I’m delighted to be joined by Ross Ponderson, whose debut novel, Child of Privilege, was released in August last year. It sounds like an absolutely fantastic read and is one I’m really looking for to starting. In the meantime, let’s get to know Ross a little better…
Hi Ross, a big, warm welcome to Bookaholic Confessions! Thank you so much for participating in this interview. Would you like to start by introducing yourself…?
A pleasure to be here with you, Holly. I‘ve been looking forward to chatting with you and your readers.
I’m a retired guy from the USA who started his career in Information Technology back in the early 1970’s (I’m really showing my age here!), but I’m plotting a return to the working world hopefully in the very near future. Currently attending social media studies at a community college, I hope to start a second career as a freelance social media content provider; that’s my plan anyway. I’m keeping my fingers crossed which makes typing very difficult.
My pleasure centers include writing (of course!), anything related to railroading, anything historical (I LOVE museums), technology (computers, computers, and more computers!), 1970’s music, playing keyboards VERY poorly, and strolling through the local malls for enjoyment and writing inspiration. Needless to say, I ALWAYS brake for music stores and book emporiums. Then there are those darned ice cream shops everywhere. Vanilla is my favourite flavour; chocolate when I’m feeling mischievous. Nobody can say I don’t know how to live life in the fast lane!
I am really looking forward to reading your debut novel, Child of Privilege. Can you tell us a little more about it?
Child is a fictional story that shines a bright, accusing light on the societal disgrace of Domestic Violence. The storyline is woven around 19-year-old Dana Van Werner, a debutante born into social standing, wealth, and privilege. But the dark side of her birthright includes private and public humiliation, frequent beatings of both herself and her socialite mother, and her father’s unfathomable hatred for her. He is a powerful, patriarchal attorney who rules his world with intimidation and an iron fist. His personality is a boiling cauldron of greed, power, public image, domination, and winning at any cost. This emotional witch’s brew is topped with an acidic layer of seething contempt for what he perceives as his sole failure in life: his daughter. Imagine the emotional loneliness of a little girl who grows up longing for the love and approval of a father who despises her very existence. To the casual observer, Dana has it all. But behind its majestic front doors, her palatial home in an affluent suburb is little more to her than a multi-million-dollar torture chamber.
After a particularly appalling incident at the hands of her father, Dana escapes by bus into the “real world” in which she encounters wet t-shirt contests, jail cells, honky-tonks, seedy motels, and an array of predators. Not only is she is robbed by another passenger, but she must also fend off a sexual assault by a private detective hired by her father to bring her back home.
She finds unexpected refuge in the bucolic rural community of Beckett Junction, Colorado. There she encounters Deputy Sheriff Greg Parmenter, a kind-hearted bachelor who senses her emotional and physical exhaustion and offers her sanctuary in his humble cottage. Gradually, through the autumn and frigid winter months, a deep, fulfilling love will blossom between the cop and the debutante.
Suspicious circumstances surrounding a sudden tragedy back home—and her own anger–will draw Dana back for a violent, no-holds-barred, final confrontation with her abuser. Who will win? Richard, the vindictive, authoritarian lawyer whose power and influence seem to know no bounds? Or Dana, the teenager emboldened with newfound strength and a fierce determination to take back her own life? And what is the family secret that will ultimately detonate like a stick of dynamite and blast the Van Werner family apart?
After all of that, can there possibly be a happy ending? Maybe, but have your tissues ready for the final chapters.
I took particular pains to pull no punches while writing Child. It’s a “punch to the stomach” story written in a “punch to the stomach” style. But I felt it my responsibility as a storyteller to write this story the way I believed it needed to be told. Now I can only rest my case before the world’s book-buyers who are, of course, my ultimate judges.
What gave you the idea for the storyline?
Child’s origins date back to 1995, as evidenced by my descriptions of cell phones being as large as shoeboxes.
A newspaper photo of a group of debutantes posing at a gala event triggered the entire process. They were perfectly made-up, wearing elegant gowns, not a hair out of place, and smiling profusely for the camera. Questions began flying through my mind. Were they truly as happy as they seemed on camera? What were their personal lives like? What about their relationships? Were their homes harmonious? Would they be able to survive in the paycheck-to-paycheck world?
Like a sort of chain, one idea triggered another. After being knitted together with the yarn of imagination, they eventually became the novel’s initial master outline.
How did you go about doing any relevant research for the novel?
While constructing the domestic violence scenes, my goal was to depict the worst of human behaviour and bring it vividly to the page while also allowing for readers’ sensitivities. I wanted those painful scenes between Richard/Maggie and Richard/Dana to be gut-wrenching, graphic, and terrifying to the extent of properly telling their stories while still maintaining some sense of propriety for readers’ sakes. I frequently found myself straddling literary fences in the middle of the night wondering just how far I needed to take those scenes in order to tell a credible story. My success (or failure) in accomplishing this is a call for readers to make.
I also researched—to the best of my abilities—unique settings, locations, and antagonist names in order to spare anyone (or any place) needless embarrassment should the novel go “viral.”
