The Writing Life of: Ross Ponderson
This week on ‘The Writing Life of:‘ I am thrilled to be interviewing author Ross Ponderson. Ross will be sharing with us detail of his writing life, telling us all about his latest book ‘Child of Privilage‘, which was released on 26th August 2014 and answering a few fun questions too.
I am a retired IT guy who spends far too many hours writing things on computers for the pure self-satisfaction of seeing them on screen.
Now, instead of writing programming code, I write actual English words in the hope that millions of people will enjoy reading them.
I enjoy writing (of course), reading, railroading, history, surfing (the web, that is), museums of any kind, 1970’s music, wishing I’d become a professional musician (much to the dismay of my weary keyboard), and strolling through the local malls.
I ALWAYS brake for book emporiums and music stores. "Child of Privilege" is my first novel; my 2nd epic is currently being first-drafted. Hopefully, many more novels will follow.
1) Do you remember the moment you decided that you would like to become a writer?
There wasn’t really a single defining moment in which lightning struck me and seared the writing bug into my psyche.
I think the bug was always there; it was merely waiting to awaken. Whenever an essay assignment was given in grade school (“You are to write 1,000 words on the climate of Antarctica”), a collective groan filled the classroom. On the other hand, I was delighted. I was being *ordered* to write. No problem. Thank you, Teacher.
As a child, I played with a toy baseball game: simply a slab of sheet metal painted to resemble a baseball field with a spring-loaded “pitcher” and “batter.” You “swung” at the ball and tried to hit small targets on the field denoting various kinds of base hits (I was league commissioner, umpire, manager, play-by-play announcer, and beat reporter all rolled into one; talk about a conflict of interest!).
Anyway, after playing a game, I would hijack my mother’s typewriter (which didn’t exactly thrill her) and write up a story about it. I would then inflict this carbon-papered “sports page” upon my family and neighbors.
Thank heaven, we were blessed with very tolerant people living around us! But that’s where I suppose my writing obsession began.
2) How did you go about following your dream?
In my early teen years, I subscribed to a number of home-grown hobby newsletters, (produced literally in the publishers’ basements) oriented toward electronics and short wave radio which were passions of mine back then.
I remember enjoying the assorted articles, opinion pieces, and columns, and thinking “I could write something like this.” Well, I proceeded to do just that and had many pieces published over time. I loved it! For a couple of years I even had my own humor column in one newsletter. My very own guaranteed space … writer heaven!
Then I moved on to literary and little magazines (the ones that paid their writers in contributor’s copies) and had a number of short stories published thanks to some very kind-hearted and generous editors who delighted in showcasing new writers. In fact, my second novel is based on one of those early short stories.
My first effort at a full-length novel was an embarrassment and will never see the light of day, may it rest of peace. "Child of Privilege" is my *real* first novel and I hope everyone reads it and enjoys it.
3) Is there a particular author that inspires you?
I can’t really point out any single author who inspires me. What does truly inspire me is the opportunity to be a part of someone’s life through my writing.
If my novels provide someone with a few hours of entertainment, diversion, and comfort, *that* truly inspires me. If I move someone to think, feel, and emotionally engage with the story I’m telling, *that* truly inspires me. If someone pays me the highest author compliment–a flattering review–that, for me, is the *ultimate* inspiration.
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any strange writing habits?
For the time being, I’m retired from a career in IT (although I hope to soon rejoin the working world as a freelancer).
At some point in the afternoon, the anticipation reaches a boiling point and my *author alter ego* takes control: I define my writing goals for the day; the computer is fired up; I ease my less-than-svelte self into my easy chair; unsalted pretzels, M&M’s, and bottled water are strategically positioned to my left; if the session goes well, a beer magically appears at my right hand; and I write … and write … and write until I’m dozing off with the keyboard in my lap. I then rejoin the normal world and look forward to tomorrow.
My strangest writing habit is probably my re-enactment of certain scenes in the middle of my living room in order to ensure believability.
I will actually stand there and play all the characters in scenes where positioning, body movements, and major physical actions are prominent. In dialogue-heavy scenes, I’ll portray each character and recite their lines aloud to keep the flow, the timing, and the word choice realistic. Maybe I should consider selling tickets….
