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Michael F. Russell

Michael F. Russell

Michael F. Russell grew up on the Isle of Barra before leaving to study Social Sciences at the University of Glasgow, followed by a postgraduate diploma in Journalism Studies at the University of Strathclyde. He is deputy editor at the West Highland Free Press and writes occasionally for the Sunday Herald. His writing has appeared in Gutter, Northwords Now and Fractured West. He lives on Skye with his partner and two children.

Getting to know: Michael F. Russell

1. Do you have a favourite character in the book? I guess George, as he is doing his best for those around him - the wider community - even though he is grieving for his wife.
2. What was your inspiration to write this story? Was there a particular moment of inspiration that pushed you to write this? I have always had a fascination for Armageddon, whether in literature or film.  I wanted to devise one myself, based on human technology rather than something more conventional, and haphazard, such as an asteroid strike or plague.
3. What is your favourite scene or moment in the book? It would have to be the conversation Carl and Isaac have in the final part. It's touching the way they have become so familiar with each other: the boy's confusions about the process of butchering a deer, and Carl's realisation that Isaac will probably never see somewhere like Oxford. 
4. What inspired you to become a writer? No single event or experience, just a feeling that it was something I could do and wanted to do. However, over the last few years it dawned on me that becoming a published writer would take a huge amount of hard work. There's no short-cut; you have to learn the craft, and that means being not very good for a long time.  I am still learning the craft and will continue to learn.
5. What keeps you motivated as a writer? The thought of not doing it.
6. What’s your favourite book, and why? This is impossible to answer. I can name a few authors - David Mitchell, Philip K Dick, Neil M Gunn, Margaret Atwood, Thomas Hardy and James Kelman - but to elevate a single book above all others would leave me with no finger nails and no hair.
7. Do you have a routine when you’re writing (i.e. silence, a particular genre of music, only working in the morning, only working in your underpants?) I prefer to have contemporary music playing - Death in Vegas, Richard Hawley, Orbital, Smoke Fairies, or similar - and to remain fully clothed. I've tried writing in the morning but I find evening works best. If I'm ever lucky enough to become a full-time writer of fiction I would try to keep regular afternoon hours. I am not a morning person.
8. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be a writer? Write as often as you can. Read as much as you can. And never give up, no matter how many rejections you receive.
9. How easy was it for you to find a publisher? Easier than swallowing a whole coconut.
10. What’s the best experience you’ve had while writing a book? When the first draft flows and every word seems to be exactly the right one. Those times of total immersion do not last long.
11. Who are you generally writing for? Someone quite like me.
12. If you weren’t a writer, what would you be? An unhappier person.
13. What one thing would improve your life? More time in which to write.
14. Where would you like to be right now, anywhere in the world? I am where I am. The grass is seldom greener elsewhere.
15. Are any or your characters based on yourself or people you know? I think all characters in fiction contain elements of both the author and the people he knows or has known. It can be no other way, I suppose.
16. If you could swap lives with one of your characters, who would you choose and why? Given the grim scenario I have constructed in Lie of the Land, I'd like to stay right where I am, please!
17. Have you ever regretted how you ended a story and wish you could change it? You can always find changes in a piece of published fiction. I have trained myself not to think like that - there's no point. It only causes frustration.
18. If you weren't a writer, what would your 'dream' occupation be? I am currently a journalist, but I once harboured dreams of being an astronomer, also an archaeologist.
19. If your book was a film, who would you cast for the lead character? A younger version of Robert Carlyle.
20. Why are books important in your opinion? Novels, as opposed to non-fiction, are a means of exposing and exploring deep human truths. Such a practice will always be important.
21. What are you reading right now? Iain M Banks' Surface Detail and Why Scottish Philosophy Matters by Alexander Broadie.
22. Which authors do you particularly admire? See above.
23. If you had a superpower what would it be?  The power to make people in a particular situation or setting forget I ever existed.

Related books

Lie of the Land
Lie of the Land