Russ Colchamiro is the author of Genius de Milo, the second book in his series, Finders Keepers. Here is the official description:
Best pals Jason Medley and Theo Barnes barely survived a backpacking trip through Europe and New Zealand that — thanks to a jar of Cosmic Building Material they found — almost wiped out the galaxy.But just as they embrace a future without any more cosmic lunacy: The Earth has started fluxing in and out of Existence; Theo’s twin girls are teleporting; and Jason can’t tell which version of his life is real. All because of Milo, the Universe’s ultimate gremlin.Joined by the mysterious Jamie — a down-and-out hotel clerk from Eternity — Jason and Theo reunite on a frantic, cross-country chase across America, praying they can retrieve that radioactive jar, circumvent Milo, and save the Earth from irrevocable disaster.In author Russ Colchamiro’s uproarious sequel to FINDERS KEEPERS, he finally confirms what we’ve long suspected … that there’s just no de Milo quite like a GENIUS DE MILO.
Read on for Russ Colchamiro’s interview, as well as an excerpt from the book.
S.R.: Finders Keepers is the first book in the trilogy, and was inspired by your backpacking trips around Europe and New Zealand. Some of the story is
based on actual events, and some is pure fiction. But how did you come up with the storyline about the jar of Cosmic Building Material and Milo, the
Universe’s ultimate gremlin?
R.C.: Honestly … I have no idea! One day I came up with this line: “Jason Medley sat by his night stand with a jar containing the Universe’s DNA.” I had absolutely no clue who Jason Medley was or what a jar of the Universe’s DNA was about! But once I started to think about it I quickly saw the possibilities of a novel where the Milky Way galaxy — and Earth — is in jeopardy and it’s up to a couple of knuckleheads just having fun on a backpacking trip somehow mixed up with having to try and save the day, even though they don’t even realize how important they are to the outcome.
And then the character of Milo just arose organically in Finders Keepers. He was an almost inconsequential character then, but I when I sat down to write Genius de Milo I saw the possibilities for him. He’s the foible for Brigsby – aka the Minder of the Universe – or the ‘God’ character, for lack of a better explanation. Milo and Brigsby really get to square off in Genius de Milo. It was a lot of fun.
S.R.: Finders Keepers, and I assume the subsequent books, have been described as America Pie meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, two
arguably very different genres (though both are humorous). How do your books combine the two? (Are there lots of sex jokes mixed in with epic
R.C.: Ha, well … to clarify. Finders Keepers is very much in the mold of American Pie meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with a crazy backpacking adventure throughout Europe and New Zealand, whereas Genius de Milo is more like Midnight Run (Robert Deniro, Charles Grodin) meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with a cross-country chase across the U.S.
Finders Keepers is a bit raunchier, which makes sense, because Jason Medley and Theo Barnes are only about 23 years old at that point, on a backpacking trip through Europe. That’s a wild time in life and there’s a lot of shenanigans! But we skip ahead a few years in Genius de Milo, so there’s a little bit less hanky-panky, but still plenty of flirtatious fun.
As for melding the styles into one cohesive storyline … for me the fun is in juxtaposing these frenetic travel books with the threat of galactic mayhem. Jason and Theo are trying to figure out there regular lives as we know them here on Earth, yet the planet might literally break apart. And these two clowns are charged — again — with saving the day.
S.R.: The writing style for this trilogy is also different from most books, with shorter chapters, flashbacks, and multiple perspectives. What prompted your writing style?
R.C.: I was writing these books just as LOST came into our lives, and despite some of the fan backlash in later seasons, I continue to submit that it was an absolute game-changer in what TV shows can be, and also in overtly playing with storytelling devices for mainstream programming.
I intentionally use some of those techniques with my books, not because LOST did it, but because it’s very much in line with the way I typically write anyway. LOST gave me the visual roadmap and validation for what I was already doing. To me, LOST is and will always be one of the greatest, most influential shows of all time. It wasn’t a perfect show, but it was fascinating, daring, and addictive. Great stuff.
S.R.: The books are also heavily influenced by comic books, and the first book was published in partnership with Rich Koslowski, who also designed
the cover. Is your writing style affected by comics (is it written more like a comic?) And did you intend to make it more comic book-like?
