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Adam Ross Gives a Deeper Look at Dark Tales of Ladies and Gentlemen

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Adam Ross Gives a Deeper Look
at Dark Tales of Ladies and Gentlemen An exclusive Authorlink interview
with Adam Ross, author of Ladies and Gentlemen

By Paige Crutcher
July 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen cover
Ladies and Gentlemen
by Adam Ross

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at Amazon.com

Adam Ross Portrait
Adam Ross

Adam Ross, bestselling author of Mr. Peanut , brings seven dark and gripping tales to life in his latest, Ladies and Gentlemen. Stunning, intricately woven and haunting, the shorts offer snapshots of hope taking a wrong turn and good intentions gone awry. Much like he conquered with his debut, Ross builds each story on a slow drip of suspense. A crescendo rising, each story pulses – a wave of mischief, beautifully bound dialogue and riveting imagery. Ross shares with Authorlink a deeper look into the creation of Ladies and Gentlemen, touches on the themes that dog his stories footsteps and offers his own side of cheek.

“I occasionally write stories out of order, moving between scenes that are inspired.”
—
ROSS

AUTHORLINK: You began writing Ladies and Gentlemen during the fifteen years you spent crafting MR. PEANUT. Do these books borrow themes and style from one another? Or is Ladies and Gentlemen cut from an entirely different cloth?

ROSS: Margaret Renkl described it as a companion book to Mr. Peanut and I’d agree, not only because it gets me around the sophomore jinx but also because it’s true: I wrote these during breaks I took during the novel’s drafting. Unfortunately, several stories suffered similarly difficult births. It took a long time to come up with the connective tissue between the beginning and end of “When in Rome.” Same for “Futures.” I struggled with the end of “The Rest of It.” I occasionally write stories out of order, moving between scenes that are inspired. It makes for headaches.

To answer your questions about theme and style, these books share similar interests in identity and the possibility of change but really Ladies and Gentlemen is focused on the following question: What do we do when presented with the opportunity to be cruel?

AUTHORLINK: As a writer, would you say you’re an empathetic participant, or an honest observer? Do you simply state what is – or compassionately convey these pockets of life?

ROSS: I think neither because for me writing is primarily an act of imagination. We writers play with dolls, really, we make these characters up with a combination of invention and autobiography so in my opinion it’s as if the reader is taking a peek at an long daydream. So I’m not empathetic because these chaps aren’t real and I’m not honestly observing them because they’re doing what I say. In short, I’m a tyrant.

“Good storytelling is always suspenseful, it seems to me.”
—ROSS

 

 

AUTHORLINK: Paranoia, sexuality, suspense and the audience as the voyeur almost act as characters in your work. Is this intentional, or an organic accident?

ROSS: Good storytelling is always suspenseful, it seems to me. Meanwhile, you’ll have to explain my use of paranoia and sexuality, you hot thing, you. (I think someone’s watching us, by the way.) Now “the audience as voyeur” does interest me and is certainly explored along with identity in Mr. Peanut and a story like “Futures” where we’re watching a character suffer against the backdrop of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, so in that case I was consciously using that theme and asking questions about America’s culture of humiliation. It also presents itself in “The Rest of It,” since Roddy is obsessed with his renters’ letters and his ex-wife’s life. What’s the line between watching and responsibility? Characters are always telling other characters stories in L and G. What’s the responsibility of the listener? Hitchcock knew, for instance, that the audience wanted to participate in cruelty but also be vindicated by the movie’s end. This is why watching Miss Lonely Hearts or Grace Kelly’s near rapes in Rear Window are incredibly uncomfortable scenes. We can’t look away while feeling we should. And we don’t.

AUTHORLINK: Of the seven tales that you breathe to life in Ladies and Gentlemen/i>, did you find yourself relating to one more than the other?

ROSS: No.

AUTHORLINK: Was any particular scene especially difficult for you to write – did you have to push yourself to break your own barriers at any point? If so, how did you get out of your own way?

“What I struggle with is making a scene as vivid as its inspiration.”
—ROSS

 

 

ROSS: No, writing isn’t like method acting, at least not to me. True, I miss the voices of certain narrators, like Jacob in “Middleman,” because he’s so fluent. What I struggle with is making a scene as vivid as its inspiration. The first story Donato tells in “The Rest of It” was based on a story a friend’s father told me when I was thirteen years old that haunted me for decades. The challenge is always to pass it on as powerfully as it arrived.

AUTHORLINK: Is it ever a challenge to dip into the perspective of a woman — especially dealing with a relationship? How do you go about getting inside the mind of a female character?

