Local MS author Interview: Russell Scott (The Hard Times) & Giveaway

Today I’m excited to be hosting Russell Scott, author of THE HARD TIMES and local Mississippi resident, on the blog for an interview and a giveaway! Check out the interview and let Russell tell you a little more about himself, his book, and his road to publication. After you read the interview, be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY (yay giveaway!) to win a copy of THE HARD TIMES. Also, don’t forget to check out the book on Goodreads and see what it’s all about!


Describe yourself in 6 words. Physician, husband, father, scientist, writer, artist. In that order.

Describe your book in 6 words. Fundamental truths on love and life.

Tell us about your day job. Does it influence your writing or writing process? Of course it does being a radiation oncologist means that I spend my days with patients facing one of the most challenging metamorphosis in life, dealing with one’s own mortality.  The facing of death is a solemn business, so we try to laugh as much as possible, a big part of my job is to share the doubts and still see the beauty in life.

How did your own personal experiences inspire The Hard Times?  The book is basically a bunch of things that happened in my life, distorted and reframed, and hung on the scaffolding on a diamond smuggling scheme in Namibia.  I’ve hunted in Namibia and deployed in Africa when I was in the Navy, so those things are very directly related.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?  Well, it started out with screen writing, I wrote Time Donors as a screenplay ten years ago, we got offered four million dollars to make it into a movie, but first we had to make a smaller movie to prove we could do it, so we wrote and filmed the feature film “Teary Sockets”.  While we were filming that I got hired by the Williams Brothers to write the screenplay story of their family’s life, “Still Standing Tall”, for a project that they were talking to Tyler Perry about, so they needed it yesterday.  We finished filming “Teary Sockets” and I went straight to work on “Still Standing Tall”.  By the time I got done with those two projects the banking crisis had sit and the hedge fund that originally had offered to back us was gone, so I converted “Time Donors” to the book “Time Donors Wanted”.  I thought e books were the future of book sales so I started an e book publishing entity IsoLibris, and put out “Time Donors Wanted”.  My friend Luke Lampton, who owned Magnolia Gazette Publishing which had been in continuous operation since 1872 thought we should do a literary press and start a literary journal as a new united Press China Grove Press, so we did, we’ve done 4 issues of the journal China Grove as editors, with very good success, and continued to publish books, one of which was a collection of the columns I had written for 5-6 years in the JOURNAL of the Mississippi State Medical Association, we named it for the column and that was “The Uncommon Thread” by R. Scott Anderson MD.  This book The Hard Times was actually written five years ago, it just took until now to feel that I had the time to put it out and to get it into proper shape to be a good book. So here it is by China Grove Press.

Not only do you bring in your real life military experiences into the novel, but you also bring in other elements from the diamond trade. Tell us about that – your research process, the different elements you bring in, etc. The factual research was just grinding away, the whole firs inkling of a plot came from a National Geographic article on Artisanal Diamond Mining in Zimbabwe that led to digging into the elements of the Kimberly Process, it’s enforcement, and declassified CIA intelligence reports about the times I was interested in.  Then you get a needle and sew all that together into a novel.

Has living in Mississippi influenced your writing in any way?  Only in that it puts a lot of pressure on you to write well, we don’t tolerate crappy writers in Mississippi.

Which writers inspire you? I was a Faulkner fanatic when I was at Alabama, we had a crazy professor there then named Barry Hannah, he was a writer to know.  I fell in love with Ellen Gilchrist and her writing when I read her first book, “In the Land of Dreamy Dreams”.  I’ve interviewed her, and Winston Groom, the author of Forrest Gump.  Spent some time with Greg Iles talking about writing, have had several conversations with Pat Conroy, Tess Gerritsen, and Michael Palmer, they’ve all given me something that is a part of the way I write.

What’s been your best experience as an author so far?  Developing in this community of writers that I have been privileged to meet and know, that’s really why we bother to do China Grove, the literary journal in the first place to create a community of writing where every level is welcome, from legends to newcomers.

I ask this of everyone – what’s your favorite book?  I guess I have to say, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, I love the book and find the circumstances of it’s publication touching. Toole’s suicide, his mother’s dedication, and Walker Percy taking on the role of editor and champion…all in all, a tale in itself.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about you or your book?  This book is just a good story about diamond smuggling on the surface, but it is also an offering of an insight into the way men love, and some of the fundamental truths in life as told by an author that works in the face of death every day…the last line may be the most basic truth of life you ever read.

Thanks for letting me jabber on, Scott



The Hard Times by Russell ScottThe Hard Times is, first and foremost, a novel about how men love. It focuses not on simple lust nor affection, but the complex web of expectations, loyalty, duty, and desire that define the society of men, how they love women, how they love their families, and how they bind themselves to one another in friendship and in war.

Taken from the news, declassified CIA documents, and the author’s personal experiences in Africa and Namibia, it is a fictional story superimposed on what’s actually happening in the diamond trade, today, where international politics and industry, play a strange game of hide and seek with illegal stones.