R.C.: Absolutely, I was heavily influenced by comic books, which have short chapters and lots of cliffhangers. I love that experience, where as a reader you can rip through a chapter in 15-20 minutes or so and it ends on a cliffhanger and you’re dying to know what happens next! In a novel the trick is to find the right pace, where it’s quick and fun – but not too quick. You need to let the story unfold in a way such that readers can easily follow so they know what’s happening at all moments and have to time to soak it all in. I think I’ve get much better at that with each new book I write.
S.R.: What are some comics that inspired you
R.C.: Watchmen, for sure. When I set out to write Finders Keepers, my overt goal was to strive for a narrative that works on multiple levels, much as Watchmen did. I’m in no way comparing myself as a writer to the genius of Alan Moore (writer) and Dave Gibbons (artist), but they set the bar for me.
Some of my other favorite comic books that influenced me include Hellblazer, Sin City, Mage, and The Dark Knight Returns.
S.R.: Also, Mike Lunsford did the character illustrations, and readers can see them on your website and learn more about the characters via a baseball card-style format. How did you come up with that concept?
R.C.: Even though Finders Keepers is a novel, I really wanted fans to have the chance to ‘see’ what the characters might look like, and bring a more visual element to the overall experience.
I’m a lifelong baseball junkie, so to me I was, in essence, creating ‘baseball cards’ for these characters, with their images on the front and their ‘key stats’ on the back. I put up an ad on Craigslist for artists, and got more than 100 responses. Mike Lunsford was the only one whose quality and style really matched what I had in mind. He did an absolutely great job.
Here’s the link to the illustrations:
S.R.: What’s next for Jason Medley and Theo Barnes in the third and final book in the trilogy?
R.C.: Without giving any spoilers, by the end of Genius de Milo Jason and Theo have been pushed to the brink in every conceivable way. All of their journeys — both physical and otherworldly — are coming to a head.
In the first two books we’ve also now done travelogue-style adventures across Europe, New Zealand, and the U.S., so we’ve covered a lot of ground in that regard. It’s time to really ramp up the stakes.
In Finders Keepers, the ‘cosmic lunacy’ influenced the narrative. In Genius de Milo, the ‘cosmic lunacy’ drove the narrative. In the third and final book in the trilogy, it’s safe to say that to a large degree the ‘cosmic lunacy’ is the narrative.
We’ll be going ‘all in’ on places and ideas that up until now we’ve only dabbled in. Last book in the series. No holding back!
S.R.: What do you plan to work on after you are finished with Jason and Theo?
R.C.: I’m planning to write a baseball-themed sci-fi novel, and have some ideas for a series of children’s books. But my longer-range plan is to keep on writing Finders Keepers books. The core storyline for Jason and Theo will wrap up in the next book, but I have an entire spin-off series planned for someone we’ll spend time with soon, and I’m also thinking about giving some of the secondary and tertiary characters in the Finders Keepers Universe either their own, stand-alone novels. I plan to be in the Finders Keepers world for a long, long time.
Jason’s smile dropped away, replaced with a silent, open-mouthed slug of resignation, that whatever was happening was authentic, and unfolding in real time.
In a shared-brain moment Jason and Theo slowly panned in Jamie’s direction until finally she felt their accusatorial eyes lock on her. And though neither of them spoke, the imputation of blame came through with perfect enunciation: What did you do? What’s coming?
But what could she say? Which cluster of words could encapsulate both the scope and nuance of their predicament? Jamie could offer a pretty good guess as to why their immediate surroundings morphed before their very eyes—it had to be Brigsby-related, didn’t it?—but when it came to the what, she was equally mystified.
So all she could do was stand there. She blinked a few times. Then a few times more. The night went bracingly still, as if every fractal of sound had been drained from the Universe. The three of them held in place, petrified, as if the incredible forces converging upon them were seemingly just to be unleashed. Which, of course, they were.
Russ lives in West Orange, NJ, with his wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ is now at work on the final book in the Finders Keepers trilogy.
As a matter of full disclosure, readers should not be surprised if Russ spontaneously teleports in a blast of white light followed by screaming fluorescent color and the feeling of being sucked through a tornado. It’s just how he gets around — windier than the bus, for sure, but much quicker.
His latest book is the science fiction novel, Genius De Milo.