Thursday, August 22, 2013

Author Q&A: Rektok Ross

Rektok Ross, author of the YA novel Prodigal (you can find my review here), very kindly allowed me to ask some questions and provided some great answers! Prodigal follows Lexy through her senior year of high school as she deals with serious issues, gets involved with a handsome and popular guy at school, and starts asking questions about faith and the future.

{ About Prodigal... }

How did the idea for Prodigal come to you?
Writing a YA was a no-brainer for me because I feel like everything starts with high school. That’s where we begin the path to finding out who we truly are and who we are going to be in this world, so it’s fun to start a story at that point in time. While I LOVE love stories, I didn’t want to write just write a simple romance. My faith is very important to me and I feel like asking why we are here and what’s our purpose is the most fundamental question we should all be asking. Sadly, there seems to be a gaping hole right now for mainstream literature that helps kids answer that question. So I wanted to write something that was fun but that also asked you to think about the bigger questions in life.

How did you decide on Prodigal for the title?
This is a really popular question from my readers! I’m glad you asked it! The title, PRODIGAL, is a throw back to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which is one of the stories in the Bible. In it, a father gives the younger of his two sons his inheritance before he dies. The younger son, after wasting his fortune (the word 'prodigal' means 'wastefully extravagant'), goes hungry during a famine. He then repents and returns home, where the father holds a feast to celebrate his return. The older son refuses to participate, stating that in all the time the son has worked for the father, he did not even give him a goat to celebrate with his friends. His father reminds the older son that everything the father has is the older son's, but that they should still celebrate the return of the younger son as he has come back to them. It is the third story about redemption, following the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin. For me, the parable has lots of parallels to Lexy’s and Ash’s stories. In some ways, Lexy is running around lost during a lot of the book – much like the younger son in the parable—until she eventually comes to learn about God and figure out what she believes in. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers but it’s also safe to say that Ash too has his own redemption story that runs throughout the book.

Lexy wants to pursue a degree in journalism, just as you did. How did you move from journalism into fiction writing?
It was a very long and winding road! I always loved writing and thought getting my degree in journalism would be a lot of fun but my goal back then was to go on to graduate school and become a lawyer. I guess, like Lexy, I wasn’t sure that I could ever really make a living as a writer and law seemed like a safer bet. After law school, I decided to try and conquer corporate America and became a trial lawyer for Fortune 500 companies. I did that for a long time but then one day I kind of just woke up and thought to myself, well, I’m making a great living but I don’t know that I’m living my life dream. Maybe I should try that next?

How long did it take you to finish Prodigal, from idea to finished work?
Ugh. F-O-R-E-V-E-R. When I was writing PRODIGAL, I was still working at my law firm 24/7 so it took be about three to four years to get the book into good enough shape that I could send it to my editors and then we worked on it for about two more years. Since this was my debut novel, I think I can say that the first few drafts needed A LOT of help.

What do you hope readers take away from reading Prodigal?
Each of the characters in PRODIGAL has their own way of looking at life and love and God. What’s important to me is that people take time to think about these things for themselves and really start to challenge themselves on what it is that they believe in. If PRODIGAL can do that, if reading it makes you spend even a few minutes reflecting on your life, then I’ll feel like I’ve fulfilled a little of my purpose here.

{ About writing... }

Can you describe your writing process?
I always outline first because I like to know exactly what my characters are doing and why. However, I don’t research in advance, but as I go along. I also like to read books in the same genre while I’m writing because it really gets me inspired. The one other thing I do--which may be kind of silly—is that I usually write using this book I got called The Romance Writers’ Phrase Book. There are all these cheesy expressions in it for facial expressions and voices and other things like that which I put in as placeholders as I’m writing dialogue because descriptors are really difficult for me to do on the fly and if I don’t do it when I’m drafting I tend to just write “he said” and “she said” with nothing else. After my first draft, I go back and tweak.

Where do you find you do the best work?
I guess I have a talent for being able to shut out the world so I can pretty much write anywhere. My bedroom, the office, a plane, the car, on a boat, in the bathroom, you name it and I’ve probably written there at some point.

Do you have any words of advice for hopeful future authors?
Write because you love writing, not for any other reason. There are no guarantees that anyone else is going to like your writing or that you will make a living doing it. But if you write because you have all these ideas in your head and can’t live with the thought of never putting them down on paper and sharing them with others, then you will be happy as a writer. There is so much rejection in this industry that it really is all about believing in yourself and doing it for you only. The rest is all icing on the cake.