It begins in Mississippi. Ray Moffett is an ER doc, and Ray is facing an abyss. When his best friend and former boss comes into the ER dead, just six weeks after his retirement party, Ray finds himself searching for meaning in his own life. All Ray has left is his work.  Work, punctuated only by the occasional round of golf.  That’s all he can see stretching between him and his own trip to the grave if something doesn’t change.

A chance meeting with an African hunting guide, Fritz Dietrich, shows Ray a second chance to live the adventures he’d dreamed of as a boy.  Dreams that were fueled by books written by men like Hemmingway, Ruark, and Capstick. Unfortunately, Fritz isn’t exactly what he seems.

Ray finds himself hunting desert oryx in the Namib with Fritz, both men trapped. Fritz must kill Ray and use his papers to smuggle illegal diamonds.  For Ray to get home alive, he’s going to have to kill Fritz and then, somehow find his way out of the most hostile desert on the face of the earth.

Add the book to your Goodreads shelf!


AuthorPhoto_RussellScott1RUSSELL SCOTT ANDERSON, M.D. is a radiation oncologist who serves as the medical director of Anderson Cancer Center in Meridian, Miss. He is a former Navy diver who worked in operations in the Middle East, Central America, and in support of the Navy’s EOD community, SEALS, the U.S. Army’s Green Berets, the Secret Service, and the New York Police Department at various times during his time in the service.

The father of seven has written the family oriented literary columns Una Voce and The Uncommon Thread in the Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association. He has also served the Journal as the chairman of the editorial advisory board. A collection of his columns was published as The Uncommon Thread in 2012. He has also written as screenwriter R.S. Anderson on several feature films, he is the author of the novels Timedonors Wanted and The Hard Times under the pseudonym Russell Scott, and is the editor of the literary journal China Grove.


Click on the photo below to be taken to Rafflecopter and enter the giveaway. It will run from November 5 – December 4 at midnight. US only. One winner will receive a copy of The Hard Times by Russell Scott.

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Local MS Author Interview: Justin Harrison (& Giveaway)

Hi, lovelies! Today I’m featuring local, to me, author Justin Harrison, who self-published his debut novel SKUL last year – which is full of werewolves, soldiers, and lots of action! Check out the interview and let Justin tell you a little more about himself, his book, and his experiences self-publishing a novel. After you read the interview, be sure to enter the GIVEAWAY (yay giveaway!) to win a signed copy of SKUL. Also, don’t forget to check out SKUL on Goodreads and see what it’s all about!


Describe yourself in three words. First off, Stefani, THANK YOU for the opportunity to talk a little about myself and my book, SKUL. I’ve been a fan of this blog for quite some time and have found several “next reads” while perusing your articles.  Secondly, ahhh, describing myself in three words is incredibly difficult, and I’ll not be throwing out any quirky words here that will force your readers to google their meanings.  I’m also assuming you don’t want something as mundane as short, fat, and bald?  Considering, how about 1) loyal, 2) unfiltered, and 3) dedicated.  And, of course, that’s not in any particularly order.

SKUL by Justin HarrisonDescribe your book in three words. Again, all but impossible, but I’ll try: 1) thriller, 2) spec-ops (I know, I’m taking a liberty with the word count here by using my friend, the hyphen), 3) werewolves.

Obviously, I could spend ALL DAY talking about SKUL as it excites me, and I believe in it.  But, you wanted three, so there they are.

Tell us how you got into writing. To be honest with you, there was not any one thing. It was a gradual process that started way, way back when I was in junior high, really.  I’m 39 now, so I’ve got some miles on me…not as many as some but definitely more than others.  You and some of your readers may remember the old gaming system, Nintendo?  I’m not talking about the stuff they have today, but the original system.  Not long after it hit the market, they produced a game called The Legend of Zelda.  By today’s standards, it is an archaic game, but the story that came with it sucked me in and never let go.  I can still remember sitting in class and trying to “write” a fantasy-type story to match Zelda.  They were horrible.  I mean, really, really bad, but I just enjoyed it in a strange way.  My writing that I do today is still influenced in some way, shape, and form by that first “game” story.

What was it like to self-publish a novel? What?  No word count?  I kid, I kid.  Self-publishing was both an awesome experience and one of the most nerve-shattering ventures I’ve ever undertaken.  Because it’s yours from cover to cover, you can either look like a champ or a chump when you release it to the public.  That bit of knowledge sat in my gut like a sliver of molten lead and forced me to do everything I could to do the best job possible.   Two very important things I did was get a group of beta readers to help with the editing and storyline along with finding an artist to put together my cover and blog art.  My friends James Madaris and Leighton Tate played an incredible hand in making SKUL as readable as it is.  Additionally, my friend and cover artist Marc Lee (look him up on Facebook as Coffee and Perspective) absolutely KILLED the cover.

To be good at your craft – whatever that may be – you have to study it, which I did in spades.  I read as many self-published works as I could.  There are a TON of great writers out there going the self-publishing route nowadays, so this wasn’t that hard.  The thing I found, however, was that many otherwise awesome works were hard to read for various reasons.  Most of these would have required simple fixes to greatly improve readability.  I worked hard to mitigate those mistakes.  SKUL ain’t perfect, no doubt, but I’m proud of what one man and a group of willing friends were able to accomplish.  My beta readers who I lovingly refer to as the Red Ink Army kick mucho booty.  Lastly, self-publishing and writing anything for anyone is a very humbling if not terrifying experience.  You’re basically splaying yourself open and showing the world your soul in a lot of ways.  I had to learn to accept the bad reviews for what they were – a chance for my craft to mature into a better product.

