J. Rushing entered his book, Radio, into SPFBO6. This dark urban fantasy takes place in 1928 Paris, with the protagonist, Marduk. Yes, that Marduk, the Babylonian god. He has been reimagined, along with myriad other gods, not as a god, but as a creature able to Broadcast to the minds of “Monos.” They can also possess human bodies. Marduk has built a “radio,” to use to influence “monos.”
I only read 25% of the book because it felt very much like horror to me, and I am just not into dark/horror. That said, if you like dark fantasy, you may very well find this book to be amazing. It’s well-plotted and very well-written, with a setting which will transport you. Give it a read!
Mr Rushing very kindly took the time for an interview. You may read it below.
J. Rushing is an American writer whose work blends elements of adventure, fantasy, science fiction, and horror to create worlds that feel as familiar as they do foreign.
He is a musician, amateur luthier, and former teacher who first traded the microbreweries and Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest for the bustle and beauty of Paris. After nearly three years in the City of Light he and his wife settled near Zürich, Switzerland where they spend much of their time traveling and immersing themselves in the outdoors.
Welcome to my lair, J. Rushing.
Tell me about a great book you’ve read recently!
I recently read Vurt by Jeff Noon and it’s spectacular. It’s a cyberpunk classic but what really blew me away is the way the author was able to craft a book where the reader feels just as guilty for enjoying the story as the characters do for indulging in the Vurt itself. I won’t go into details because spoilers but it’s a must read for anyone who loves that dark, gritty 90’s aesthetic. It’s not for the faint of heart but it’s worth it.
What’s your favorite song?
That’s a tough one. My tastes are pretty broad. I’d likely say “Lateralus” by TOOL or “The Stone” by Dave Matthews Band or “The Hollow” by A Perfect Circle or “Goodbye Blue Sky” by Pink Floyd or…
Okay, time to escalate things: you get to travel to any book’s setting and world but you have to choose only one. Where do you go?
I’d definitely have to choose Murder on the Orient Express so long as I could ensure that I’d stay alive. I love Agatha Christie but I don’t trust her. You never know if she’s coming for you next. A few years back, I was lucky enough to tour some original Orient Express train cars that had been fully restored and I’ve been fascinated ever since.
How do you like to work? (In silence, with music? Do you prefer to type or to handwrite? Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or underwater in scuba gear?) Tell me about your writing method!
That’s a lot to unpack. I’ll just go in order. I do listen to music to set the mood before I write but I need silence once I begin. I’m a bit of a method writer so I like to at least have my mood match my scenes. The intro montage from UP is guaranteed to get anyone ready to write a sad, devastating scene and a little NIN will have me ready to write any action-packed scene I need. As for my actual writing process, I take all of my notes by hand or email but type everything else. I’d say I’m about 25% plotter and 75% pantser. I like to imagine sign posts as I write. I start with a beginning, several twists, and an ending before I begin. I write from the start to twist #1 then re-evaluate everything that’s to come. If what I’ve written still fits the path ahead, I keep going otherwise I alter the path before writing on from twist #1 to twist #2 and so on.
What/Who are your most significant fantasy influences?
I try to draw something from everyone I read but if I had to pick something that has definitely wound its way into my writing it’s The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. It’s probably the fantasy that most closely fits my style. Not necessarily the subject matter but the vibe. I love how King blends the real world with fantasy elements in that series. It’s a real masterclass.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
The most helpful advice I’ve gotten would be to go for it with self publishing. I’m really happy with that choice despite the inherent struggles. The least helpful is more general but basically anytime someone prefaces their critique with “well, I’m not sure if other people are going to like…” It doesn’t mean they’re wrong, but I always approach that sort of advice with caution. It’s often just opinion disguised as critique.
Can you tell me a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
I just got a new puppy so that’s been my main project as of late. He’s a little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Gnarlie. He’s a blast but definitely all consuming. I’m slowly but surely starting a new cyberpunk fantasy series about a rag-tag group of magical hobbyists brought together to collectively make up the power of one whole wizard in order to procure an item for an evil(?) organization.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?It’s tough. It really depends on how strong my ideas are. If I’m not motivated but I’ve got solid ideas to work on, I usually soldier on. If I’m not motivated and I don’t have faith in my ideas, then it’s a much harder slog.
Who are your favourite characters in literature or pop culture? And do you have a favourite type of character you enjoy writing?
I’m a huge Sherlock Holmes fan but more for his weaknesses than his prowess. I love the struggle just under the surface of so much of what that character does. I also love me some Indiana Jones. I guess what they both share are brains, adventure, and historical settings. My favorite type of character to write is one that has some sort of emotional shell. I love being able to show glimpses of who they really are as they desperately try to cultivate a specific image. I think it adds a lot of interest and tension but can be done without being too obtrusive or making the entire story just about that emotional struggle.
Tell me about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I really love The Cipher by Kathe Koja. It’s a horror novel that just drips with that mid-90’s grime and the ideas and writing are just so fresh, intense, and engaging. It’s a major inspiration for the feel and tone of my writing.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle me with an elevator pitch?
Sure, here’s the pitch for RADIO:
In 1920’s Paris, a god is trapped in the opium riddled body of a jazz musician and must stop others like him from weaponizing the religious imagery they’ve milked for centuries.
Why should readers check out your work?
Paris, and especially the Paris of the 1920s is perpetually romanticized. The images people hold of the city and the media produced about it only show it as a sparkling gem but there’s always been a darker, more sinister side to the city. RADIO explores those shadows. It takes people on an opium and jazz-fueled ride through the Lost Generation’s Paris. Only in this world, ancient gods rule through mind control, and they want back into the limelight. RADIO is a fantasy/noir that moves with the gin-soaked energy of the age. Anyone who wishes Gatsby had more of an edge and a lot more mayhem will love RADIO.
Read the book here.