Second-Chance Situations: An Interview with Jeff Ross

Author Jeff Ross first contacted me to chat about editing. He’d been referred by a former client (thanks, T.S.!) and wanted to polish up his story, The Burglar, before he republished the book, which is an “entertaining, fun ‘mystery’ . . . that is told from both human and pets points of view.” One reader wrote, “Every page of the book grabs your attention, and you will feel connected to every character—from the cat to the waitress at the diner and everyone in between!” Connection like that with readers is what the writing business is all about, so I’m sure Jeff is thrilled to hear that news. Jeff just recently retired, and though he might have a few more hours on his hands than other authors I’ve recently interviewed, I’m still grateful he took the time to answer my questions.

Christina: Congrats on the republication of your novel, The Burglar. Can you tell us a little bit about the plot? And what made you want to republish the book now?

Jeff: Thank you, Christina. I originally published The Burglar in 2004 and I always felt it had a lot of potential. Back then, I had a few book signings and gave some talks at coffee shops, but I feel that I really didn’t market the book effectively. Over the years, I received various comments from readers who stated, “This book has some very believable characters and seems to flow very well. Have you thought about really expanding your marketing efforts?” Since I retired this year from my full-time job, I told myself that now is the time to republish.

The book has two plots that run in parallel:

  • Plot 1 contains the adventures of Max (the protagonist dog) and Penny (his side-kick, and sometimes bratty cat sister). The two pets are constantly kidding around and messing with each other while their pet parents are at work or running errands. On a day that begins innocently, the pets scatter as their front door bursts open and a real life burglar suddenly appears in their living room. The pets are the only two witnesses and they actually talk to each other. But they have no way to tell their human owners who did it.
  • Plot 2 consists of the human interaction and how they try to solve the crime. A policewoman named Mattie is kidnapped by the Burglar, but she is amazed at what she discovers.

Both plots are interwoven throughout the book, and there is a thrilling ending.

Christina: Did an event inspire the book? And if so, what was your process in turning a single event into a novel?

Jeff: Yes, there was an event that inspired me to write the story. In 2003, our home was burglarized by someone who stole a few pieces of jewelry while we attended a neighborhood picnic. When we returned home, our cat, Polly, was gingerly stepping between the broken glass shards on our kitchen floor. Apparently, the thief had broken a window to enter the house. It was at that moment that I got the idea for the story. When Polly was so careful not to cut her paws, I thought, She knows who did this but she can’t tell me! I added a dog to the story (he was based on our real life Labrador retriever named Shooter Benjamin). After I wrote the first few paragraphs of the manuscript, the rest of the story just flew off of the pages.

Christina: These animals, Max and Penny, a dog and cat, respectively, at times steal the show in this book. What was it like to write from the point of view of an animal? At any time, did you think to yourself, “What am I doing? And am I doing this right?”

Jeff: That’s a great question, Christina. These two pets were fun to write about as I created their wisecracking and silly antics in my head. In real life, dogs and cats communicate with each other. Wouldn’t it be funny if they could actually speak dog-English and cat-English? As an author, I found myself actually laughing during some of the pet conversations in the book!

Christina: One of the things that The Burglar does well is reinforce that we, as humans, often don’t know what our fellow humans are going through. Mattie shows great empathy in scenes with Jonathan (the Burglar), a characteristic more of us should embody. What other messages do you hope to impart with this book?

Jeff: What the Burglar did was wrong when he broke into the home. However, throughout the story, I describe some of the family issues that disrupted his childhood and caused him to make some bad decisions as an adult. In real life, I am in favor of providing second chances in certain situations.

Christina: I love learning about everyone’s journey to publication (or republication, in this case). Will you share a little bit about yours? Did you encounter any surprises along the way?

Jeff: When I sought to re-publish the book, I sent the manuscript to all types of publishers—traditional, hybrid, and self-publishers. After much thought, I chose Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). In doing so, I first updated the cover design by utilizing a common software program and then uploaded the entire package to KDP. I enjoyed utilizing KDP and the interface is very user-friendly. The book is available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook on Amazon.

Christina: What did you do in your former life? Did your occupation inform your writing at all?

Jeff: I worked for many years as a Contracts/Subcontracts Manager. When I’m looking for ideas for fiction, I generally look outside of work, specifically at personalities of relatives, friends, neighbors, or even events that happen in the news. And don’t forget the pets!

Christina: What else is in the works for you?

Jeff: My next book is currently untitled. It is about a person who is involved in crime and finds himself in a coma after a drive-by shooting in Cincinnati. I hope to complete the work sometime this fall.

Jeff can be found on Facebook at @jeffross99

Thanks to Jeff for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.

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