The following is an interview with author Russell R. James (Dark Inspiration, Q Island, The Playing Card Killer) regarding the upcoming release of the horror book, Demon Dagger, from Flame Tree Publishing. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with James about the creative process of bringing the story to life, why its story will resonate with audiences, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Demon Dagger! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the story’s premise?
Russell R. James: In Demon Dagger, demons can possess humans but look completely normal. Drew Price has the ability to see them as they really are, and they aren’t pretty. From a young age, he trains to become a demon hunter, but never hunts one. When he is an adult, an archdemon who years ago had been sent back to Hell returns. It is out for vengeance on demon hunters. Drew is at the top of its list, and the demon plans to get to Drew through his family. Only the demon dagger can dispatch an archdemon back to Hell, and Drew will need to enlist a lot of help to be able to use it.
BD: In having written over 20 horror thrillers, how would you describe your creative process in bringing this story to life, and how does your process differ from project to project?
RRJ: I’m a seat-of-the-pants, or organic, writer. I start writing and see where the story goes. So, there is no outline when I start a novel, just a premise. As a note to any budding writers, this is the absolutely least efficient way to write a novel.
The inspirations come from all sorts of things. My novel, Lambs Among Wolves, was inspired by places I’d seen on several trips to Europe. Black Magic was inspired by a creepy-looking magic shop I saw during a Florida day trip. My entire Grant Coleman adventure series was inspired by all the giant monster movies I loved as a kid.
Demon Dagger’s inspiration came at one of our Florida theme parks. I realized that you never know who was in one of the costumed characters with the big heads. You assume it’s a nice, warm employee, but what if it wasn’t? What a perfect moment to do evil, when a park visitor’s guard is down in a supposedly safe place, visiting a harmless cartoon character. That got the ball rolling on what ended up being a middle chapter in the story, where the archdemon masquerades inside a theme park mascot suit to get close to Drew’s son. I never started a story in the middle before. So, now I had to build out the front of the manuscript with Drew’s backstory that got him to that confrontation, then create the rest of the story forward as Drew deals with the archdemon. It was challenging, but I am very proud of how it all came out.
BD: What (or who) were some of your creative influences in terms of the characters and tone for this story?
RRJ: I am a huge fan of the TV show, Supernatural. The whole idea of there being a hidden band of people fighting against supernatural evil really hooked me. That concept, in a much narrower fashion, definitely worked its way into this novel, with a special group of people doing battle with the demonically possessed.
Earlier I wrote Lambs Among Wolves, another novel that featured demonic possession. But that story had a decidedly religious take on possession, with a Catholic priest and a skeptical young girl tracking demons across Europe all the way to the Vatican. For this one, I wanted to keep the story secular. Though the demons do escape from Hell, Lincoln, Drew’s demon hunter mentor, is specific about stating that the religious tools to fight demonic possession are only effective in fiction.
I’ve been pretty distressed lately as I’ve read about the rising numbers of inexplicable acts of violence and cruelty people are committing against random strangers. There has to be a reason for this new phenomenon. So, another concept I created for this story was that demons consume human souls for sustenance. The newly soulless have their morality stripped away and become sociopaths. I even tied it back to the spate of serial killers that California experienced in the 1970s.
BD: What makes Flame Tree Publishing the perfect home for Demon Dagger?
RRJ: Two words. Don D’Auria. He is my editor at Flame Tree. The man is a legendary horror editor going back to the horror heydays in the ‘80s. I first worked with him at Samhain Horror and was thrilled to do it again at Flame Tree. He has excellent insight and instincts when he’s critiquing my work. He knows what tweaks a story needs to make it score with readers, and it’s a pleasure making those changes because it’s obvious that he’s correct.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Drew’s story will connect with and impact readers?
RRJ: This story has examples for each of the main characters where they have to step up and do the hard thing for the greater good or the good of others. Drew needs to embrace the demon hunting skills he shied away from. Anna needs to take off her blinders and admit there is something very wrong with her son. Marvin (my favorite character to write in this novel) has a fantastic story arc I won’t spoil here. Everyone has a time where they have to choose between the hard, correct path and the easy, wrong one. These examples all show what can happen when you opt to do the right thing.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
RRJ: The first book in a new novella series just came out. Quest for the Queen’s Temple is a Rick and Rose Sinclair adventure. In 1938, this couple goes on adventures looking for lost locations and hidden treasure. What they find instead is usually giant monsters and supernatural evil. In this story they go to Arabia in search of the lost treasury of the legendary Queen of Sheba. That book is available here.
Later this year, the sixth story in the Grant Coleman Adventures series, Atoll X, will come out. In these stories, Professor Coleman is a bumbling, sarcastic paleontologist who keeps getting roped into expeditions that find giant monsters. This time, he’s going to the South Pacific to evaluate some fossils. Once there he encounters prehistoric ichthyosaurs that are very far from extinct and exceptionally dangerous.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Demon Dagger and your other work?
RRJ: I’d encourage everyone to head to the Amazon page for Demon Dagger where you can read the first pages for free under the “Look Inside” feature. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter here and then be able to download a cool, free PDF map of all the real-life places in and around Los Angeles where the story takes place. I included pictures and descriptions of each location.
Most of all, I love to meet horror fans. I have a pretty full convention appearance schedule at locations around the country. You can check out the list here on my website. I hope you can come out and visit so we can talk scary stuff.