Rebecca Ross on Food, Writing Rituals, and Storytelling

With her books translated into thirteen different languages, Rebecca Ross has taken the world by storm. In her most recent publications, the Elements of Cadence duology (A River Enchanted and A Fire Endless) she takes advantage of mythological influences and couples them with the little magics of everyday life – no doubt inspired by her own wild garden in Georgia. The human experience reaches new depths through the main characters, Adaira and Jack, and the separation created by warring clans. With each page, the reader is left wondering – what’s going to happen next? And, can Adaira and Jack overcome their differences and bring long-awaited peace to their homes?

Rebecca Ross writes fantasy novels for teens and adults. She lives in the Appalachian foothills of Northeast Georgia with her husband, their lively Australian Shepherd, and an endless pile of books. The Queen’s Rising, The Queen’s Resistance, Sisters of Sword & Song, and Dreams Lie Beneath are her titles for young adult readers. The Elements of Cadence series is her adult fantasy debut.

How did you discover the vulnerability of Jack’s character?

Jack was, strangely enough, one of the last characters that came to me when I was brainstorming this story. But once I found him, I felt chills run down my arms, like he was someone that had been patiently waiting years for me to find. I began to ask myself who was he. Why was he on the mainland when his clan was on the island? What did he want? What was his past? His secret wounds? I knew almost immediately that music was important to him, but I also sensed that he held resentment and sadness and, most of all, a longing to be claimed. To belong somewhere. Writing from his point of view was seamless, and his vulnerability, while it came to me in layers, was something that guided me throughout the entire draft.  

    Do you have any mythological influences? If so, who? Which stories?

    One of my favorite fairy tales is “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” which is a retelling of the Greek myth Cupid and Psyche. And one of my favorite novels is C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, which is his interpretation of the Cupid and Psyche myth. It’s a story that I’m drawn back to, time and time again, and I still think of it, years after reading.

    How do you think living in the South impacts your choices when writing?

    One thing I’ve discovered with each book I write is that food is important to my characters — what they eat, who they eat it with, what the food says about their world. I honestly didn’t realize this until another author friend of mine mentioned she noticed it in A River Enchanted, and it took me back in time when I was a child, sitting at my grandparent’s table. My grandparents were wonderful cooks, and I have so many fond memories tied to the food they made. Cheddar biscuits, grits, creamed eggs on toast, barbeque sandwiches, banana pudding, homemade pies, fresh beans snapped from the garden. The list goes on, and I feel like their sense of Southern hospitality — they would welcome anyone to the table and feed them the absolute best that they had, made fresh from scratch — has left such a mark on me that I subconsciously write it into my own stories.     

    What inspired back-to-back release dates for the two books in your Cadence series?

    I think readers these days are always very happy when an author can release books in a series close together. I’m also one of those readers who loves a good duology or trilogy to sink into and I know that the wait between books can be excruciating sometimes. All that being said, it takes a tremendous amount of work to publish books within months of each other. That decision was something my editor and I both agreed on years ago when she first acquired A River Enchanted, and I was very excited by the thought of the two volumes releasing in the same year (although I’m not sure how often I will be able to replicate this feat in the future, as the deadlines were intense!).

    What does your writing ritual look like? Do you have a specific order of events that needs to happen to get your mind ready to sit down and write?

    My best working hours are right after I wake up when my mind is fresh and I’m still feeling the magic of my dreams from the night before. Lately, I’ve been starting work at 6 a.m., writing before the sun rises with a cup of tea or coffee for company. I’ll write for a few hours and then stop for breakfast. Then I’ll return to my desk and write some more before taking a break to exercise and answer emails. If I’m on deadline, I’ll block off more time, whether it be the afternoon or evening, for another writing sprint. I write full-time and I have trained myself to treat it like a 9-5 job, showing up at my desk to write even when I don’t feel inspired. So while I don’t have a ritual per se, I do have a routine, and that has helped me unlock my best writing hours and be very productive.  

    What advice do you have for budding authors, particularly in the fantasy genre, which can be difficult to break into?

    I think it’s important to know what books in the genre are hitting the market, and what books people are gravitating to and loving, but don’t let it stop or discourage you from writing the story that you want to write. There’s something very powerful about writing for yourself. In writing a book that you want to read. And even if nothing ever happens with that novel, none of it was wasted time. Every word, every page, every chapter, every book you write makes you sharper and wiser in the craft. You will only continue to grow, so don’t let rejection or trends stop you. And be open to new ideas. Challenge yourself in your own work. Make friends with other writers who are also on their own publishing journeys. Having other author friends to celebrate with you, critique your work when you need it, and be with you through the hard moments is invaluable in this industry.  

    What are the essential elements of a good story?

    As a reader, I want three things (which I strive for as an author). I want to be emotionally manipulated — make me laugh, cry, rage, worry, swoon, etc. I want to fall in love with the characters — as in, I would follow them anywhere; I would bleed and die for them. And I want to be in awe of the execution, whether that be a plot twist, the atmosphere, or the beauty and skill of the language and storytelling.   

    Which character was your favorite to create? Why?

    This is a tough question to answer because I truly loved all the points of view in this series. But if I had to choose, I would say Sidra. Anytime I was writing one of her chapters, it was effortless. And her story resonated with me deeply.

    If you could meet one author, any author, and talk with them about writing for one hour, who would it be and why?

    Ah, there are so many authors who I would love to have such an opportunity with! But I would have to say Melina Marchetta. Her Lumatere Chronicles are some of my favorite books of all time. I consider her one of my greatest influences and I would be honored if I ever had the opportunity to meet her.

    What led to your decision to include multiple points of view rather than a singular one?

    Multiple narration feels epic to me. It also enabled me to open up the world and the story in a way that would have been impossible had I limited myself to one point of view. I also loved having the chance to delve deeper into multiple characters’ inner journeys. It made both A River Enchanted and A Fire Endless two of the most rewarding stories I have ever written. 

    A River Enchanted
    By Rebecca Ross
    Published February 15, 2022

    A Fire Endless
    By Rebecca Ross
    Published December 6, 2022