Getting to know Steven Max Russo #author #thriller #suspense #gritty #noir #crime #fiction

My guest author today writes thrillers, so you’re in for a bit of a treat when it comes to learning about his inspiration and his process. Let’s take a gander at his bio and then we’ll jump right in.

Steve has spent the majority of his professional career as an advertising copywriter and agency owner. He got interested in writing fiction after one of his short stories was accepted by an online literary journal back in 2013. This inspired him to try his hand at writing seriously. With a gritty noir style and unique writing voice, his first novel, Thieves, garnered praise from renowned crime and thriller authors from around the globe. Steve’s second novel, The Dead Don’t Sleep released in November of 2019 and recently optioned for film, has won him a legion of new fans. His latest effort titled The Debt Collector is slated for publication late this year. Steve is proud to call New Jersey his home.

Author Social Links: Website

Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?

Steven: I first got the idea after I went trap shooting with a good friend of mine and his uncle who was down visiting from Maine. My friend told me that his uncle had served in Vietnam, but that he never, ever talked about what he did during the war. It never came up during our outing either. The family rumor was that he had served as some sort of intelligence officer. That got the wheels spinning and from that encounter, the story of Frank Thompson emerged.

Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?

Steven: I think writing this novel helped me develop a better sense of pacing. Sometimes I can get too descriptive or I get caught up in unnecessary details that can bog the story down. I consciously tried to keep things moving in The Dead Don’t Sleep. The greatest compliment I get from readers is when they say they finished the book in one or two sittings. That’s when you know you’re doing something right.

Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?

Steven: For me, the hardest part of writing in general is trying to figure out what happens next. I don’t (at least I haven’t so far) write an outline or plot out the story before I begin. I simply sit down and begin writing. Sometimes things flow smoothly for a chapter or two or three, but inevitably I get to a point where I stop, scratch my head and wonder what the heck happens next? It’s easy for frustration, or even panic, to set in. And of course, trying to come up with an ending that ties up loose ends and feels somehow satisfying is always difficult. Luckily, working as an advertising writer for most of my adult life, I’m used to the pressure of having to try and come up with a good idea. I developed a habit early on of sleeping with a pad and pen on my nightstand. For me, inspiration usually hits in the middle of the night and I suddenly pop up out of bed with an idea and scribble it down. The hard part is trying to read my handwriting when I wake up the next morning!

Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?

Steven: I didn’t do a whole lot to be honest. I had to research the weaponry used by my characters. I know a little about firearms, but I’m no expert. And I also did some research on the Phoenix Program, a controversial (and ghastly) operation sponsored by the CIA during the war.

Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?

Steven: It was one continuous draft that was in a constant state of revision.

Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?

Steven: I’d say it took about a year to get the overall story written, then several months of re-reading, revising, and editing. The prologue and epilogue were the two final sections that I wrote before I felt satisfied. I can’t tell you how long it typically takes me to write a novel. With Thieves, my first novel, I finished the initial draft in just 3 months. My latest novel has taken about 3 years of writing and revising including input from a developmental editor.

Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?

Steven: I don’t really have any writing habits or rituals. I like to be alone when I write and I like it quiet.

Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?

Steven: For many years I was a partner and creative director in a medium sized ad agency in New Jersey. Now I run a small, virtual ad agency. We work on projects, mostly for insurance and healthcare clients. I’ve been in the ad business most of my professional life and I do enjoy it for the most part. But I seem to be transitioning more and more towards writing fiction.

Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?

Steven: Well, writing is difficult and finding an agent is difficult and getting published is difficult and finding reviewers and readers is difficult and selling books is difficult and everyone seems to be an expert and every expert’s opinion is different – it can all get pretty overwhelming.

Geez, my greatest achievement so far is probably just not giving up!

Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?

Steven: As you might expect, I enjoy reading crime novels and thrillers.

Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?

Steven: Boy, that’s a tough question.

I think success is measured in increments, sometimes big, and sometimes not so big.

First I thought just being able to finish a book-length manuscript was a monumental task. Then trying to get my book published by a traditional publisher seemed like an impossibility. Next, I figured getting my books onto library shelves (something that has always been on my bucket list) was something almost unattainable.

I achieved success in each of those endeavors.

Writing, like so many things in life, seems to be simply a matter of setting goals and overcoming obstacles.

There, I’ve finished the last of the interview questions ­– see, another success!

Frank Thompson, a recent widower and aging Vietnam veteran is down from Maine visiting his nephew, Bill, and his family in New Jersey. While at a trap range, he and his nephew have a chance encounter with a strange man who claims to remember Frank from the war. That night, the windows in Bill’s home are shattered along with the quiet peaceful lives the two men had been living.

Three veterans from a special combat unit directed by the CIA during the Vietnam War have gathered to discuss what they are going to do about a man they claim killed one of their own over forty years ago. Jasper, Birdie and Pogo were part of a team that called themselves the National League All Stars. They were a squad of psychopathic killers trained by Special Forces to cause death and mayhem during the war. Now, they have banded together to hunt down and kill the professional soldier who led them all those years ago.

Drawing on his military training and a resurgent bloodlust from his tortured past, Frank prepares for a final, violent reckoning that will bring him full circle with the war that never left him.

Buy Links: Amazon

I like your way of counting successes, Steve! Check off the interview questions and see what comes next, eh? Thanks for sharing the inspiration for your story, proving yet again that writers take their inspiration from all around.

Happy reading!


Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories

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