Today, Examiner.com had the opportunity to interview "Prodigal" author Rektok Ross. It is a young adult fiction novel, which delivers equal parts romance and spirituality in a trendsetting page-turner.
Synopsis: Hard-working wallflower, Lexy Quinn, has finally landed the coveted spot as Editor of her school’s newspaper. Then the rug is ripped out from under her when she finds out her mom is sick, and the family is moving halfway across the country to Preston Hills, Texas. Lexy can’t think of a worse place to be than at a school full of snobby rich kids where she’ll have to start all over to get people to notice her writing, or – who is she kidding? – notice her at all. When the most swoon-worthy boy in town, who also happens to be the jock celebrity quarterback, gives her an exclusive interview, Lexy’s life takes an unexpected turn. Ash Preston is the perfect guy and, even better, he sees Lexy as she wants to be seen. But can she trust him? "Prodigal" is a different kind of love story, where faith, romance, and God converge… and it just might change the way you look at your life.
Ø 1) What inspired the book?
RR: I love this question! I’m so glad you asked it! With "Prodigal," there was a real reason and purpose why I wrote this particular novel. It wasn’t like I just started writing a story one day on a whim. In my mind, it all starts with high school. That’s where we begin the path to finding out who we truly are and who we are going to be in this world, so it’s fun to start a story at that point in time for that very reason. Plus, as they say “the scars of adolescence takes a lifetime to heal” so all the garbage we deal with in high school continues to haunt us in our adult lives. So I think adults can find a lot of themselves in these YA books. When I decided to write my first novel I thought, of course, it has to take place with a bunch of teenagers. That’s why writing a YA was a no-brainer for me. But it wasn’t enough to just write a simple romance. My faith is vey important to me and it came to me in a very unique way much later in my life. I feel like for every human being, truly asking why we are here and what purpose should be is the most fundamental question we should all be asking. There seems to be a gaping hole right now for mainstream literature that helps kids answer that question. Books for kids about God seem to be in one of two categories: either (1) uber religious which will turn off a lot of people who aren’t really sure what they believe or (2) nonexistent. So I wanted to write something that was fun and accessible but that also asked you to think about the bigger questions in life. You know, vampires and werewolves are fun and all but at the end of the day they are mindless entertainment and I think kids (really all of us) do need something real to think about every now and then.
Ø 2) Do you have anything in common with your protagonist?
RR: This is the million dollar question, isn’t it? My friends keep asking me this. Who is Ash? Are you Lexy? Am I Peyton? Am I Kris (and those asking the latter do so with a mildly insulted look on their face, which you have to read the book to understand). I think literature is also a reflection of the world as we see it. The job of a writer is to shine that reflection back to others. Yes, Lexy and I have a lot in common but she’s definitely not me and this is definitely not an autobiography. Like Lexy, I also had parent with cancer and just like it was for Lexy, this was one of the darkest points in my life and the experience ultimately brought me closer to God when I’d never been religious to start. Oh yeah, and I was super shy in high school too. I never would’ve believed a guy like Ash Preston could’ve been interested in me either! But Lexy and I have a lot of differences too. She has a naivete and a lightness about her that I don’t think I’ve ever had. I’ve always been kind of an old soul I think. I’m a lot more gritty and sarcastic then she is. Also, the relationship I have with my family is really different and it was difficult for me to write a father like Lexy’s. My own dad, while he has his moments, has always been incredibly supportive of my writing. I’ve never had that soul-crushing experience where someone who is supposed to love you unconditionally doesn’t believe in you, so to write that part of Lexy’s life I had to lean on experiences of my friends.
Ø 3) Who are some authors you look up to?
RR: I’d love to get all scholarly here and sound like a literary snob and just rattle off award-winning authors for you but honestly, the ones I look up to the most are the writers who can tell a story that really makes you think long after you finish the book. That doesn’t mean it has to be a literary masterpiece, but it does mean you have to make people feel something and I think that is a lot more challenging. So, um, in no particular order, I was obsessed with Christopher Pike as a kid because his books were so layered; "Night" by Eli Wiesel is still one of the most powerful books I have ever read and I cried a long time when I finished it; C.S. Lewis, of course, because who else could write a book about a lion who is Jesus. Did I mention that I really like people who can write in metaphors? I also have to mention Yann Martel ("Life of Pi") and Patrick Ness ("A Monster Calls") because they do this too so perfectly. I’m impressed with all that Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling have accomplished with their literary empires (Girl Power!) . This is hard because there are so many writers I love! Do screenwriters count? If so, I have a massive writing crush on Wes Craven, Kevin Williamson, Josh Whedon and Guillermo Del Toro. See, there’s my dark side coming out because those guys all write horror.
Ø 4) what was the greatest challenge of writing this book?
RR: Working with my editors. Sorry ladies, you know I love you dearly! But I never realized how brutal the process is. Ultimately they made the book stronger but when you’ve spent years writing something and pouring your heart onto a page it’s pretty difficult to hear how much it sucks in places. It makes you just want to rip your book to shreds, crawl into a hole, and never come out again. The hardest thing for me to do was to trust them, make it not so personal, and take another crack at it.
Ø 5) Anything you would like to add?
RR: How long do we have? Ha ha. I think what’s most important to me about my writing is getting people to think. If you read "Prodigal" and spend even a few minutes reflecting on your life then I’ll feel like I’ve fulfilled a little of my purpose here. My goal is not to be preach or say you have to think one way. Each of the characters in my book has their own way of looking at life and love and God. What’s important to me is that people take time to think about these things for themselves. If Prodigal can do that, if it can open up the dialogue here (parents with their kids, friends with one another) then that’s all I could hope for. Well, that and a New York Times bestseller and blockbuster movie of course!