ORNA ROSS is a bestselling and award winning author and runs two online creative communities: the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), the professional association for authors who self-publish, and a support and accountability group, The Creativist Club.
As well as being Director of ALLi, Orna teaches authors and other solo entrepreneurs to navigate today’s highly creative, fast-changing, digital economy, and make a living doing work they love–the creative way.
Orna has repeatedly been named “one of the 100 most influential people in publishing” by The Bookseller, the trade magazine of UK publishing.
Orna Ross is a bestselling and award-winning Irish author, with a strong background in creative education.
She writes 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 creatives.
Having freelanced in Irish education, publishing, and media since 1987, for organizations as The Irish Times, Irish Independent, Smurfit Publications and University College Dublin, Ross started her own writing school and literary agency in Dublin in 2004, then moved to London, aged almost 50, 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 everyone in today’s digital, networked economy.
Known for her belief that “every business is now in the publishing business”, Orna also teaches authors and other solo entrepreneurs what they need to do to succeed in today’s highly 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 now lives in London, mostly.
“I’m a proud indie author: In 2011, I decided I wanted my rights back from my then publisher, Penguin, due to “creative differences”. I wanted to try self-publishing.
I wasn’t entirely sure about it at first — tech was not a strength — but I was excited by the creative potential sparked by the digital publishing revolution. Learning meant doing, so I did.
“Almost immediately, I knew I’d found my groove and so it has turned out. 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. Online tools have taken my work out of small classrooms and one-to-one sessions into books and events that are reaching hundreds of thousands of people, over time.
“And where before I felt stretched of time, money and resources, now empowering other writers, artists, creativists and creative entrepreneurs to ignite their own creative skills integrates easily with my own projects.
“Ours is a creative age but the education and skills we all received were created for the industrial and information age. They aren’t working in today’s economy. I now like nothing more than to pass on the creative skills that solo entrepreneurs need to succeed in our new highly creative, fast-changing, digital world.
“Is this a strange place for a novelist and poet to find herself? I can only quote the CEO Multimillionaire Sidney Harman, “I say, ‘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.”
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 round these parts as “The Hub”. So far, so fair.
Children: “The Daughter” and “The Son”. How can they be nearly 30?
Why The Pseudonym? Outside Ireland, people find my real name, Áine, difficult to pronounce (it’s “awn-ya”, folks, not “ayn-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, and using pseudonyms for my family and close friends, 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 still like to see the cage of gender dismantled: see more women–and positive female values–in public life, see more men–and positive male values–in private life. A rebalancing of male and female energy seems to me to be necessary to liberation of any kind.
I still devote energy to change (we can always do better, right?) but now I prefer a more creative approach and know 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.
Gender: 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.
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.