Karl A. Russell is our latest champ and Flash! Friday’s third FIVE-time winner. Read his bio and find links to his previous interviews at his winner’s page here. And now: join me in peeking inside the mind of a five-time winner. You may wish to bring your own seatbelt; nothing’s safe here.
Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Curtain
Some said it was inevitable I’d find myself here. I never took much notice though. I knew what I was doing. Just a little flash now and then, yeah?
It was completely separate from my real life. Bus driver by day, writer by night. A doting Dad till the prompts went up, then a howling blood crazed maniac, slashing at the world with the keyboard’s razored edge.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Russell.
Which was fine, until I started to believe my own lies.
Not the stories. There’s no gymnastic jewel thief, no wolf in grandma’s clothing. Dead babies don’t crawl in the moonlight and JFK didn’t know he was going to die; he wasn’t even in Dallas at dawn. I know they aren’t real.
But Mr. Russell? Him I wasn’t so sure about.
He’s always been with me, shadowing my every move but doing it better, like a twisted reflection, the stance slightly straighter, clothes a little neater. He read for Mike Carey and Ramsey Campbell. He was a pirate radio DJ. He pitched his ideas in the comic-con cattle markets.
I just watched.
I mean, of course I cooked him up; a dash of Hunter, a soupçon of PKD, grandma’s surname and a pair of shades. Bake for 40 years and serve cool.
But what if it was the other way round?
What if I was the fiction?
The lines blurred. I had confidence and friends. I published and posted and chatted. I revealed my hobby to the other drivers and weathered the jokes about driving the Magical Mystery Tour Bus.
But then it got weird. Strange dreams. Waking nightmares. Champion badges for stories I didn’t remember writing. Signing his name on the back of a new credit card, then discovering it was his name on the front too.
I saw doubles everywhere, almost identical but always one a little more worn. A little less there.
It scared me, and I tried to put him away for a while, to just be Mr. Atkins, but even when I shut down completely, he was still there, squeezing out around the edges. A complaint email to O2 about mobile coverage turned into a creation myth for carnivorous butterflies. The In–Laws Christmas card ran to seven pages of eldritch scribbling. The operatic society banned me for “unauthorised script edits.”
And then I got drunk at Big Dave’s leaving do at The Green Dragon of Envy. I didn’t mean to, but the fortune cookie was so persuasive: “One more won’t hurt.” Of course, it didn’t mean lager. It meant stories.
By the time I realised what was happening, I was here, where they said I’d wind up, and he’d reactivated Twitter and given the world the Oompa Loompa Sex Fiend. He met the Flash Dogs and had a great time, and all I could do was watch.
Trapped behind the glass.
An imperfect reflection.
Silently screaming in constant horror.
Till he calls it a night and switches the iPad o-
So, inspired by the not-quite-symmetry of last Friday’s fittingly canine picture and Rebekah’s fiendish mandatory words, and containing a few pieces of fact and fiction:
I’m not a bus driver (and can’t actually drive anything).
My real name isn’t Atkins (and it’s not Russell either).
I’ve never been in an Operatic Society.
I don’t drink lager.
I’ve never pitched at Comic-con (but maybe, one day…).
Russell was my grandma’s surname
I’ve had a stint as a pirate DJ.
I had a wonderful time meeting the Flash Dogs, who are fantastic people, one and all.
I’m reliably informed that JFK was in Fort Worth at dawn on his final day (or is that just what they want you to think…?).
I have read for Mike Carey and Ramsey Campbell and found it both terrifying and exhilarating, and I’m doing it again soon – If any of your readers are of a North Westerly persuasion, Mr. Campbell and I are both on the bill of a charity spooky fiction reading at The Well in Liverpool on 22nd of October. The rest of the list is still being pulled together, but it should be a great night, with all door proceeds going to the Motor Neurone Disease Association.