Northumbrian born author, L.J. Ross, lawyer turned writer, is the bestselling author of several crime fiction detective novels with DCI Ryan as the central character with some romance thrown in for good measure. Her debut novel, Holy Island was well-received and over the last two years, she has written five more novels. She currently lives in Bath, London with her family.
Q: Who is the real Louise Ross?
A: I’d say she’s in constant development but, generally speaking, I’m an author of mystery novels, a wife, a mother (to a precocious three-year-old) and, I hope, a good friend.
Q: You studied law at Kings College, London, and then went on to study in Paris and Florence. After that, you worked as a regulatory lawyer before becoming a full-time writer. Tell us how this transformation came about.
A: Yes, I was a City lawyer in a former life and have worked in various legal guises in the spheres of financial regulation and white collar crime. After living and working in London for around fourteen years, I began to feel a bit disillusioned seeing the same mistakes happening time and again, so I decided it was time to make a change before I became too jaded. Besides, I’d always harboured a dream to write and do something more creative with my life: I simply decided it was time to give it a go and have no regrets!
Q: What did you take away from your time spent in Paris and Florence?
A: I loved the time I spent in both of those cities and I think they represent a very aesthetic part of my life. In my early twenties, I was impressed by their beauty, culture, history and architecture. Now, although I still appreciate those things, I’m more aware of the fact that every city has its own problems and challenges to face.
Q: Tell us something about you that would surprise us.
I can dance a mean Argentinian tango! I used to be part of a dance troupe when I was (much) younger.
Q: Your first book, Holy Island was a number one bestseller. Not many writers experience the success that you had with a first novel. What do you think you did differently to the majority of authors when putting out that debut novel in order to get noticed?
A: Honestly, when I wrote Holy Island I was completely naïve about most of the publishing world (including self-publishing) and didn’t really give the ‘business’ element a second thought. I have always been a keen reader and I just found myself writing a book that I thought I would like to read, which sounds corny but happens to be true. Consequently, it spans more than one genre and manages to strike a balance between readers who enjoy straightforward crime and readers who prefer something more lighthearted. It’s unusual to have a crime book with elements of romance and humour! In hindsight and taking into account the feedback I’ve since received, I think Holy Island struck a chord with so many people because it was written accessibly but had a considered plot line, so wasn’t too facile. I spent a good chunk of time writing and re-writing the prologue because the first few paragraphs are the most important of any book. I deliberately used a cover that stood out from the others that happened to be in the bestsellers list at that time, whilst making sure it fitted the genre categories, and I tried to write a decent book description that would pull readers in. These sound like simple things, but I think they can be harder to achieve than most people think – after all, it’s hard to know what will work until you’ve tried it.
Q: Your subsequent books have all been best sellers. Are you still following the same formula that you applied to your debut novel, or do you think that there gets a time where your reputation precedes you and you can start taking it easy?
A: I never believe in taking it easy, or becoming complacent, no matter how many books you have sold. It takes consistent effort to produce a book that readers will hopefully enjoy and when you’ve chosen to self-publish as I have, there are added layers of responsibility. Fortunately, I happen to enjoy all of the elements that go into it, so it never feels too much like hard work! Each time I release a new book, I feel nervous about how it will be received and I think that’s a good thing because it means I am constantly striving to become better at what I do. In the publishing world, everybody is trying to bring their ‘A’ game and readers are entitled to be very discerning, so it encourages authors to maintain a quality standard.
Q: You have had Holy Island translated into German. Was it worth the effort?
A: Holy Island was well received in Germany but I haven’t directed too much energy towards foreign translations! I find my biggest consumer markets are the UK, Australia and US, so I believe it makes sense to prioritise my time in those areas (fortunately, no translation required!). Having said that, I will turn my mind to Spanish and other translations in due course.
Q: Your books are in a number of different formats; e-book, paperback, audio book and MP3 CD. Which format has been the most successful when it comes to sales?
A: Ebooks remain by far the most dominant market and account for 90% of my business (a million ebooks sold since 2015), although my audiobooks have all been bestsellers on the Audible store and paperback sales are also very buoyant. I think those figures bear out what many indies already know to be true: ebooks remain very popular!
Q: All your books center around DCI Ryan. Did you deliberately set out to write a crime detective series, or was that a natural progression after the success of Holy Island?
A: It was a natural progression. When I wrote Holy Island I had no expectations whatsoever and I thought that, perhaps, one or two family and friends might read it! After it made it to UK #1 I realised there was no turning back and readers began to ask ‘what happens next?’ Before I knew it, I had a new storyline plotted out and I still have so many ideas popping into my mind. Having said that, I have also written a standalone thriller and the bones of a brand new series, so it’s nice to vary things from a creative standpoint.
Q: How important do you think it is for a writer to live in a busy city like London, for example, in order to further one’s career considering that it gives you ready access to audiences and fellow writers through literary festivals, book readings, book fairs and the like? Do you have any that you regularly attend?
vI think one of the most positive things about writing is its inherent flexibility: you can work wherever you like and at irregular times, if you need to. I was able to move out of London and I don’t feel this decision has impacted my career in any way. Regarding events, I think these serve a dual purpose: networking and socialising with other like-minded people (it’s good to get out of the house!) and brand-building. Events do not tend to lead to any direct sales and, from a purely business perspective, I believe my time is best spent writing and building up a body of intellectual property which readers can enjoy. However, I do participate in events from time-to-time, particularly to support libraries, to pass on any useful knowledge I’ve garnered to help other writers progress their own careers, or to meet loyal readers who would like to hear about how DCI Ryan came into being!