The Art Insider conducts interviews with artists of all mediums. Today we speak to Ross Victory about inspiration during COVID, how he wrote three novelettes as an independent artist, and his plans for 2021.
Ross Victory is a multi-talented singer/songwriter turned author from Southern California. After the loss of his father and brother, Ross dove into self-discovery, reigniting his passion for writing and music production. Ross uses his unique voice and social intersections to inspire and entertain listeners and readers. Ross’s creative output is broad through Urban Adult Contemporary music and literature, writing non-fiction and thematic novelettes.
HAS WRITING ALWAYS BEEN A PASSION FOR YOU OR DID YOU DISCOVER IT YEARS LATER?
I’ve always been drawn to writing stories and songs. As early as 1st grade, I was addicted to entertaining my teacher and keeping her attention and wrote much-personalized content for her. Throughout elementary school, I made it my goal to provoke my teacher’s reaction through English assignments, which often resulted in phone calls home.
As time went on, and as I accumulated more life experiences, writing became therapeutic and a safe place to express my deepest emotions, questions, and desires without feeling judged. I also learned to fold aspects of myself into fictional characters and situations. Writing music feels the same way.
After college, my first “real” job was as an English as a Second Language teacher. Learning to explain language technicalities helped me sharpen the clarity of my stories.
It wasn’t until I began to lose family members that I instinctively understood the importance of creating and its positive impact on my health. I vowed to make writing and music a crucial part of who I am as a person.
HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC OF 2020 AFFECTED YOUR CREATIVITY?
There have been waves of inspiration and swells of darkness. At the beginning of the pandemic, I visited natural parks in California and Arizona to stay as grounded as possible. Then, my interest dwindled, and for about a month, I didn’t go outside. At the same time, 2020 has been my most productive year of developing my brand and contemplating what I want out of life.
I gained some new skills, too. I have learned how to video-edit, and I’ve also arranged two photoshoots alone with just me and my tripod. The headline photo in this article was taken by a 6ft tripod and a Bluetooth remote. It has been an exciting year for sure!
YOU HAVE A TOTAL OF 4 BOOKS, 3 OF WHICH WERE WRITTEN IN 2020. HOW DID YOU DO IT?
At the end of 2019, I was laid off from a job I had for about four years. After the layoff, I took a quick vacation to decide what I wanted to do, and by the time I started job searching again, the pandemic hit. Besides having full days and weeks of being stuck indoors and the sudden increase of unemployment in Los Angeles, I decided to use my time to hash out these projects. There was no shortcut – just sitting and cranking out the words tirelessly. And believing that I could do it! Easier said than done, I know.
WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED BY BEING AN INDEPENDENT CREATOR WITHOUT THE FINANCIAL BACKING LARGE MEDIA COMPANIES?
Large platforms and outlets are reluctant to work with you if you are not established at a high level, so it’s been quite challenging. Early on, I was shooting from the hip. I’ve hired fake services by accident, overspent on designers, and I’ve done interviews that have had no reach, all been out of my pocket. At the same time, I’ve learned and calibrated after each campaign to discover what works and what’s a waste of effort. I’ve also identified what I can do to save money. The lessons have been worth it.
HAS SOCIAL MEDIA BEEN USEFUL?
Yes and no. Instagram, Facebook, and Linkedin have become essentials in our society, but I now understand that users are not necessarily looking for books from new authors, nor are they looking for music from new artists on those platforms. My biggest social lesson has been to focus on media outlets where people want new authors and new artists: Goodreads, Bookbub, Spotify, and Soundcloud for an artist like me.
Billions have social media, and yes, social presence is better than no presence, but high followers alone do not equal high conversion. The algorithm changes also make it increasingly challenging to reach people nowadays, too. I’m focusing on sites where people are looking for what I’m selling and engaging with them differently on social.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS SEEKING TO PUBLISH THEIR FIRST BOOK?
1. Emotional Immunity. For my first book, Views from the Cockpit, my editor gave me an important warning. He told me to practice not to be emotionally attached to my projects and the outcome. When I’ve spent hours creating and so much money trying to make it real, it isn’t easy not to think of your work as your babies. But my intention for writing is not the same as a reader’s intention for reading. Our job as creators is to produce. Everything else is outside of you cannot be controlled and not worth obsessing. Easier said than done and requires practice.
2. Practice sitting. Telling a story is not a quick process. Setting a timer for 3-4 hours to write, research, plot, and outline was the best way to structure my time to complete a project. Even if I weren’t inspired, I would wait for the timer to go off.
3. Doubt and burnout are a step in the process. I’ve noticed that doubt, burnout, and writer’s block are vital ingredients to the writer’s process. Worry about judgments and criticism of your project is also natural. So now I expect to feel this, and I plan to move through it.
4. Don’t ask friends and family for creative feedback. We love our friends and family, but I have learned not to ask for their creative or professional feedback. Sometimes people inadvertently discourage through words or vibes because they don’t recognize what we’re are doing or understand the deeper importance. Sometimes they are jealous; sometimes, they are working through gaining courage for their dreams. I would share with caution or identify people who have the skill or experience to give useful comments.
5. Team is everything! Apart from emotional immunity, the team is the most important. I recommend building a reliable team of people who have different strengths in different areas. I also like working with people who are not afraid to say when an idea or concept is not working.
6. Compare service costs There are so many things you can do by yourself to advance your writing. Producing a book requires much administration. Many companies offer to do administration or research for a cost. Still, some of what you will pay others to do are easy and take a few hours. Procure two to three professional quotes to compare for any service you need.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BOOKS
The latest project is called Father & Sun, an 11,000-word novelette released on December 20, 2020. Father & Sun is about generational trauma and secrets. A man discovers a journal in his late father’s storage unit days before Christmas dinner. His father reveals an outrageous family secret in the journal that changes the family’s trajectory and his relationship with himself.
Views from the Cockpit, my first book, illuminates a father-son relationship and the tension between fathers and sons that most men can speak to. Views uses airplane metaphors to explore a father-son relationship. How bonds are created, how they are broken, and how they are repaired.
Panorama is an international adventure-themed novelette in Seoul, South Korea, about bisexuality and identity politics in America. The second half of the book is a social criticism essay about bisexuality’s absence from popular social discourse.
Egg is a fun horror-thriller novelette about a young boy that discovers a mosquito in the center of his chest that turns into his evil Siamese twin.
WHAT DOES 2021 LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
I have maxed out my methods for reaching more people as an independent creator with a limited budget. I have mastered the creation part, but I am looking for marketing and advertising collaborators. In 2021, I plan to focus on marketing and remarketing content to get in front of more ears and eyes. By the end of 2021, I would like to have 100k-200k website visits with a 3-5% conversion.
Longer-term, my goal is to create books, adapt them into film, audiobooks, and merchandise, and speak to black and brown kids’ creative and entrepreneurial spirit. It’s apparent what society and the government have to say about disadvantaged groups, so I want to offer a message of self-reliance. I seek to create a pathway to self-discovery by passively encouraging kids to travel and write as a healing source.
Still, my brand’s value is deeper than entertainment value. My lesson has been to believe in myself, take risks, and “be the change” despite the trauma and odds of succeeding against corporate-funded artists. My brand symbolizes an idea. It’s an investment in the belief that people can transform pain into power and create a rich personal brand and legacy.