Interview with Marshall Ross, author of Lost Arrow
17 Sep 2018
What can you tell us about your new release, Lost Arrow?
Lost Arrow is the first book in The Kalelah Series, a twisted story of how we got here, who we are, and the dangers of dogma. It’s also a war story, a love story and, squint one eye and close the other, a hope story. The series gets its name from the interstellar ark, Kalelah, the ship at heart of the story.
It’s sci-fi, but something I hear from readers a lot is, “I thought I hated sci-fi. But after reading Lost Arrow maybe I don’t.” I love that because I think the range of writing in sci-fi is really misunderstood. So, if this story can change a few minds about the genre that would feel like a success.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
I’ve been writing advertising for thirty years. It’s a load of fun and I’ve been lucky to work with some of the world’s most fascinating brands doing things that have taken me all over the world. But that writing, appropriately, revolves around the stories of my clients. And I have my own stories to tell.
What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?
- J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye
- Stephen King’s The Stand
- Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses
- Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles
- Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down
I know, there’s only one science fiction book on that list. But when someone says, top five, you have to take it seriously. There are a hundred great sci-fi books I love. But that list above made me want to become a writer. Or stay one.
Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?
I’d want to talk with the person, or team, who wrote the Bible. And I’d like to ask him, her or them, if things have turned out like they had hoped.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
The puzzle solving. And it’s funny because I actually don’t like crosswords or picture puzzles. But there’s something about putting the pieces of a story together that I find addicting. And thanks to my work in advertising, I’ve had the opportunity to write in what seems like a thousand, different media (when I first started, I worked on the McDonald’s account writing the panels of jokes, games and stories for Happy Meal boxes), but the buzz has always been the same: How am I going to make things fit so they just … click?
What is a typical day like for you?
Depends on whether I’m at the agency office or my home office. The ad world is blindingly fast. Deadlines are tight and there’s really never a slow season. I’m also doing a dozen different kinds of things a day. Some right brained, some left brained. Back and forth, back and forth. So those days tend to be packed and feel packed.
I try to make the days at home writing much slower and far more single-minded. I always start with exercise and make sure I’m at my desk by nine. I don’t make lunch plans with others and I keep the distractions to a minimum. I’ll check email at just three points in the day: 7:00AM, lunch and then 3:00PM. Music is a constant. And I always set a concrete goal and I don’t call it quits until I’ve met it. Not exactly the plot of a movie there. But those are the best days of the week.
What scene in Lost Arrow was your favorite to write?
Trin’s Waking. This is the scene when we meet a character that helps drive the whole series. It’s also our first real look at the ship from the inside. Trin awakes after being in a kind of hypo-metabolic deep sleep, called a Skip. A Skip is typically thousands of years long. And a Waking is typically a joyous occasion. But instead of finding a happy reunion on the other side of his pod door, Trin finds a dark, seemingly empty ghost ship. His fearful journey to his post is the first detailed description of the Kalelah’s design and character. It was big fun walking in Trin’s shoes down those corridors and transforming my notes and sketches to the brooding, cinematic imagery that set the visual tone for the book.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
I wouldn’t put it on a T-shirt, but I think there are very few things a determined person can’t learn to do reasonably well. And perhaps the whole point of this crazy journey called life is to learn as much as you can. In fact, I probably define life as learning.
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