Meet Author Russ Colchamiro
ULM: What lured you into the sci-fi genre?
A: I’ve always been a scifi fan, but as a writer it evolved organically. I like to tell wild, expansive stories that challenge our beliefs of the Universe while also connecting with characters on a personal level, juxtaposing the struggles of their daily lives with the fate of the cosmos.
Writing in the scifi genre also allows me to dream as big as I want, with nothing really off limits, as long as I explain the rules, and stick with them. I’m also a bit of a philosopher, so scifi is a perfect genre to explore the big questions—are our lives predetermined or can we influence the greater outcomes? Fate vs. destiny. Is there a cosmic plan or is it all random? And regardless of the answers, how do we choose to live our lives along the way?
ULM: Was it hard to combine both comedy and sci-fi in your Finders Keepers trilogy?
A: For me it came naturally. By design and instinct, I tend to write all of my stories as a mystery, where I reveal, conceal, and then reveal again, loaded with tension … and humor.
During my early 20s I backpacked through Europe at a time when that wasn’t nearly as common as it is today. We’re talking 1994, so pre-Internet. You really had to figure out what you were doing either far in advance, or adjust on the fly. Or both. You couldn’t just go online and book your trip because there was no online.
Once I got going, I had one of those trips that significantly changed my outlook on life. Later, I took a two-week trip to New Zealand, which was equally transformative. Separately, I had been tinkering this scifi/fantasy concept, where Jason Medley—who I knew nothing about—had a jar of the Universe’s DNA. And I certainly had no clue what a jar of the Universe’s DNA might be, what that even meant, or how or why Jason had it. But I was dying to find out.
So those two ideas—the backpacking and the scifi—just fit together, and had me laughing along the way. My trips were hilarious (at least to me) so the comedy was already there, and carried through the 3-book series – Finders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza.
Each book is written in part like a travelogue with a you-are-there feel, yet the two main characters, backpackers Jason Medley and Theo Barnes (who’s from New Zealand) find themselves being chased around the globe by a motley crew from this world and the cosmos, wanting to steal that jar of the Universe’s DNA for themselves.
In each book, Jason and Theo have to find some way to save the Earth, the galaxy, or even the entire Universe, even though they really don’t understand how they got mixed up in these shenanigans to begin with. But every time they bumble their way into saving the day, they ultimately make matters worse.
By the time we start the third book, they’ve inadvertently set in motion the next Big Bang, which, if it comes to fruition before Astropalooza—a cosmic celebration of the Universe—existence as we know it will be wiped out.
ULM: How many books have published so far?
A. So far I’ve written four novels, one anthology, which I edited—Love, Murder & Mayhem—and I’ve appeared in about a half dozen or so other anthologies where I contributed a story to the collection.
ULM: You mentioned living in New Jersey. Would this place have any influence on your writing?
A: So far … not really, but I think you’ll see that influence become much more substantial in the future. Can’t say more right now, but stay tuned.
ULM: Using only three words, how would you describe your writing style?
A: Humorous. Adventurous. Mysterious.
ULM: Your latest novel, the anthology Love Murder & Mayhem, looks amazing. Can you share with us, readers what that’s about?
A: While writing Genius de Milo, the second book in my Finders Keepers scifi backpacking comedy series, I briefly introduced the character of Angela Hardwicke. She’s a private eye in that classic Sam Spade tradition. But I knew immediately that I wanted to spend more time with her, so I gave her a much bigger role in the third and final book in the series, Astropalooza, while also convinced that I wanted to give her a series of her own. But first I wanted to write a short story with Hardwicke in the lead, to get a better sense of who she was, her rhythms, and the kinds of stories I wanted to tell.
Thus I started the Love, Murder & Mayhem anthology through my publishing group—Crazy 8 Press. We have 15 stories, from 15 authors (including me) with every story containing at least one act of love or romance, at least one murder, and lots of mayhem. I initially thought I’d get nothing but private stories—I did a get a few—but the anthology contains superhero and supervillain stories, off-world and space cruiser stories, as well as A.I., private eyes, sleep surrogates, time travel, an aliens/monsters mash-up and … one DuckBob!
ULM: What was one of your toughest scenes to create in Love Murder & Mayhem?
A: Writing a murder mystery—especially one that has to be self-contained in less than 8,000 words—has to be intricately and concisely plotted. I had to figure out who the murderer(s) was, why the murder took place, and how, and then map out the sequence of events beginning to end before I could even start writing. If even one detail was out of place the infrastructure of the story would collapse. It was my first true murder mystery, so it was a great learning experience as a writer.
ULM: Which characters from Love Murder & Mayhem were easy to develop?
A: Hardwicke’s my girl. I’ve always wanted to write a detective series, so I’m having a blast with Hardwicke. And it’s not so much that I’m writing her, but that she’s revealing herself to me. By spending time thinking about who and how she is, I’ve discovered Hardwicke’s origin story, and where her larger character arc will take us over the course of several books. It should be a lot of fun.
ULM: Where can readers find you and your work online?
A: I’m out on book tour throughout the year, so if you like getting signed copies, you can find me at any number of book and scifi conventions, mostly in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. I’m also available through these channels:
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/colchamiro?_requestid=409654