Any projects in the works you would like to share?
Yes! Thanks for asking, LOL. I am deep in the middle of my second novel, tentatively titled GRACE, and am really excited about it! It will be totally different from PRODIGAL in that it is a survival/action adventure story set in college, but of course there will be the signature swoon-worthy boy, a female protagonist with strong character, and discussion about the meaning of life that I consider hallmarks of a Rektok Ross story.

{ About reading... }

What is your favorite genre to read?
Young Adult of course! Oh wait, I know some people are uptight about calling that a genre (even though I still think it is . . . ). I guess I am a sucker for a good romance but I also love horror and thrillers. I really enjoy parables and satires as well. I read a lot of nonfiction too because I love to learn. Pretty much the only thing I don’t really enjoy is history because, yuck, it’s history right?

What’s your favorite book of all time?
Wow, how hard is this question because I love so, so many books? I guess if I had to pick it would be Gone with the Wind. I’m not sure why but it’s left the biggest impact on me and the characters just seemed so real and the story was so very tragic.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
The ones I look up to the most are those that can tell a story that really makes you think long after you finish the book. That doesn’t mean it has to be a literary masterpiece but it does mean you have to make people feel something and I think that is a lot more challenging. I was obsessed with Christopher Pike as a kid because his books were so layered; Night by Eli Wiesel is still one of the most powerful books I have ever read and I cried a long time when I finished it; C.S. Lewis, of course, because who else could write a book about a lion who is Jesus. I’m also impressed with all that Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling have accomplished with their literary empires and for the Young Adult genre. If screenwriters count then I also have a massive writing crush on Wes Craven, Kevin Williamson, Josh Whedon, and Guillermo Del Toro. I have a soft spot for a good horror story.

When a book is made into a movie, do you read the book first or watch the movie first?
I don’t really have a preference. I think I do whatever I am exposed to first. I’m not one of those people that is a snob and goes, oh the book is always so much better so I will only read the book first, or something like that. I guess I’m equally split between a movie lover and a book lover and I think both mediums can do something really amazing with the right story.

Do you prefer to buy books or borrow them from the library?
My family didn’t have a lot of money growing up so getting to buy an actual book and take it home to keep was really something special for me. My mom was a teacher so we really spent a lot of time at the library instead. I would spend the entire day there picking out books and reading them so I think I have special place in my heart for libraries. I guess I would pick the library if I had to except now I have such limited time I don’t get there as often and tend to buy my books online these days.

Do you prefer to read print books or ebooks?
Ebooks hands down. Looking back now, I was anti-ebook for a long time because I always believed in having a physical book in your hand. I loved the feel of one. Now, I am obsessed with my ereader and the ability to download books in a few seconds. The sheer convenience of ebooks and the laziness factor (as in, I don’t have to get in my car and go anywhere, and I don’t have to flip a page when I’m laying in bed) weighs in favor of ebooks hands down. Seriously. Everyone get an ereader. Now!

{ About everything else... }

Do you prefer coffee or tea?
I don’t drink coffee. I have a fear of caffeine. Seriously. I am a control freak. But I drink tea. Yes, I know it also has caffeine, but it has antioxidants too which makes your skin look nice. So it’s a trade off . . .

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food. Chocolate and marshmallow. How can that go wrong?

If you could travel through time, what time period would you choose to go to?
I don’t think there is any time period I would want to go back to. History freaks me out. I know things aren’t perfect right now but Medieval Times? No thanks. Haven’t you seen Game of Thrones? I’ll pass!

What is the one place in the world you are dying to visit?
I think the one place I am really dying to go is South Africa. I like the beach, the animals, and the accents.

What is your favorite quote?
“In the real world as in dreams, nothing is quite what it seems.” It’s by one of my favorite authors, Dean Koontz. I know, it’s not really inspiring per se and is actually quite haunting but that’s what I love about it. I guess for inspiration, though, I would pick “Carpe Diem!” Simple and to the point.

Anything else you’d like to share?
I think there are a lot of questions PRODIGAL leaves open and there’s a lot there to discuss long after you finish. Because of that, I usually recommend it as a book that is really good to read together -- either with your friends or your parents or in a book club. And, if you can’t find anyone else to chat with about it, contact me! I love talking with my readers!

Learn more about Rektok Ross at,
and follow Rektok on Facebook and Goodreads!

Find Prodigal on Goodreads and Amazon!

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