Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Betsy L. Ross, author of The Bones of the World.
FQ: Thank you for your time today. I’m looking forward to discussing The Bones of the World with you. Before jumping into the storyline, I would be remiss if I didn’t address your impressive biography. I’m particularly interested in your ‘happily retired attorney’ status. What type of law did you practice and what is your takeaway from being an attorney?
ROSS: I’ve had a varied career as an attorney, but most of my time was spent as an attorney for the State of Utah, the most challenging/rewarding position as lead judge for the State Records Committee, a quasi-judicial entity that resolved disputes over access to government records. Sounds arcane, but there were often sensitive records at issue and the decision to retain or release had conflicting consequences. It taught me how to listen well, how to take into account differing perspectives, and how to live with often imperfect outcomes.
FQ: Moving into The Bones of the World...I enjoyed the mechanics of how you laid out the story in that you continue to anchor the accounts of many of the adult characters through the eyes of the children’s stories. Without too much of a spoiler, what was your motivation in structuring the novel this way?
ROSS: Ultimately, the children’s stories are the core of the novel. All of the action occurs in preparation for those stories to be told. That structure highlights the (damnable) cyclical nature of the events, but also allows the spotlight to be shared with the idea of stories and their purpose.
FQ: I enjoyed the development of the relationships among Inés, Eloise, and Rachel and their connection with the afterlife. I’m a strong believer we humans have the ability to converse with the spirit world. Have you ever encountered an experience when you have done this? If so, can you elaborate?
ROSS: I am a believer, foremost, in possibilities, aware as I am of my limited perspective on life. In fact, literature is my way of attempting to broaden my perspective, and my own writing is the way I can play with realities I may not live. But it sounds like you may have a much more interesting answer to that excellent question than I gave!
FQ: In line with my previous question, do you believe the stronger one’s faith is anchored, the greater their ability to see and communicate with things/situations others less connected with their faith are not able to do? If so, what’s your theory?
ROSS: You could probably tell from my answer above that anchors frighten me. Rigidity frightens me. Certainty frightens me. But I allow that, as I suggested above, that is just me. I don’t know the answer to your question. In fact, I know the answers to few questions, but revel in questions and in the consideration of answers.
FQ: With all due respect, I’ve not watched your documentary Looking for David yet. However, I would like to understand how incredibly difficult this must have been to produce this tragic story. What was your defining moment to go forward?
ROSS: I hope you’ll watch it, and that many others will continue to watch it as well, as I made it to educate those who believe that addiction strikes only the weak. I made it as a love story to my son, talented, kind, remarkable young man that he was. And I made it, ultimately, because when I found David dead, I had no idea he suffered an addiction to opioids. For me the defining moment was the morning I walked down the stairs at 7 am, looked into the darkened family room, saw him slumped over the coffee table, told him to go to bed and he didn’t answer.
FQ: My personal commitment as a writer consistently relies upon who I am writing the story for before I sit down to actually engage in telling the story. In my opinion, some of the greatest writers who have ever lived (and live) focus on this guiding principle; hence delivering an epic read. What is your view toward this sentiment and if you had to impart one of your guiding principles in writing, what would that be and why?
ROSS: I write to understand, to explore things that currently play an important part in my life. So The Bones of the Worldbegan with my attempt to understand “suffering.” The novel I am currently working on is an attempt to understand “generosity.” I actually don’t think of an audience, but I’m interested in how that works for you.
FQ: In line with my previous question, do you believe in order to be an accomplished writer, one must also be a voracious reader? Please elaborate.
ROSS: Wow, you have wonderful questions. I would have to say that it likely helps to be a voracious reader but is not necessary. I am thinking of oral traditions, the Bible, Homeric poems, the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, Native American stories, etc. when I suggest it is not necessary. However, I know The Bones of the World is built on the backs of so much great literature, without which it would not be the same.
FQ: Thank you again for the opportunity to sit and chat with you today. I cannot imagine you aren’t already working on your next novel. If so, are you able to share? If not, what’s next?
ROSS: I am working on three different concepts right now, waiting for one to carry me off by storm and demand that I finish it.