What were the best and worst things of the writing process? Best – without a doubt, developing the characters. The core group of five SKUL operators – Dane, Jed, Twitch, Tweeker, and Toad – I have come to know like old friends.  Creating their lives, dealing with their faults and short-comings, and intertwining their interactions as friends and teammates in a hierarchal, militaristic setting is, without question, the most rewarding part of the whole process.  Worst?  If I may take yet another liberty, can I use the term Hardest?  There’s really not a “worst” part of writing, in my opinion; but, there is a hardest part.  The hardest part for me is keeping the storyline both colorful yet crisp and fluid.  You may have noticed, but I don’t write anything short.  I can literally turn an old beer can in the woods into society’s microcosm of bilious wretch, eating away at its shell from within.  That’s pretty extreme, and I don’t really write like that, but you get the point.  

Tell us about your day job. By day, I’m a Bone Marrow Transplant pharmacist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. What that basically means is that I make a LOT of chemotherapy for patients throughout the hospital ranging from both solid tumor disease states to those with hematological/blood disorders such as ALL.  Not to be flippant but some of the stuff we have to mix/make kinda feels like you’re in Post-O.W.L.s Potion’s class.  How’s that for a tip o’ the hat to my main man, Harry Potter?  To be sure, it’s a great job albeit one filled with both sadness and elation in equal measure.  Honestly, there are a lot of days that I’d like to be out of that job; because if I am, that means we’ve finally kicked cancer’s ass.

Which writers inspire you? All of them. Seriously though, it’s really a smattering of the usual suspects – Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and J.R.R Tolkein – plus some lesser known but equally righteous authors like Jim Butcher, Will Scott, Larry Correia, and Stephen Michael Fuchs. But, really, ALL OF THEM inspire me to some extent.

What’s been your best experience as an author so far? The first time (and, the countless times since) I was asked to autograph a book that I wrote was pretty damned cool. Stuff like that along with having folks from all walks of life come up and engage you in a conversation regarding your book, what you were after at ____ point in the book, or to simply ask when the second one will be published make the late nights, early mornings, and mere minutes of free time taken up with writing absolutely worthwhile.

What’s your favorite book? C’mon, Stefani…that’s like asking what’s better Miller Lite or Bud Light, New York or Chicago style pizza, Chevy or Ford when we all know the answer is a craft beer IPA served with a whooooole lotta “yes, please” to either style pizza. But, I do have a Ford with nearly 300,000 miles currently having its transmission rebuilt, so take all that with a grain of salt.  Really though, I can’t answer the question with any sincerity.  There’s just too many good-to-completely-awesome books out there to pick just one.  What I will say is I’m a certified Star Wars NERD and think of the Harry Potter series as ground zero for completely imaginative writing.  I know, I know, but here me out.  I grew up with the original Star Wars saga (don’t talk to me about how bad they missed the mark on the latest bunch).  When my friends were wanting to be Superman, Spiderman, or something equally ridiculous, I wanted to be a Jedi Knight.  Still do, as a matter of fact; so much so, I’ve read nearly all the Star Wars stuff out there and think the Darth Bane trilogy is an unknown gem with regards to the Old Republic ; particularly in reference to the dark path Sith Lords go down.  Ok, I admit revealing that might have cost me some cool points.  Likewise, what Rowling did time and time again – that being capture an entire world audience with her writing – simply amazes me.  And, I think she’s about to do it again.  Sooner rather than later, and I Can. Not. Wait!

Any advice to other self-published authors? Yeah…just write the damned book. What I mean is, don’t get bogged down and intimidated by sales or being told “no” by books stores.  They have a bottom line to meet, and with all the virtual media outlets these days, they aren’t prone to give a newbie a cut until the book is vetted by the public.  This is tough to do, and I’ve fallen prey to it, myself.  I’m not sure what I really expected with all this.  I mean, I know what I wished for – books flying off Amazon’s virtual shelf so fast they couldn’t keep up – but, that’s not realistic.  Not for a first-time author with no publishing house machine.  So, just write the damned book.

Write YOUR book, and take satisfaction in the fact you’ve done something a huge portion of the public would never – could never – do.

Oh…and, don’t skimp on the cover.


SKUL is available to buy on Amazon!


Justin HarrisonJustin Harrison is the author of the new militaristic thriller/paranormal fantasy series, SKUL. Long considered a jack-of-all-trades and master of none, he’s desperately hoping to change the trend with his writing.

He lives in Brandon, MS, with his beautiful wife, two awesome children, and two hard-headed Labrador retrievers; all who manage to tolerate his mindless ramblings and incoherent gibberish well enough to be labeled saints.

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Click on the photo below to enter the giveaway. It will run from July 30 – August 20 at midnight. Open to US residents only! I’m sorry but this book is HUGE and would cost like a million dollars to ship internationally!

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