Your Ad Spot

Interview with Ross Hightower

Somehow, after spending most of his life in the warm southern USA, Ross found himself living in the frozen north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and loving it. A professor of information technology, he never imagined he could be an author.

One cold, snowy morning, not too long ago, he woke with a story stuck in his head. That wasn’t unusual, but what happened next was unprecedented. He wrote it down. That small story grew into his first novel, Spirit Sight.

While he contemplated the second book in the Spirit Song trilogy, he started a prequel with his partner of 35 years, Deb. Argren Blue appears in May 2023. Meanwhile, Ross is busy with the sequel to Spirit Sight. Some might wonder why he took so long to find his calling in life, but he’s just grateful he did.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
I become obsessed with the strangest things. My partner Deb, says I’m easily distracted. I prefer to say I have an active and inquisitive mind. My current passion, besides writing, is making my own bow. Bows and archery are a big part of our upcoming novel, Argren Blue

While researching it, I discovered YouTube videos that show you how to construct a bow. We’ll see if it comes to fruition. Most of these obsessions burn brightly for a time and then fade away, but a lot of the furniture in our house came from one particularly persistent woodworking obsession.

Q.2 What inspired you to write the Spirit Song Trilogy?
I often have trouble turning my brain off at night. One night, four years ago, the topic keeping me up was how authors of fantasy novels come up with unique and interesting magic systems. Pretty nerdy, I know, but I’m owning it. 

Normally, I forget whatever was romping around my mind by the next morning, but one question from that night stuck with me: What would the lives of the magically gifted be like if their gifts caused pain in other people? What led me to write a story to answer that question is lost in the mists of memory. But when I finished, I knew my life had changed. I was going to be a writer.

Q. 3 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
My second book called Argren Blue appears in May 2023. While I was writing Spirit Sight, I started to wonder how the peaceful people in that world, the Alle’oss, came to fight against their oppressors. Argren Blue is a prequel to Spirit Sight that tells that story.

A funny thing happened while I was writing that book. Normally, my partner, Deb, reads what I’ve written, and we discuss it. She’s my first beta reader. About two-thirds of the way through Argren Blue, I got stuck. That’s the danger of writing in the dark. Anyway, Deb and I started talking about what should happen instead of what I already wrote. So, when I submitted it to my publisher, I put both our names on it because we both contributed to the story.

I think readers will enjoy it. It’s an interesting story, with some of the same characters as in Spirit Sight. It adds depth to the Spirit Song trilogy and will tide readers over until the sequel to Spirit Sight is finished. And, Deb and are having a blast planning Desulti, the sequel to Argren Blue.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Actually, I don’t find it difficult at all. My stories are filled with strong female characters. In fact, I believe that is one of the biggest selling points for my books. 

My beta readers are all women. Most of them never read fantasy before they read Spirit Sight. I’m quite proud of how strongly they responded to the female characters in the story. I wrote a blog about why I think I have such an affinity for female characters.

Q.5 Do you plan out your books before you start writing, or do you just write and see where it takes you?
I have an idea what the book is about when I start, or at least, where it ends, but I don’t know the whole story. Usually, I have certain scenes in mind I want to see, but I write into the dark between them. The joy of writing for me is to put characters I know well into a situation and see what happens. People don’t understand how an author can be surprised by what appears on the screen while they are writing, but it happens and is my favorite part of the writing process.

At some point, I get a sense of what the book is really about, what the theme is, and then like the sun appearing over the horizon, the story unfolds before me.

Of course, the downside of ‘pantsing’ is you wander around and end up writing a lot more than you would if you plotted it all out at the beginning. You have to backtrack, rewrite, change events and characters, then repair what those changes break. It’s messy sometimes, but It’s a price I’m willing to pay. Everything I write teaches me something about the story and the characters, even if it ends up in my fossils file.

Q.6 How long on average does it takes you to write a book?
The most important bit of advice I found when I started was from Stephen King’s book On Writing. He said writing is a craft, something you can improve if you’re willing to work at it. So, I set about learning how to write. I read voraciously, took classes that led me to my writing coach, and wrote, of course.

My first novel, Spirit Sight, was my test waffle. It took three years, but I spent a lot of that time wandering and honing my craft. Fortunately, it’s a very long book, so I had ample opportunity to practice. My prose improved noticeably as I made progress. I couldn’t say how many rewrites I did because it wasn’t an organized thing. It seemed I was laboring over early scenes endlessly, trying to fix stodgy prose. I’m proud of how it turned out, but … just one more draft would be nice.

Argren Blue took a year, including five drafts. Part of the difference is that it’s not as long as Spirit Sight, but the biggest difference is I didn’t have to spend as much time fixing clumsy prose. My current project is the sequel to Spirit Sight and I’m thinking it will take a year as well.

