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My First Time...with Daniel Ross

Daniel Ross, The Riff Raff

Daniel Ross is a journalist and writer. After a decade working in and around the music industry for Classic FM, BBC Music, The Fly and many more, his first novel, Bobby Denise is Reigning Rampant, was successfully crowdfunded in 2018 and published with Unbound in 2019.

He lives in Bristol, where he and his wife run a bookshop called Storysmith.

Daniel is joining us on February 7th to read from his debut and answer your questions...

Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book?

I first wrote a short story about a fictional Vegas magician about four years ago. I’d been working as a music journalist for most of my 20s, regularly coming into contact with famous people when they weren’t necessarily at their most dazzling, and eventually ended with a little bank of anecdotes from the weirdest and saddest moments I was privy to.

Then I rewatched an incredible Louis Theroux documentary about extreme pets and big cat sanctuaries, and Bobby Denise basically arrived fully-formed in my head as this dreadful and brilliant has-been, with a pinch of Rupert Pupkin’s desperate fame-grabbing thrown in for good measure. That short story was published in America and shortlisted for an award in the UK, and then I knew I had to tell the rest of his story, whatever it was.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?

That people would actually read it and, as a result, I would have to get good at talking about it.

What did you enjoy most about writing it?

Because I wrote it without telling anyone, I felt completely free to tackle it however I wanted to without any deadlines, word counts or edits (to begin with, anyway). I’d cram my writing into my lunch hour at work while I ate pasta and pesto at my desk, turning my screen away from my colleagues slightly.

That gave the whole process quite a private thrill which I don’t think I’ll be able to capture again.

And the worst part?

The worst part was completely my own fault and, I think (I hope?), not particular to me – I’d get the nagging feeling that writing a novel was ultimately a pointless and vain exercise.

Why or how should anyone be expected to read this extremely long Microsoft Word document of stuff you’ve completely invented?

What’s your go-to procrastination method?

We have a cat, so when I’m working at home I become his go-to procrastination method, and he in turn becomes mine.

Go-to writing snacks?

Hummus. Not fussy about what goes in it. Crisps and bread are just hummus shovels.

The book that changed you?

I read my then-girlfriend, now-wife’s copy of Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami when I was about 21, after quite a long time of not really being bothered by or interested in reading fiction.

I know there’s a bit of an anti-Murakami movement happening now because of some of the quite weird and uncomfortable male fantasy sex writing in some of his books, but the width of his imagination in that story felt incredibly new to me and, when I think about it now, it’s still inspiring.

He can seemingly make the most ridiculous ideas seem completely believable and expected, like, obviously this blind character can converse fluently with cats, why would you even question it?

Your pump up song?

I am addicted to Semicircle Song by The Go! Team. It’s like the best song that never made it onto the High School Musical soundtrack.

If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer, who would it be?

Carrie Fisher.

One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get published?

Hold your ground. My book was roundly rejected by very sensible and tasteful and well-read agents before it found a home with Unbound. The manuscript went through changes in the edit, of course, but it is still the book I wanted to write, even if no-one else wanted it.

I can safely say that, for better or worse, no-one has turned the book into something else between its conception and its completion. So if you believe your book should be a certain way and you’ve adequately assessed all arguments to the contrary, I reckon the least you can do is make sure you’re doing right by your own story – and sometimes that means you have to fight for it.

Why do you write?

I’ve spent so long writing for other people, with word counts and deadlines and brand voices to think about.

I will undoubtedly do so again (and gladly, I should add), but for now, to write something that doesn’t have any real constrictions around it is a really nice feeling.

So I guess that’s why – I write to feel nice, to play. It’s completely selfish.

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