5) Do you write Longhand, Type writer, Computer?
At one time or another, I’ve done all three (I’m really showing my age here!).
Like many writers, I carry a pad and pencil in my car in case some literary epiphany hits me (better *that* than another motorist!) and I can scribble it down and type it out later.
Recently, I consigned my trusty old Smith-Corona Selectric typewriter, to the recycle bin after years of gathering dust in my attic. After all, this *is* the age of the computer and word processor. Now, if only I could learn how to tipe! (sic)
6) From all your books, do you have a favourite character?
While I don’t condone showing favoritism amongst children, I must plead guilty to being partial toward Dana Van Werner.
Despite growing up in a house of horrors with a father who despised her very existence, she had managed to blossom into a good-natured, strong, and lovable young woman. But there is an undeniable edge to her as well; she is totally fed up with being victimized. She has no qualms any more about standing up and fighting back; just ask Richard and Reavis.
But I love all my children: Richard, so *rotten-to-the-core* evil; Reavis, the vulgar, hormone-driven, reptilian detective; Maggie. who sold herself into virtual slavery in exchange for a high society lifestyle; and Angelo, the leg-breaker with a conscience.
And even at this early juncture, Samantha (my heroine of novel #2), is emerging as an unbelievably complex woman with emotional layers even she has yet to peel back. She is so conflicted and at odds with herself that the end of each day finds her emotionally exhausted and searching for meaning in her life. She is further shaken by the unexpected suicide of a co-worker. But that–as they say–is only the beginning….
7) Do you plot your books completely before hand or do you let your imagination flow whilst in the writing process?
Child was completely outlined and chapter-mapped.
Novel #2 is emerging in a totally bizarre manner. Only the front one-third of the story (the setting, the main character introduction, their backstories, and setup of the main storyline and subplots) has been outlined.
The chapters themselves are coming out in a goofy random order: I’m currently writing chapter 10, while chapter 2 is only half-written.
I already know how the novel will end, and have the final chapter and epilogue firmly set in my mind. As for the remainder of the story arc, I still have about ten different scenarios from which to choose!
All things considered, I suppose this classifies me as a *hybrid* writer: part outliner and part pantser. Hey, nobody ever said writers and writing were normal. If they had, I would’ve happily been the exception to the rule!
Concerning your latest book:
Author – Ross Ponderson
Pages – 306
Release Date – 26th August 2014
Format – ebook
Dana Van Werner is riding a bus bound for nowhere.
In her pockets, she carries a bus ticket, $260, hope, her own wits, and an unbreakable will. In her memories, she carries the nightmares of frequent beatings, growing up in constant fear, physical and verbal abuse, and her father’s unfathomable hatred. Dana, a 19-year-old débutante born into wealth, privilege, culture, and social standing, ponders her new world–the “real” world–for which she is laughably ill-prepared.
She doesn’t know where she’s going, where her next meal is coming from, or where she’ll sleep tonight. She does, however, take comfort in two certainties: that the brutal beatings at the hands of her father–a psychotic, powerful attorney–are finally over; and that her decision to run away from the palatial mansion she once called home has probably saved her life.
This lovable, down-to-earth teenager (more “girl next door” than débutante) grows up quickly as she confronts intercity buses, seedy motels, wet t-shirt contests, jail cells, honky-tonks, and predatory night people. All the while, she is relentlessly pursued by private investigators hired by her revenge-obsessed father to bring her back under his control.
You’ll cheer the courage, strength, and determination of this endearing heroine as she searches for a new home and a new life, and finds a gentle, caring man–a bachelor deputy sheriff–who truly loves her.
But she has no inkling of the nightmare awaiting her at the end of the road.
A dizzying chain of events is triggered by an accident that claims the life of someone Dana loves. Suspicions surrounding the tragedy–and her own anger–force the teenager to return home. Upon her arrival, a humiliating family secret kept carefully hidden for years is callously revealed. This sets the stage for the inevitable final showdown between father and daughter as long-simmering anger, resentment, and hunger for revenge finally erupt into a terrifying flashpoint.
