Romina Russell, author of the wildly popular Zodiac series, has used her passion for astrology and the zodiac symbols to create a world for teen readers full of suspense, epic space adventures, and romances that will hook teen readers. Russell is just as witty and charming on the page as she is in person, and her Zodiac series is sure to please fans of books such as Illuminae and Harry Potter. Follow Rho as she defies the confines of her world and sets off on the journey of a lifetime with the help of her equally lovable friends and family members in the latest installment of the Zodiac series: Black Moon.
The Zodiac universe is very complex and is made up of many different planets, rules, and characters. How were you able to keep track of all of its intricacies while writing the series?
The first thing I created was a galaxy guide, so I broke down every detail. By now I’ve reviewed it enough times that I have most of it in my head. I constantly have to read the books. There are twelve guardians and there are least one representative from each house; you are already at twenty-four without even counting the main characters. It’s a bit crazy, but I’m hoping that the charts at the beginning [of each book will] help [readers].
What inspired you to write a novel about astrology and the various zodiac symbols?
I always knew I wanted to write sci-fi. I’m just as bad as Rho at math and science; I have a hard time with concrete, one-answer questions. I would use my imagination and picture, “Okay, so what might be out there, what else might exist.” [Also,] it was my editor’s idea to braid astronomy and astrology.
If Rho could be best friends with any YA book character, which one do you think she would choose?
Percy Jackson. I think she and Percy would make great friends. Percy’s got his healing water and he could help [Rho] with House Cancer; he would understand her love for Cancer.
How long did it take you to write and get Zodiac published? Did you find the process difficult?
The publishing process was very painful. I wrote about five books before Zodiac, all of which were rejected by agents. I was so distraught. My critique partners have had to talk me out of quitting so many times. I was ready to give up, and I couldn’t believe [how it all worked out]. [When] I got the deal, I had five weeks to write [Zodiac]. I was in bed for two weeks after it. I had given my life force to Rho. Never in my life have I given so much of [myself].
What authors or books have inspired you and your work the most?
J. K. Rowling. The moment I read Harry Potter, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I think after reading Harry Potter, I was like, “Okay, I want to be doing this.” Just the idea of the magical setting and strong friendships inspire me the most.
Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what songs can be found on your playlist?
No, I watch TV while I write. I need a lot of noise when I write, and it’s got to be really annoying. I’ll put on Buffy or Gilmore Girls. Gilmore Girls is actually the best one because there’s no action; it’s just conversations.
Speaking of Gilmore Girls, who is your favorite character from the TV series?
I love Jess. I’ve always loved Jess. I really love Lorelai. I love Emily; as a villain, few antagonists are as great as her. I love Lorelai, [though]. If you think about it, if you took one character out and it would not be the same show, it’s Lorelai. She is the heart of [Gilmore Girls]. You take her for granted because she’s so perfect; you can’t imagine her not in this role.
Which character in the Zodiac universe do you relate to the most, and why?
Probably Stan, Rho’s brother. Rho is more like my little sister, who’s an optimist and wonderful and kind of sees the best in everyone, and I’m kind of her protector; I get moody, and I feel like I take on a parental role.
What has been your most memorable or funniest moment as an author?
The most memorable was definitely in Argentina, where I got to present. To me it was very meaningful. I finished my thing, and they escorted me to the signing and sat me down, and the head of the publishing house sat down next to me. [I knew] something was up because they wouldn’t be making such a big deal. I was like, “Nobody came for my signing, and they don’t know how to tell me.” Then they said, “Don’t turn around, but there’s four hundred people behind you, and they all have both of your books.” It was hands down the coolest I’ve ever felt.
Are you currently working on another novel? If so, what details (if any) can you share with readers?
I’m just working on the fourth [book] in the series. It was due Friday; don’t ask me where I’m at in it. I’ve been so busy; I just toured in Mexico, and there hasn’t been time. The publisher just moved up the release from next December to August, and so I have to finish it really fast.
What advice do you have for aspiring teen writers?
Read everything you can read, write all you can write. Don’t tell anyone if you are writing or tell them what you are writing. Keep it to yourself; nobody has to know. You are already placing so much expectation on yourself, and every person you tell is placing extra expectations on yourself. Writing should be for you, and if it’s not, then it’s ultimately not going to be what makes you happy. Once the story is singing through your bones, then tell someone and choose wisely. We are all sensitive at the end of the day when it’s something that means something to us; constructive and critical are such different words. Don’t open up until you’re ready for that. Finally, critique groups; that’s the best thing I did for myself.
In addition, where did you find your critique partners?
So I did something very dumb, because I did it years ago. I posted on Craig’s List on this authors’ thing, and it was awful because when they showed up, this one woman was like, “Aren’t you worried that a serial killer might come?” And I was like, “Now I am!” I was so scared that whole night and didn’t sleep. I was like, “Lady, why would you say that?” But it was ridiculous. Obviously, now do not go on Craig’s List. Do it with people you know from school or on Facebook or whatever you control more.