We’re welcoming Russ King onto the blog today. Russ writes romantic comedy and his current novel, Working from home: Mixing business with pleasure? is about escaping the corporate world and relying on your ingenuity to pay your bills.
As well as being a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy, your book gives lots of useful information about running your own business and selling yourself – was that intentional? Or did it arise naturally through plot development?
Strangely enough it was the other way round! I have already written two ‘business novels’ that use the antics of the characters to educate the reader about a specific topic. The main aim of this book was to entertain people but the character’s key challenges come from their business ventures so I made it very true to life.
Given that romantic comedy is usually seen as fiction read primarily by women, how challenging has it been to promote a Romcom for both sexes? And how successful has it been?
It has been a challenge to market the book. However, the feedback and reviews show that it’s genuinely funny and this is a big attraction for both sexes. There is also the intriguing difference in behaviour shown by the two sexes who are really after the same goal – love. Sales have been slower than I’d like but I’ve had sales in four countries as well as my main targets – the UK and US – so the word is spreading.
What’s been the most difficult part of adjusting to being a stay-at-home dad?
Deciding what to feed everyone each day and the fact that there is rarely anything tangible at the end of the day to show you’ve achieved anything. Oh yes, and my three year old daughter’s habit of talking continuously all day. I’m more tired after a full day one-on-one with her than any job I’ve had and I’ve done both physical and stressful jobs before!
And the best?
Being able to break the rules and escaping reality when most other people are working. This could be turning an armchair into a car or slipping away to the beach for an ice cream. The imagination of small children is astounding and as I’m rarely in the real world myself we have some incredible adventures!
You worked on social networks pre Facebook & Myspace and created some of your own, can you tell us about this? And how was the experience?
I was the UK Editor for an interactive psychology test web site called Tickle.com that provided serious tests like IQ or Ink Blot tests or fun quizzes that matched your personality to breeds of dogs, film stars, etc. It was mad. We had millions of members and I had a free rein to create new UK quizzes or promote them in creative ways. I wrote a test that matched people to various sexual fantasies and that went from nothing to over 60,000 people taking it in one day.
Tickle was bought by Monster.com who decided to focus on their core area – careers. I created the content for two social networks: one for the British armed forces and one for British nurses and they launched on the same day. More recently with another company I was the UK manager for a social network aimed at middle-aged people (between 40 and 65) but I left just before I was old enough to join it!
Creating and promoting social networks is exciting and challenging but it is very hard to get them expanding quickly enough within budget. You never know which aspects are going to be popular until people start using it.
What is your favourite/least favourite aspect of social networking?
My favourite has to be the randomness of social networking. I have very good friends from networking (some of whom I have never met) who have enriched my life, inspired me and cheered me up when necessary. You never know who is going to become part of your life and this is why I wanted to mix romance with business networking in Working from Home. In both situations you wear your heart on your sleeve and hope other people like you or your product/service.
My least favourite aspect of social networking is the bombardment of information that we have to filter out. I am forever in quest of in-box zero!
You also have a degree in zoology and a PhD in animal learning – how did this lead to writing romantic fiction? And has all that animal learning helped in any way?!
I started writing science-based articles for magazines after getting frustrated by the boring writing style needed for my thesis. I soon got the writing bug and I have three early novels that I might be brave enough to look back through one day. The animal learning was very significant as so much of wild animal behaviour is honed by natural selection – creating the fittest individuals who are the most effective at finding food and a high quality mate. Humans in the developed world are less affected by natural selection but there are lots of interesting behavioural hangovers to watch for and write about.
Will you continue to write romantic comedy and do you have any burning ambitions to write in other genres?
The book I am currently working on is a passionate thriller that builds to a nail-biting climax but it’s still all about love and has lots of humour. My work will always revolve around love because that’s what makes the world go round, but also because the behaviour of attraction is so compelling.
How easy or hard did you find writing from female POV for Cat’s character?
I’m used to walking around in female’s heads now after working for a few women’s magazines and being a notorious people watcher (otherwise known as a nosy git). Once I had created Cat’s character and back story I knew how she would react to whatever I threw at her. I loved the interaction between Cat and her headstrong sister and had to edit a lot of it out as they threatened to take over.
Did you like writing from a female POV?
I love it. I relish the differences in the way men and women think and the challenge of getting the thought processes correct.
Having written a romcom, what’s your favourite romcom movie/book?
I like the foreign movies that approach the romcom genre from a different angle. Amélie is a favourite for heart-warming quirkiness while Y tu Mamá también (And your mother too) takes the youthful exuberance of the American Pie movies and gives a surprisingly deep insight into life and death. A more mainstream favourite is Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
In books High Fidelity inspired me to write a novel as Nick Hornby wrote a book I could identify with and laugh at. I also like many books that are aimed more at women such as the novels by Josie Lloyd and Emlyn Reese and Getting away with it by Julie Cohen. I like the heroines to have balls if that is not a contradiction!
What’s the whackiest piece of research you’ve had to do?
I had brief notoriety during my Zoology degree when I looked at how heart rate increases when faced with a selection of ‘scary’ animals. I led a succession of nervous female students into a room where they often squealed, before leaving ten minutes later, looking flushed and tucking themselves in – the heart rate monitor was worn on a strap just below their bra. They might have squealed more if I told them that the same monitor was used on pigs a few hours before!
Quick fire questions:
Football or rugby?
Rugby but I prefer cricket
BMW or Mercedes?
Lager or bitter?
I drink more lager but also drink real ale
Sprint or marathon?
Marathon – it’s all about the enjoying the experience
Blonde or brunette?
Brunette or any brightly-coloured hair
Pirate or Batman?
Pirate every time. We had a pirate wedding!