Wendy S. Russo and January Black

I have with me today, in my virtual kitchen, the very talented Wendy S. Russo, author of January Black, which was released January 15th. Those of you who follow my blog already know that I had the very great pleasure of editing this book for Wendy and for Crescent Moon Press, her publisher. From that perspective, I can certainly say that this is an excellent book well worth not only one read, but several. Wendy’s giving away one $10 gift card and one delightful LiberTea mug just like mine each day of her book’s blog tour – names to be drawn from comments on that day’s blog tour posts, so be sure to post comments on all of them if you’re really hankering for an awesome mug or extra book-buying budget! Additionally, I’ve been very sneaky and hidden a link to a special bonus excerpt of January Black. If you find it and click on it, the password is “matty”. Comment there and you’ll be in the running for an autographed paperback copy of January Black. I’ll post my interview with Wendy first, then pictures, so that my earnest readers won’t be distracted by either the gorgeous cover or lovely author.

MR: Hi Wendy! Good to see you. Just scrape the worse of the snow off on that bristle thing on the porch. You look chilly, let me get you that cup of tea I promised. Sorry about the weather. You’re a transplant like me, but you had the good sense to move south. How do you like Louisiana?

Wendy: Yes, I’m a transplant from Wyoming. I miss the mountains, but I love Louisiana. The weather. The people. The food. I’ve been all over America and I can say that there’s…  As Wendy tracks Mr. Robitille as he walks through the room, her voice trails off. …nowhere quite like Louisiana.

MR: Don’t mind Himself. He wanders through whenever there’s tea on. I met him here in Vermont. Where did you meet your husband, Robert?

Wendy: Powell, Wyoming. Robert and I were in a few classes together at Northwest College…Magazine Production and Drugs and Human Behavior. He was a Creative Writing major, and I was graphic design, so having those two classes together was a sign, if you believe in signs, which I really don’t. But it gets a little stranger. Rob is from Long Island. His best friend from high school, Dave, just happened to have an aunt who teaches psychology at NWC. Robert was on his way to UC-Berkeley, but hadn’t established residency yet. Dave says, “Hey, Powell’s a fun place,” so Rob stopped to get his general education credits out of the way. So, it was that tenuous connection that led us to meeting at all. And I’m not done yet. NWC is a two year college. I changed majors after my first year, so when I met Rob during my third year there.

And yeah, no. After all that, I’m still not a “signs” person.

The next question people usually ask is “how did you end up in Louisiana?” Rob’s cousin Jeff was an LSU student. He said, “Come down. Nice weather. Friendly people. Awesome food.” And he wasn’t lying.

MR: Your blurb says you’ve been writing for quite some time. When did you decide that you wanted to ‘get serious’ about writing? 

Wendy: By serious, do you mean committed enough to complete novels? Or masochistic enough to put myself through the arduous process of writing query letters/blurbs/synopses, researching and contacting agents/publishers, enduring 18-months of rejection by form letters and non-response before finally catching an acquiring editor’s attention?

I wrote mostly poetry before 1997, when I completed my first novel. It was the first of a Star Wars fan fiction trilogy and in hindsight, it’s bad. Well, my friends will tell you that the story is good, but the craft is sloppy.

January Black was the first story that I felt sure enough to pursue publishing, and it wasn’t until three separate beta readers came back and said, “You need to send this to a publisher.”

MR: Do you have other books in the works?

Wendy: I have 2 series, one with a companion book so that’s seven books and no real timeline for completion.

First, there’s Nick Jackson’s error. It’s New Adult Science Fiction with elements of alternate timeline and nanotechnology. The subject of the story is a 19-year-old DJ with Asperger’s Syndrome and stolen tech in her brain. The narrator character is her best friend Sam, who endures her abuse and hides her from various bad guys who are willing to kill her to get the tech from her.

That story has a Paranormal companion featuring Fenghuang, a Chinese fire god, who in this story has taken up residence in the nearby Wind River canyon and has been tampering with history.

The second series is The Choir Boys, which is New Adult Paranormal. It was started as a sort of Three Musketeers meets the Matrix with Angels as the bad guys. It’s evolved somewhat, but there are Angels, Fallen, ghosts, and humans, and hopefully I can take it somewhere interesting.

MR: I have to say that I really enjoyed editing January Black. You write a good story, and I love science fiction that has a well-done political ‘what if’. What brought you to explore the theme of what liberty really is? 