ROSS: “I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability.” Also, before I sit down to my desk, I put on my daughter’s tiara and my wife’s brassiere while breathing through my eyelids.

AUTHORLINK: Do you believe in the expression the road to hell is paved with good intentions?

ROSS: Absolutely. By the way, if you take a right on excess it leads to the palace of wisdom.

AUTHORLINK: Would you say all dreams come bearing an invisible price tag?

ROSS: Sometimes, sure, but the view from here is that they also come with varying paychecks, which helps or hurts when it comes to the price tags.

AUTHORLINK: Your works tend to cloak themselves in shadows – wearing the darker side of life. But how does Adam Ross view life outside of the story bubble? Do you see through rose colored glasses, clear lenses or a darker shade of gray?

ROSS: I’m an upbeat, can-do, optimistic guy—in short, annoying and dreadfully naive. It’s only on the page that I’m dark and cynical.

“If readers read your work, you’re lucky. . .”
—ROSS

 

 

AUTHORLINK: How important are your readers to you? What do you hope your stories offer to them?

ROSS: Writers write stories. That readers show up is really incidental. Consider Kafka’s few readers during his lifetime followed by his request that his best friend burn his work. He never found his audience. I’m not spitting in the reader’s eye here. I’m just saying that you try to tell a story well and the rest is gravy. If readers read your work, you’re lucky, at least as a writer of literary fiction. All I hope for is that I hold my reader’s attention from the beginning to the bitter end.

About Adam Ross:

To learn more about Adam Ross visit http://adam-ross.com/

Andrea Somberg Agent
Andrea Somberg, Agent

Andrea Somberg, Agent
Harvey Klinger Agency

A literary agent for over ten years, Andrea Somberg represents a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, including projects aimed at a young adult and middle grade audience. Previously an agent at the Donald Maass Agency and Vigliano Associates, she joined Harvey Klinger Inc. in the spring of 2005. Her client list is quite full, however she is always actively looking to take on new authors who write in the following categories: Fiction; literary, commercial, womens fiction, romance, thrillers, mystery, paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, young adult, middle grade. Nonfiction: memoir, narrative, popular science, pop-culture, humor, how-to, parenting, self-help, lifestyle, travel, interior design, crafts, cookbooks, business, sports, health & fitness.

Dedicated and devoted to the amazing stories that reshape worlds and inspire readers, Somberg is an unshakable champion for her clients. She shares a day in the life of a literary agent, why she tries only to take on projects she can sell and which glowing aspects of her job light up her smile.

  

AUTHORLINK: Agents wear so many different hats, and there is so much behind-the-scenes that the average writer doesn’t see. Would you share little Day in the Life of Andrea the agent?

SOMBERG: I start my day by answering any emails that have come in from clients or editors, and putting out any fires that might have cropped up overnight. I'll then usually get on the phone and pitch the latest project I'm going out with, and update my client about my progress. At some point I'll probably work on a submission list and marketing plan for the manuscript I'm going out with next, before heading out for a lunch meeting with an editor. I'll return from lunch, oftentimes to review a contract, or follow up regarding subsidiary rights submissions for my authors. At some point I'll respond to authors whose manuscripts I've read the night before, and I'll read and respond to queries that have come in. I'll end my day by editing a client's manuscript, and/or brainstorming ideas with them for their next book.

AUTHORLINK: Which aspect of your job makes you smile the most often?

SOMBERG: I'd say it's equally split between falling in love with a manuscript, and being able to call up that author several weeks later to tell them that their book is going to auction. Both give me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside

AUTHORLINK: Do you represent the kind of authors that you read, or do you tailor your client list to the market (or are they one in the same)?

SOMBERG: I am a voracious reader, so I read almost everything and anything. My client list reflects that – it it extremely diverse. As for whether I tailor my client list to the market, though — I try to only take on projects that I know I can sell. Otherwise, I don't think it's quite fair to the author.

AUTHORLINK: If you were going to commit the perfect murder, how would you go about it?

SOMBERG: I've got a few stellar ideas, but I won't mention them here — too incriminating

AUTHORLINK: What advice would you share with aspiring authors dealing with the current shifts in the publishing world?

SOMBERG: There is certainly seismic shifts in the industry, but I think the most important advice will remain the same: read a lot, write a lot, and never stop loving what you do.

  

Visit Andrea Somberg at: http://www.andreasomberg.com/cms/

About Regular Contributor
Paige Crutcher

Paige Crutcher is a wordie, writer, book addict, blogger, National Authors Examiner and columnist for authorlink.com. Visit her articles at: http://www.examiner.com/authors-in-national/paige-crutcher, her blog: http://paigesprose.blogspot.com/ or follow her on Twitter: @PCrutcher.