How long did Child of Privilege take you to write?
Approximately two-and-a-half years from initial idea to final manuscript. But it then fermented on a closet shelf for 19 years following repetitive choruses of “No, thanks” from agents and traditional publishers. At that point, I was so disgusted with writing and publishing in general that I chucked the manuscript into a closet and got on with my life. Then Amazon KDP came along and offered me one last chance to present Child to the world’s readers to succeed or fail on its own merits. I’m hoping they’ll find it a worthwhile read.
Are your characters entirely fictional or are they based on anyone in real life?
They are all entirely fictional, although I do plead guilty to pandering to a stereotype or two: Richard, the savagely aggressive, “evil-to-the-core” attorney; Maggie, who compromised herself into a sort of slavery in exchange for a high society lifestyle; Dana, intelligent, beautiful, strong, kind-hearted, but with a definite edge … my perception perhaps of an “ideal” woman; Reavis Macklin, a mean-spirited, vulgar, hormone-driven buffoon; and Angelo, the leg-breaker with a conscience.
What inspired you to first start writing?
I’ve been writing in one form or another since my childhood years.
Back in the late 1960’s, one of my passions was shortwave radio which was a major hobby back then. The worldwide interest in international radio spawned an array of both commercial magazines and folksy, home-grown newsletters (literally produced in the publishers’ basements) serving every facet of the hobby. I became a frequent contributor of short humour pieces to these amateur editors facing a monthly sea of white space to fill. I even had my own humour column for about a year in one of these publications. I loved it!
Then came the literary and “little” magazines whose kind-hearted editors delighted in providing a pulpit for new writers. Thanks to their generosity, a number of my short stories first saw the light of publication. I loved that even more!
My first attempt at a novel was a complete disaster and will never see the light of day (and deservedly so). Child is my “real” first novel; many more will follow if there’s a market for them.
Have you always wanted to be an author?
Yes, I’ve had the bug nearly all my life. Remember the collective groan that filled the classroom (particularly in grade school) upon hearing the teacher’s dreaded words, “…Homework tonight is a 1,000 word essay on…?”
The teacher would then retaliate by increasing the word count to 2,000.
NOT ME! I LOVED IT! I was being ORDERED to write. No problem. Thank you, teacher!
Indicative of a healthy mind? I’ll leave that judgement to your readers.
Who are your favourite authors and what kind of books do you enjoy reading?
I suppose my favourites trace back to the masters I was forced to read in order to graduate from school: Hemingway, Steinbeck, Shakespeare, Dickens, etc. One of my English Lit teachers was a Shakespearean scholar who would stand before the class and literally act out well-known scenes from the Bard’s plays. It seemed a little bizarre at the time, but those portrayals made an impression on me and stuck in my mind through the decades. We also performed selected plays in class which I thoroughly enjoyed. Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” was my all-time favourite.
Last autumn, I had the pleasure of actually spending an evening with a best-selling author by the name of William Hazelgrove. He hosted a one-evening writing workshop at my local library, and I found it a most informative evening. He seemed an approachable, sincere man who enjoyed helping hopeful authors learn their craft and promote themselves. I came away with a pocketful of useful ideas from that encounter. Hazelgrove’s prose is rather stark and markedly different in style than many other successful authors. But considering his sales record, he is obviously doing something right. I keep promising myself to investigate his books further.
In terms of my own reading, the vast majority is nonfiction. Actually, I read very little fiction because of the many hours I devote to both writing and promoting it; any more would likely burn me out. I lean toward inspirational, self-help, “tell-alls,” biographies, true crime, travel, and history. Any book that teaches me something automatically becomes my lifelong friend.
And finally – can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on at the moment?
My 2nd novel (currently being first-drafted) is completely different in nearly every respect than Child of Privilege. While it’s another work of Women’s Fiction, the characters, storyline, and suspense arc take markedly directions than my first novel. I wanted to shift writing gears and explore different characters and situations this time around.
I can tell you that it’s the story of a woman who is hired as the CEO of a failing technology company. She carries with her a mandate to turn the firm’s fortunes around and restore it to its former role of industry leadership. Even during the highly-publicized media announcement and press conference, the tension amongst the “good old boys” management team is palpable and stifling. She receives neither smiles nor handshakes nor pledges of cooperation from her team; only hard, stony glares. She immediately commences a round of sweeping changes to the status quo, effectively stirring the corporate hornet’s nest. Even before she can move into her corner office suite, the intrigue against her is already well underway as various cliques and factions within the company outwardly plot and scheme against each other.
The tension heightens as the story evolves into a blending of a corporate chess match and a game of “chicken.”
Who will win this war of wills fought in the lavish surroundings of the executive suite? Whose life will be in danger when this confrontation turns deadly?
Stay tuned (heh, heh).
Thank you so much for participating in this interview, Ross! I’m delighted to have you on my blog and I’m really looking forward to reading Child of Privilege.
Thank you for inviting me, Holly. It was fun chatting with you. I hope everybody reads Child of Privilege and enjoys it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Click here to get hold of your copy of Child of Privilege.