Welcome Rodney T Ross to the blog. His novel, The Cool Part of His Pillow was nominated by readers as a 2014 LGBT Book Gem. I asked him to stop by and tell us a little about himself and the book. ~ B.
The adage is absence makes the heart grow fonder.
I might add to that: A little distance, too.
It’s been well over a year since publication of The Cool Part of His Pillow (TCPohP).
Only now, impregnation and labor behind me, can I address its birth without excessive tears and gastrointestinal distress.
I circulated the manuscript to what mainstream publishers still accept unsolicited work –- approximately zero -– and literary agents. Many indicated they had enough LGBTQ-inclined authors. Like an aspiring career politician, I would apparently have to wait for someone to die to be installed. My favorite rejection was to what I thought was a succinct plot summary and my best three chapters.
The agent’s E-mail read: Not for me
There was no greeting, no signature. She didn’t even close the sentence with a period.
Dreamspinner Press was the first gay male-oriented house I queried. I was so ill-informed about the genre I didn’t know what a HEA was and, when advised, snorted, “That’s rather reductive. I did not write a Disney princess franchise.” An escapee from the 7 fiery circles of Hell known as advertising, I understand niche marketing. But TCPohP had no feverish sex scenes and glistening torsos. Demographically, I was really fucked: narrator Barry Grooms was in his mid-40’s. The story contained little romance. Imposing an HEA with Parrish-blue skies was as repugnant as GOP.
Maybe I’d at least merit a period.
Within the week I had a DSP contract.
TCPohP is about the absence of love after having had it and the possibility it might never be reclaimed. I wanted to address loneliness borne of not cheating or illness but unthinkable circumstance. By any measure Barry Grooms is a success: expansive interior design gallery, 20-plus years with partner Andy, financial security, all upended when, on Barry’s 45th birthday, a construction crane collapse kills Andy and their two pugs. His plunge from bliss into widowerhood is comically surreal — being offered someone else’s snotrag, a parasitic grief support group -– and my hope is that readers laugh. Misery is so much more fun when sprinkled with the macabre, the politically-incorrect, the blasphemous. Barry is damaged, not destroyed, and his skeptical eye rolls ultimately help rebuild his world.
I was always a creative, brooding child, acting the playlets I’d written into a tape recorder, submitting scathing movie reviews to the high school newspaper. A Butler University grad with English and Journalism degrees, I was initially a TV reporter, where I worried more about the crease in my pant leg than cultivating sources.
Not for me.
I combined truth and fabrication and so began 20-plus years in Advertising.
I survived red pencils and hateful focus groups and promotions came quickly. I appeased the writer still somewhere within during off-hours. (This I refer to as my “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” era.) An original play and screenplay were optioned, but neither bore the fruit of production. I danced just close enough to the fire to crisp around the edges.
When I left the agency a full partner, careless wording in my non-compete contract allowed clients to follow. My consulting business flourished. Creative sustenance still proved elusive. I formulated another plan: shit or get off the pot.
I shat. I and my partner essentially retired to Key West. There, with its literary legacy, I wrote TCPohP.
Writing is heavy lifting, isolated and isolating. I wish I were so refined as to have a muse.
I’m an obsessive note-taker. I find great sport observing people unknown to me from a corner and writing down the detail…the parent who thinks they’ll calm a crying child with a hard slap…the couple in their twilight years who share a pudding cup…those details one might be able to concoct but could never get the minutiae, the way that plastic spoon is dipped, quite right.
I’m also a stickler for accuracy. Internet access makes sloppy fact-checking inexcusable. Know where your characters live, specific geography, inhabit their era if it’s a period piece.
One thing I don’t do, when I’m writing, is read fiction. Immersing myself in the voice of another might affect my own. The way some subtly acquire the accent when in the company of someone from the Deep South, I worry the literary style of another will reverberate into my work.
I MAKE UP SHIT
Paul Alan Fahey, curating an essay collection, liked TCPohP and reached out to me for The Other Man: Twenty-One Top Writers Speak Candidly About Sex, Love, Infidelity, Heartbreak and Moving On. To share a Table of Contents with Felice Picano was heady.
The next thing to have my name attached is ‘Bended Knee’, an e-Book arriving early Summer. It’s a short contemplation of this brave new world of same-sex marriage…and how some of our own might not, as we hope, have our backs. It comes from… surprise!…Dreamspinner Press. They like my style and I like theirs, which values original narrative over rigid template. I’ve come to see that the m/m landscape has given firebrand and wildly-talented authors opportunity that mainstream houses won’t. Still, I welcome the time when a distinct LGBTQ imprint isn’t warranted…that catalogs as varied as Dreamspinner or JMS could just be part of the Random House umbrella.
The sprawl of my next novel has consumed the last 24 months. I’m superstitious enough to not disclose its thrust or even its title, but I will say it is about good luck and bad — the paths chosen when fortune smiles on us, the desperate measures taken when it doesn’t.
Tending the Rodney Ross brand, whatever that may be, is secondary, which is why I unapologetically have no website. When I’m not on my knees (gardening) or allowing strangers to brush my inner thighs (TSA, when traveling), I might be found on weekends in the liquor-splashed gutters of Key West or, if I drove recklessly up US1, shadowy Miami vestibules or staggering along Wilton Drive in Fort Lauderdale.
I am, however, stalkable. I occasionally tweet @RodtRoss, and I can also be confronted, chastised, consoled and courted on Facebook.
Author Rodney Ross lives in Key West, Florida.
‘The Cool Part Of His Pillow’, his debut novel, was the 1st Place Winner in the GLBT Fiction category from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards; Silver Medalist in the 2013 Global EBook Awards; Honorable Mention in the 2012 Rainbow Book Awards; and was a 2013 nominee for a Lambda Literary Award.
Past achievements include Honorable Mentions or runners-up acknowledgements in the Monterey County Film Commission, FADE-IN and the LGBT One-In-Ten Screenwriting competitions. Rodney recently won the Most Creative’ citation in the inaugural Key West Mystery Fest Writing Competition.
Rodney is currently completing his second novel. He is also a producer of the upcoming documentary ‘The Little Firemen’.
The Cool Part of his Pillow can be found on Amazon.