Chris Russell is a musician, author and a professional Directioner, but the list of reasons you should pick up his books are endless. In 2013, Chris finished a stint ghost-writing for a One Direction fan club and since then his love obsession for the band and the fandom increased. It was from this experience Chris decided to put pen-to-paper, or fingers to keyboard and pen ‘Songs About A Girl’ the first book in the YA trilogy.
We managed to catch up with Chris amongst his hectic schedule to find out all about what’s next for Fire&Lights, how his Harry Styles love is progressing and how it felt to be picked by Zoella to feature in her book club. Make sure you read to the end to be in with a chance of winning a signed set of books.
For those who haven’t heard of the ‘Songs About’ series, how would you entice them to pick up a copy and start reading?
Basically, take One Direction, throw ‘em into the centre of an intense romance, chuck in a mysterious back-story … and you’ve got ‘Songs About a Girl’ 😉 Pop music, obsession, intrigue and heartbreak.
‘Songs About Us’ is the second in the trilogy, did you find it easier to write compared to ‘Songs About A Girl’?
Writing a book is never easy — regardless of what stage of your career you’re at — but when you approach a sequel, you have at least established all your major characters, and you know where you’re headed with the story. You face fresh challenges every time, of course, and keeping the momentum across three novels takes some dedication. But I think the secret is to never be complacent and make sure you’re learning all the time.
You’ve previously spoken about how One Direction influenced the trilogy, can you tell us a bit about that?
I LOVE HARRY STYLES. (Wait – did I say that out loud?) In a nutshell, the trilogy arose out of a three-month period I spent ghost-writing for a One Direction fan-site in Australia. After just a few days immersed in the 1D fandom, I woke up one morning and went … “OMG. I AM A DIRECTIONER”. I found the whole experience incredibly intoxicating, and soon realised there was a novel in it.
If you had to incorporate Harry Styles into the next book, how would you do it?
It would definitely be fun to have Harry do a cameo in the final novel – I do a similar thing with Elton John in ‘Songs About Us’. Though technically I’m not sure Fire&Lights and 1D could exist in the same universe! Of course, ideally, Harry would come and hang out at my local artisan cafe and we would sit around drinking lattes, discussing YA fiction and, just, y’know, shootin’ the breeze … but it’s possible that might not happen.
Did you always know you wanted to do something relating to music?
Pretty much since my teens, yes. I was a HUUUUUGE Bon Jovi fan as a kid, and I just always thought that flying around the world, playing gigs and singing songs seemed like a jolly fine lark. I had no idea that music would eventually turn me into a novelist, but I’m delighted it has!
You’ve also written songs to accompany the books to really bring Fire&Lights to life. Can you tell us a bit about the writing and recording process behind them?
I had to write the songs at the same time as writing the novel because the lyrics play an important role in the story. This wasn’t easy (especially once I got my book deal and had to re-write some of the scenes and, as a result, some of the songs!), but it was extremely rewarding. As for the recording of ‘Dance With You’, I got together with a bunch of mates — all of whom are professional singers in one form or another — and recorded the track with four male vocals, just as if Fire&Lights were a real band. It was tons of fun and I’m really pleased with the finished product. (nb. The lyrics to the song do contain book one spoilers – so read the book first, if you can! :))
You’re in your own band, The Lightyears, too! Do you incorporate a lot of your real life experiences into your literature?
I started The Lightyears when I was thirteen with my best friends from school, and since then we’ve been lucky enough to tour across four continents together, having all kinds of wacky adventures. So while I’ve never been in a world-famous boy band, I do know what it’s like to be on the road with three other guys, chasing a dream, and I’ve used that experience to (I hope!) make the relationships between the members of Fire&Lights as authentic as possible.
Which member of Fire&Lights do you relate to the most?
Yuki is definitely my favourite. I suppose I share his sense of humour – although he’s a lot more quick-witted than I am, because I’m able to spend hours thinking up his jokes! Which is CHEATING REALLY, YUKI HARRISON.
‘Songs About Us’ has been included as part of the Zoella & Friends Book Club, can you tell us a bit about that?
I’m so grateful to Zoe and WHSmith for inviting me to be a part of this summer’s book club. It’s helped me to connect with lots of new readers, which has been amazing, and seeing my novels in airport bookstores has been a real thrill! While we’re on this subject, you should all check out my book club picks – Will Hill’s ‘After The Fire’ and Brigid Kemmerer’s ‘Letters To The Lost’. Absolutely stunning YA reads.
Without giving anything away, ‘Songs About Us’ ends on a huge cliff hanger! Have you finished writing the final instalment in the trilogy?
I’m writing it right now! Well, not right now, obvs. But I’ll be getting back to it just as soon as I’m done here. 🙂 I am SUPER excited about all the shenanigans that go down in ‘Songs About a Boy’ … but I’m afraid I won’t be revealing any of them in this interview (mwahaha, etc). You can pre-order the book here (beware, though: the blurb contains book two spoilers!!).
One reader recently reached out to tell you about a tattoo she’s getting based on your book. Did you ever think people would find such a connection with your books?
I never imagined anyone would consider getting a tattoo based on one of my books – it’s unbelievably thrilling! Hearing from readers is one of the best parts of the job, and I still light up like a Christmas tree every time it happens.
Lastly, what advice would you give to someone looking to become an author?
Three things. Read widely (there’s no better research), write voraciously (sounds obvious, but the life of a writer offers a million distractions!) and live curiously. If you do all three of those, you can’t go far wrong. 🙂
Phew! Thanks for that Chris. If you want to be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of ‘Songs About A Girl’ and ‘Songs About Us’ just follow the instructions in the tweet below.
— United By Pop (@unitedbypop) September 15, 2017
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- This giveaway is open to residents of the United Kingdom only
- One (1) winners will be randomly selected from all applicable entries
- Winners will receive one (1) signed copy of ‘Songs About A Girl’ and ‘Songs About Us’
- No alternative prize is available
- Giveaway closes on Sunday, 24th September at 9pm BST
- United By Pop will contact the prize winner via Twitter direct message
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- If the winner does not provide these details within 24 hours of being contacted, they forfeit their prize