8) How long did it take to get from the ideas stage, to the date of publication?
By anyone’s standards, "Child" took the long way home: 19 years between idea and posting on Amazon.
Somewhere in 1995, when I spotted that newspaper photo of a group of débutantes posing at a formal gala, the idea sprouted almost immediately as did the novel. By January of 1998, it was finished and being marketed with no success as one might expect of a first novel by an unknown writer.
After months of rejections and a disheartening encounter with a less-than-scrupulous agent, I was so discouraged and disillusioned by writing and the publishing world in general that the manuscript was unceremoniously chucked into a closet. There it would languish (or ferment?) for 15 years while I carried on with my life, my career, and the usual activities to which a young man’s fancies normally turn.
In 2014, I stumbled onto Amazon KDP. I immediately sensed what could be my final opportunity to present "Child" to the reading audience to succeed or fail on its own merits.
After 3 months of rewrites, my baby left home in August to take her place on Amazon’s shelf. Now her fate is in the hands of the world’s bookbuyers. All Daddy can do now is stand by and watch.
9) Did you suffer from writer’s block at any stage? How did you overcome it?
I think most writers do at one time or another, and I’ve certainly experienced my share of it.
Of course, we all have our own peculiar home remedies. What works for me can be summed up in four simple words: *walk away from it.* In my humble opinion, writer’s block means one thing: you need to shift gears because your batteries are low.
My personal cures are many and varied: take a walk around the block; go to the mall and stroll around, or grab a seat and people-watch; watch something worthwhile on TV (sporting event, documentary, public TV, etc.); listen to your favorite music or watch a favorite movie on your DVD player; go to a library, coffee shop, or fast-food place and people-watch.
I believe your subconscious works to solve a problem even if you aren’t doing so consciously. Give it time and open space in which to work. The answer will come.
10) How did you come up with the name(s)for your lead character(s)?
It depends on the nature of the character. For antagonists, I search for unique names (to the best of my ability) in an effort to spare anyone needless embarrassment if the book ever hits the “big time.” That’s what I did for Richard Van Werner and Reavis Macklin.
For the other characters, “Maggie Van Werner” appealed to me as a likeable name for a high society socialite. “Dana” has always been one of my favorite feminine names. If I’d had a daughter, I would’ve probably given her that name. I simply like the sound of it.
‘Angelo Saranello’ literally popped into my head as I was writing the private investigator’s role into the first draft.
11) If your book was made in to a film, who would you love to play the lead character(s)?
What a coincidence! I was discussing this recently in one of my groups on Goodreads.
(Ahem!) With tongue *firmly* in cheek, I proudly present the cast of the Academy Award-winning motion picture, "Child of Privilege":
Dana Van Werner: Reese Witherspoon
Richard Van Werner: Nick Nolte. (He would’ve so nailed this role!)
Maggie Van Werner: Dana Delany
Reavis Macklin: Richard Grieco
Angelo Saranello: the late James Gandolfini (he could’ve eaten this role for breakfast!). But since he is no longer with us, my choice would be Sylvester Stallone since he did portray a part-time leg-breaker with a conscience in “Rocky.”
12) Did you get anyone in particular to read your work before sending it to the publisher i.e family member, friend etc?
I learned after completing Child that friends and family members don’t always share a writer’s passion and enthusiasm for the art. As a result, their opinions (no matter how well-intentioned) should be taken with *many* grains of salt.
My father’s position was abundantly clear: writing was a complete waste of time and effort that would lead nowhere.
My mother–bless her heart–would’ve automatically gushed over anything I wrote simply because *I wrote it.*
One friend remarked, “Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?”
"This could be a best seller" was my girlfriend’s opinion (do you think it was a coincidence that the Christmas gifting season was fast approaching?).
A woman I worked with declared it ‘all right, I guess’. Ironically, she then proceeded to volunteer me for the company’s newsletter production staff, a *truly* thankless job! (But a number of my articles *did* appear on the front page; so it wasn’t a complete loss).
From that point forward, I wisely decided to rely on my own instincts.