Today, we have fellow JMS Books writer, Anne Russo, here for an interview. Welcome, Anne!
Tell me about your latest book/series?
Well, it’s my first novel (published, that is) and the first in a planned six-book series. The story centers on the star-crossed romance between Ian and Adam, who fall in love amid a violent and chaotic world. It’s a legacy story of carrying our parents’ sins and how that shapes our own lives and future relationships.
Ian, an assassin, and Adam, a heart surgeon, meet in a twist of fate when Adam walks in on Ian in the middle of a hit. But, before Ian can decide to kill him, he discovers that he and Adam share a far deeper connection than mere attraction, setting off a chain of events that changes both men’s lives forever.
Equal parts action/adventure and thriller/suspense, the series also features deeper, heavier themes dealing with sacrifice, grief, trauma, and loss. There are plenty of pulse-pounding action scenes, a steamy slow-burn, and at its heart a study of two very different men who are forever changed by the other.
Ian and Adam aren’t perfect people, both flawed, complex, and broken. Still, together they forge an unexpected but no less intense love that will weather many storms on their way to their happily ever after, which there will be, but not until after six or so books full of a lot of pain, and heartache, and strife. The love they share and will experience together will come with a very steep price to pay.
I’m making it sound bleaker than it is! But, the series also has a lot of heart, humor, and fantastic side characters who are also complicated and diverse in their own unique ways. Plus, Katherine is the sort of villain you’ll love to hate!
For how long have you been writing?
I think, like many writers, I can safely say that I’ve always been a writer. Since I could pick up a pen, I filled up notebooks with my poems and stories (albeit not great ones). I wrote my first novel in a series of spiral notebooks as a teenager (again, not a great one, lol), but I have loved books and adored the art of storytelling from a young age. Yet, also like many writers, I suffered from crippling bouts of insecurity and anxiety about my writing and rarely let anyone read my work.
In my twenties, I began to come out of my shell some and began dabbling in fan fiction which was a great and wonderful experience. I met many amazing people (some of whom I consider good friends to this day), and I also received invaluable feedback and support, and encouragement for my writing. Plus, I learned tons about characterization, story structure, pacing. All of these fantastic lessons, I still use and integrate into my work to this day. And, I’m enormously grateful!
But it wasn’t until some years later that I began to gather the self-confidence I needed to work on my original fiction again. Dead Generations came about during a period in my life where I finally concluded I wouldn’t be happy unless I went after my life-long dream of publishing a novel. It was a terrifying decision but one I’m so glad I made. To my delight, the reactions and encouragement I have received have been more than I could ever hope or dream of, and I couldn’t be happier or more fulfilled creatively. I love what I write and what I do!
How much research do you do?
I do a ton of research. For someone writing a book about assassins, I tell you, my search history has gotten a little sketchy, and I’m expecting the FBI any day now! I’ve researched everything from guns and weapons to how long it takes a person to bury a body. The types of medications one would use for sedation. Methods of torture, restraints, how bruises discolor, what places on the body are better than others for taking a bullet, etc.
And since the book takes place in and around NYC, a city that though I have been too many times in my life (I’m right over the border in CT), I still did a ton of research on locations and tried to be as accurate as I could with my descriptions of the city itself. Case in point, did you know that the East River is not, in fact, a river but considered part of Long Island Sound? So, therefore, it’s technically an ocean.
It’s funny, but I found myself fact-checking a lot of those little details. Research for me can be as fun as it is daunting, but getting my facts right and depicting the world and setting of my characters’ lives is crucial. I firmly believe in-depth research should be an essential part of any writer’s process. It’s the little details, in my opinion, that makes a world and a place, not to mention characters come across as solid, and honest, and believable.
Also, speaking of research, I think it’s important to mention that while it may not seem like it on the surface, Dead Generations is a study of trauma, especially childhood trauma. I did tons of research on emotional abuse, grooming behaviors, and toxic narcissism to depict Ian’s relationship with his step-mother, Katherine, as accurately as possible. Also, other aspects of trauma, particularly sexual trauma, are an integral part of the story. Through my research and my sensitivity to such subject matter, I hope to continue exploring such topics responsibly and truthfully, which are very important to me personally.
What do you think makes a good story?
Characters, first and foremost. Love them or hate them. The biggest draw of any story for me is the characters. I love flawed characters: the more flaws, the better.
I relate strongly as both a reader and a writer to imperfect people who, at heart, want to do better, be better. There is something very human in that sentiment that at the center of most of our dysfunction is the need to reach out for connection, to feel understood, and heard.
Characters who make me feel for them, and immerse me in their story, make me root for them, for their struggles are the best. I love characters who make you want to be right there at their side, for the good and the bad, while they navigate the craziness of living a human life.
What are your ambitions or your writing career?
I just want to tell great stories! I have no ambitions other than that (okay, and a beach house somewhere far from civilization!) But, honestly, I want to entertain people and give them a good story full of great characters they can root for and get lost in.
If my stories make people think and feel, good or bad, even better. I love the idea of invoking intense emotions in my readers, and as long as I can do that, I will feel successful as a writer.
