Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Russell Blake - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Best-selling Author Russell Blake. He is the award-winning author of The JET series, Assassin series and BLACK series.

Author Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

Website: Russell Blake Suspense Writer
Author's Blog: Russell Blake - Author Spotlight
Twitter: @blakebooks
E-Mail: books@russellblake.com
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Facebook: Check Out Facebook

Author Description:
Featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Times, and The Chicago Tribune, Russell Blake is the USA Today bestselling author of twenty-nine books, including Fatal Exchange, The Geronimo Breach, Zero Sum, King of Swords, Night of the Assassin, Revenge of the Assassin, Return of the Assassin, Blood of the Assassin, The Delphi Chronicle trilogy, The Voynich Cypher, Silver Justice, JET, JET - Ops Files, JET II - Betrayal, JET III - Vengeance, JET IV - Reckoning, JET V - Legacy, JET VI - Justice, JET VII - Sanctuary, Upon A Pale Horse, BLACK, BLACK Is Back, BLACK Is The New Black, and BLACK To Reality.

Non-fiction includes the international bestseller An Angel With Fur (animal biography) and How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (even if drunk, high or incarcerated), a parody of all things writing-related.

Blake is co-author of an action/adventure novel, The Eye of Heaven, with legendary author Clive Cussler, to be released by Penguin in September, 2014. Blake's novel King of Swords has been translated into German by Amazon Crossing, and his JET novel into Spanish by Reprobatio.

Blake lives in Mexico and enjoys his dogs, fishing, boating, tequila and writing, while battling world domination by clowns.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on your upcoming release in September: The Eye of Heaven. You have teamed up with adventure author Clive Cussler for that one. Tell us how you connected with Clive and how the logistics worked in writing the novel?

I contacted Clive’s agent and sent samples of my work. They asked for more, and I obliged. Ultimately Clive read a number of my books and liked what he saw. I flew to his home and we brainstormed, and then spent most of last year writing it together. Clive’s very involved in every step, so it’s as much his book as it is mine. I enjoyed working with him immensely, so much so that we’re now working on another, so I consider it a success. I’m hopeful his readers like the tone and the changes that were introduced. Obviously I swung for the fences with this one, and I think Clive did too, and that it clearly shows.

Rumor has it that you have another book on the horizon called Requiem for the Assassin also being released in September. Can you give us a little tease on that one?

Requiem’s an installment in the bestselling Assassin series, which begins with King of Swords (and has a prequel, Night of the Assassin, which is currently free). It follows the exploits of the world’s most dangerous assassin, El Rey, nicknamed the King of Swords, after the tarot card he leaves at the scene of his executions. In this novel he’s up against impossible odds, working for the Mexican equivalent of the CIA – but something doesn’t add up. It’s vintage Assassin fare, and fans of the series should enjoy it.

You have a good following on twitter. Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How did you build your following in your niche? Did you use forums, newsletters and methods like that? How much has it changed your book launch process?

I spend what time I do online not promoting books, but interacting with readers and alerting folks about new blogs I’ve written. I don’t try to use social media to sell books. I don’t believe that works. I also don’t believe that touting one’s books on forums does anything but annoy people, so I prefer to interact, offer opinions, and if they’re compelling and interesting enough, perhaps readers will take a gander at one of my books. I have no newsletter, and I view forums as purely entertainment, not marketing. Authors need to learn that their sales are often inverse to their desperation to sell. No good’s served by bombarding free channels like Facebook or Twitter with book advertising, because it just makes you look like a desperate douche, and nobody wants anything to do with those.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

I usually have a clear idea of what I want, and work closely with the cover designer to get that executed. I don’t get readers that involved, because when I’ve tried that, you get opinions from “I hate that” to “it’s brilliant.” So all you’re doing is spinning your wheels. Hire a designer based on their tastes and instincts, and let the chips fall where they may.

I like the idea of Author bundles. You are a part of several novel collections including: 9 Killer Thrillers and 9 More Killer Thrillers. What was the impact on your other sales? What was the main objective of bundling your works with other romance authors? How did you put something like that together?

Well, they were overwhelmingly successful. The first bundle sold over 170K units, and the second turned in respectable performance. The objective was purely to find new readers who otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to our work. Immediate impact on sales hasn’t been stellar, but I do get reviews and emails from readers saying they found me through the bundle, so mission accomplished.

Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do your sort of play it by ear?

