The ShatterColors Standard Interview -- Author Version: Gary Earl Ross

(Interview consists of 15 pre-set questions. Authors have published at least one novel or short story/poetry collection.)

1) Why did you begin writing, and how long have you been doing so?

I began writing at age ten, after I discovered Ray Bradbury. I spent a rainy Saturday reading R is for Rocket and decided I wanted to write stories.

2) What does your writing routine consist of?

I don't have a routine. I write when I'm not teaching. Sometimes I write at night, sometimes in the morning, and on rare days in the afternoon. I carry a flash drive to work so I write during lunch or between student appointments.

3) Have specific events ever flung you into an extended and productive period of creativity?

Writing is my response to trauma. I wrote furiously after my first divorce and after my mother's death. My second wife and I recently separated, and my dad is in a nursing home, rapidly deteriorating with Alzheimer's, so I'm writing a lot now.

4) What are common sources of inspiration?

My mind is always searching for something. Interesting news stories, an unexpected look from a stranger, an obscure piece of information--anything can spark a story.

5) What does a book need to do to get you to read it from beginning to end?

The story must grab the reader and keep him or her turning the pages. When I teach writing workshops, I spend a lot of time talking about the opening line. There's the hook that pulls the reader in. I rarely give up on a book I've started because I generally have read the first page before I've bought it. Usually I read 70-100 books a year, from novels to poetry to plays to biographies to histories to graphic novels. I enjoy knowing things and I look for books that teach me something or seem likely to give me delightful surprises.

6) Who are some of the authors you most admire?

Twain, Baldwin, Hawthorne, Melville, Zora Neale Hurston, Nabokov, Tennessee Williams, Agatha Christie, Joyce Carol Oates, John A. Williams, Walter Mosley, Orwell, Robert B. Parker, Stephen King, Ishmael Reed--the list is just too long.

7) How familiar are you with the literary canon?

I am very well read in both classics and popular literature, science fiction and mysteries (I belong to Mystery Writers of America). I've read Canterbury Tales in Middle English, Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera, and Frank Miller's Dark Knight.

8) What's your take on politics and literary endeavor?

Writers must speak truth to power, which is why in my semi-regular NPR commentaries I challenge the administration's spin about the War on Terror--and I do so as a father who had to help buy body armor for his son.

9) What are your feelings about formal vs. free verse?

I don't write a lot of poetry so I'm neutral.

10) Do you feel "flash" fiction (300 words or less) is a viable form, or nothing more than a writing exercise?

I think it's a wonderful form. In fact, I'll include the shortest story I ever wrote (part of a larger piece called "17 Movements in the Symphony of the Flesh"):


They agreed early in their relationship to shave each night before bed so that neither would find the other's mustache bristle an irritant when they kissed.

11) When not writing, what do you do for amusement?

Books, movies, games, video games, dining out, walking, bicycling.

12) What's one of the most annoying things you can think of?


13) Briefly describe what you consider to be one of your standout childhood pranks.

I was senior class president and organized our senior prank. We made a dummy and brought it into our fourth floor cafeteria in six sections. We assembled it, slid a mask over its head, staged a fight, and sent it flying out the window. (Two teachers with heart conditions were notified in advance.)

14) What are your upcoming projects/works in progress?

I've written a screenplay based on my Edgar-winning play Matter of Intent and have begun a novelization as well. I have two other plays planned and recently completed a couple short mystery stories. Also, I have a couple of public radio commentaries on the drawing board.

15) Care to conclude with a sweeping philosophical statement?

As a teacher, I try to give voice to the voiceless. As a writer, I try to intrigue, inform, and entertain. I have no philosophical statement, only a personal certainty: writing keeps me off the ledge.


The ShatterColors Standard Interview -- Author Version
© 2006 by Robert Scott Leyse

Gary Earl Ross Responses
© 2007 by Gary Earl Ross



About the Author

Gary Earl Ross is a professor at the University at Buffalo, a fiction writer, and a playwright. His books include The Wheel of Desire and Shimmerville. His plays include the Edgar Award-winning Matter of Intent and the political drama The Best Woman. Visit him at The Writer's Den (



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