Wendy: The banking collapse in September 2008. I was thinking at the time that there’s nowhere to go. A few hundred years ago, when our ancestors were unhappy with the state of affairs in northern Europe, they left. They boarded boats and they started over. Now, I have Native American ancestry, so I don’t mean to ignore that their colonization destroyed a way of life on this continent. But… those people did something, went somewhere, to escape the cycle of tyranny of the European empires. And as the financial system crumbled, looked at a map of the world and wondered, where could you do that today?

The American consumer accounts for 20% of the global economy. Think about that. We represent only  4.5% of the population on this earth, but when our economy falters, the world’s economy takes a hit. Industries all over the world see less business, production goes down, employment goes down. The whole world is connected now. Unless you take yourself completely out of civilization, endear yourself to a primitive tribe and leave behind ties and conveniences, there’s no place on this earth left to go.

Anyhow, I was working on another story entirely when NaNoWriMo rolled around. I took an image from another WIP, a boy standing in an overgrown garden, and wrote a story about a kingdom where liberty was so taken for granted, the people didn’t even know they lacked it.

MR: I like that you explore how the government can control what the populace knows by controlling what is taught in schools. How concerned are you about revisionism in modern textbooks? 

Wendy: It concerns me, but my husband and I view it as a teaching opportunity for our son. It’s one thing to teach a child to read, to teach him how to separate the pieces and understand what’s being said, but skepticism of what he reads and the compulsion to research more and form his own opinion, that’s much harder and much more important. If, by the time that he’s in high school, he knows the difference between an answer that is “right” and an answer that is “correct,” I’ll be very happy. The question and answers won’t matter so much.

MR: I also like the romance between Matty and Iris. Matty strikes me as a decent boy and a gentleman, the kind of boy I’d hope my daughter would fall in love with. Do you know any boys like Matty? 

Wendy: Matty reminds me of my cousin Zach. Very smart. Independent. Loving, polite, and perhaps a bit socially awkward. In writing Matty, I wanted to present the teenage boy honestly.  I was terrified that I got teenage boys all wrong, but my husband put that down quickly. He also flatly told me not to touch Matty’s errant libido or the hints at masturbation, no matter who wanted me to change it. Matty really is the kind of boy I hope my son becomes.

MR: I recently posted pictures of actors and actresses who might fill the roles of characters in the book I just finished. Do you have any actors and actresses in mind when you think of your characters?

Wendy: There’s a scene in Blade 3 where Hannibal King, played by Ryan Reynolds, chucks a vampire pomeranian out of a high rise and it lands somewhere in the lower levels of the building. When Triple H’s character asks where his dog is, Hannibal responds,” Have you tried the lobby?” THAT Ryan Reynolds sparked King Hadrian.

When I started writing, Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” was being overplayed on the radio, and Matty’s frantic girlfriend took the form of a girl with curly blonde hair.

Matty actually doesn’t have a specific face attached to him. If I were to thrown a name out…Jesse Eisenberg?

MR: Writers tend to be readers too – what do you like to read? Any favorite authors?

Wendy: I {heart} Neal Stephenson, but he’s a tough act to aspire to be like someday. I also love Kate Evangelista, Marie Sexton, Hildie McQueen, Christine Ashworth, and Sean Poindexter. It’s an honor to be associated with them.

MR: What kind of reactions have you had to your writing from your friends and family?

Wendy: The response from friends and family has been incredibly positive, but they’re friends and family. *shrug*

I was blown away to learn that my husband finished reading it. Like I said, he used to be a Creative Writing major, and he’s got a very critical eye when it comes to literature. The first “final” draft he couldn’t get even three chapters into because of the errors in the manuscript. So, when he told me a few months ago that he finished it, and that he liked it, I was completely stunned. And felt like I won the lottery.

MR: I listen to a great deal of music when I’m writing. What are your favorite songs to write to? 

Wendy: It depends on the story I’m writing. With January Black, there was a lot of Taylor Swift, Dream Theater, Glee Soundtrack, and some stuff that my then 2-year-old son insisted we listen to. He’s got good taste in music. His playlist included The Who’s Baba O’Reilly and Sam Tsui’s “Lady Gaga Medley.”

Virgo’s playlist has Kesha and Lady Gaga, and lots of drum machine. The Choir Boys’ list has Breaking Benjamin, All American Rejects, and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

MR: Now, I understand that you’re giving away some lovely gifts for folks who comment. A branded coffee cup just like this one – without the tea in it, obviously! – and a $10 gift card are up for grabs, and I’ve sneakily hidden a link here in your interview to an excerpt of January Black – you’ll be giving an autographed paperback to one of the people who comment there as well, correct? 

