Miami-bred sci-fi author returns to her writing roots

Photos of Author Romina Rusell at Books & Books by Collin Simpson

If you live in Miami, you probably know that one of the best places to meet celebrities and authors is no other than Books and Books.

On July 17, Books and Books in Coral Gables hosted sci-fi/fantasy author Romina Russell, of the famed YA Zodiac Series. Although Russell is currently a Los Angeles-based author, she has strong roots here in Miami.  

Photos of Author Romina Rusell at Books & Books by Collin Simpson

Photos of Author Romina Rusell at Books & Books by Collin Simpson

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she moved to Miami as a kindergartener and attended school in northeast Miami-Dade. While her last name is Garber, her pen name is Russell.

At the event, Russell talked about her life coming to Miami as a youngster fluent in Spanish, but with no ability to speak or understand English. She spoke about her love of listening to the rhythm and rhyme of Shel Silverstein poetry while learning English from her teacher in elementary school.

She knew at an early age that she wanted to be a writer.  As a teen, Russell wrote for her high school newspaper at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School, becoming its editor-in-chief.

She attended Harvard, majoring in English, and interned during the summers at the Miami Herald.  There, she initiated and authored a weekly Sunday column, called “College, She Wrote” describing her life at the university setting, and the column became nationally syndicated.  Upon graduation, she moved to Los Angeles, and wrote movie trailers for five and a half years.

Romina Russell came to Books and Books to promote her new novel “Wandering Star,” which is the second installment in her fourth book series, “Zodiac”.

It tells the story of Rhoma Grace, a 16-year-old student from “House Cancer.” The series takes place in what is called the “Zodiac Galaxy,” a universe which consists of 13 systems, 12 of which are named after each of the real-life astrological houses, with each possessing different personality traits, physical qualities, and spiritual beliefs.  The 13th House, Ophiuchus, is based on a mystical legend. Zodiac sets the groundwork for her sci-fi/fantasy adventure.

During the event, Russell read a section from her second novel, and then spent the rest of her presentation answering questions from the audience about her characters, her background, and how she got into writing the genre of science fiction.

She indicated that her inspiration for the series was her curiosity and obsession with the infiniteness of outer space. She said, “I would turn off the lights, lie down on my bed, and just try to fathom infinity … how can something be ever-expanding … what’s in the place that it is expanding to before it expands into it?  What is existence? What is non-existence?” From her teen years in middle school, these questions kept her up at night.

Growing up, Russell also watched a lot of sci-fi like “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “Battlestar Galactica” and “Firefly.” She said, “I love how in sci-fi, they provide some kind of answer… some kind of foundation.”

Ultimately, she decided to explore the questions regarding our existence and the boundlessness of space through her imagination and writing. For her Zodiac series, Russell combined her love for astronomy with her interest in astrology.

“We contain so many worlds within us already,” Russell stated. She extensively researched each zodiac sign and used that knowledge as the foundation for her series.  Her sign is a Virgo, which she attributes to her methodical, analytical, and, as she put it, “OCD” behaviors.

Russell also spoke about her experience as a writer for movie trailers which dramatically changed her writing style from flowery language and “SAT words” to succinct imagery.  “It was a boot camp in learning how to write,” she said.   

Photos of Author Romina Rusell at Books & Books by Collin Simpson

Photos of Author Romina Rusell at Books & Books by Collin Simpson

Additionally, she learned the value of having others review her writing so she started a writers’ critique group, joining together writers who were going through the same experience of developing novels as she. “It is really important to have people who are at the same level of development as you,” Russell said. “And it is vital to write about something that you are passionate about.”

During the event, Russell announced that the third novel in the Zodiac series, Black Moon, has been written and will be released on Dec. 6, 2016.  She will be returning to Books and Books to promote it as well. A fourth book is also in the works.

Russell’s novels have been translated into 10 different languages and she constantly converses with fans from around the globe. She talked about her visit back to Buenos Aires for the International Book Fair, where over 400 people came to her speaking presentation and she signed books for over three hours.  

“It was amazing … returning to my culture and being able to speak in my native tongue… it’s incredible to share something with the culture which inspired you.”  

Russell spoke about the importance of the closeness of family in the Latin American culture and how she tied that concept into her novels. “In the Latin American culture, you value your loved ones and your family… it’s the whole live to work rather than work to live concept.”

She discussed insight given to her by her father, “Everything can get taken from you, your freedom, your property, everything … but what can never be touched is what is in your head and in your heart.”

After her presentation, Russell personalized and signed copies of her novel for fans and took pictures with them. She also had exclusive free promotional items available for fans, including a map of the Zodiac galaxy, and cards, each detailing one of the Zodiac houses.  

Russell had some words of advice for FIU students who want to become authors:  “In writing, the most important thing is to trust yourself and open yourself up to advice from other people … it’s so crucial to share your work with people who you trust who will be constructive.”

Photos of Author Romina Rusell at Books & Books by Collin Simpson

Photos of Author Romina Rusell at Books & Books by Collin Simpson

For the sci-fi and fantasy lovers, Books and Books will be hosting an array of upcoming authors, as well as numerous events, such as their upcoming midnight release party for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

For more information, you can view Books and Books’ schedule of events on their calendar which is located on their website: http://www.booksandbooks.com/event/selector

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