Interview with Russell Holly, Geek.com blogger and author of The Space Monster Anti-Survival Guide

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Over the past few years, there have been several guides written to prepare you for the inevitable Zombie/Vampire/Potato monster invasions. Let’s be honest here, unless we turn off Netflix and all start taking winter survival camping classes, humanity as a whole is screwed.

This is what Russell Holly, geek blogger for Geek.com, explores in his new book, The Space Monster Anti-Survival guide. We had a chance to sit down with Russell and talk about his new book, killing off his friends and family and the distractions that come with writing a book!

Nerd Reactor: Alright Russell, first off, thank you for taking the time to meet with me!

Russell Holly: Of course!

Tell me, and all of the world’s future victims, about The Space Monster Anti-Survival Guide.

I own probably half a dozen survival guides. They are so much fun to read. Zombie survival guides are just plain fun to pull out at a coffee shop and thumb through. I thought it was kind of odd that all of these books presupposed that everyone wanted to live. We see it in science fiction all the time, the “just let me die” character. There were no books for that person, and so I figured I would give it a try.

So this book is essentially written for the “Marvins”  [Marvin the Paranoid Android from Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy] of the world?

Yeah, I suppose it is in a way. There’s also something about that feeling you get when you run into someone that’s just an asshole. You get cut off on the road by some jerk or someone makes a kid cry for no good reason. The passive-aggressive among us entertain the notion that they want to see something happen to those folks, and so I kind of mashed those two thoughts together.

So it’s possible to get some dark pleasure out of your book?

Oh yeah, I think it is more than likely someone would finish the book and smile to themselves the next time they see someone taking up three parking spots at the supermarket.

Now from reading the first chapter, your main character Justin Rivey has this kind of reluctant protagonist feel to him, would you say he has some of those “petty vengeance” traits to him?

I wouldn’t say so. For the most part, Justin is one of those folks who took too long to realize he was in a bad situation and didn’t know how to get out once it hit him. You’ll see him make the occasional jab at a co-worker in the book, but almost never because of the things the space monsters kill people for. The most aggressive he gets is complaining about those people who always have to one-up your story with something better.

Is he based off of anyone in particular, fictitious or otherwise?

No this is someone I just sort of imagined. I don’t think I know any one person that adequately personifies Justin. It’s possible he takes a little after Dr. Jackson from Stargate SG1. I was binge watching the entire series while writing the book.

Watching sci-fi while writing sci-fi seems like a good idea.

Fortunately I had designed all of the monsters before writing, so my wonderful illustrator Aaron Wood was not influenced in the same way.

Taking a look at his ETSY page he’s got quite the portfolio. How did you two connect for this book?

I had purchased a bunch of his artwork after stumbling across him on Google+, and had just sort of kept in touch socially on that network. When I put out the call for an artist for the book, he was one of several that stepped up. I decided on Aaron because I loved his work and he shared my enthusiasm for this kind of story. It was a ton of fun working with him.

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Having imagined your monsters before hand, did you find it easy to share your vision with Aaron, and did you have a certain art style in mind when you set out?

I did not have a particular art style in mind, but I had a rough description of each creature. My office is separated from the rest of the house by the big sliding glass door, and at the time it was filled with notes about the monsters. Every time I waled past it, I’d grab a dry erase marker and make myself add something about one of the creatures. Usually it was just a distinct feature, like how the scales would look or whether or not the Biters should have a tail. When I was ready, I boiled it all down into a document and gave it to Aaron. He did the rest, and I never once felt the need to ask for changes. Every rough draft he came up with seemed perfect to me.

That sounds pretty amazing! Was writing the book something you’ve been working towards for a while or was it something you decided on when you woke up one morning and said, “I need to do this”?

I’ve been a tech blogger for a couple of years now, so every day is writing for me. Sometimes I am at my desk from sun up to sun down, depending on what is happening or in the event of a major hardware release. I had written a technical book before about Android tablets, but never really anything creative. I’ve tried to write creatively before, but the story never flows out of me for very long. This was a personal challenge more than anything, to prove to myself that this was something I could do.

This was also a technical experiment, so I could learn about the self-publishing process.