I start writing at around 8 a.m. and finish up at midnight, when I’m in a novel. When I’m not, it’s more like eight to six. I treat it like a job. You don’t think about managing your time or things getting in the way of your job – it’s your priority, and you show up for work every day or you don’t have one very long. Everything revolves around that. It works well for me.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

Perma-free is the single most powerful exposure tool indie authors have. It’s responsible for much of my success, I believe, in that the more readers you reach with your work, even if free, the more likely they are to then read through your backlist. Of course, it depends on the quality of the work, but assuming your books are sufficiently competent and compelling to do well in your genre, I encourage authors to use this on the first book of a series. The goal in all marketing is the same: reach new readers with your work. The only obstacles I ran into was Amazon’s international sites reverting free books to paid every ninety days. Which reminds me, it’s been a while since I checked…

How do you start your book launch process for a new book? Give a brief outline of the steps you go through to get your book to market. What methods were the most successful?

I have no formal book launch process. I mean, I do multiple drafts, have two editors and a proofreader polish the book, have a pro cover made, and then put it up at the sites and write a blog about it. That’s it. In my genre, street teams and blog tours and all that crap doesn’t work, so I eschew it in favor of writing the next book. With 850K books sold in three years by the end of 2014, so far so good.

You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing support for other writers. What is your primary goal? And where in the world do you find the time to create great novels, take care of the social media and maintain your blog?

I view the blog as a pressure valve, to let off steam, nothing more. I write my blog mainly for other authors, so not a lot of books being sold that way. I have no goal other than to be relevant in any discourse. People will buy my books due to word of mouth, primarily, so all the social media and the rest as anything but a way to interact with readers I view as a waste of time. As to time, if you look at the hours I put in, it’s not hard to find the time if what you do is this, twelve to fifteen hours a day.

You have published your novel JET in German. Congratulations on JET being nominated for an award in the Beauty And The Book contest. How is your audience abroad? Does marketing online help in this situation?

JET was bought by a publisher in Germany, and King of Swords was bought by Amazon Crossings for Germany. My sales abroad tend to make up about 20% of my total sales on Amazon. My Smashwords sales tend to make up 20% as well, so they tend to march in lockstep. I’m strong in the UK, improving in Germany, doing well in Canada and Australia, and can’t get arrested anywhere else. But over time, as I put out more titles, I’m hopeful. The Voynich Cypher was bought by a Bulgarian publisher, so revenue can come from the most unlikely sources. As long as my work’s being read, and hopefully appreciated, in whatever language, I’m happy. As to online marketing, I’ve done exactly zero international online marketing, so no, it has neither helped, nor hurt. But isn’t that German cover awesome? I liked it so much I convinced the cover designer to let me use it for the US market, and he’s going to slowly do covers for the whole series. It’s been an odd saga, and I’m grateful that I get to write for a living. I completely appreciate that many authors don’t, and I don’t take it for granted. Every day I can do this vocationally is a gift I cherish, and I’m humbled each time a reader leaves a review or reaches out to tell me how much they enjoyed a book, or blames me for losing a night’s sleep. Higher praise I can’t imagine.

Author's Book List
JET - Sanctuary - Volume 7
JET - Sanctuary picks up where JET Justice left off, with Jet, Matt and Hannah on the run in South America, trying to evade enemies from their past who are determined to exterminate them. From Chile to Rio to Argentina to Moscow, the action never lets up as Jet battles to save her loved ones.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
JET - Justice - Volume 6
JET - Justice continues the saga of the former Mossad operative as she battles to survive in a world intent on destroying her. From the streets of Argentina to the corridors of power in Moscow, her past continues to haunt her even as she flees it with all her heart.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
JET - Legacy - Volume 5
JET – Legacy is the fifth installment in the bestselling JET series, which follows the saga of the Mossad’s deadliest ex-operative, who faked her own death to escape her past. In this novel, JET is called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to keep the ones she loves, and the world, safe.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
JET - Reckoning - Volume 4
JET – Reckoning pits Jet against the deadliest threat yet: an enemy with endless resources who will stop at nothing to destroy her. From the mountains of Indonesia to the streets of Washington, Jet discovers in a breakneck-paced roller-coaster of action that danger lurks in the unlikeliest of places and nothing is as it seems.

