The Elite Anthology interview: Kate Russell
By Rose Thurlbeck
It was doorways I remember having trouble with that Christmas in 1984 when I played Elite so much trying to master docking. After two solid days I found myself trying to match rotation when entering another room, so when Kate Russell tweeted:
I knew exactly what she was talking about. Doorways are vertical, and somehow you're convinced they should be horizontal...
Mostly Harmless author Kate Russell is a very busy woman, but she still had time to set up her new HOTAS controller for Beta 3 of Elite: Dangerous, and answer the questions of an aspiring journalist.
Rose Thurlbeck - Congratulations on the success of your first novel. How did you find the process of writing? Do you plot the story in great detail, or throw your characters into situations then see how they react?
Kate Russell - Writing fiction for the Kickstarter deadline was a unique experience as it gave me a solid world for my characters to exist in and I was tied to a deadline for finishing. I started with the main storyline idea then developed the character backgrounds so I knew how they would react in different situations. Then I planned all the steps in the story that needed to happen… then threw the whole to lot together and wrote like crazy to get it all finished in time!
RT - How much of Angel Rose is you, do you think?
KR - There is something of me in each of my characters I think. Angel is surly and rude to people. I guess she is the person I would like to be sometimes when people annoy me, but in reality I am far too polite!
RT - You’ve started plotting the sequel to Mostly Harmless. How far have you got with that and do you have a title yet?
KR - Actually I have a couple of other fiction projects I’m more active on right now. Firstly the exciting news is Fantastic Books have shown interest in publishing a fantasy novel I wrote several years ago. I need to do a bit of rewriting before it’s ready to publish… I will think seriously about what happens to Angel Rose next year.
RT - Have you always wanted to be a novelist - I have a theory that all journalists secretly want to be novelists - and could you see a future for yourself making a living from writing fiction?
KR - It’s the one thing I have ever really wanted for as long as I can remember. I love writing in all its forms though and doubt I will ever give up my reporting on technology. I think a balance of writing fiction and journalism in my life would make me most contented…
RT - So, there may be a wait for Mostly Harmless 2, but the next Kate Russell book will perhaps come sooner than expected. Can you tell me anything about it - fantasy is such a wide spectrum these days?
KR - Hopefully not too long a wait (and actually the audiobook is out imminently so there is that to plug the gap!) – the book I have written is called ‘A Bookkeeper’s Guide to Practical Sorcery’ and is a fun epic-quest adventure story about an accountant that wants to be a wizard. It’s set in a fantasy land that is an odd mix of medieval but with lots of modern references which gives the world a slightly surreal feel. It’s a LOT less gory than Mostly Harmless, but with humour at the core of the storytelling and as many great twists and turns (I hope!).
RT - You mentioned a couple of fiction projects. What else are you working on?
KR - I have a growing collection of ‘twist in the tail’ horror-style short stories I have been meaning to put into a compilation called ‘Kate Russell’s Scary Shorts’ – as much because I like the title as anything else. Writing short stories is one of my favourite things to do as you can complete something in a day when inspiration strikes. It’s the sprinting of the literary world, where writing a novel can be a bit of a marathon.
RT - We share a belief in technology as a force for good in the world, but there are also downsides - snooping governments, cyber crime, trolling. Are the positives slowly being eroded by the negative do you think?
KR - Absolutely not… there are always bad people doing bad things. It’s a drop in the ocean when you consider all the knowledge and connectivity it brings the world.
RT - The Classicist Mary Beard recently told the New Yorker magazine how she ended up befriending a troll who had sent her abuse on twitter. She didn’t think “one tweet should ruin your job prospects." How do you deal with trolls, and do you think it’s a problem disproportionately faced more by women?
KR - The sexism that is rife in the gaming world right now is appalling, but the trouble with trolls is just responding to them is rewarding their actions. If I have ever had an issue with trolling I have not noticed it… People sometimes say mean things if they don’t like my opinion or on occasion take it upon themselves to criticise my fashion sense or the way I wear my hair. This is just people being people though and as I am paid for my words and not the way I look so I have never taken it to heart.
RT - I get irritated with software that knows better than me - re-cataloguing my music collection, for instance - is there anything about the modern world in general and tech in particular that gets on your nerves?
KR - The thing I get most annoyed with is people who do not understand technology or are afraid of change, criticising or blaming technology for human short-comings. Classic example of this is the network-level filtering from UK ISPs we’re saddled with because some out-of-touch politician lobbied for it claiming it would save children from exposure to inappropriate content… Thousands of people now suffer with content being blocked by ISPs that shouldn’t be. If anything is going to kill the web it is this.
RT – Finally, I only pretend to be a journalist. If you were interviewing you, what would you ask yourself, and what would your answer be?
KR - We are all just pretending – the trick is never to admit it! My question to myself would be: Are you going to be wearing cosplay to the Elite Dangerous launch party? And my answer: Yes! I have a black flight suit emblazoned with ED logos, complete with flight harness, remlok mask dispenser and thigh holstered laser gun J I’m going as Angel Rose, which means I have to be surly, get drunk and then probably have a fight with someone. It Should be a fun night.
RT – Kate Russell, thank you.