Lynnwood woman turns hobby into a mystery novel trilogy

  • <b>FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS | </b>By Mina Williams Herald writer
  • Tuesday, May 22, 2012 6:59pm

LYNNWOOD — What started out as a homemade Christmas gift for friends and family has morphed into a mystery novel trilogy for Lynnwood resident Ruth Ross, 51.

Ross’ foray into novel writing started with National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is a nonprofit literary crusade that challenges aspiring novelists to put 50,000 words down during its November celebration. Ross first entered the effort in 2010.

Now with three books under her belt, all in the “Two Widows” series, she says that the 30-day deadline gives her a reason to write and a goal.

“I always wanted to write a book since I was a kid,” Ross said. “I always made up little stories. … I wanted to write something fun. But I felt I didn’t have a single story to tell that was novel-worthy.”

Ross’ creative inspiration came as she thought about everyday topics.

“I got to thinking about my daily life,” she said. “I shop at thrift stores and I always imagine about the previous owners of the treasures I find. One day I tried on a dress and I caught a whiff of perfume on it. I got to thinking about what the woman who had once worn the dress might be like. I wondered if she was still alive.”

That moment was a catalyst for Ross’ creative process.

She wrote her first book with her mother in mind. The story line of the mystery novel is about a woman who has taken her mother in, as Ross has.

“It’s a different type of family,” Ross said. “The book is about doing what you have to do to create a family and the relationship shifts of a parent becoming the child and the child becoming a parent.”

With the writing completed, next came the challenge of getting the book published, a daunting task for novelists.

Rather than seeking a contract with a traditional publisher, Ross opted for the self-published route to maintain creative license.

“I enjoy having control over the entire process,” she said. “I didn’t want to turn over the process to somebody else.” She wanted to select the novel’s cover and its title in particular.

She settled on Third Place Press, at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. From the espresso cart-sized equipment, authors can have their books designed and printed from typical electronic document files.

“I thought it would be fun to give my family my book for Christmas,” Ross said.

The process took about 20 minutes.

“I just walked in and did it, then walked out with a bag full of books,” she said.

Ross’ second novel came in 2010; the third was finished in 2011. Those were also written during the annual NaNoWriMo effort. However, she ramped up her publishing and promotion efforts through Create Space, the self-publishing arm of Amazon.

“The first book I printed without the hope of selling it,” Ross said. “Now my novels are sold at Amazon, just like a ‘real’ book. Now people all over the world are buying my books.”

Amazon offers promotional support, gives authors an online page for additional outreach to potential readers and provides technical support.

“I had no idea that anyone outside of my circle of friends would ever read it,” she said. “I’m flattered.”

Ross has sold about 20,000 books. She attributes e-reader sales to this success.

“For $2.99 or $3.99 people will take a chance on a book,” Ross said. “And I get most of that money. When people buy a physical copy, for $10, there are far less sales and profits.”

Ross works full time for an Everett company in document controls. She served on the Lynnwood City Council for eight years.

Publishing DIY

• National Novel Writing Month,

• Amazon’s online self-publishing tool,

• Ruth Ross’ author page,

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