Escaping the rat race

New Zealand photographer and author Russell Meek has left the rat race behind. After two decades of globetrotting, the Kiwi landscape and commercial photographer, and author, has moved from Auckland to Mount Maunganui.

“I’d just come back from overseas, and Auckland seemed too expensive to go back to and set up again. A friend of mine had a nice place overlooking the beach at the Mount. My life can get quite chaotic, so it’s nice to have a relaxing place to come back to and write in peace.”

Russell has received critical acclaim for the first two novels in his sweeping fantasy adventure series, The Khalada Stone. The third novel, A Dark Heart Rises: Part I was recently released, and had a huge number of pre-orders. Russell shot the cover, which features Mount Maunganui model Melanie Jayne, another local who moved to the Bay for the lifestyle.

Shooting his own book covers and trailers, he goes a little further than most to capture a sole image. “For the Brother’s Bond cover I travelled to Zhangjiajie in China. I immerse myself in the landscape, live and breathe it, and draw inspiration for scenes in the books. I love reading books that are evocative of an area, so that’s how I write.”

He’s sold around 7000 copies of the first two novels, a major achievement in New Zealand, where local authors struggle to attract the following of international writers. He shared a panel at Armageddon Auckland with Terry Brooks, author of The Shannara Chronicles, and UK novelist Robert Rankin, and his books are available from Whitcoulls, a major achievement for an independently published author.

Now he’s gearing up for the next big thing; capitalising on the success of the books to get a film franchise/TV series up and running.

“We’re doing it in little stages, similar to how I’ve built the book’s success. We’re creating a film trailer through my production team in Wellington, to promote through the existing fan base here and Australia, then take over to America.”

Russell has done as much as he can on his own. “Having to compete with the big publishers is really hard. They’re the ones who advertise their authors’ books. I have to pay for advertising myself.”

Local agent Tanya Horo from BOP Actors plays an important role in promoting Russell’s efforts, as part of a team spread between Wellington, Auckland, and New York. With the power of an agency behind him, the path should get easier. “Once we get the ball rolling, it will go beyond just me trying to promote myself. There are a lot of other people getting interested in the development of it now.”

You can find The Khalada Stone series at Whitcoulls, or at www.thekhaladastone.com

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