Today’s interview is with writer Tony Ross. Tony is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). His first novel, “Victor,” was released in 2011 and is currently out of print. “Victor: The Reloaded Edition” was released in January 2013 with a few details and minor changes made to the original story. The sequel “Orion” was released in October of 2013.
1. So tell us about your book. Why did you write it and who is it targeted towards?
I have two books on the market right now: “Victor: The Reloaded Edition” and its sequel “Orion.” Both are supernatural/sci-fi thrillers, aimed primarily at younger adults who read those genres. Readers have compared my style to Frank Peretti, Ted Dekker and Stephen King. I’ve also drawn comparisons, at least with “Victor,” to Robert Ludlum’s “Bourne” series. The action and suspense probably appeal more to men, but I’ve heard good things from female readers too.
“Victor” won a silver medal in the Readers’ Favorite 2013 International Award Contest. The story is set in 2040 in fictional Sunlight City, where choice is the only law and all things are permissible. The decisions of three people will influence the future of the world: a gifted assassin trying to hold together his fraying sanity, a brilliant scientist with a world-changing secret who must unlock the assassin’s mind in order to survive him, and a streetwise, energetic detective with secrets of his own. All three are bound by the darkest of secrets. Only the truth will set them free.
“Orion” features a young man, David, protecting a frightened woman from a killer. Faced with a deadly ultimatum, trapped by the weather in an overcrowded hotel slowly boiling over with fear and mistrust, David must protect the woman, find and stop the killer… and confront the darkest secrets of his heart.
I write these crazy stories, believe it or not, to minister. I don’t write Christian fiction strictly for Christians. We’ve heard the message already. Not everyone will read a book that’s clearly about Jesus, salvation, or Christian living. But if I can work those things into a fast-paced and entertaining novel, maybe a reader who doesn’t know God will decide, “Y’know, maybe I need to look into Christianity a little more.” And maybe I can encourage the Christian readers to take their walk with God a little deeper, beyond religion to relationship.
2. What were some of the biggest challenges in writing the book?
Time to write is always a bit difficult to come by. Between family, work, ministry, etc., there are only so many hours in a day. I wrote most of “Orion” sitting at the kitchen table while my homeschooling kids did their homework. Beyond that, turning off my internal editor is always a trick. I need to tell myself that writing a truly “rough” draft is okay. I sometimes get hung up on plot points and stop writing for a few days while I kick things around in my head.
3. What advice would you give new novelists?
Number one, write. It doesn’t have to be the next great American novel. Just write. I’ve done poetry, articles, short stories… You can’t hone your craft without using it. God’s given you the desire and the ability. Take every opportunity you can to perfect it.
Number two, read. A lot. Find out what good writing is. Why did this best-selling novel stand out? What didn’t you like in that other novel? What would you do differently? Don’t copy anyone, but learn from their styles and develop your own. Every good writer is a student too. Don’t be afraid or too proud to learn from those who have gone before. Learn from their experience.
Number three, pray every time you sit down with pen, pencil or keyboard. What does God want you to write? Really look for His will. You might have a plan, but God’s is going to be better and ultimately more fulfilling.
Other than that, research your publishing options. There are plenty out there and not all are good. I spent thousands to publish the original version of “Victor” and was less than satisfied with the results. I pulled “Victor” off the market, revised a few things, and released it as “Victor: The Reloaded Edition” through a different publisher. This time I saved thousands and am much happier with the end result. Save yourself the heartache and do your research before you publish.
4. Tell us about your journey of faith. How did you become a Christian?
This is a long story. Let’s see if I can provide a Cliff’s Notes version. I walked away from God in my teenage years. I had a lot of anger, bitterness and hurt to work through. By the time I turned twenty-two in 1994 I was a depressed, suicidal alcoholic who expected to be dead or in prison by twenty-five. God put a young lady into my life at that time who invited me to church. At the time she’d asked, I’d hit rock bottom and had nothing left to lose.
I went with that young lady to Calvary Apostolic Church in Clintonville, Wisconsin. I found a church that prayed and worshiped unashamedly, preached directly from the Word of God and welcomed me and all my issues with open arms. Over the next several months, I repented of my sins, was baptized by immersion in Jesus’ name and was filled with the Holy Ghost, just like we find in Acts chapter 2. God took a life that was completely hopeless, flipped it around and gave me a new and living hope.
Fast forward to the present day. I’ve been married to that lovely young lady since 1996. I have five beautiful kids, two boys and three girls. I’m part of the ministry team at Calvary Apostolic and have preached there since 2004. God has really done great things for me and I’m looking forward to the rest of the journey.
5. Who are some of your favorite authors and or books to read?
My bookshelf is fairly diverse. Supernatural thrillers are my favorite, but I enjoy fantasy, mystery, westerns, a little bit of everything. I’m a big fan of Frank Peretti. I have a lot of Ted Dekker on my shelf. Robert Liparulo, Bryan Davis, and Mike Dellosso are also among the ranks.
6. Now that you’ve written the book what other projects if any are you working on?
I’m just underway on “Brimstone,” the third book in my series. I’ve got a fourth in mind that should finish out the series, but I’m contemplating a series of short and very affordable ebooks, 20,000 words or so, featuring my characters at different points in their lives, telling new stories or letting readers see other sides of them.
7. When did you start writing?
Oh, I don’t like math questions… (Laughs) Tenth grade. This would be… 1987-88. My English teacher had us write a journal. The first week we introduced a character, the next a second character. The third week was conflict, and so on. Most of my classmates wrote a sentence or two, a paragraph tops. I was writing pages. By the end of the year I had a 140-page handwritten epic, which really wasn’t very good, but I was hooked. At the end of the year my teacher told me, “Tony, you have one assignment for the summer. Get published.” I finally was in 2009. I hope she’s not mad that I’m late.
Tony Ross was born in Shawano, Wisconsin in 1972. In addition to full time factory work, Tony has been part of the ministry team at Calvary Apostolic Church in nearby Clintonville since 2004. He was married in 1996 and has five children.
Tony does somehow still find time to write what he calls “thrillers for thinkers,” novels that not only entertain but invite the reader to contemplate deeper spiritual points. While a Christian thriller may seem like an oxymoron, Tony believes it’s all a matter of perspective
I want to thank Tony for allowing me to get to know him and for spending time with my readers. If you want to learn more about him and his books you can check out his website here.