Order the Book From: Amazon - KOBO
JET - Vengeance - Volume 3
The third installment in the bestselling JET series finds Jet settled down, trying to return to a somewhat normal life of stability and safety. But fate has other plans for her when she becomes embroiled in a terrifying terrorism plot involving figures from her past, whose thirst for revenge forces her back into the kill-or-be-killed world she’d hoped to put behind her forever.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
JET - Betrayal - Volume 2
Twenty-eight year old Jet, the former Mossad operative from the eponymous novel JET, must battle insurmountable odds to protect those she loves in a deadly race that stretches from the heartland of Nebraska to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C., from the lurid streets of Bangkok to the deadly jungles of Laos and Myanmar. Fans of Kill Bill, The Bourne Trilogy, and 24 will be delighted by this roller-coaster of action, intrigue and suspense.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Code name: Jet

Twenty-eight-year-old Jet was once the Mossad's most lethal operative before faking her own death and burying that identity forever. But the past doesn't give up on its secrets easily.

When her new life on a tranquil island is shattered by a brutal attack, Jet must return to a clandestine existence of savagery and deception to save herself and those she loves. A gritty, unflinching roller-coaster of high-stakes twists and shocking turns, JET features a new breed of protagonist that breaks the mold.

Fans of Lisbeth Salander, SALT, and the Bourne trilogy will find themselves carried along at Lamborghini speed to a conclusion as surprising as the story's heroine is unconventional.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
JET - Ops Files
JET - Ops Files chronicles the early years of Maya, who would go on to become the Mossad's deadliest operative: the assassin known as Jet. From the West Bank to Tel Aviv to Jordan to Singapore to Indonesia, Ops Files is a breakneck adrenaline rush that will leave action thriller fans gasping.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
BLACK To Reality - Black 4
BLACK To Reality is the fourth in the acclaimed BLACK series of noir detective fiction featuring Artemus Black, the world's losingest Hollywood Private Investigator. In this installment he is saved from financial calamity when he takes a case that requires him to work undercover on a reality television show, posing as an over-the-hill rocker trying for one last shot at success.

Order the Book From: Amazon
BLACK Is The New Black - BLACK #3
When Artemus Black is hired to investigate a series of suspicious accidents at LA's most prestigious modeling agency, he quickly discovers that brooding pouts and mascara can be as dangerous as guns or bombs. From LA to Mexico to Tahoe to NY, the story pokes fun at the world of high fashion as Black races to discover who's killing the models…

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
BLACK Is Back - BLACK #2
In this second installment in the acclaimed BLACK series, Artemus Black, Hollywood PI to the stars, dives into the rap music scene to stop a killer - with often disastrous and humorous results. Fans of hard-boiled detective fiction from Elmore Leonard, Michael Connelly and Lawrence Block will enjoy Black's trials and tribulations, all delivered with a tongue-in-cheek cynicism that's uniquely Russell Blake.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Artemus Black. Perennially down-on-his-luck Hollywood PI whose Bogie fixation is as dated as his wardrobe. With an assistant who mocks him relentlessly, an obese cat that loathes him, a romantic life that's deader than Elvis, money problems, booze, nicotine, and anger management issues, how much worse can it get? When he takes a case that's supposed to be easy money working for a celebrity whose colleagues and surrounding paparazzi are dropping faster than interest in the star's big comeback, the cakewalk turns ugly and Black finds himself in a web of deceit, betrayal, and murder - and bad hair days.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Upon A Pale Horse
A controversial, frightening bio-thriller that blurs the line between truth and fiction, Upon A Pale Horse raises disturbing questions about the man-made origin of nightmare epidemics, and posits a conspiracy so plausible that it will linger long after the novel's shocking conclusion.

When young attorney Jeffrey Rutherford's brother is killed in a plane crash minutes after takeoff from JFK, his life is turned upside down - especially when he discovers that his brother's career wasn't what it seemed. Jeffrey's staid existence is upended as he races to unravel a Gordian knot of deceit and betrayal, and ultimately must battle an unstoppable adversary bent on systematic global genocide.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Fatal Exchange
Tess Gideon, a female Manhattan bike messenger with an appetite for the wild side, becomes embroiled in a rogue nation's Byzantine scheme to destabilize the U.S. financial system.

From the sweltering streets of Seoul to the sex-and-drug-driven underbelly of Greenwich Village, attempts at silencing a leak in an international counterfeiting operation leave a trail of butchery that leads inevitably to Wall Street, pitting a counter-culture heroine against a ruthless state-sponsored assassination team that will stop at nothing to achieve its lethal ends.

