I’m delighted today to welcome a new-to-me author Ross Ponderson to Thoughts in Progress and learn about his recent release, CHILD OF PRIVILEGE.
Ross will be talking about how his book came about and his writing in general. In addition, he is sharing an excerpt from the book and has graciously offered not one but five (5) free Kindle Gift eBook downloads for a giveaway. Please see the end of the post for more giveaway details.
Here’s a description of CHILD OF PRIVILEGE:
Dana Van Werner is riding a bus bound for nowhere.
In her pockets, she carries a bus ticket, $260, hope, her own wits, and an unbreakable will. In her memories, she carries the nightmares of frequent beatings, growing up in constant fear, physical and verbal abuse, and her father's unfathomable hatred. Dana, a 19-year-old debutante born into wealth, privilege, culture, and social standing, ponders her new world--the "real" world--for which she is laughably ill-prepared.
She doesn't know where she's going, where her next meal is coming from, or where she'll sleep tonight. She does, however, take comfort in two certainties: that the brutal beatings at the hands of her father--a psychotic, powerful attorney--are finally over; and that her decision to run away from the palatial mansion she once called home has probably saved her life.
This lovable, down-to-earth teenager (more "girl next door" than debutante) grows up quickly as she confronts intercity buses, seedy motels, wet t-shirt contests, jail cells, honky-tonks, night people, and sexual predators. All the while, she is relentlessly pursued by private investigators hired by her revenge-obsessed father to bring her back under his control.
You'll cheer the courage, strength, and determination of this endearing heroine as she searches for a new home and a new life, and finds a gentle, caring man--a bachelor deputy sheriff--who truly loves her.
But she has no inkling of the nightmare awaiting her at the end of the road.
A dizzying chain of events is triggered by an accident that claims the life of someone Dana loves. Suspicions surrounding the tragedy--and her own anger--force the teenager to return home. Upon her arrival, a humiliating family secret kept carefully hidden for years is callously revealed. This sets the stage for the inevitable final showdown between father and daughter as long-simmering anger, resentment, and hunger for revenge finally erupt into a terrifying flashpoint.
This emotional rollercoaster will lift you to heartwarming heights, plunge you into tearful depths, and amuse you with moments of wry humor.
Join Dana Van Werner on her desperate journey. Let this Child of Privilege inspire you, uplift you, and touch you in her uniquely personal way. You just may discover a part of yourself in her.
Please join me now in giving a warm welcome to Ross as he talks about his writing. Welcome, Ross.
As my favorite English teacher critiqued a short story I’d written for his class, he offered me a nugget of sage advice that has remained with me to this day: “Conflict is the root of all good fiction.”
Without the time-honored struggles of antagonist versus protagonist, good versus evil, and predator versus prey, you have no arc of suspense; your story has no “hook” to engage the reader’s imagination; that thrilling climax you’ve envisioned has no conflicts to resolve; and, worse yet, your novel fails to establish an “interest connection” with your reader.
In short, you have no story.
CHILD OF PRIVILEGE’s development began with—of all things—a newspaper photo of a group of debutantes attending a fundraising gala. They were the essence of culture, grace and style: visions of elegance in their lavish formal gowns, their beautiful faces impeccably made-up and positively beaming, and not a hair out of place.
Then the writer’s best friend—the beloved “what if”—started blasting in the back of my mind like an arcade game. What if this picture were nothing more than a facade? What if those picture-perfect smiles were disguising something dark and sinister? What if—behind the closed doors of their opulent mansions—their lives were punctuated by beatings, emotional and verbal abuse, and the constant fear of family violence? What if one of those affluent, beautiful young women was—behind that glittering smile--reaching her emotional breaking point?
Thus was born my debut novel, CHILD OF PRIVILEGE, and its protagonist, Dana Van Werner.
My primary antagonist—and Dana would be tormented by several over the course of the novel—was her father Richard, a wealthy, Type-A, mega-successful lawyer driven by a veritable rogue’s gallery of demons: power, winning at any cost, social standing, greed, avarice, influence, and the unquestioned domination of his world, especially his family whom he regarded as little more than window-dressing for his own public image.
Curious as to whether or not this outrageous idea had the “legs” to run the literary marathon that is a modern-day novel, I started scribbling down a series of ideas, possibilities, and concepts as they occurred to me. I was amazed at how easily they all flowed.
The first component of the story would serve to “equalize” Dana with the “real world,” to banish her from her comfort zone--blue-blooded society--and effectively “knock her down a few pegs.” A huge number of pegs, actually. That part was easy. To that end, the story opens in the middle of a chilly autumn night with Dana riding a decrepit intercity bus bound for nowhere. You can imagine how that felt to a young woman accustomed to luxury and elegance. But she had finally escaped the chamber of horrors that was the Van Werner mansion. In doing so, however, she had cut herself off from her former life, including her home, her wealth, and her long-suffering socialite mother Maggie.
As the miles swirled past in the darkness, Dana continually struggled with smothering feelings of loneliness, doubt, isolation, fear, and worry for the beloved Mom she had left behind.
