Steven Max Russo has spent most of his professional career as an advertising copywriter and agency owner. He got interested in writing fiction after one of his short stories was accepted by an online literary journal in 2013. Then he caught the bug and began writing seriously. The publication of his first novel, THIEVES, has garnered praise from renowned crime and thriller authors from around the globe. With a gritty writing style and unique voice, he is quickly winning a legion of new fans. Steve is proud to call New Jersey his home.
Steve: As an aspiring writer without yet an expansive body of work, I find that people I meet often ask me more personal questions. I thought I might answer a few of those here so that you can get a chance to know me just a little bit.
Q: Where do you get the ideas for your books and stories?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. To be honest, I haven’t been at this long enough to work out a process for writing. My stories usually blossom from one central incident that I saw or experienced in the past. It’s usually something innocuous that sort of sticks in my brain and begins to gnaw at me. For THIEVES, it was a visit I made to a friend’s home after Hurricane Sandy. I was asked to check up on the house and getting there was like driving through a war zone: downed trees and power lines blocking the roads; damage and debris everywhere. We arrived at the house and I was struck with an awful yet intriguing thought: that with so much going on and the power out, it would be easy to break into just about any house in the area should someone be so inclined. The memory of that day stayed with me and from that seed, the psychopath Skooley was born. My second book was inspired by a very pleasant afternoon I spent shooting trap with my good friend, John, and his uncle who was down visiting from Maine. Funny what gets stuck between my ears.
Q: What made you become a writer?
A better question would be why did it take so long for me to become a writer? I have always liked writing. Was pretty good at it (short stories and essays) in grade school right through college. After graduating from Rutgers University, I actually thought about trying to become an author, but I just didn’t know how to go about it. Plus, to be totally honest, I was scared; I wasn’t sure that I had the talent and dedication in me. Fear is a terrible thing. So I bummed around a bit holding several different jobs until I landed a job as an advertising copywriter at one of the large agencies in NYC. I worked there a few years, then at a series of smaller firms and finally started a small agency in NJ with a partner. In my spare time, I dabbled in writing song lyrics and finally just a few short years ago, on a lark I sat down and wrote a short story. It was a story about a young, white collar criminal who takes the next step and becomes involved in a contract murder. A small online literary magazine published and actually paid me for it. So suddenly I was a professional (paid) author. One day while on vacation in Florida, my wife and I were walking on the beach talking about our future and eventual retirement and I told her I’d never retire.
Even without a real job, I could always tell people I am an author working on a book. She looked at me and said why wait until then to write a book? The very day we returned home from vacation I began writing. Three months later the first draft of THIEVES was finished.
Q: Is crime fiction all that you write?
In terms of novels, yes and no. So far the books that I have written and am working on are all crime thrillers. As of this moment, I have two novels either published or in the process of being published, THIEVES and THE DEAD DON’T SLEEP. I am also putting the finishing touches on a third book tentatively titled THE DEBT COLLECTOR and have started work on two more crime stories. But I believe I have it in me to write different types of fiction. I guess we’ll just wait and see.
Q: So Steve, what do you do for fun?
Well, I like to read. And as you might expect, I’m fond of thrillers. I also have a few half-assed hobbies. I enjoy shooting trap, saltwater fishing, ice hockey, hiking with my wife, going to the gym, lying on the beach and drinking beer. Unfortunately, I’m not very devoted to, nor good at, any of my hobbies — except maybe lying on the beach and drinking beer.