For this week’s Author Interview, we had the chance to get to know Russ Pitts, the author, filmmaker, and more. The author of three books, this media producer has written 3,000 words a day and has made friends in the gaming industry. Oh, and did we mention he’s produced his own plays?
Going into the interview, we knew it would be inspirational, but nothing could have prepared us for the extent of experience and knowledge Pitts shared with us. Not only are we thankful to have had this opportunity, we’re excited to share his pearls of wisdom with our readers, as we think everyone can benefit from this.
Sometimes, all we need is to read about one writer who loves and succeeds at what he does, in order to light the fire under us and get us back on track! Let’s see what he had to say:
You’re a do-gooder, author, filmmaker, serial co-founder, and a storyteller. How do you find the time to balance all your titles?
I am not entirely sure. I know I spend a lot of time working, so maybe that’s it?
My wife made an interesting observation recently. I was in the garden, planting flowers and she said, “You enjoy giving things life and watching them grow.” And you know, I think that nailed it, as far as why I do all of the things I do.
I enjoy building things. I was a carpenter as well, in a past life. I want to feel like I’ve made the world a better place, and I have a lot of interests. So I somehow find the time to do all of these things that interest me. Because doing them keeps me busy, and seeing the fruits of those labors give some peace.
As the author of three books so far, what would you say is the best thing you’ve learned in terms of publishing and marketing your work?
The best thing I’ve learned as far as publishing is that writing a book is the easy part. I’ve written way more than three books, but only three have been published. There are a lot of steps to publishing a book, and it is very easy to get discouraged through the process. I feel like, with this last one (Sex, Drugs and Cartoon Violence) I’m finally to where I know what to expect when I decide to do it again.
As far as marketing, I know that I’m not good at it. So I hate to answer this question and make it sound as if I know things. But I have learned one thing and it’s that people need a reason to buy your book. And it being a book, and for sale, and even “good” aren’t reason enough. There are lots of books for sale, and some of them are good.
Reading a book is a huge investment of time and self. And time is life. When it’s much easier to watch videos online, or read yet another book in one of a million ongoing series, readers need some personal connection to your work to justify giving you precious pieces of their lives. Finding that connection — and shamelessly exploiting it — is crucial to selling your book.
Apart from your work as an author, you are also a video game journalist. What does a day in the life of a video game journalist look like, apart from obviously writing gaming articles and breaking news?
I haven’t technically video game journaled for over a year, so it’s becoming harder to get away with saying that’s a thing that I do. But I did it for a decade. And my typical day involved keeping track of things happening related to video games and finding something in that undulating mass to write about.
There are a lot of ways any given reader can find information about the games and game makers they care about. Many more ways than there were when I started this. So it’s more important than ever for a games journalist to provide value by distilling the cacophony of information into some meaningful form a reader might enjoy. Whether that’s providing perspective (or “spin”), or curating happenings through a unique perspective.
As a video game journalist, I spent way more time analyzing trends, studying data, interviewing, researching, and editing than I did playing games. In fact, my desire to play games suffered as a result of writing about them. And part of why I’m glad that’s no longer my job is I can once again partake of this meaningful thing that is “video games” and enjoy it for what it is.
You have over two decades of experience in the media and entertainment industries. Those are obviously pretty visual fields. What drew you to even write your own books?
I was a writer before I was a media producer. And in a very real sense, my experiences in production were driven by my desire to write. Writing book, in fact, is probably the earliest “professional” desire I can recall.
My grandmother taught me to read by spelling out words with big, colorful, magnetic letters on a sheet of metal. So the idea of forming words, form letters, was intrinsically a part of my learning. I took to writing super-early, and read voraciously.
I got into theater production because I wanted the plays I’d written to be seen. So I produced them myself. I got into television production as a writer on a network’s website. Then, when they needed a producer, I snatched that job and ran with it. And then I wrote more than 3,000 words a day of TV script for two years, because production is writing, really. And so on. And after all of those experiences, writing about the experiences felt like the truest thing I could do for myself, so I did. And that’s mostly where my books have come from.
What would you say is the wisest thing you learned during your time as the editor-in-chief of EscapistMagazine.com?
Most of my job at The Escapist was managing creative writers and video creators. And what I learned for that was people who lend you their creative minds generally need to be A) paid well and on time, and B) treated as if you care as much about their creative visions as they do. They can generally tolerate one or the other of those things not being entirely in sync with their expectations, but not both. And if you can satisfy both of those demands simultaneously, then that’s where creative collaboration gets truly exciting.
Did you always know that you wanted to write for a living?
Given the chance, would you ever write for games, as in narrative design, or scripting? Why or why not?
Probably not. Because I know too much about how it’s done, and very little of how it’s done appeals to me. A good friend of mine (who happens to be a video game writer) calls what he does “narrative spackle.” It’s not creating story so much as creating story-like things that will compile the player to want to keep playing. And those story-like things are driven largely by what the designers need and not what the writer wants. Most game writers I know do other writing things on the side (like writing books), because, for them, the game work does not scratch the itch that drove them to become writers in the first place. As much as I love games, I don’t see that type of work as a fruitful place for my sanity.
We have a large aspiring writer following. If you could give them any pointers, what would you say?
Write. Write, write, write. Write early, write often, and write constantly. Write like it’s your job, even if it isn’t. Write. And then write some more. Write until you hear your writing voice in your head, and can tell it from the voices of writers whom you read. Write until the idea of writing is no longer frightening. Write until you know that you can write any time, anywhere, and never spend time staring at a blank page. Write, my friends. Write, write, write, fucking write. And then burn everything you’ve written and start over. Write your writing muscle and make it strong. And then sell it.
Where can our readers get your books?
Amazon. And your local bookstore.
Are there any links that you could share with us, where our readers could follow you, and learn more about your work?
I’m active on Twitter, and that’s where I post most of my “breaking news.”
For my filmmaking things, the Flying Saucer Media website is the best place to keep track.
I also have a personal website, but I keep forgetting to update it.
That concludes this week’s Author Interview! We’d like to give a big, big thanks to Sir Russ Pitts for taking the time to answer our burning questions. We’d also like to encourage you, the readers, to browse his links and get to know him more. We think he’s very inspirational, don’t you?