In Conversation with Michael Ross

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Michael Ross has joined me in the library today to say hello and to share some insights into his life as an author.

A little bit about Michael

Michael Ross is a lover of history and great stories. He’s a retired software engineer turned author, with three children, and five grandchildren, living in Newton, Kansas with his wife of 42 years. Michael graduated from Rice University and Portland State University with degrees in German and software engineering. He was part of an MBA program at Boston University. He was born in Lubbock, Texas, and still loves Texas. He’s written short stories and technical articles in the past, as well as articles for the Texas Historical Society.

Across the Great Divide now has three novels in the series, “The Clouds of War”, “The Search”, and “The Founding”. The series has won many awards and positive reviews, including Silver Medal Book of the Year from the Coffee Pot Book Club (The Search), Honorable Mention Book of the Year (Clouds of War), Five Star Firebird award, Five Star Chanticleer International Book award, shortlisted for the Chanticleer Laramie award 2021, and Publisher’s Weekly positive review. Clouds of War was an Amazon #1 best seller in three categories in 2019.  Most recently, The Founding has won a five-star review from The Historical Fiction Company.

Which genre do you write in and what draws you to it?

Historical Fiction, specifically biographical fiction. I love to tell the stories of real, but little known people, especially when the themes and events parallel what is happening today.

Are you an avid reader? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?

Yes, I read constantly. I do read mostly in historical fiction, but I love a good thriller or mystery as well. Favorite authors include Kate Quinn, Pam Lecky, Anne Perry, Robert Crais, and Trish MacEnulty

Are you a self-published/traditional or hybrid author?

Hybrid – my first book was published by Harper Collins, the rest have been self published. I’ll be back in the query trenches soon, but will also continue to self publish some titles.

Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?

I grew up with an English teacher for a mother – that’s where it all started. Aside from her, I’d have to say my editor, Jenny Quinlan, and a few days’ encounter via email with Tom Clancy, when he was alive.

Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?

Yes, very much so. I love all history, but American history has been the rich background for most of my writing. America is a grab bag of cultures and regional customs, and it’s fascinating to explore them.

What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?

Editing is always the most difficult, but necessary to have a story with the correct pacing and character development. I outline, but invariably quirks pop up, things I hadn’t considered, or characters that demand attention or a different treatment. For example, in The Search, one of the principal characters was Dove, a young Shoshone woman. Half way through the book, she simply demanded to be re-written, which was about the time I encountered Darren Parry, Chief of the Northwestern Shoshone in real life.

That is largely how I deal with the problem – I back off and get outside input, from an editor or an expert.

What was the best piece of writing advice you received when starting out?

The old chestnut is to write what you know – but Tom Clancy advised me to write who I know – learn your character so thoroughly that you know them inside out, how they would think or react in a given situation. Occasionally, that may mean writing autobiographically. Tom said that Jack Ryan was basically Tom Clancy. If based on a real person, know that person intimately, even if you have to make parts of it up.

Do you have a favourite time of day to write?

I love early morning quiet. My best writing time is four to seven am.

If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to? 

Teaching, writing code, or both. It’s what I did before becoming an author. Writing code pays better 😊 It’s still creative. Code has been described as “thought stuff”. It is rewarding to make things or make tools to make things. My code has been in airplanes, run databases, and been used as a tool to write MORE code that controls dams, medical devices, and other mission-critical software.

If a movie was made of one of your books, who would you like to play the lead roles?

I would love to see Josh Young, my narrator, cast in the lead role as Will Crump. He’s a Broadway actor and simply nails the part.

If you could live the life of a historical figure for one day, who would you choose and what would you get up to? 

I think Abraham Lincoln is my favorite historical person. I would increase the pace of emancipation and civil rights for black people, Native Americans, and women.

If you could travel back in time, what era would you go to? What draws you to this particular time?

Difficult to choose, but since we’re dreaming, why not two? I would love to go to what is now Israel and watch the ministry of Jesus in person, and to 1859 Kentucky to meet my main character Will Crump in the flesh – might drop by Abraham Lincoln in the process. Did you know that Spencer, the man that invented the Spencer repeating rifle, simply waltzed into the White House with his rifle to show to Lincoln, after being rejected by the Secretary of War? Lincoln went out on the White House lawn, tried the rifle, and ordered them to be placed in the hands of the troops. Perhaps I could gain an audience without an appointment.

You have been chosen as a member of the crew on the first one-way flight to Mars – you are allowed to bring 5 books with you. What would they be

The Bible,  C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, The Lord of The Rings, Practical Chemistry by Lyman Newell,

Please tell us about your latest published work.

 Amazon Link: The Founding [Book Three in the Across the Great Divide Series]

Two men, two dreams, two new towns on the plains, and a railroad that will determine whether the towns—one black, one white—live or die.

Will Crump has survived the Civil War, Red Cloud’s War, and the loss of his love, but the search for peace and belonging still eludes him. From Colorado, famed Texas Ranger Charlie Goodnight lures Will to Texas, where he finds new love, but can a Civil War sharpshooter and a Quaker find a compromise to let their love survive? When Will has a chance to join in the founding of a new town, he risks everything—his savings, his family, and his life—but it will all be for nothing if the new railroad passes them by.

Luther has escaped slavery in Kentucky through Albinia, Will’s sister, only to find prejudice rearing its ugly head in Indiana. When the Black Codes are passed, he’s forced to leave and begin a new odyssey. Where can he and his family go to be truly free? Can they start a town owned by blacks, run by blacks, with no one to answer to? But their success will be dependent on the almighty railroad and overcoming bigotry to prove their town deserves the chance to thrive.

Will’s eldest sister, Julia, and her husband, Hiram, are watching the demise of their steamboat business and jump into railroads, but there’s a long black shadow in the form of Jay Gould, the robber baron who ruthlessly swallows any business he considers competition. Can Julia fight the rules against women in business, dodge Gould, and hold her marriage together?

The Founding tells the little-known story of the Exodusters and Nicodemus, the black town on the plains of Kansas, and the parallel story of Will’s founding of Lubbock, Texas, against the background of railroad expansion in America. A family reunited, new love discovered, the quest for freedom, the rise of two towns. In the end, can they reach Across the Great Divide? The Founding is the exciting conclusion to the series.

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