Friday, June 10, 2011

Q&A with author Randy Russell, author of Dead Rules

Dead Rules
About Randy: Randy Russell has believed in ghosts since having to take the trash out at night when he was 12 and being chased back to the house by “something” in the darkness.

The Edgar-nominated author of five published novels for adults, two books of short stories about ghosts, and two volumes of Southern Appalachia folklore, Randy’s first paranormal novel, Dead Rules, will be released in hardcover by HarperTeen on June 21, 2011.

Randy is an academically trained folklorist who has collected hundreds of first-person accounts of ghost experiences from across the South. He presents regularly on “True Ghost Stories of the South” based on his interviews of people who have encountered ghosts.

“I know what a ghost encounter is like for the people who have experienced them,” Randy said in a recent interview. “But I have always wondered what the experience is like for the ghost and what it is like to be a ghost.

“By far, the most common ghost a person is likely to encounter is that of a loved one. Love is the binding element, in the main, that keeps a person hanging around after death. I wrote Dead Rules so I could learn what being a ghost might be like. I set it in a high school for the dead, because high school is when most of us are learning what love is… what it can be… and what it isn’t. It seems so unfair to die in high school.

“I write ghosts and dead people,” Randy said, “but my overriding concern in fiction is coming to an understanding of love. I figure each of us will fully understand what love is about 100 years after we’re dead. In that case, ghosts know. And I want to know what they know.”

Randy lives outside Asheville, North Carolina, near the end of a shady mountain cove road marked by a sign that reads “No Exit.” Randy thinks this means he will live forever.

Q&A with Randy:

1. You created an entire after-life in your debut teen novel Dead Rules. How’d you think of such a fascinating, one-of-a-kind idea for a novel?

Through years of research, including interviewing people from across the South who have encountered ghosts, I learned that some people stick around after they die. They just do. I thought finishing up high school, especially if you die pre-prom, is as good as reason to stick around as any.

2. You are literally a “ghost” writer, having authored four books about Southern ghosts. So tell me, are ghosts real? If so, can you prove it?

Ghosts are real. Encountering and interacting with a ghost, in whatever shape or form it may occur, is a rather common—and very real—experience for many people. Remember, when Thomas asked to see the wounds in the side of Christ it was to make certain that Jesus had not returned as a ghost. With this in mind, it’s easy to say that ghosts are something people were encountering two thousand years ago.

I cannot prove to you that ghosts exist and I wouldn’t try. I would rather wait until you experience a ghost, then you can share it with me. An interaction with a ghost is your own experience. And it is often a very personal one. I can’t give you a recipe or tell you how to make it happen. It just does. And it happens to as many people who don’t believe in ghosts as it does to people who do.

It really doesn’t matter if you believe in ghosts. Ghosts believe in you. And some of them know you rather well already.

3. Your characters in Dead Rules each have very unique stories – of their lives and deaths. What were you like at their age?

I was ignoring death and going to live forever like everyone else my age. Of course, forever meant until I was 25 or so. What happened in life after that was of little concern to me.

4. One of the favorite characters by far seems to be Beatrice, who skips around Dead School with a yard dart in her head. Your humor is hard to miss in Dead Rules. How does an author write “funny”?
I don’t know if I can answer this in a brief fashion. I’d love to engage in a longer conversation with people on this topic, though. What makes sense to me at the moment is that in order to write funny, a person needs to see funny. Seventy-three people will look at the same thing happening in the same room at the same time. One will laugh. When that person tells another person what happened, they’ll tell it funny because they saw it that way. Along with dogs, and a few cats, people are in general the funniest thing on the planet. At least, that’s the way I see it.

5. Mars Dreamcote is sexy and—no pun intended—dreamy. If Mars was alive and real, and if you had a daughter, would you approve of her dating this mysterious young man?

I wouldn’t approve of my daughter dating anyone who wasn’t in a coma. Mars is so very much alive, for a dead guy, that I fear he falls into the non-approval category. That said, he is one hell of a guy and I’d like to know him myself… I wouldn’t shew him away if he started hanging around the house. You know, if he got along with the dogs and all.

I’d also say I would hope my daughter was smart enough to date only people I didn’t approve of. It’s her life and I would want it to be interesting for her. And I sure don’t want to hear a bunch of stories about some numb-nuts type I’d approve of. I think the daughter’s proper role in any family is to make her father gasp.

6. What happens after Dead School – is there a college?

Higher learning, huh? Well, let’s just say that nobody in Dead Rules hasn’t gotten that far along yet. Graduating high school remains the goal at hand for these dead kids. That and surviving love, of course. No small challenge, that.

7. I hear you have more books in the works. Can you give us a sneak peek?

I kind of hate to say this, but people die all the time. So we have new kids showing up in Dead School, trying to get along as best they can with the kids who are already there. The stories in Dead School are potentially as endless as life and death—and love—itself. Love is unstoppable. Just ask any ghost you happen to see.

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