Today I am delighted to welcome debut novelist Daniel Ross to take part in my Q&A interview. Daniel’s first book is called Denise is Reigning Rampant and is being published with unbound. It’s a novel about showbiz, guilt and a murderous white tiger, told from the perspective of an elderly Vegas stage magician.
Welcome to Chelle’s Book Reviews, first of all can you tell us a little about yourself and background?
I grew up by the sea, moved to London as soon as possible, studied music at university and quickly realised that I stood no chance of making a career out of it. So instead of actually being musically proficient, I decided I would become proficient in writing about music instead. As a result, I blagged my way into lots of music magazines and websites and subsequently spent a lot of time interviewing semi-famous people, writing features and, eventually, writing the odd non-fiction book.
When did you know that you wanted to become a writer? and how did you go about it?
I don’t know that there was a particular moment, but there was definitely a gradual realisation that everything I did during the day was, in a way, writing. I’ve always worked with words in every job I’ve had and all my freelance work, and after a point I thought I should probably try something that didn’t have a deadline and a word count, or didn’t need a killer headline and a gem of a quote about a rock star’s ketamine intake during their last album cycle.
So I tried out some short stories, had some success with one of them, and decided to turn it into a novel. Which is where I am now – the novel I ended up with is being published by Unbound, which means I am in the midst of a crowdfunding whirlwind. JOIN ME AT THE COALFACE.
Can you tell us what genre your books are and the audience you write for?
My first novel, ‘Bobby Denise is Reigning Rampant’, is quite dark, a little bit funny, occasionally horrible… I think the most suitable genre you could align it with is literary fiction, but it’s not really that, and no-one seems to know what that is anyway, so that doesn’t quite work. It’s hard to say. It’s about guilt, showbiz, and a murderous white tiger. Let’s call it sad literature with big cats in it. And magicians. As you can tell, I am a natural at snappy self-promotion.
To be honest, I don’t have an audience quite yet. I guess there are some people that might know me from being a music journalist but, being frank, it’s unlikely they’d jump for joy at the prospect of a whole novel of me wanging on about the ennui of mid-tier showbiz for 76,000 words. Being a crowdfunding debut author means that you have to find your audience. Where are they? Literally, WHERE ARE THEY. I need them to buy my book.
What is your writing process? and how long does it take?
I am a firm believer in squeezing writing around other things. Not because I think writing is unimportant compared to the rest of my life, but because I think a modern writer has to be nimble. Good writing can be done in 10-minute spurts. Maybe not perfect writing, but good writing that could be moulded later. Obviously it’s much nicer to have hours and hours but, realistically, first-timers do not have this luxury. I wrote my novel in my lunch hours, in the pub while my wife was at netball, at home late at night and early in the morning, on trains (never buses), in airports. Anywhere really. On the odd occasion I do get a few hours of concentrated writing time, that’s when I can ensure all the bits and bobs I’ve done previously cohere.
The novel took me a couple of years in total to write. I’m still picking over bits of it even now. One of the good things about publishing with Unbound is that there is still time to tweak before it goes to print, although I probably won’t be saying that further on down the line.
Are your characters based on anyone you know or are they just fictional?
Because of my day job and having been a music journalist for some years, I do tend to end up in lifts and corridors with minor celebrities every now and again. One of my favourite things is when their ‘I’m a famous person’ mask slips and you see them with their head in their hands, or on the phone to their partner in a bit of a mood, or trying to stay awake in an interview. That’s when the interesting stuff happens.
Have you wrote about a personal experience in your novels?
Well I’ve never been mauled by a white tiger, if that’s what you’re asking. Growing up in a slightly tired seaside town has been helpful, though. It’s a beautiful place, but as you walk down to the pier and see the boarded-up shops and burnt-out clubs, you get a brilliant sense that glamour is much more interesting when it fades.
What research do you do?
I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos of Vegas magic shows.
Who would you like to co-write with and why?
I think there’s a danger I’d ruin a lot of brilliant authors’ books by insisting on more unwarranted violence.
What’s your favorite book?
Can I have a few? Michael Chabon’s ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’ and H.G. Wells’ ‘The War of the Worlds’ are definitely in there. Maybe Angela Carter’s ‘Wise Children’ would be in there too, although I only read that last year so I don’t know if my feelings on it have properly coalesced – is it a short-term affair or will I love it forever? Walter Tevis’ ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’, perhaps. I know it’s relatively new and a lot of people have been trumpeting about it, but Max Porter’s ‘Grief Is The Thing With Feathers’ is the book I’ve thought about most in a really long time. Again, we’ll have to see. Jesus, I’m such a boy.
What’s your favorite food?
Hummus. All varieties. Not fussy about crudités, just lob it directly into my face.
What’s your favorite film?
Fargo. Best writing, best music, best performances, best juxtaposition of sweetness and UNRELENTING BLEAKNESS.
What’s your favorite song?
Are you kidding me? One?! I have a Spotify playlist that I started about 8 years ago that was expressly for songs I thought were genuinely perfect and there are currently 174 songs on it. And that feels like hardly any. I literally can’t narrow it down.
How can readers find out more information about yourself and your books?
Take a look at my page on Unbound, where I’m currently funding my first my novel – there are loads of enticing rewards like cassette mixtapes, posters, badges, personalised first editions and more: https://unbound.com/books/bobby-denise
Other than that, I’m on Twitter and Instagram @danielross85, and I’ve got a website: danielrosswords.com.