An Comhrá / The Chat with Russell Smith

We love Russell Smith! Our ‘An Comhrá’ interview asks people to ask a minimum of one question per section, but Russell went for AS MANY AS POSSIBLE! Whoop! We’re delighted to add him to the ranks of SFF authors and creatives who support the Dublin 2019 Worldcon Bid. Take it away, Russell!


Russell got eaten by Fluff Cthulhu at Eastercon this year! Tasty brains!

How would you describe your work to people who may be unfamiliar with you?

My current work I would class as urban fantasy action adventures, so in world styles possibly familiar to Jim Butcher or Neil Gaiman readers, though suitably different from those things.

What is it about speculative fiction that you love or that inspires you most to write?

I actually just like to tell a good story. Though in addition, I am also fond of reading or watching one. Having said that, my influences include spy novels and sci-fi movies alike.

Speculative fiction is a large part of your writing life. Who have been some of your most important influences as a reader or as a writer?

As mentioned above, Jim Butcher and Neil Gaiman can certainly take some responsibility for setting me on the path I walk now. Ben Aaronovitch and Paul Cornell have been strong recent inspirations.


We all make mistakes as writers. Some good, some bad. What was the best or worst writing mistake you ever made? What was it about that mistake that qualifies it for the best/worst title?

I’m not sure how far into this gig I am for that question to have its most entertaining answer yet. That said, I should like to tweak my chosen author name just a little, so that you can see more of it.

In a world where everyone has a secret superpower what would be yours and what would be your superhero name?

A secret superpower should probably hold up as just that. Though I am always keen on sensible and rapid powers of flight. Perhaps I could be known as ‘XH558’ or something?

Social media has revolutionized publishing for everyone involved by collapsing the space between creator and consumer. Has the rise in social media affected you in any way?

I’m finding it difficult to quantify in that I wasn’t really around as a writer before the social media revolution. It’s great in that you can now talk to just about anybody, challenging in there are a lot of people vying alongside you to have their voices heard. I think overall it is a good thing, though I do have to develop some mastery of being in the right place at the right time, certainly compared to where I am now.


What are you working on now? What excites or challenges you about this project?

That’s an easy one—I’m working on Book Three of the Grenshall Manor Chronicles. The biggest challenge has been the rest of the year. It has been a tough one for me which has disrupted my writing like nothing else I can think of. In terms of excitement, there’s plenty. I’ve got to think very carefully about certain things as I have a more ordinary protagonist in terms of raw power than for the previous two. But that provides options as well as setbacks, which makes this very exciting as a prospect to write!

It is said that learning to write well is like experiencing a series of never ending writing related epiphanies. If you had to pick one, what is the most important lesson you have learned, so far?

Probably being able to focus your main question of the story in an early chapter. It gives the audience and the writer direction in which both should reasonably expect to be led.

Do you have a mentor or another writer who helped to guide you through your writing process or with developing your career? Who do you turn to for advice?

I have several. Like-minded writing friends who ideas can be exchanged with, and my own editorial team, most of whom are writers themselves! The advice part depends upon what I’m needing to ask. How to make a sentence work the way I want it to is a very different question to what kind of medium sized firearm would be appropriate for a particular scenario and/or country.

What event or experience stands out as one of the ‘defining moments’ that shaped who you are today?

LonCon3 was not only my first WorldCon, but also my first real sci-fi/fantasy convention of that ilk. It opened doors, allowed me to cut my teeth on several panels and most importantly, gave me the bug to keep doing this sort of thing!

Over the course of the Grenshall Manor Chronicles, which character has surprised you the most or developed furthest beyond your original concept?

Of the main focal trio, each one of them springs a surprise on me in every new adventure they go on. Sometimes they develop fresh powers, other times they hone existing skills, and other times they just react in a way I have to rewrite the scene around when I finally notice…

What would you like to see more of from the science fiction genre–either in print, film or television?

Mad Max: Fury Road set a high bar for many things in the film world. Action, character development arcs, believable characters you could get behind regardless of gender. Worth anybody’s time.

What do you love most about attending Worldcons?

So much to do, so many people to see, so many new things to discover. A great time to be had.

As an author or creator, why is attending conventions important, and what do you love most about them?

It’s definitely about getting in touch with both your peers and your fanbase, potential or current. It gives all parties a chance to get to know each other better, which is vital for getting your name as an author out there.

Do you have any advice for first time convention attendees?

Chill out, don’t try to do too much, be where you want to be and above all, enjoy yourself. That’s what it’s all about, after all.

Why do you support the Dublin 2019 Worldcon bid?

It’s a nice easy hop for me in a city that is great for a convention such as this. Also, the Bid Team are great people!

What special or unique experiences do you think the Dublin 2019 Worldcon bid has to offer?

Tasteful green attire and an atmosphere you won’t get anywhere else, meant in the best way possible.


About Russell A. Smith:

Author of the Grenshall Manor Chronicles, Russell A. Smith has enjoyed many an adventure both with pencil, paper and dice, and also in real life. Each has been a formative experience for him. A keen petrolhead, he has a long list of things he wants to drive, and the list grows longer every day. Russell has enjoyed an eclectic career so far, with more interesting past jobs including editing newsletters and magazines, and spending a small part of the year as a Tudor soldier and time traveller. These days Russell spends a lot of time on tour across the UK investigating various houses and even more drinking tea. As well as writing, he enjoys a semi-regular presence on the Book Worm podcast on Fab Radio International.



Twitter: @RASmithPSL