Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the hilarious sci-fi backpacking comedy series, Finders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the new anthology, Love, Murder & Mayhem, all with Crazy 8 Press.
Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, and Altered States of the Union, and TV Gods 2. He is now at work on a top-secret project, and a Finders Keepers spin-off.
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.
I reviewed Love, Murder & Mayhem a little while ago, and now he's kindly agreed to a quick interview about both the anthology and Finders Keepers, the first in the comedy series.
Hi, Russ, thanks for joining us! I've enjoyed what I've read of your work so far in both short story and long form, so here goes.
Q: These are very confident books! How long have you been a writer? Is there one incident or accident that made you realise you were a writer?
A: I’ve spoken on various panels over the years, and this question tends to come up a lot. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a writer, but to be a writer, you have to actually write. Besides fiction, I was a journalist for a long while, and now I’m a media specialist, so I’ve been a professional writer for more than 20 years. I can’t recall the specific moment where I said confidently that “I’m a writer,” but I did struggle with that identity during my 20s. I was ‘getting there,’ saying it out loud—“I’m a writer”—and then cringing, hoping that nobody was listening or going to uncover how much I wasn’t a writer, because I hadn’t quite owned that identity yet. I hadn’t committed to my path. But that seems like such a long time ago. Writing isn’t just what I do, it’s who I am.
Q: I think many of us know that feeling. Is writing then a full time job for you, or is there something else you do, too?
A: Yes to full-time, but if you mean fiction, then, no, not full-time yet, but I’m working on it. As I noted, I used to be a journalist, and now I do media consulting for real estate companies. I represented One World Trade Center for many years, so that was quite a trip.
Q: I'm sure. And speaking of trips, backpacking is a real rite of passage, and I’m guessing you’ve done the journeys your characters do. Do you have a stand-out memory from your travels that you haven’t used in your books?
A: Ha! Indeed I do. But some stories are just for me. J
Q: Shame! Love, Murder & Mayhem is a really well-balanced short story collection. How did the idea come about? Was editing it easier or harder than writing your own books? Writers have the reputation of being as easy to herd as cats!
A: While writing Genius de Milo, the second book in my Finders Keepers scifi backpacking comedy series, I very briefly introduced the character of Angela Hardwicke. Though her portion takes place in the fictional setting of Eternity, she’s a private eye in that classic Sam Spade tradition. I gave her a much more substantial role in the third and final book, Astropalooza, and knew that I wanted to write a spin-off series for her, which I’m actually working on now. But before that I felt the need to write a short story with her in the lead, to get a better sense of who she was, her rhythms, and the kinds of stories I wanted to tell.
So I started the Love, Murder & Mayhem anthology through my publishing group—Crazy 8 Press. Including the other six (now seven!) core Crazy 8 members, I reached out to other writer friends to contribute, with every story containing at least one act of love or romance, at least one murder, and lots of mayhem. I initially thought I’d get nothing but private stories—I did a get a few—but the anthology contains superhero and supervillain stories, off-world and space cruiser stories, as well as A.I., private eyes, sleep surrogates, time travel, an aliens/monsters mash-up and … one DuckBob!
My story is “The Case of My Old New Life and the One I Never Knew,” where Hardwicke investigates a case of arson in a rock n roll club she visited the night before to see her favorite band. She winds up getting pulled deeper into the investigation than she initially anticipated.
As for herding the cats … Since I’ve worked as an editor and project manager of sorts since the 1990s, I had a pretty good idea going in what to expect from the writers. I stayed on top of everyone pretty well. There’s a fine line between persistence and annoyance. Did I cross that line? Not sure. Depends on who you ask! But everybody delivered to me what they promised, on time. Except for one hold out. I won’t say who it was, but we were pushing the envelope in terms of schedule. I was prepared to cut that author from the anthology—and nearly did—but thankfully it didn’t come to that. But it was close!
Q: Well, it worked in the end! It's a really good collection.
When it comes to Finders Keepers, did you set out to write a series? Do you plan your writing, or go with the flow?
A: With the Finders Keepers trilogy, the first book was originally just a one-off, as I had a specific story I wanted to tell and to tell it in a specific way. I did, but I left it open-ended, as I strongly suspected I’d want to revisit those characters. About a year later, while I was writing my stand-alone intergalactic mystery Crossline, the idea for Genius de Milo popped into my head, and about half-way through, I could see where I wanted to take all of the characters and their arcs through a third Finders Keepers book, which became Astropalooza.
Q: You cite Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett in your book description – what other authors, sci-fi/fantasy or otherwise, have influenced you?
A: When it comes to the tone of my Finders Keepers trilogy, I usually say that if you like Third Rock from the Sun, Groundhog Day, Hot Tub Time Machine, and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, you might like what I’ve done. And with Crossline, which is a space opera/intergalactic mystery, I usually say that if you like Firefly, Flash Gordon, Interstellar, Stargate, and Escape from New York, Crossline might be for you.
Lots of film and television watching, then! Thanks so much to Russ for the interview.