describe him as an almost hero.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Around a year seems to be my speed for a novel. That’s the actual sitting down and typing bit, of course. The core idea might have been bouncing around in my head for years. Having said that, the novel I’m currently working on isn’t coming together as fast as I’d like. I usually manage 1,000 words a day quite regularly, but for this novel that hasn’t been happening. And, to rub salt in the wounds, at around twenty-five thousand words I found out that one of my main plot devices didn’t work. I’ve worked out a way around it but editing the first draft is probably going to need a machete rather than a keyboard. That’s alright, I like machetes.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I don’t have a schedule as such. When I have a project underway, I aim for 1,000 word a day, but that target is fairly fluid. Also, I work full time, so all my writing is fitted in around shift patterns. Basically, when I get a chance, I write. If I waited around for the ‘right’ time, nothing would get done.

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I don’t often ‘get’ an idea in one hit. Usually I hear something or have a totally random image pop into my head, and it starts a chain of thoughts, or questions. Where I end up is usually so far removed from where I start, it makes my head ache.

For the novel I’ve just had published, Ink to Ashes, I had a scene in my head of someone tattooing a corpse. That raised a few questions. What sort of tattoo is it? Who’s it going on to? Why wait until they’re dead? How did they die?  Eventually I had a story.

Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know.
I was once an extra in a photoshoot for a porn mag.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I started writing when I was a teenager, but I didn’t really apply myself to it until I was in my late forties. The first novel that got beyond first draft was Needle Song and it was published as I turned fifty.

In hindsight, I wasted a lot of time sitting around waiting for the ‘mood’ to take me. I also had this idea that writing was something you could either do or not do, so I didn’t invest any effort in learning how to do it properly. The upshot was the time I didn’t waste sitting around waiting for the muse to call, I wasted making the same mistakes over and over again. Looking back on it now, it’s quite embarrassing. 

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
When I’m not at work or doing the family man bit I can normally be found on or around a motorcycle. One of my tattoos (I’ve got a lot of them) reads:
1.      BLOOD
2.      OIL
3.      INK

What that means is: first my family, then my bike, then my writing.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Two things: the first is about the book I’m currently writing, which revolves around a webcam model. 

While researching the camming industry/community I found out it’s possible to buy artificial semen. That was something of a surprise. What really made my jaw drop though was finding it was available by the gallon. 

The second was that Agatha Christie was a keen surfer. Back in the twenties she was among the first British ‘stand-up’ surfers.

How many books have you written?
Three novels to date, Needle Song and Ink to Ashes -  currently available from Fahrenheit Press and Amazon - and King of the Crows which will be coming out next year.

Needle Song and Ink to Ashes are the first two books in the series featuring Doc Slidesmith. King of the Crows is a standalone novel set in the near future during a pandemic that has wiped out most of Europe. It’s another example of mixing genres and possibly pushes the envelope of crime fiction, but I still regard it as a noir piece. It may be the first ever zombie heist novel.

Which is your favourite and why?
I’d have to say King of the Crows. It’s a bit off the wall and unlike anything I’ve written before. As I said earlier, I like plots and characters that can’t always be trusted. In Crows there are three narrative POVs and serval sources of information. All of them have their own agenda and almost none of them can be trusted.

Do you Google yourself? What did you find that affected you most (good or bad?)
I found someone on eBay was selling two Writer’s Forum Magazines “featuring short stories from up and coming writer Russell Day”. That was really an ego boost.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Ride a Harley Davidson and get tattooed a lot. It’s worked out quite well really.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have on your computer?
Not that many really. If I can’t get something up to speed, I tend to hit delete and move on. I’ve got a few short stories that I’m struggling to find endings for and a lot of weird titles. If I hear or read a bizarre line somewhere, I often file it away for a future story title. A few of my favourites are Turn Left at the One-Legged Pigeon and Don’t be Alarmed, But I’ve Forgotten Your Future.

What I do have a lot of on my computer are opening pages and disjointed scenes. Some popped into my head and seemed too good not to write down and some are sections that I’ve edited from finished pieces.

I recently took three of these unconnected scenes and manged to stitch them into a novella called Coming up with a Because, featuring Doc Slidesmith. It’s with my publisher now and I’m on tenterhooks waiting for their reaction.

Russell Day was born in London and grew up in N.W.10, an area looking for an alibi. From an early age it was clear the only things he took an interest in were motorcycles, tattoos and writing. He has since added family life to the list and now lives with his wife and two children. He’s still in London but has moved south of the river for the warmth climate.

His first two novels, Needle Song and Ink to Ashes, are available on Amazon or direct from Fahrenheit Press

A short story, Not Talking Italics, featuring Doc Slidesmith is currently posted online at

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