By June Mathews
Some of Dr. Stephen Russell’s earliest memories are being read to and hearing bedtime stories told by his father.
With a love for spoken stories instilled in him from a young age, it’s only natural that he would enjoy verbally sharing stories with others.
In fact, Russell now reads and interprets stories for his kids in the “Dad’s Summer Book Club” he organizes for them each year. He assigns each of the four children an age-appropriate book that he reads to them over the summer.
“I make up voices for each character in the story as I hear them,” he said. “I read the ‘Harry Potter’ series to them that way, and they loved it.”
Russell has done essentially the same thing but for a broader audience with his third book, “Control Group,” released in print March 21 and as an audiobook the first week in April.
“I find it interesting that most authors whose books are recorded don’t read it themselves,” he said. “But I thought it would be a fun challenge and another way I could communicate the story.”
Russell first began to seriously consider recording an audiobook when, shortly after publishing his second book, two people on two separate occasions suggested that he might record his next novel. His cousin, who also happens to be a trained voice talent, recommended that he contact Homewood’s Boutwell Studios for help.
But Russell didn’t make the call before putting a lot of thought and research into the idea.
“It took from Thanksgiving 2015 to Thanksgiving 2016 for me to get up the courage to do this,” he said. “The delay gave me time to think about it and decide that, if I was going to tell this story, how I would want to represent the characters and what they would sound like. That sort of became the momentum for the recording of this book.”
By the time the project was done, Russell had read all 307 pages of the book, spending almost 20 hours in recording sessions. As he read, he caught some minor mistakes in the printed version of the book, so the process was helpful in terms of further editing.
And, he said, it turned out to be as much fun as he’d thought it would be.
Third in a series of medical thrillers featuring Dr. Cooper “Mackie” McKay, “Control Group” was preceded by “Blood Money” and “Command and Control,” released in early 2014 and late 2014, respectively. The most recent book is a prequel in which Russell takes McKay back in time and creates a bit of a history for him.
Russell wrote “Control Group” 12 years ago with a different character as the protagonist, but publisher Blue Jay Media encouraged Russell to turn it into another Cooper McKay story.
Russell drew on his own experience as a physician and his related knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry to write the McKay books. An associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, he has been recognized as one of the Birmingham area’s top doctors, as well as one of the top instructors at UAB’s School of Medicine.
He began writing as a way to process what he was going through during his residency 18 years ago and has continued with “this little hobby of mine” ever since.
One of the greatest side benefits of that hobby? According to Russell, it’s seeing the influence it’s had on his kids.
“One of the absolute joys of this writing journey I’ve been on since 2014 is seeing them become readers and writers,” he said.
The “Control Group” audiobook is available on Audible, iTunes and Amazon.com. For more on Dr. Russell’s books and writing journey, visit authorstephenrussell.com.