To have one person, even one, tell me a story of mine got under their skin and stayed with them for days after, then there is no greater compliment or reward as a writer. That’s as good as it gets for me! And I can only hope to have a career where I can surprise, excite, and encourage others to dream big and live bigger.
Assignment completed, Ian glanced down at his coat, noticing a few questionable stains even black couldn’t hide. Sighing, he stepped into the adjacent bathroom for a quick wash. He was cleaning off the excess blood splatter when he heard the door open. He stopped and listened as a curious voice called out, “Hello?”
Ian reached for his handgun, quiet as he slid it into his hand. He edged forward, waiting for his visitor to discover Mr. Mallory was no longer among the living. Ian didn’t have long to wait.
“Jesus Christ,” the visitor swore, taking several steps backward where Ian waited in the shadows. Once he was close enough, Ian pressed the gun’s muzzle into the back of his head, stopping him in his tracks.
“Don’t move,” he ordered. Even in the darkened room, Ian knew he looked familiar. “Turn around.”
Slowly, the man turned toward him, shaking. Ian didn’t miss the shock of recognition when he saw who held him at gunpoint.
“Yeah, I remember you too. This is unfortunate,” Ian remarked and meant it. He didn’t relish putting a bullet right between those pretty eyes, but he’d seen his face. Not once. But twice now. And, unfortunately, he’d have to die for it.
“Wait,” the young doctor urged his hands in the air. “You don’t have to shoot me.”
No crying. No begging. A statement. The doctor even met Ian’s eye when he said it. Ian couldn’t help but admire this guy’s guts. A shame he had to kill him, but he didn’t have a choice. His finger twitched on the trigger.
“I’m afraid I do,” Ian answered, glancing at his name tag. “Dr. Adam Morrow,” he whispered under his breath, the name hitting like a sucker punch to the gut. “Your name is Adam Morrow?”
“Yeah, that’s my — why?”
Ian wasn’t listening, rendered speechless as he studied the man. Pieces were clicking together in a hail of memories, memories he fought for years to keep hidden. Now they came rising to the surface one by one, swifter than he could recall them. All tied to the image of a child’s face. A child whose cheerful grin and name, Adam Morrow, had haunted him for the last fourteen years.
Ian snapped into the present. He charged forth, seizing him by the arm. Adam tried to shake him off as he propelled him toward the windows. Meager light from outside street lamps was enough to spy the lingering traces of that boy. One whose existence itself had been a terrible mystery he’d never wanted to delve too deep into, terrified of the answer awaiting him on the other side.
“Look at me!” he ordered, pressing the muzzle under Adam’s chin.
Adam hesitated but didn’t have much say so with a gun buried in his throat. One glance and the truth slammed into Ian like a bolt of lightning. A sweeping recognition. His eyes told him the entire story in an instant. They were remarkable, dark green, and flecked with gold, memorable — her eyes. There was no way he’d be able to kill him. Not now. The implications of his discovery growing as they sized up the other, each of them unsure what to do next.
“Who the hell are you?” Adam asked, low and shaky.
“Who the hell are you?” Ian countered.
While young doctor Adam Morrow resigns himself to an uninformed existence, world-weary assassin Ian Abbott struggles with a life he never asked for. When the two strangers meet by chance, the attraction is immediate. And deadly, as Adam walks in on Ian in the middle of a hit.
The situation spirals out of control once Ian discovers he and Adam share a connection far more profound than either imagined. Shocked by the discovery, Ian makes the hasty decision to kidnap him.
Overnight Adam is torn from his promising career and a family who believes him dead. Things go from bad to worse when he finds himself reunited with a mother he never knew who is now head of a covert and shadowy group of killers for hire. Forced into joining their ranks, with Ian as his reluctant trainer and handler, Adam is given a series of impossible tasks to complete.
To survive, he must fight with everything he has to keep his life, his sanity, and his very soul from being swept up in a violent and chaotic world even as he battles his unwanted and complicated feelings for Ian.
For his part, Ian, a man with dark secrets of his own, has a past he isn’t ready to share with Adam even as the other man worms into his life in more ways than one. The two grow closer and lines blur — between good and evil, friend or foe, enemy or lover. But something, or someone, plots against them, determined to do everything in their power to keep them apart. Even if it means destroying them both.
Trigger Warning: This story contains a brief scene of sexual assault.
Anne makes her home in Connecticut with her wonderful and ever-so-patient partner.
A lifelong reader, writer, and curious student, Anne hopes to create exciting multi-dimensional characters and worlds but with a queer sensibility. The Dead Don’t Lie is the first book in the Dead Generations series and her first novel.
When not dreaming of and writing suspenseful gay romances, Anne can be found reading an ungodly amount of biographies (the bigger, the better!) and spending time in nature. Anne also enjoys bubble baths, podcasts, coffee, all kinds of music, and in the days before covid, hanging out at museums, book stores, and flea markets.
If you’re interested in learning more, please follow her on her website and Twitter for updates and news on Book 2 and future projects.
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