As the body count climbs, Tess is assisted by Detective Ron Stanford, a NYPD homicide specialist tracking a brutal serial killer whose ritualistic cycle of murder and mutilation targeting bike messengers is escalating to fever pitch.

Tess's battle to survive propels her into a deadly underworld where she must become judge and executioner, challenging her core beliefs about morality, justice and love.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Blood of the Assassin - Assassin Series #4
A German hit man has targeted a world leader for execution. In a high octane race against the clock, an unlikely alliance must track and stop the assassin before he can carry out his unthinkable scheme. The fourth of the bestselling Assassin novels, Blood of the Assassin can be read as a stand-alone novel or as the continuation of the series.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Return of the Assassin - Assassin Series #3
Return of the Assassin, the third book in the Assassin series, is the the shocking continuation of the saga of El Rey, the Mexican cartel super-assassin whose exploits have branded him with the notorious distinction as the most dangerous man in the world. Faced with impossible choices as he races against time, El Rey must return to an underworld where the smallest slip means instant death, in order to save the life of a young woman whose escape and survival is inexorably linked to his own.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Revenge of the Assassin - Assassin Series #2
Revenge of the Assassin, the second novel in the Assassin series, is the blistering sequel to the bestselling international thriller King of Swords. When El Rey, the super assassin responsible for Latin America's most spectacular hits, returns to Mexico for one final sanction, the race is on for Captain Romero Cruz of the Federales to stop him before he can fulfill his contract to kill the president. Revenge will delight fans of King of Swords, and offers the same gritty, unpredictable ride of thrills, twists and surprises, before arriving at a conclusion that is sure to leave readers gasping.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
King of Swords - Assassin series
Book 1 of the Assassin series, King of Swords is an epic assassination thriller framed against a gritty backdrop of brutal drug cartel violence in modern Mexico.

The G-20 Financial Summit is planned for San Jose Del Cabo. The world's pre-eminent finance ministers will attend, along with the presidents of the U.S. and Mexico. Captain Romero Cruz of the Mexican Federal Police uncovers an assassination plot against the attendees. In a roller-coaster race against the clock, Cruz must track and stop El Rey, the "King of Swords" - a faceless super-assassin responsible for a string of the world's most spectacular killings, before he turns the G-20 into a slaughterhouse.

King of Swords is a rule-breaking rush that shatters convention to create a richly-drawn story that's sure to shock and delight even the most jaded intrigue/adventure thriller fans.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Night of the Assassin - Assassin series
Night of the Assassin is the gritty, edge-of-your seat prequel to King of Swords - the first book in the bestselling Assassin series. A no-holds-barred, breakneck-paced thriller, Night charts the early years of El Rey - known as the King of Swords - a super-assassin responsible for some of the world's most spectacular and daring executions.

Framed against the backdrop of present-day Mexico's brutal narco-trafficking violence, Night of the Assassin chronicles the making of a monster - a cold-blooded, ruthless killing machine. Raw, disturbing, edgy and unflinching, this epic saga defies convention to create a roller-coaster of intrigue, suspense and thrills that will leave even the most jaded thriller aficionados gasping for breath.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
The Geronimo Breach
The Geronimo Breach pits the world's most unlikely protagonist against the deadliest adversaries on the planet. From the corridors of Langley to the sweltering jungles of Panama, from the hills of Pakistan to the cocaine trails of Columbia, a clandestine scheme to preserve a terrible secret goes horribly awry, plunging a reluctant hero down a deadly rabbit hole of deceit and betrayal, while raising disturbing questions about the media, the war on terror & its linkage with the war on drugs, & the nature of reality in an age of sound-bites and photo ops.

Albert Ross is a malingering misanthrope - a boozing, chain smoking philanderer; shifty, lazy, cowardly, going to fat, & more prone to doing the wrong thing than any man alive. His purgatorial existence working for the State Department in Panama gets shattered when a routine errand becomes a race against the clock, battling adversaries for whom no price is too high to protect a secret that could topple the world order. As the body count climbs in a struggle without rules, Al must face his own demons, as well as the myriad very real ones intent upon destroying him. The unexpectedly shattering conclusion of this richly drawn thriller is both topical & chillingly plausible, making for a roller-coaster action/adventure without parallel.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - KOBO
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the following blogs:
eBook Author’s Corner and
HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on the 2nd collaboration with Cussler, Russell. Can't wait to read the book.