The liberation of Dana Van Werner had begun.
Once I had pried her out of her element, I started concocting a string of situations that would confront this former debutante: fleabag motels, seedy diners, perverts, jail cells, honky-tonks, night people, and sexual predators. One particularly introspective sequence featured her dancing in a wet t-shirt contest to earn money for a bus ticket. Two long-running threads were used to build my suspense arc: Richard’s relentless pursuit of his prodigal daughter across the country; and the parade of private detectives hired to bring her back under his control. I created one detective in particular—a vulgar, obnoxious buffoon named Reavis Macklin—to take a fiendish delight in tormenting Dana well beyond the requirements of his assignment.
Character development and evolution are essential in building that bridge to the reader. To that end, I designed an unusually large number of inter-character conflicts into my storyline. In addition, I forced each player to confront his/her own personal demons as well. The result is a story taut with tension and uncertainty, betrayals and shifting alliances, behind-the-scenes skullduggery and lies, flawed heroes and demonic villains, and a plot with more twists than the bakery section of your local supermarket. These were just a few of the many devices I employed to keep the suspense arc climbing and heightening its appeal to the reader.
After spending a night in jail and escaping a horrifying encounter with Macklin, Dana found refuge in a bucolic Colorado farm town. There she also found love in the form of a bachelor deputy sheriff who convinced her that a man’s touch needn’t be malicious and painful. I took particular pains to bring that budding relationship along slowly, wanting to avoid the “Hi …nice to meet you … let’s do it” scenario. Considering the scars Dana bore, that approach would’ve lacked credibility. Slowly, she did learn to trust again and to feel comfortable with a man’s touch.
Richard’s frustration, meanwhile, pushed him to the brink of insanity. In one of the subplots, an accident triggered a stunning turn of events that drew Dana back home and straight into her father’s clutches. In the shadows, Reavis Macklin quietly plotted unthinkable revenge against our heroine.
With Dana’s reappearance at the Van Werner mansion, everything hit the fan at once.
Dana and Richard clashed in a singularly bloody and emotional showdown. Macklin—drunk on a reckless cocktail of anger, macho, and testosterone—interfered and threw himself into the carnage of an already horrifying scene. A humiliating and long-hidden secret was callously revealed and shredded the fabric of the Van Werner family. Truths were uncovered and closets were flung wide open, allowing their skeletons to tumble forth. By the time those climactic chapters closed, all that remained were the post-mortems.
As for those final pages before The End, I think many authors develop a signature “style” for closing out a novel. One approach that has always intrigued me was one used in the 1970s movie American Graffiti and on the Dragnet television series. As a result, I dedicated CHILD’s final chapter to a series of brief vignettes describing the principal characters’ ultimate fates. Some readers appreciated this; others preferred to use their own imaginations. It’s a matter of personal preference and I respect that. But I wanted to present a complete story—a neatly-wrapped package, if you will—to the reader. On a personal level, it also lent a sense of closure to the novel.
In closing, I hope this peek inside CHILD OF PRIVILEGE has been informative and entertaining. I enjoyed bringing it to you. I would also like to thank Mason Canyon for the opportunity to meet all of you.
Happy reading … and writing!
Ross, thank you for joining us today and sharing this understanding into your story. I especially like how you took a photo of a group of debutantes and turned it into this fascinating thriller. The ‘What if’ is a powerful tool.
Now for those who aren’t familiar with Ross, here’s a bit of background on him.
|Author Ross Ponderson doesn't do photos :-)|
He has enjoyed writing since his grammar school days when essay assignments delighted him while provoking groans of pain from his classmates.
His pleasure centers include writing (of course), reading, railroading, Subway sandwiches, history, surfing (the web, not the waves!), museums of any kind, 1970’s music, wishing he had become a professional musician (much to the dismay of his weary keyboard), searching for new story ideas, and strolling through the local malls. He ALWAYS brakes for book emporiums, ice cream shops, and music stores.
“Child of Privilege” is his debut novel; his second novel is currently being first-drafted. Hopefully, many more will follow.
For more on Ross and his writing, visit his blog and connect with him through email (email@example.com), on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook.
CHILD OF PRIVILEGE is available on Amazon.
Here’s an excerpt from CHILD OF PRIVILEGE for your reading pleasure …
This giveaway is for not one but five (5) free Kindle Gift eBook downloads of CHILD OF PRIVILEGE by Ross Ponderson. This giveaway is open to all and will end at 12 a.m. (EST) on Thursday, March 31.
To enter the giveaway, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load so please be patient. A winner will be selected by the Rafflecopter widget and I’ll send an email with the subject line “Thoughts in Progress Giveaway.” The winner will have 72 hours to reply to the email or another winner will be selected. PLEASE be sure to check your spam folder from time to time after the giveaway ends to make sure the notification email doesn’t end up there. If you win and you’ve already won the book somewhere else or you just decided for whatever reason you don’t want to win (which is fine), once again PLEASE let me know.
Thanks so much for stopping by today. Do you ever read an article in the newspaper or see a photo/story on TV and wonder ‘what if’ about it?
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