Q.7 What’s your writing schedule while working?
In my ideal world, I would write for three hours in the morning and another three in the afternoon. That’s about as long as I can go before I run out of words. Unfortunately, I have a day job, so I often have to squeeze writing in when I get time. Weekends are the only time I get to really dig in and write for a long time.

Q.8 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
I have two accepted for publication. Spirit Sight is already out and Argren Blue comes out in May 2023. Meanwhile, I’m working hard on the second book of the Spirit Song trilogy which has a working title of Spirit Light.

Spirit Sight will always have to be my favorite. I may write ‘better’ books from a technical perspective but writing Spirit Sight was an adventure I never thought was within my reach. I lived and died with characters I came to love for three years.

Q.9 Do you try to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I’ve had authors tell me you have to write to an audience if you want to be successful. I can’t do that. I write stories I love and hope others will love them as much as I do.

Q.10 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
Absolutely vital! I’ve heard from so many people how much they loved Spirit Sight. I know there are many readers out there who would feel the same, but it’s hard to get noticed in a genre as crowded as fantasy.

My co-author and I have done some personal appearances at mostly local events. We did a Facebook takeover and I’m doing interviews with influencers. I’m trying to imagine how I might attract readers on TikTok. That seems intimidating.

Marketing was something I was not prepared for, and it’s still a mystery. It’s a learning process and requires patient persistence. I’ve hired a publicist to guide me, so we’ll see what happens.

Q.11 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
I don’t have fantasy races other than humans in my stories, but if I had to choose from the wider world of fantasy, I would be a freed house elf from Harry Potter. House elves have immense power without a wand. Those witches and wizards better be careful in case S.P.E.W. gains traction.

Q.12 If you could invite one character to dinner from your books, who would it be and why?
It would have to be Aron. He plays the role of the changeling in the hero’s journey. Always turns up where you least expect him, is quick with a quip, comfortable in any situation, and able to walk into any room and charm anyone. He would be a lot of fun.

Q.13 What three things can a reader expect from your books?
Complex, fully realized characters, multiple plot lines with plenty of twists, and lots of action. All of these are why they are so long. There are no two-dimensional characters. The story takes the time for the quiet, emotional moments that add depth to the characters and their relationships.

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your books, who is dear to you and why?
I love all my characters, even the evil ones. Sure, they’re evil, but they have their own traumas to deal with. But the one character I find the easiest to write is Nara Flynn. She’s a Sister of the Seidi, an Imperial witch. 

Technically, she’s on the wrong side, but she’s one of the ‘bad girls’ who sees through to the core of things. She’s so easy to write it’s almost like typing. It took me a while to figure it out, but she’s basically my partner, Deb. She’s sassy, funny, quick with a story, and fearless.

Q.15 Who designed your book covers? How do you select them?
I’ve enjoyed the support of my publisher, Black Rose Writing, an in-house artist. But we’re looking for an artist who can help us realize our vision for our covers.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
Spirit Song magic is based on Norse mythology so the names of the Alle’oss, the oppressed people are Norse names. When I was devising the magic system, I also researched Celtic mythology, so the names of the Imperial witches are Celtic. The names of Imperial men are Teutonic. I have no recollection of why that is.

When I need a new name, I bring up a list and look for a name that fits my vision of the character. It helps if the meaning of the name matches the character. For example, I have a character named Deirdre whose name means sorrow. It fits her.

When I first started writing, I didn’t know how important picking names were. This is a particular problem for me because I tell complex stories and have many characters. As a result, I have a plethora of A names: Aron, Alar, and Alyn, to name a few. I apologize to my readers.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I’m like a moth to the flame. I say I’m not going to look at my reviews, but then I find myself checking, because, like it or not, reviews on Amazon are critical. So far, the reviews for Spirit Sight have been beyond my wildest expectations, so I haven’t had to deal with a bad one yet. I’m sure I’ll melt into a puddle when I get one.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
As a confirmed introvert, I break out into a sweat when I read questions like this. But if I put my spontaneous anxiety aside … there are too many people I’d like to meet to decide. I read a lot of history and there are so many historical mysteries that interest me. I want to be in the room where it happened, or at least talk to whoever was there. Okay, if I had to choose, maybe Alexander Hamilton.

Q.19 Are there any new books or authors in science fiction or fantasy (or both!) are you excited about? What are you reading right now?
I’m reading The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri and I love it. She’s not that new, but she’s new to me. It’s nice to read fantasy that isn’t based in a medieval-ish European setting.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
It’s been exhilarating, fascinating, and all-consuming. As I mentioned above, I’m prone to obsessions that burn bright and fade quickly. I dreaded the moment when my passion for writing faded. But I don’t think it will. 

Writing touches something much deeper in me than all those other passing fancies. I may never figure out the marketing part, but I’m writing stories people love and that’s enough for now.

Share your social account links -
Facebook -
Instagram -
Twitter -
Website -

No comments:

Post a Comment