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Friday, August 16, 2013

Carrie Russell and Drowning Cactus

I think of Carrie as one of those still, quiet voices. I stopped and listened and, boy howdy, am I ever glad I did. She is a writing phenom, an author who burst onto the scene with her short story, The Break In. It is a tie in to her first novel, Drowning Cactus.

As one of the Musa Publishing family, I count Carrie as friend as well.

Tell us about yourself.
I’m a writer, book lover and tree hugger.

I studied creative writing at Columbia and Oxford before attending Harvard Law School where I temporarily lost my imagination. Fortunately, after working for a number of very rewarding years as an environmental attorney, my kids came along and helped me re-discover the joys of storytelling.

I wrote my first novel, Drowning Cactus, during naptimes.

Tell us about your book.
It’s so hard to promote my own work, so I’ll let other authors, who've given early praise, speak for me:
“With Drowning Cactus, Carrie Russell takes the reader on an exhilarating ride across the American landscape and into a brilliant quagmire of human obsession and desire. This is a dangerous, smart, and stunning debut.” – Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth
“Carrie Russell knows that serious stuff can be funny–even Saving the Earth.” – Heather Lockman, author of The Indian Shirt Story
Drowning Cactus is a novel about getting lost in the desert and finding direction.

If you could only have one superpower what would it be?
Instant transport. Just imagine the possibilities: Morning hike in Switzerland, afternoon swim in Mexico, dinner in Thailand. The only problem might be clothing selection. I’m pretty adept at layering though.

Who is your favorite character from one of your books and why?
I adore Gordon from my novel Drowning Cactus. He’s a wilderness addict, a lover of the outdoors like me, but he can’t seem to take a step without damaging the people and things he cares most about. Gordon is incredibly bumbling but also big-hearted. I’ve got a soft spot for underdogs and optimists. He’s both of those.

What are you working on now?
I’m in the editing stages of my second novel which, again, addresses environmental themes, but also looks at the power of storytelling—the way the stories we tell about ourselves and our world have the power to change experiences, to harm and to heal. It’s aimed at a young adult audience but would appeal to grownups as well.

What’s your favorite movie?
I love movies, including really bad movies, and can’t easily pick a favorite, but I’ve been thinking about Chariots of Fire lately.  I just moved to the town where the opening scene was filmed-- that famous beach run. Makes me want to go for a run as well.

What’s your favorite quote?
Not sure about a favorite, but here is one that is quite relevant to Drowning Cactus and has stayed with me, both because of the meaning and the rhythm of the words:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. –Henry David Thoreau
What genre do you write and why?
Contemporary fiction.  I write what I like to read. My second novel is dystopian and young adult, though.
I’ve been reading some young adult lately, along with the rest of the world, because there is so much good young adult writing coming out now.

Name five things that are on your desk right now?
I just moved so my desk is gloriously empty. Laptop only.

Chocolate cake, strawberry shortcake, apple pie, or pecan pie?
Apple pie in the fall after I’ve picked up apples from a local orchard, otherwise chocolate please!

How can readers find you?
My webpage and blog:

Some find inspiration in the wilderness. Others find themselves hopelessly lost.
When his botched cactus theft is mistaken for an eco-protest, Gordon Burstein is thrust into the national spotlight and expected to speak for the land he loves. He panics and runs, beginning a journey of self-discovery that takes him from spring break in Mexico, across the Sonora, all the way to Thoreau’s Walden Pond.

Press and fans scramble to track him down, but no one is more determined than Mora Sullivan, a disgraced environmentalist who has fallen hard for Gordon. She treks into the desert, determined to find inspiration and love.

Gordon and Mora must survive the wilderness, evade the law, and confront the many lies they’ve told the world and each other—all before they attempt to rescue a truckload of cacti from drowning in a New England swamp.


mshatch said...

Very cool! I want to read this and holy cow what a gorgeous cover!

Sean McLachlan said...

Wow, parallel lives! I used to hike among the Saguaro when I lived in Tucson, and I'm writing this from Oxford, where I spend part of the year doing historical research. Did you ever live in Arizona or did you fall in love with it as a visitor, as all visitors do?

carrierussellbooks said...

Thanks for the compliment on the cover! I was excited about it, too!

I've never lived in Arizona. I'd love to someday, though! I did live in New Mexico, which is equally, though differently, beautiful (and also included in my novel).

Oxford is pretty nice, too, though!

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

The short story, The Break In, is a marvelous read! Loved it so much that I put Drowning Cactus on my TBR list.

I highly highly recommend.

Hi Carrie! *waves*

(btw, I have a niece with the same name. FB can be a challenge when I'm trying to figure out which Carrie I'm commenting on!)

carrierussellbooks said...

"Hi" back! Thank you for your kind words about my short story and thank you for hosting me!

Liz said...

Writing during nap times? Wow. That must have been a juggling act.

Trisha F said...

Sounds like a book I must definitely add to my TBR. So I'm going to do that right now. :)

Congrats Carrie!