Today I spoke to Author Russell W. Dickson about his Hit Novella, “The Man Next Door,” released on Kindle.
Alan Gray: What inspired you to write the book?
Russell Dickson: I grew up in a small town just north of New York City, named Mahopac. It is an area rich in varied cultures from around the world. It was my memories of the people I grew up with that I drew upon to create, “The Man Next Door.”
The main Character, ‘Mr. Whitlam’ came from an old German man that lived next door to my childhood home. I was always a little afraid of him growing up. He was an obstinate man with a skinny torso and dangly limbs. He was obsessed with his rock wall, and making sure every stone was in place, he scolded me many times saying, “My brother and I built this entire wall together.” I can still picture him waving his dangly arm at me and cursing my dog Bandit for pooping on his lawn again.
AG: Tell me about The Man Next Door.
RD:The man next door is about a writer named William Mulligans, who is trying to find himself. He spends his day doing the mundane to avoid finishing a novel he no longer believes in. During these mundane moments, he discovers an old German Doctor named Mr. Whitlam, a creepy man from his childhood, still lives in the neighborhood, and he becomes obsessed with him a little bit.
His first encounter with Whitlam is rather abrupt, but he is not dissuaded from it. He decides he will get to know this crass old curmudgeon, and what he discovers changes him forever. Whitlam opens up to him about the secret experiments he performed on humans for the U.S. government, in order to create the perfect killing machine, one devoid of any remorse, that would execute orders without question.
AG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?
RD: I think the thing that surprised me most was the lengths I had to go to, to make my story as real as possible. It was hard for me. I work more than 12 hours a day sometimes on my day job, then come home and stay up late at night doing research and writing. I studied a lot of medical terminology, researched secret government groups, emailed every conspiracy nut I could find and listened to their theories about mind control and government experiments during the 60’s and 70’s.
In the movies a writer sits behind a typewriter and waits for the magic, but in real life it is quite different. I have to become an expert on anything I write about in order to compose a telling piece that grips people, otherwise my work with be soulless. People aren’t dumb, they will know it.
AG: What are you doing when you are not writing?
RD: I wish I could say writing was my life 24-7, but the reality is, like most modern writers, I have to keep a day job to support my writing endeavors, unlike writers like Emerson, and Thoreau who had the means to support themselves while they composed great literary works – not to impugn them in any way. One reason Thoreau was able to write so prolifically was because he was living in a cottage in the woods owned by his friend Emerson, rent free.
It is a slow trudge through unfriendly territory to get your work written and published. Most publishers today have adopted policies for submissions that are so cumbersome that they become stifling. I always wonder how many great authors out there will never be known because they didn’t submit their loglines and pitches in 12 point Courier fonts.
AG: What other writing projects do you have going on right now?
RD: I have already just about finished the sequel to “The Man Next Door.” I hope to have it finished in the next year, and I am nearly done writing a story titled, “The Crate.” It is about a group of boys that discover a government crate on the side of the road and unknowingly start a zombie apocalypse. Depending on time constraints I should have it finished as well in the coming year. It all depends on how much success I see from “The Man Next Door,” really.
AG: What’s next for you?
RD: The sky is the limit, I think. I will keep writing because it is something I really enjoy. Taht, plus working my day job to support my family, because they come first, before any delusions of grandeur I might have about writing. Without my wife Hana and son William, life would be meaningless for me. I didn’t become a writer to become rich. I don’t think anyone does really. If you want to be rich you become a lawyer or a doctor.
You write because you love it, and you love to entertain people. That is what it is really about. I want people to love my work. It is a great feeling when someone tells me they enjoyed something I wrote.
AG: How can people contact you or follow your work?
For more on “The Man Next Door” visit Amazon.com and get your copy for kindle. If you don’t have a kindle you can download an app for your smart phone or tablet.