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3/15/13

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR RUSSELL FERRELL


Russell Ferrell is a non-fiction historical writer and educator. He has worked as a journalist and educator and in several varied occupations. He owned and operated a cattle ranch in Atoka County, Oklahoma, before moving to Red Oak, Texas, where he currently resides with his wife, Waynetta, and their four dogs and five cats. He was working on several projects in the historical field when he put them all aside to write the true story of Cephis Hall and Sid Love, the two amateur naturalists who discovered and excavated the Acrocanthosaurus in McCurtain County, Oklahoma - one of the greatest dinosaur discoveries and excavations in history. 

When you are not writing or being you, what is your work or activity?
I am a retired educator. I have taught science and history. I do a lot of reading and try to stay informed about the world by watching a lot of Link TV, Current TV, and the news programs on CNBC and MSNBC, such as the ED SHOW and the Rachel Maddow Show. I read such publications as The Nation, Mother Jones, The Progressive, and The Oklahoma Observer to stay abreast on current events. My hobbies are gardening, travel, carpentry, nature, outdoors, movies, museums, documentaries, and learning for the mere sake of learning. I love dogs and cats, and enjoy working with cattle.

When did you become an author? How did it develop, and what was your inspiration?
I had always wanted to research and write. Ideas and knowledge have always been important for me. Since grade school, I had always been told that I was a good writer – good at expressing myself with pen and paper. I considered it as one of my natural talents or gifts that I was born with.  In my view, either you were born with an ability to write, or you weren’t.  If you don’t have an innate capacity to write, you can never learn or excel in the trade. Your brain has to be properly wired to be a writer. Perhaps there is an inherited base to it. I learned from my genealogy that I share common great-grandparents with many famous writers.  I must admit, however, that I am an obscure, unknown writer that may fall flat on his face.

Writing and publishing a book was one of my goals in life, but I did not get serious about a particular project until reaching the age of 52. With more discretionary time, I started work on several projects within the historical field. I was doing research and had written a few chapters on a book about barbarians and their contributions and legacy to the modern world when the story of Cephis Hall and Sid Love was sort of dropped in my lap. After learning about their story from my son, Thomas, who had visited Cephis Hall, I soon took up the challenge of telling their story to the world.

What are some interesting events from your career as (the writer, Russell Ferrell)?  Any bloopers?
Meeting and interviewing Cephis Hall and gradually learning his story was a breakthrough. Although I am still waiting, as of yet there have been no other major events or breakthroughs. Becoming a writer and publishing a book is certainly the greatest challenge I have ever undertaken. It is an extremely tough business in which to get a break and get your feet planted squarely on the ground. The publishing industry, in my view, is sort of rigged and monopolized. The industry is controlled by a few big publishers, distributors, and media conglomerates.
Although it has become easier for the new and independent author to self-publish, the market still favors the brand name, celebrity authors.  At the same time, there appears to be a declining literacy and book reading audience, at least in the United States. Marketing the finished book and getting access to book stores and distribution chains is certainly as challenging as actually writing it. Also, a depressed economy is hurting the book industry. Books rank low on the priority list of consumers, at least in the US. Americans will go out to eat or go to a movie or sports event before buying and reading a book. The digital generation reads even less than their ancestors.

What do you think your impact has been among members of your audience?  Your community? 
I am the type of reader who reads primarily to learn. Entertainment is secondary for me. As a writer, my purpose is to inform and educate, as well as entertain. My job as an educator is to convey information and ideas – to impart knowledge to the audience. This bias is reflected in my writings. 

As a reader, if I can’t learn anything new or get some kind of new insight from a piece of writing, I have little or no use for it. With each book or piece that I read, I want to be able to see the world in a different light and with a little more clarity. That is the same hope I have for my readers. When you read a book rich in new ideas and insights, that book becomes part of you as if its content has been encoded on your DNA.

I hope that my impact as a writer will be to inform, educate, and entertain my audience. If I can accomplish that, I have at least partially succeeded, even if I make little or no money from my finished products. That, however, presumes that the audience will expand to a meaningful size.

What would you have liked to do with your work if there was more time, money, wider support, funding, staff, etc.
Like an impractical idealist, I hope that my work will have a larger, redeemable benefit to the overall society, to humanity, and the environment.  If a single piece of writing can change ideas or open people’s eyes and minds to a larger picture or purpose, than I have contributed to making this a better world.

Where do you see yourself in the coming years?  Will [insert author name here] remain or transform within the book world or move on to something else?
The odds of a new writer making a successful, long-term career out of writing are tenuous. It is extremely hard to make money in this business. Although money should never be the prime motivating factor, it takes money to remain viable and stay in the game. I have many ideas and projects on the burner and have already broken ground on other book projects. However, if the writing effort is not financially sustainable, I, like so many others, will probably fall by the wayside.
I plan to take on and finish one or two more projects to get a better gauge on the market and my potential. One of these must find an audience that will provide enough monetary sustenance to keep me hanging on as a writer. 

As a writer, what and who are your influences?   Where do you get your ideas?
A writer must also be a reader. My reading of the works of other authors has kept me active in the world of literacy and ideas. Once people stop reading and learning, they are on a dead end road to mental atrophy. American society does not value books and learning like it should. This trend is threatening the viability of our democratic institutions. Without an informed public, democracy or a representative republic cannot stand.

To remain a social activist or functioning member of a democratic republic, one must read plenty of non-fiction exposes that give good insight into the workings of society and government. People must cultivate new ideas and be able to question the status quo; otherwise, the society becomes stagnant and degenerate. Fiction can also be good if it opens peoples’ minds and senses while according new insight into the ways of the world.

I get my ideas from books, magazine articles, documentaries, and television news programs. Or at least these sources allow me to establish a framework within which I can synthesize my own ideas.

Readers often like to find authors similar in tone, subject, or style to another.  Who would most enjoy your work: readers of Stoker, Lovecraft, Shelley, King, Koonze, etc? 
Since I am not a novelist or writer of fiction I am not really able to answer this question.
Readers of non-fiction who like history, science, adventure, mystery or just simply a good story, should find my book The Bone War of McCurtain County compelling.

When you write, do you require a special place, quiet, mood music, a favorite chair or sweater, etc.?
I like to be comfortable. I may prop up on my bed and write with pen and paper, or sit at a computer and compose. Generally I prefer quiet, but music or noise does not necessarily distract me.

Who is [insert author name here]?  How similar are the two personas of author and [insert author name here]?  In the real world, do you like sports or other pursuits?  On any given day where would someone find you and what would you be doing?
I am, as is claimed to be the case for most authors, rather introverted. I am usually content to muse and ponder ideas and issues in a solitary mode. I prefer to use my own intuition and don’t like to follow the noise of the crowd. Being a recluse or hermit has some value for me as long as I can indulge in the world of ideas.

What is the next big thing on your personal and professional agenda?

I am driven by a desire to share the story of Cephis Hall and Sid Love with the world. I am indeed fixated on making The Bone War of McCurtain Countya success, although, I admit, it is an uphill battle. Beyond that, it is my desire, and the desire of Cephis Hall, as well, to see the story made into a major motion picture that becomes a smash hit. Virtually everybody who knows the story or has read the book agrees that it would make a great movie. We have, indeed, already been approached by a small film company in Texas, but prefer to wait on a big Hollywood production company. You only get one shot at something like that, so I want to take my best shot with the best producer I can match.  I want the world to finally learn the amazing story of Cephis Hall and Sid Love.

To order visit Amazon.

ISBN: 9780983355106
Rabelius Publishing, Waxahachie, Texas.