Tuesday, 31 July 2012
Robert James Russell & Me
We'd been following each other on Twitter for a couple of years, him being a distant author, curiously living somewhere in Michigan, writing poetry and publishing books and me, well, who am I? Who cares, I could be Celine, Before Sunset, drawn towards the handsome American writer, Jesse. Am I getting carried away? Robert reads in bookshops and one day I am sure, he'll be doing it in Paris.
I write all the time, he says, whenever I can, and if anything ever happens, I write and write and I feel better. Over the last couple of months, Robert and I have been exchanging our writing in progress and thoughts on them. It started when I purchased his first book, a novella, Sea Of Trees which I read back to back in a couple of hours lying in my garden soaking in the scarce London sun.
Sea Of Trees is about a place in Japan, a forest called Aokigahara, where people go to peacefully commit suicide, without being rescued by the neighbour or a spouse for example. Its a place to get lost in and to never be found (or for at least, not for a while).
I couldn't put it down. The author didn't allow me to rest my intrigue and swallowed me whole into this world of trees and suicide, sometimes, I wanted to reach out and pull at the characters with my hands to pull them back.
He paints a scenic, atmospheric and haunting landscape of the forest as we journey through with American Bill and his Japanese girlfriend, Junko whose looking for her missing sister. They run into bodies as we run into vignettes, intersected throughout, short glimpses into how their bodies have ended up among trees and forest grass, their belongings scattered like litter. Robert says, they were based on some cases on real-life bodies found in Aokigahara, their back stories created by me, filling in the gap up until the moment of their death. Some others were inspired by incidents around Japan, since suicides (and group suicides) are an epidemic there, again, back stories created to fill in the lives of these people, detailing how they came to these decisions, and how they decided on Aokigahara as their final resting place. It’s weird to say I got inspired by what I read, about all the suicides, but it’s so prevalent, so many cases, that it’s hard to not want to write about it.
Robert sends me chapters, first drafts and secret manuscripts. I read them, under wraps and I send him my drafts of thoughts intertwined into narratives and he gives me encouragement and I give him encouragement and its like we're on the train together, Before Sunrise, exchanging a bit of ourselves, over the pretend telephone. It is sometimes painful to realise your calling as a writer. It is often when that happens, you suddenly feel like you are the only one who can not write. Robert can, believe me, everything he sends me, I read like its water running through my fingers. I just feel compelled to tell stories, he says, always have, either by drawing (when I was younger) or later (and now) by writing. I just think there are those of us that are storytellers, I want to tell stories
I want to show people what I see, how I see it.
He is a young talent who can feed a story so vividly and concise, (even in a first draft). He gets me to into a world and I always feel like I am within the story, breathing and living by its every thread. I don't get this by many regular published books I read. Its amazing! Robert is often exclaiming how lucky he is. I say, oh the joys! I do not know but can only dream about being published for the first time. I’m lucky, he says, to have found a publisher who appreciates and believes in me. It’s also very surreal. I’ve spent a lot of time getting to this point, so sometimes it’s hard to believe I’m here. Living it. I mean, I'm not naive to think people haven't had similar thoughts to all of us previously--there's always been people who want to reinvent, or rethink things.
Robert James Russell lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA with his soon to be wife and is looking for literary representation and publication of forthcoming novels. He is one to watch out for!
Facebook: Robert James Russell
Buy Sea Of Trees Here