Best-selling and award-winning novelist, poet and international speaker on creative coaching and empowerment.
As well as writing–and publishing–novels, poems and guides for writers, artists and creative entrepreneurs, Orna Ross runs the Alliance of Independent Authors and The Creativist Club. She 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 education, and a desire to help others achieve their creative potential in everything they do.
She writes sweeping cross-generational, trans-Atlantic historical fiction, stories in which mysteries and secrets from the past threaten happiness today — but redemption is always possible.
She also writes inspirational poetry.
And a third wing of her writing is guidebooks for writers, artists, creativists and creative entrepreneurs.
She is a passionate promoter of creative writing and independent publishing as artistic expression, tools for transformation, and viable career options with significant and growing potential.
Ross proudly self-publishes her own work and is Founder-Director of the Alliance of Independent Authors, a non-profit association for self-publishing writers, and the Creativist Club, an online support for those who put creativity at the heart of their life and work.
Born in Waterford City, in the south-east of Ireland, and raised in Wexford, she now lives in London and St Leonard’s on Sea.
I’m a proud indie author: In 2011, I took my rights back from my then publisher, Penguin, due to “creative differences”.
I wanted to try self-publishing, though I didn’t expect to do well at it. I was 50 years old and tech was not a strength but I could see the potential the digital revolution was opening up to creatives.
Learning meant doing, so I did.
I quickly knew I’d found my groove. Self-publishing has turned out to be the best move of my writing life, creatively and commercially.
My books have won awards, reached the top of Amazon bestseller lists and now sell in more than 30 countries around the world. Even more rewarding is the close relationship self-publishing has fostered with my readers and the creative freedom it has brought. I’m still getting used to that.
Also wonderful is how it 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 events that reach thousands.
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 creative projects.
The creatives I work with want to make art, literature or a business that makes a difference in the world. The creativists want to bring the creative process into every aspect of their lives, developing a creative practice and deepening their sense of creative presence.
What I’ve come to know is that whatever we are consciously creating, the process is always the same. And so are the feelings that accompany it.
Contrary to popular thinking, some of the qualities we think of as creative enemies–ignorance, procrastination, laziness– are actually fuel for the fire, and further the flow.
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.
Education: Murrintown National School. Loreto Convent Wexford. University College Dublin (BA English Lit, MA Women’s Studies and for some years, a lecturer in Cultural Studies & Creative and Imaginative Practice there).
Religious Views: Thanks to my convent education, I’m not religious. (Sorry sisters, you 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 and emulate it.
Faith in 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: Two twenty-somethings “The Daughter” and “The Son”.
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 an Irish Repeal The Eight Amendment 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 seem to me to be the founding stone of all liberation.
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.