Proctor works as an English teacher and has penned a number of well-written books, filled with his own dry humour and fascinating ideas. His work betrays the fact that he’s well-versed in classical literature. He’s even acted Shakespeare on the stage before. This, of course, immediately interested me in his writing.
I’m excited to introduce you all to Russell today, via Cyberspace. Hello, Russell! Tell us three quirky facts about yourself.
Hello Yvette! Three quirky things about me:
1. I have climbed the highest mountain in Africa, Mt Kilimanjaro, 5895 metres. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but one of the most memorable.
2. I used to be a lawyer, but I got better.
3. I am a tragic Doctor Who fan. Seriously, I even have a USB hub that looks like a TARDIS and I have a Sonic Screwdriver pen. I need help.
Oh dear. You certainly do! I’ve heard that you have a cat called Humphrey – and cats seem to be an essential to authorhood. What part has Humphrey played in your writing journey, Russell?
Humphrey only has three legs, but he still leads a full life. He shares my writing space to the extent of sitting beside my computer and carefully reading what I’ve written and he makes helpful suggestions and corrects my grammar. Actually I think he just likes the warmth of my laptop’s exhaust fan, but that’s not what he says. Cats feature in a big way in most of my books.
I had noticed that. I'm assuming at least one of your literary cats is a portrait of Humphrey. Tell us the titles of your books.
I have a several books out there at the moment. Plato’s Cave is a humorous science-fiction novel about mankind’s endless and rather pointless quest for the meaning of life. Days of Iron is a science-fiction novel about terrorism 400 years in the future. I am working on the sequel right now, called Shepherd Moon. Also out there is The Red King, first of The Jabberwocky Book series. The next two volumes are out this year and next year, An Unkindness of Ravens and The Looking-Glass House.
They’re fantastic titles. Which one of these books is your favourite, and why?
I would have to say Plato’s Cave is my favourite. This novel resonates with me very strongly, even though I don’t actually agree with its philosophy! It’s based on Plato’s allegory of the cave from his book The Republic and deals with the nature of reality. I think Plato got it totally wrong, but I celebrate his ideas in what I hope is a light-hearted way. Everyone’s viewpoint is satirized in that book, so the readers have to be able to take a joke.
Yes... laughing at ourselves can be one of the hardest things of all! Tell us three things that peeve you off about today’s literature.
Present tense writing. Really, it has to stop. Could someone tell writers who write in the present tense that it just doesn’t work? (Apart from dialogue and situations like this interview, of course—I’m talking whole novels here.) Other than that, I guess the use of clichés in plotting and characters. Characters are what drives a story, not action and suspense. Thirdly, as a teacher I find the analysis of literature a chore. Literature isn’t written to be analysed. It’s written to be read and enjoyed. Forcing students to analyse some novel they are not interested in only ends in tears.
I'm so glad you brought up present tense writing! Not judging anyone here, but I personally find it very hard to take. Anyway, back on topic. The best protagonists always seem to have a goal of some sort. What would be three of your goals as a writer?
My goals would be to have people enjoy my stories, to write something worth keeping, and have pride in my work. I write mostly for myself anyway. As C. S. Lewis once said, he wrote the stories he wanted to read.
C. S. Lewis was a fabulous author!
Every writer has unfinished projects. Describe to us one of yours, so that the rest of us can feel better.
I have a burning story inside me about a clockwork Aristotelian universe. I’ve written about 60,000 words of it so far. The trouble is, if I continued it, it would be about twenty volumes long and would be read by about three people. For what it’s worth it would be called Phosphorus and if I had another thirty or so years to spare I might be tempted to write it.
Fascinating. Although I have to admit, I prefer the short books to the long ones. I admire your prudence! Your short stories, I’ve discovered from experience, are excellent. Can you give us two tips for writing effective short stories? (I’m just being mercenary here, because I can’t write them to save myself.)
- Every word counts in a short story. Know what you want to say and say it. Don’t waffle about. If we don’t need to know the hero has blond hair, don’t tell us.
- Few characters, one setting, and a simple plot. Reading a short story is like reading just the climax of a novel. Just tell the climax and let the reader work out the rest of the book.
That's excellent advice, thanks. This is writersanctuary.net. One of the reasons I established this site was to encourage new authors. Tell us two pitfalls we should avoid as writers.
The first pitfall would be thinking that your writing isn’t good enough for people to want to read it. The second pitfall is thinking that everyone wants to read it.
To finish, tell us two of the greatest things about the writer’s life.
One of the greatest things about my writing life is that I get to tell stories. Really, that’s what it comes down to. I have people inside my head that want to get themselves heard. Having them express themselves is a great feeling. Another thing would be in the way I write. I’m not a planner. I don’t meticulously work out the plot, characters, setting, etc, before I start writing. I just have an idea and discover all those things as I go. It’s like I’m reading the story for the first time as I write it.
Russell’s books The Red King, Plato’s Cave and Days of Iron are available via Amazon and Smashwords.
The Red King: www.amzn.to/1wX2OS1, www.smashwords.com/books/view/524851
Days of Iron: http://amzn.to/1DLewMi
Plato’s Cave: http://www.amazon.com/Platos-Cave-Russell-Proctor/dp/147930879X
Russell’s website: www.russellproctor.com