Sunday, March 11, 2012

Interview with Russell Blake @BlakeBooks

The Digital Ink Spot interviewed, Russell Blake, author of Fatal Exchange, a groundbreaking genre-blending thriller set against the counter-culture backdrop of New York’s gritty underground. “Captain” Russell, 52, lives on the Pacific coast of Mexico, where he spends his time writing, fishing, collecting & drinking tequila, and playing with his dogs. You can find out more about Blake at his website.


The Digital Ink Spot: You openly share your trials with KDP Select. What is the most important thing you've learned?
Russell Blake: That Amazon giveth, and taketh away, and that indie authors largely exist at the king's pleasure. For instance, the new changes to their terms of service say that they aren't liable for any errors or glitches, including misreporting sales. Which sounds to me like they are trying to absolve themselves from the basic responsibilities of a consignment retailer - accurate reporting. I've also learned that the tools they provide aren't magic bullets. Free days are fine, and result in a spike in sales if used correctly, but they aren't a replacement or building a brand. You have to do the hard work, and the Select program can augment and assist, but it's only a promotional tool, and like all promos, will eventually run its course and lose effectiveness.

The Digital Ink Spot: What do you foresee as the future of ebooks and tree books?
Russell Blake: I wish I had something novel to say on the topic, but it's all been said before. I believe we will see a shift to ad content in ebooks to supplement or replace the current sale model, but am unsure on the timing and who the revenue will go to. The history of the business has been one of inequity for authors, and I hope it won't regress to its historical mean. I suppose that's wishful thinking, and suspect that the ultimate future will be one where companies like Amazon want to secure most of the ad revenue for themselves. Which will be bad for authors, but also, more of the same they've typically endured - the short end of the stick. The period we're currently living through is actually revolutionary for us as a breed. For the first time, we get most of the revenue from a book sale. That's never really happened before, and I hope it continues, for entirely selfish reasons, as well as for the sake of writing. If the reward is commensurate with the toil, then more of us will persevere, and possibly create something worth reading. Tree books will be anachronisms, like vinyl records. The delivery system is simply inefficient. Trees win, publishers and bookstores lose. Sorry. But just as with horses and buggies, I believe that innovation creates new opportunity, and for every industry that whines because it's in the tar pit, new ones will spring up.

The Digital Ink Spot: Are you personally an international spy or do you just write about them?
 Russell Blake: I have never knowingly accepted compensation for any covert activities I've engaged in. And yes, I do write about them. Pretty convincingly, apparently. I can count among my fans a growing base of former military and intelligence personnel, some of whom were the real thing, and say I depict it in more detail and more accurately than they've ever read. Some have indicated that they find it fascinating how much I seem to know about such things. Suffice it to say that all my characters are based at least a bit in my personal experience and characteristics. I'll just leave it there.

The Digital Ink Spot: What is your research process for writing the stories you write?
Russell Blake: I have a network of experts I can go to, and I read voraciously on any topic where I don't already have depth. With the web, most information is out there if you are willing to do the gruntwork and spend the hours looking. It's truly changed everything. It's also made it far harder for governments to lie to their populations, although I note with dismay that those same populations seem increasingly apathetic, so perhaps the net effect is meaningless.

The Digital Ink Spot: What should readers expect from you in the future?
Russell Blake: Five or six more thrillers this year - next will be a sequel to King of Swords, titled Revenge of the Assassin I'm just putting finishing touches on, continuing the saga of Captain Cruz and the super-assassin El Rey. After that, in no particular order, will be a sequel to Fatal Exchange, a sequel to The Delphi Chronicle, and probably another sequel to King. I'm hooked on those characters. And I may try my hand at another adventure in the style of The Voynich Cypher. Even though that's research intensive, I've already got some ideas of what Dr. Steven Cross might get up to next. My editor has been after me to try my hand at literary fiction, something social commentary-oriented, but I don't know. I'm not David Foster Wallace,and I don't think I've got a Lord of the Flies in me. But we'll see. I bore easily, so there's no telling what I'll get up to...