Was it hard to juggle your Geek.com blogging and the writing of this book?

My boss is a pretty cool guy, and he’s supported this project from the beginning. The biggest challenge for me was carving out the time and sticking to it, which proved to be immensely challenging for me. I basically created calendar reminders every other day to remind me that it was time to sit down and work on the book. I would get into a decent rhythm for a week or two, and then there’d be an update to Diablo 3 that would tug on my attention span.

If I were to do it all over again today, I think step one would be to only write on something that wasn’t connected to the Internet and couldn’t play video games.

So you’d want to write on a Mac? (joking, joking!)

You know, you joke, but wiping all of my games from the iPad was something that had crossed my mind at one point.

Ah Diablo 3, you know I pre-ordered that game all the way back in high school, and I got a call out of the blue to come pick it up, and it was a…eh. I mean I had fun but all of my friends stopped playing rather soon. I take it you are a big gamer?

I’m a fan of most games, and it’s part of my job as well, but Diablo 3 was one of those games where a ton of my friends were playing so it was hard to pull away from it.

I don’t know what I would have done if Destiny had been out while this book was being written.

Would you say that’s one of the biggest challenges for authors, new or experienced, keeping on track? Especially when Diablo 3 is sitting on your shelf, smiling at you in a mischievous fashion.

I’d say time management is an interesting challenge for most people, and a lot of the creative-type folks I know have a sort of distraction-free environment they head to when it is time to let the muse loose. I can usually force myself into a writing position with a decent pair of headphones and access to my music library, it’s just getting to that starting point that can occasionally be challenging.

You mentioned self publishing earlier on, was it a no brainer to release the book in an electronic format before making physical copies?

No, in fact I think the opposite is probably true. There’s just more time in between steps when making a physical copy of something. I sent the book off to a print shop the same day I started messing around with preparing the book for Google Play, iTunes, and Amazon. It took two weeks for the test copy of the book to show up, and I spent just about that whole time sorting through the different problems that had come up when pushing a book to each of these three services. I had to make some changes to the physical copy of the book after the test copy arrived, and while I waited for those changes I was able to make the digital copies of the book available to everyone. Since this book was part of a Kickstarter, I wanted to make sure I waited until everyone who participated got their rewards before selling the book to everyone else. That slowed the physical release down a bit, as I learned that shipping hundreds of books all over the world from your living room is actually kind of challenging.

It makes those Amazon drones sound kind of appealing to a degree, doesn’t it?

In more ways than one, yeah.

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Now, without giving too much away, do you have a favourite passage of your book? Or is there a particular part that you had a lot of fun writing ?

So, one of the perks of the Kickstarter was being able to have one of the monsters kill you in the book. I didn’t think this was going to be quite as popular as it turned out to be, especially among my friends. As a result I was able to kill some people that are very dear to me, which was both unnerving and hilarious.

You’re not friends with any “taking up three parking spots at the supermarket” type people are you? Is there a particular friend you enjoyed “killing off” per say? Maybe not in the sense of killing them but in HOW you killed them?

The first couple of victims got to choose which monster killed them, and each of them knew going in what terrible behavior was associated with the kill. Michael was my favorite. He gets killed by the Tin Soldiers, who are these tiny warriors with this nasty tendency to work together in order to quickly eliminate a target. I think that was my favorite kill.

What’s next for Russell Holly, the author, and Russell Holly, the Geek blogger?

Russell Holly, the author, is going to work very hard to make sure the physical copy of the book is available by next week for everyone, and then give some serious thought to a sequel based on some of the feedback that I have gotten so far. Russell Holly, the Geek blogger, is going to try very hard to get used to the iPhone 6 for the next week or so, and then fall back in love with Agents of SHIELD.

Russell, thank you very much for taking the time to do this, and all the luck in the future and with pushing out your book!

Thanks Eric, this was a lot of fun.

Russell’s book can currently be purchased here, with physical copies set to become available next week!

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Eric Escaravage
Eric Escaravage 85 posts

Born and raised in the great white north, Eric grew up playing PC games and reading more Archie comics than is humanely possible. Clark Kent look-a-like on an epic quest to play all the retro games he wasn't allowed to as a child!