Wendy: That is correct. There will be daily drawings, so more than one opportunity to win as long as you keep leaving comments on the tour’s posts.

MR: It’s been wonderful having you here, Wendy! I hope that when you do write another book I’ll get to edit that as well.

Wendy: Thank you, Melissa. And if I get another book accepted by CMP, I’m going to insist that you be my editor. I’ll wait in line if I have to.

First, the gorgeous cover:


Just so everyone can stop taking my word for it; “my” authors are entirely and unfairly attractive people – a picture of the gorgeous Wendy S. Russo herself:


I still claim it’s unfair that all my authors (not just the ladies – even the guys are, for cryin’ out sakes) to be better looking than I am, but that’s life, isn’t it? Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a sneak peak at the awesome LiberTea mug you might win:


Being an honest person by nature I’ll admit that I cropped this out of Wendy’s photo – my own LiberTea mug is currently in need of a wash due to having been emptied just now over the course of our delightful chat… and my kitchen, while homey and comfortable, isn’t nearly so pretty as the lovely counter this mug is sitting on. I’m leaving out the quiche because it’s making my stomach grumble and I’m trying to lose weight. I figure it’s a good thing Wendy didn’t picture it with a delectable pastry or I’d be ringing a peal over her head for tempting my poor self beyond the bounds of self-constraint.

January Black blurb:

Sixteen-year-old genius Matty Ducayn has never fit in on The Hill, an ordered place seriously lacking a sense of humor. After his school’s headmaster expels him for a small act of mischief, Matty’s future looks grim until King Hadrian comes to his rescue with a challenge: answer a question for a master’s diploma.

More than a second chance, this means freedom. Masters can choose where they work, a rarity among Regents, and the question is simple.

What was January Black?

It’s a ship. Everyone knows that. Hadrian rejects that answer, though, and Matty becomes compelled by curiosity and pride to solve the puzzle. When his search for an answer turns up long-buried state secrets, Matty’s journey becomes a collision course with a deadly royal decree. He’s been set up to fail, which forces him to choose. Run for his life with the challenge lost…or call the king’s bluff.

Wendy Russo’s Bio:

Wendy S. Russo got her start writing in the sixth grade. That story involved a talisman with crystals that had to be found and assembled before bad things happened, and dialog that read like classroom roll call. Since then, she’s majored in journalism (for one semester), published poetry, taken a course on short novels, and watched most everything ever filmed by Quentin Tarantino. A Wyoming native transplanted in Baton Rouge, Wendy works for Louisiana State University as an IT analyst. She’s a wife, a mom, a Tiger, a Who Dat, and she falls asleep on her couch at 8:30 on weeknights.

The January Black book trailer can be found by following the link – it’s gorgeous, of course. Now… Did you find my sneaky link to that excerpt? I hope you did! Remember, the password is “matty” – without the quotes, of course. Post a comment here, post a comment there, and check out the other blog tour posts for today and comment there too! Good luck to you, and particularly good luck to Wendy as well as my heartfelt congratulations on the publication of her wonderful novel.

You can find her book on Amazon  as a Kindle ebook, and she’s currently discussing a print run with Crescent Moon Press, her publisher.

You can also find Wendy through all sorts of social media…

On her blog, on Facebook, on Google+, on Twitter, and of course on Goodreads.



Filed under editing, writing

15 responses to “Wendy S. Russo and January Black

  1. Great interview, Melissa! I feel like I know Wendy a lot better and it makes me want to read whatever she writes. Congratulations, Wendy on publishing January Black!


  2. Lori Lawton

    Great interview! I have always known Wendy was talented! Can’t wait for the book to come out! All of my family are supportive and excited for her!


  3. Great interview, ladies! And congrats, Wendy, on a great novel!


  4. Great interview Melissa! You are so funny! And the more I “hear” from Wendy, the smarter I think she is! January Black sounds fabulous and is on my to read list!


  5. Awesome interview, Melissa! Loved the book – you two did a great job. Cheers!


  6. Wonderful interview, Wendy and Melissa! I have January Black on my TBR list. Sounds fascinating!


  7. You do a great interview, Melissa. I love that coffee mug.


  8. Wow! Such an interesting spark that fueled the idea for January Black! Congratulations, Wendy!


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