Interview with Val Ross

Describe your desk
A 1930s wooden bureau with a drop-down front, tucked away under the stairs. It's a bit dark under there, so there's a small lamp perched at an odd angle on top of a couple of reference books. My laptop is gradually being edged off the corner of the desk by piles of paper, notebooks, old birthday cards and empty mugs, and the whole surface is covered with a fine layer of dust.
I bought my desk ten years ago from a junk shop in Herne Bay, and when I moved to Yorkshire it was the only item of furniture I possessed, apart from a deckchair and a laundry basket.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I don't think I've grown up yet! I spent my teenage years in Lowestoft on the Suffolk coast, where I made a couple of very good school friends who've stuck with me and made encouraging remarks about my writing for many years. (Mainly, "When are you going to get round to publishing this?")
My first year English teacher, Mr Hayes, introduced us to the joys of Roget's Thesaurus - I love this book and still use it a lot, although it's a bit of an effort to extract my current copy from underneath my desk lamp.
After that we had Mrs Goody, who terrified me. She insisted that we always write in grammatically correct sentences, and NEVER use the word 'thing'. To her I owe my pickiness about words, and my tendency to start sentences with 'And' or 'But'. (Because I can now, and nobody will tell me off!)
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Discovering what my characters are going to do. I usually have some idea of where I'm going with a scene, but quite often the characters take over and I end up watching them play it out in my head.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I was about 8 or 9, and complained to my my Mum that I'd read all the 'Mary Plain' stories (by Gwynedd Rae, about a bear) and there weren't any more. "Well write one yourself," she said. "I can't, I don't know what they're doing!" I replied. "Write about your own bear," Mum suggested. So I did. My bear was a white nightdress case, called Snowy. I didn't have a real bear, obviously. Not in a flat in Shepherds Bush.
What do you read for pleasure?
Anything and everything. I prefer fiction, although I do have a soft spot for Michel de Montaigne and Thomas Hobbes. If I want to relax and have a laugh, I'll choose an old favourite by Terry Pratchett or PG Wodehouse. For mystery/adventure I like the Falco series by Lindsey Davis and the Rooks Ridge books by Rosalind Winter. If I feel up to something a bit stronger, it'll be Harlan Coben or Stieg Larsson. Generally, though, I'll read anything that catches my eye.
What is your writing process?
I start with the characters- sometimes just one character will appear in my mind. They could come from anywhere, but often they start as simply a name inspired by something I've seen or heard. I think about that person - what are they doing? Why are they doing it? I discover their background, which brings in other characters. Then I realize that they've got themselves into a situation, so I watch what they do, listen to what they say and then write it down. It's like a film, playing in my head.
Once I've visualized a few scenes I can see more or less where the story's going, so I think about the next bit and watch them do it. I spend a lot of time thinking about a scene and getting the dialogue right in my mind before I actually write it. Often I'll get up and try things out in front of the mirror - facial expressions, or if they're moving or making gestures. I re-draft as I go - it's a continuous process that I have to force myself to stop when the proof-reading is finished.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The first book I wrote will probably end up, after much re-drafting, as Book Three in the Veridurum Series. When I'd finished it I realized that I'd thought so much about how the characters had reached that point in their lives, I really had to write it all down as Book One!
What are you working on next?
Several things at once, so if I get stuck on one bit there's always something else I can do. Book Two of the Veridurum Series is loosely planned, with a couple of scenes written. I know more or less what I want to do with Books Three and Four, and have some random scenes written for them as well. I also have two partially-completed short stories which may eventually form part of a collection, but I'm finding the tight format difficult to stick to, as I keep thinking about the back-story.
What do your fans mean to you?
I started writing just for myself, so at first I didn't think about having readers at all. Now, I'm amazed and delighted when someone tells me that they're enjoying reading my work. I'm conscious of having a huge responsibility towards my readers, because I know from my own experience how great an influence just a few words can have on someone if you catch them at the right (or wrong) moment. I believe I have an obligation to produce the best work I can, because my fans are going to invest their time and money in buying and reading what I've written.
Would I still write if nobody read it? Yes, but probably much more slowly, and nothing would ever get finished. Knowing that people are waiting for the next book gives me enormous encouragement to keep going.
Published 2014-05-12.
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Books by This Author

Lost Prinsipels
Price: $1.49 USD. Words: 109,460. Language: English. Published: May 8, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
Fergal O'Connor is a man with a mission. He'd rather not have it; he's already fully occupied with undergraduate spies, an unbalanced colleague, unobtainable stationery and unsavoury drains. Now he has a secret to keep; he must protect someone, who mustn't know he's doing it, from something she mustn't find out about. Fortunately (or perhaps not) the Grand Master has a plan.