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Words with a Wordsmith: Michael Ross
By Rebecca D’Harlingue
October 22, 2021

Michael Ross writes about little-known people and events of the past, to help us understand our lives today.

Do you tend to write about places you’ve been to, or places you wish you could go to?

I tend to write about places I have been to. I make it a point to visit the scenes of my books and experience the location as much as I can, given the distance in time. For example, with the Clouds of War, I roamed all over the Lexington, Kentucky area. I spent an afternoon with the curator of Ashland, the Henry Clay plantation, as well as visiting the John Hunt Morgan house, Waveland Plantation, and the Cheapside slave market. I followed the trail of the Underground Railroad, visited Lebanon, TN, and other locations that occur in the book. For The Search, COVID got in the way of some of the planned travels, but I had traveled in Wyoming extensively beforehand, and flew out to visit Darren Parry, touring the site of the Bear River Massacre with him. I went to Fort Laramie and Fort Bridger. Fortunately, for book 3, the last in the series, the locations are all near where I live, in Kansas and Texas. We’ll look at the start of Nicodemus, an all-black town in western Kansas, as well as the beginning of my hometown, Lubbock. I’ve already made a research trip to Nicodemus, and plan to re-visit Lubbock in the near future.

What’s the best compliment a reader has ever given you?

Two things, really – When writing The Clouds of War, where I have four point of view characters, two of those are women – and since I am male, I was concerned to get the female characters right. I used at least ten female beta readers and took their advice seriously. After publication, a reader commented that she normally doesn’t read books by men, because they never get the women right – but she thought I nailed it. Doesn’t get much better than that, does it? Second, I worked with Darren Parry, Chairman of the Northwestern Shoshone, as an advisor and sensitivity reader, and Darren not only endorsed the book but said I had “gotten the Shoshone parts right.”

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

I think the best money I spent was to attend the 2017 Historical Novel Society (HNS) conference. Writer’s conferences are often like compressed college courses in writing and marketing, as well as providing invaluable contacts. I came away from the conference as an unpublished debut author with a request from Irene Goodman, got to rub shoulders with Geraldine Brooks and ask her questions, and met my editor and friend, Jenny Quinlan. I learned so much through HNS, which led to a two-year stint on the board. Writers’ conferences are a great way to grow in your writing and in the industry.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Normally I work on one project at a time, but over the past year, I’ve been experimenting with doing multiple projects. In addition to working on the third book of Across the Great Divide (tentative title The Founding), I wrote part of a novel about a Civil War nurse, the beginnings of a “Johnny Tremain style” book on a real boy that was in George Washington’s Honor Guard, and a non-fiction Christian memoir based on my mother’s life as a missionary/teacher in China. Also, Clouds of War is currently being translated into Chinese for publication in China. Then of course there’s an old children’s novel that will likely never see the light of day – don’t we all have one in our drawer?

What brings you great joy as a writer?

Whenever I hear that someone read my book, and it influenced their thinking or caused them to learn, that is a source of great joy and satisfaction. I love making the past relevant to the present, showing how we could do better, and puncturing the myths and stereotypes of history that some carry around and propagate. I’ve had folks tell me that the books have made them appreciate freedom. Some have said they never realized slavery was as bad, and bigotry as pervasive as it was in the 1800s. I’ve had many tell me that they never knew of the Bear River Massacre, or the lack of freedom of Native Americans stretching all the way to 1978. I’d like to think that my writing can be an agent for positive change.

Best-selling author Michael Ross is a lover of history and great stories. He’s a retired software engineer turned author, with three children and five grandchildren, living in Newton, Kansas with his wife of forty years. He was born in Lubbock, Texas, and still loves Texas. The main character of “Across the Great Divide”, William Dorsey Crump, is one of the founders of Lubbock and Shallowater, Texas. Michael knew Will’s granddaughter when he was a child. He has written a scholarly article on Will Crump for the Texas Historical Society, published in the Handbook of Texas Online, and has sold short stories in the past. The first novel in the Across the Great Divide series, the Clouds of War, was an Amazon #1 best seller in three categories, and made the Amazon Top 100 paid. The second in the series, The Search, looks at sensitive cross-cultural issues and was endorsed by Darren Parry, Chairman of the Northwestern Shoshone tribe.

Michael attended Rice University as an undergraduate, and Portland State University for his graduate degree. He has degrees in computer science, software engineering, and German, as well as most of an MBA. In his spare time, Michael loves to go fishing, riding horses, and play with his grandchildren, who are currently all under eight years old.

He sees many parallels between the time of the Civil War and our divided nation of today. Sanctuary cities, immigration, arguments around the holiday table, threats of secession – all are nothing new. Sometimes, to understand the present, you have to look at the past- and reach Across the Great Divide.

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Books may be purchased at a discounted rate directly from Michael’s website.

Rebecca D’Harlingue
Written by Rebecca D’Harlingue

Award-winning author Rebecca D’Harlingue writes about seventeenth-century women forging a different path. Her debut novel, The Lines Between Us, won an Independent Press Award and a CIBA Chaucer Award. Her second novel, The Map Colorist, won a Literary Titan Award and a Firebird Book Award.

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