9/1/13 –INTERVIEW WITH ROB ROSS, AUTHOR OF JUGGLER’S BLADE
Rob Ross’s fantasy novel, Juggler’s Blade, was published during summer. I’ll review it on the 20th of the month on this site. Meantime I met the author for coffee in downtown Washington to ask him about his writing roots and about his reading taste. I find one of the best ways to discover good books to read is to ask authors of books I like what they recommend.
Q: Juggler’s Blade is your first published novel. How did you start writing?
A: I began writing in High School, and even managed to make the finals of the Young Playwright’s festival in New York while I was in college. But law school beckoned, and starting a career as a trial lawyer in D.C didn’t leave much time for writing. In my mid-thirties, though, I felt that old “compulsion” once again, and ended up writing four novels over the course of about ten years. I won a few prizes through the Maryland Writers’ Association, which was wonderful encouragement, but ultimately Juggler’s Blade was the first book that I felt strongly enough about to pursue publication. Lucky for me, A Few Good Books Publishing in Annapolis was interested in putting the novel out as an ebook.
Q: Juggler’s Blade is a fantasy adventure, and the first book in a planned trilogy. Who would you say is your favorite fantasy writer?
A: I grew up on Tolkien and Herbert, and it’s hard to compete with giants of world-building like that. But in terms of modern fantasy writers, I would have to say Neil Gaiman. His book American Gods is absolutely breath-taking, and Good Omens, written with Terry Pratchett, is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.
Q: What other current, perhaps less well-known, fantasy writers would you recommend?
A: Well, I’m not sure if I can really call him “less well-known,” after he took over finishing Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, but I think Brandon Sanderson is one of the best fantasy authors out there. His Mistborn series is spectacular, and his debut novel, Elantris, is a real gem. I also really enjoy Patrick Rothfuss, Jim Butcher (not just for the Dresden Files, but also the Codex Alera series), and of course George R.R. Martin – although, once again, arguably the antithesis of “less well-known.”
Q: Other than fantasy, what other fiction do you read?
A: I love thriller and mysteries, and have even tried my hand at writing one, although the fantasy/science fiction element always seems to end up sneaking in. I enjoy James Rollins (who, perhaps not coincidently, has also written some very good fantasy books under the pen name James Clemens). I just finished Dan Brown’s latest, which was a fun ride, and I’m always first in line for anything by Preston & Child, Stephen King or his son, Joe Hill.
Q: One agent (I don’t remember whom) wrote that she thought today truth can be told in fiction only through fantasy. Whether one agrees with this or not, fantasy obviously speaks to you. I’ve spent my reading life wallowing in realistic fiction, always searching for books that further enlarge the snapshot so I can see more detail, never interested in anything except what the camera can show me. What might you say I’ve been missing?
A: When people ask me why I love fantasy, I always find myself turning back to the writings of Joseph Campbell, the great Professor of Comparative Mythology and Religion. Campbell posited the theory of the monomyth, the concept that all mythic narratives are variations of a single great story. Understanding this “hero’s journey” can help us not only to understand the different stages of life and our place in the universe, but to awaken a sense of awe in our hearts, something that can be sadly lacking in our modern world. Fantasy, I believe, is modern myth. It allows our imaginations to run wild, while still revealing (hopefully) some deeper meaning about who we are.
Not to mention that it can be a heck of a lot of fun to read!
My favorite book by Joseph Campbell, by the way, is The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a book which George Lucas says influenced him when he was writing of “Star Wars.”
Q: Readers like to know the author. Besides being an author, you are also a husband, a father, and a labor and employment lawyer. Life is full of memorable moments. Without sorting through and ranking your myriad memorable moments, tell us one memorable moment as a husband, one as a father, and one as a practicing lawyer.
A: Boy, that is a deep and demanding question for a blog about books! Let me see if I can take it a piece at a time.
As a father, I always remember a poem my wife gave me, a long time ago, by Kahlil Gibran called “Your children are not your children.” There’s a line I love: “You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts.” Anyone who has raised children, and especially teenagers, knows the truth in those words. As parents, our job is to nurture our kids, and try to give them the tools they need to succeed. But in the end, no matter how badly we may want, we can’t change or control who they are. In the end, all we can really do is support and love them.
As a lawyer, a famous speech by Irving Younger, a Professor of Law at Yale, comes to mind. The title says it all: “In Praise of Simplicity.” Any lawyer can regurgitate legal complexities, but it is the great lawyer who can make the complex simple.
Finally, as a husband, and at the risk of getting in big trouble with my wife of 20+ years, I’ll share a story. When I was a newly minted lawyer, we were coming back from a firm Christmas party, and my wife asked me: “have you ever noticed how many lawyers are on their second and third marriages?” Only half paying attention, I said: “no, I never really thought about it.” To which she responded: “WELL MAYBE YOU SHOULD!” For me, the translation is: never stop thinking about your spouse, and never take that person for granted.