Bio In Brief
“One of the 100 most influential people in publishing.”
~ The Bookseller
ORNA ROSS is an award-winning novelist and poet and an advocate for independent authors and other creative entrepreneurs. As well as running her writing and publishing company, she is Founder-Director of two popular online creative communities: the professional association for self-publishing authors, the Alliance of Independent Authors and The Creativist Club, which fosters creative success, the creative way.
She was born and raised in Ireland but was lured to London in 2009, at the age of almost 50, and now divides her time between the city and one of the most creative corners of England outside the capital, St Leonards on Sea.
A BIT MORE:
Orna Ross publishes cross-generational, trans-Atlantic historical fiction, stories in which buried secrets from the past erupt into the present.
She also writes inspirational poetry and guidebooks for self-publishing authors and creative entrepreneurs. And is currently taking a crack at screenwriting too.
Having freelanced in Irish education, publishing, and media for organizations like The Irish Times, Irish Independent, Smurfit Publications and University College Dublin, Ross ran her own writing school and literary agency in Dublin until she moved to London, with her grown-up family, in 2009.
The power and potential of digital publishing led her to take her rights back from her publisher in 2011 and she founded the Alliance of Independent Authors at London Book Fair in 2012.
She is now a passionate advocate for self-publishing as artistic expression, viable business option for authors, and necessary skill for every business in today’s digital, networked economy.
Known for her belief that “every business is now in the publishing business”, Orna also empowers authors and other creative entrepreneurs to succeed in today’s creative, fast-changing, digital economy. She has repeatedly been named one of the 100 most influential people in publishing by The Bookseller, the trade magazine of UK publishing.
Born in Waterford City, in the south-east of Ireland, and raised in Wexford, she lived in Dublin for thirty years before moving, in 2009, with her husband and grown-up family to live and work in London.
“I’m a proud indie author. Self-publishing has been the best move of my writing life, creatively and commercially.
“My books have won awards, reached the top of Amazon and Kobo bestseller lists, and now sell in more than 40 countries around the world. Also wonderful is how digital has enabled me to scale up my teaching and speaking.
“Ours is a creative age but the education and skills we all received were created for the industrial and information ages. They aren’t working well in today’s economy. I’m not talking about technical skills so much as the ability to harness our own creative capacity.
“Is passing on the business and entrepreneurial skills with a creative slant a strange place for a novelist and poet to find herself? I can only quote CEO Multimillionaire Sidney Harman, who says:
“‘Get me some poets as managers.’ … Poets, those unheralded systems thinkers, are our true digital thinkers. It is from their midst that I believe we will draw tomorrow’s new business leaders.”
It’s my belief that business can be as creative as poetry, when approached with a creative mindset. The entrepreneurs I work with are growing passion-based businesses, around their values and mission and passion: doing what they love to do, and believe the world needs right now, and finding the micro-niche of people who value their work enough for them to make a living.
Born: Áine McCarthy, in Waterford, Ireland, in 1960. Yes, Orna Ross is a pseudonym.
Raised: Murrintown, Co. Wexford, which was then officially (in my mind, anyway) the smallest village in the world. Nuclear Irish family, eldest of five, three brothers and a sister.
Hometown: Can I have three? The first was, and still is, Wexford town and its surrounds, from Murrintown to Rosslare (where the mammy now lives). A trip to Wexford, with its long quay, crooked Viking streets and international opera festival always felt like a magical excursion to me. It still does.
Between the town and Murrintown was Johnstown Castle, a Victorian neo-gothic pile, with lakes and gardens, and nearby evocative ruins at Rathlannan and cemetery at Kildavin. (Don’t you love even the names of these places?). I spent many formative days roaming around these, reading books and communing with swans and gravestones!
Then there’s Dublin, especially Clontarf where I lived, on and off, for 20-something years, and raised my family.
And London, incomparable London.
There’s San Francisco, where I spend some time most winters, which always gives me and my writing, some Californian can-do oomph.
And now there’s St Leonards on Sea, on the south coast of England which The Guardian has described as “one part retired great aunt, one part rogueish Regency bounder, two parts 20s Bright Young Thing and a dash of 60s hippy.” I would add one part social deprivation and now a splash of artistic regneration.
University College Dublin: BA English Lit (1980), MA Women’s Studies (1997) and Lecturer in Cultural Studies & Creative and Imaginative Practice (2000 – 2006).
Religious Views: Thanks to my convent education, I’m not religious. (Sorry sisters, you really should have practiced what you preached!)
What I do believe in is the creative process. It seems to know what it’s doing. I try to engage it and emulate it, daily.
Belief in the power and majesty of this process holds me in the way the concept of God holds others.
Marital Status: 30+ years, to the man known around these parts as “The Hub”. So far, so fair.
Children: “The Daughter” and “The Son”, now grown and also living and working in London, so I get to see them every week. As someone whose country has been riven with wave after wave of emigration, I know that for the blessing it is.
Why The Pseudonym? Outside Ireland, people find my real name, Áine, difficult to pronounce (it’s “awn-ya”, folks, not “ain-eh”) When I started out as a novelist, my then publisher thought a short and what he called easy (i.e. phonetic in English) name would be better.
But there’s a bit more to it than that. Every writer is engaged in a creative double-act, between the writing and the life. (Here’s a poem I wrote about that.). For me, having a pseudonym keeps those two separate in a way that I find necessary to good, creative living.
Politics: Man-loving, feminist, progressive. I was once active in the struggle for women’s rights in Ireland, when it was sorely needed, and now the “Repeal The Eight Amendment” movement threatens to bring me out of political retirement.
I’d like to see the cage of gender further dismantled. To see more women–and positive female values–in public life. To see more men–and positive male values–in private life. We are all seeded by man and born of woman and we all carry “male” and “female” characteristics within. How these play out, in an individual life and in different societies, is endlessly fascinating to me. A balancing of male and female energy seems to me to be necessary to human liberation–at the individual and collective levels.
So I still devote energy to change in that direction but now I prefer a more creative approach that seems to me to suit the cultural challenges. And now I know, as I didn’t when I was younger, that the real challenge is what Ghandi said: to be the change.
Day jobs Past: Schoolteacher, waitress, aerobics instructor, journalist, editor, university lecturer, writing school director, literary agent.
Diet: Vegetarian since 1995, when I visited an abattoir. Mostly vegan since breast cancer brought Jane Plant’s work on the links between hormone-saturated dairy and cancer to my attention.
Interests: Conscious creation. The human brain, psychology and human potential. Reading, writing, publishing. TV, cinema and theatre. History and historical fiction. Walking & jogging. Yoga & wall tennis. Music. Travel. Meditation. Philosophies, East and West, especially Zen Buddhism. Beaches & woods. Wild swimming. Web surfing.
Not so keen on: Spectator sport, “reality” TV, consumer culture.
Inspirations: History, gender, Ireland, the sea, other writers and conscious creators.
History: I agree with Mr Hartley that the past is, indeed, another country and it’s my favorite place to travel. I’m especially drawn to bohemian times and places where shackles are thrown off and creativity flourishes — fin de siecle Paris (1890s); literary revival and revolutionary Ireland (1910/20s); hippy (1960s) and gay lib (1980s) San Francisco.
Ireland: Oh, Ireland…
The sea: Everything I needed to know, I could have learned easier by watching the waves. ((Click the image to read 3 short sea poems).
Books: I’m not just a writer but a better human being, for being a reader. My thanks to everyone, past and present, who believes in the magic of two human imaginations connecting in silent communion across space and time.
Tweet me: @ornaross.