Keri-Rae Barnum sits down with Orna Ross to discuss her bestselling fiction series, poetry, how Orna ended up with a pen name and more.
Watch the video or scroll down to read the transcript.
Keri-Rae Barnum: We have been acquainted through Amy Collins and New Shelves for quite some time and yet I did not know until recently that Orna Ross is actually pen name. How did that come about?
Orna Ross: Yes, not a lot of people know this because it's been there for so long. It goes back to publishing my first novel, which was early 2003. So we're talking about 20 years ago now. My then publisher, Penguin, was a London based publisher and they felt that my real name, which is Áine McCarthy – it’s a real Irish name, all those vowels – they just felt it was unpronounceable and a hindrance people would trip over. So they said go home, come up with something that's phonetic in English and easy to read and easy for people to remember.
Later that evening, I was calling my kids down for tea and I shouted “Orghna! Ross!”
Orghna’s my daughter’s name. Ross is my son’s name. And I thought Hmm… that kind of works. If I take the GH – because my daughter also had the Irish spelling to her name – away for “Orna”, we’ve got a name that is phonetic in English, short, easy for book signings – just 8 letters. So that's how it came about.
Keri-Rae Barnum: That's so fun! Is it confusing now that many people know you by your children's names?
Orna Ross: It got very confusing when we all lived together. So my son is Ross Philip Lynch. My husband is Philip Lynch, so… It was Orna Ross for writing. My professional name was Orna Lynch. My husband being Ross Lynch. Yeah, it was a nightmare.
It's fine now. Also, while my kids absolutely loved it when I did it – they were I think eight and six then – when they came into their teen years, they were not so impressed. *laughing*
Keri-Rae Barnum: That's a fun story. Because like I said, I didn't know…
Orna Ross: Yeah, anyone I know through work, and that includes my readers, know me as Orna. I answer to both equally and I just don't distinguish anymore. It just becomes part of who you are in a way. I do like having a pen name it serves all sorts of functions, I think, for a writer. And yeah, I'm kind of glad I have one.
Keri-Rae Barnum: So, if you had to do it over again, you would still choose a pen name?
Orna Ross: I don't know if I would have been inspired to myself, but I'm glad that I did so. Yes, I guess.
Keri-Rae Barnum: That's great. And speaking of your writing, you write both poetry and fiction, which one came first?
Orna Ross: That's a good question. In writing terms, the poetry came first. I began writing poems as a teenager, but in publishing terms, the fiction came first.
I stopped writing poetry when I left school and I didn't go back to it until at the death of a very close friend in my early forties. And then I started to publish it myself. So now I write both and they're equal for me.
Keri-Rae Barnum: And you released quite a bit of your poetry on your website. It, every week, it looks like you do a blog with a poem. Is that pretty consistent?
Orna Ross: Yeah, I'm even more consistent than that. I do Instagram poetry. And so every second day, I do a poem. Well, you know, occasionally it slips a little bit, but that's the aim. So there's me one day and the next is Indie Poetry Please, where I feature the poem of the young or beginning indie poet. Some of them are very short or Haiku poetry, you know…Instagram poetry is a particular kind of poetry. Then what I do is whichever Instagram poem that got the most likes during the week, I float that to the blog on a weekly basis. I also publish just little chapbook of 10 poems chronologically. And then from those choose the poems that go into the collections and the selections.
Keri-Rae Barnum: That's a really smart way to use what you're doing in multiple ways. You’re really getting a lot of mileage out of that poetry. I love that. And if people wanted to find you on Instagram to read those poems, where would they find you?
Orna Ross: It's OrnaRoss.Poetry
Keri-Rae Barnum: Okay. Easy. And your website is OrnaRoss.com, correct?
Orna Ross: That’s it. Penguin was right. It’s all very easy.
Keri-Rae Barnum: Yeah, they were! It's all very easy.
Now, speaking of Penguin, they published your first fictional novel. And now you have several. You’ve got two series, I believe?
Orna Ross: Trilogies – not very well organized in a sense that I have two books of one trilogy out and one book of another trilogy and one standalone. But both of those trilogies are in progress now and almost finished. I mean, they're finished as far as I'm concerned story-wise, they’re just being polished before publication.
So, yeah. I did two books with Penguin back at that time in the early 2000.
Keri-Rae Barnum: With your books, I know that you have said that Penguin was leading you towards Chic Lit but you felt that your books were a little bit more Women's Literature with an edge of mystery. So, who would you say your reader is and who’s going to enjoy your fiction?
Orna Ross: Anyone who enjoys multi-generational family drama.
I'm really interested in the way something that happens in one generation gets passed on. Either as silence and a secret or a lie. Or a heavy burden of some kind, and how that's resolved as time goes on and how time does it’s transformational thing. So [my writing] is always historical. I'm not inspired by the present day for my fictional writing. In non-fiction I am and that’s what's been the greatest delight of rediscovering poetry is being able to write about the contemporary world. So in non-fiction, poetry, essays and articles, I'm engaged with our own time. But when it comes to fiction, there are no stories in our age, whatsoever. It's got to be dressed up in old clothes before I'm interested.
Keri-Rae Barnum: I like that a lot. So just again, we find you over at www.OrnaRoss.com for your fiction and poetry writing and we will catch you over there.
Orna Ross: Thank you so much.