Ask an Author: James Ross and his book Cottage Daze

Ask an Author: James Ross and his book Cottage Daze

Posted on April 25 by admin
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Pinterest

As part of our Ask an Author series, this week we were able to sit down with James Ross, who is the author of one of our new releases Cottage Daze, and ask him some questions about his new book, and his writing process.

CS: Tell us about your book.

JR: How would I classify my book, Cottage Daze?  I guess you could call it a romance, a love story.  It is an ode to the cottage – an affectionate look at what is a Canadian obsession.  Perhaps you could call it a comedy – it is filled with humour; wacky tales, adventures and misadventures…all of them true.  You couldn’t really call it a tragedy, though when I unwittingly disparaged my darling wife in a story, it was tragic for me.  Cottage Daze is a collection of stories which focus on the pleasures of the cottage experience, the trials and tribulations of cottage life, cottage reminiscences and the family.  They are whimsical, reflective, sometimes nostalgic, occasionally didactic, often humorous and, at times, sad.  The cottage is on an island, a balsam-scented, three-acre mound of rock, cedar and pine situated in the middle of a lake in the northern woods.  On the island, in a setting of white birch and mountain ash, is a rambling log cabin with a loft and ladder, polished wood furniture, a wood burning fireplace, covered porch and two-seater cedar privy.  My folks came upon the place when out canoeing in 1974.  A “For Sale” sign was nailed on a deadhead sticking out of the water off the island’s western tip.  The “S” of sale was actually a painted rattlesnake.  They bought the place, and I did a lot of growing up there.  My family bought the family retreat in 2003.  The stories celebrate the thirty-eight years spent at the cottage.  The charm of the book, I think, is that most cottagers relate to the tales – my cottage becomes theirs.

CS: Describe your ideal writing environment.

JR: Sitting on my dock on a sunny day, with my feet up, a notebook on my lap, and my wife serving me beer.  Okay, I can dream, but the truth of the matter is that it’s hard to find that ideal writing environment at home amidst the bustle of a family of 6.  For much of the year, I send my four kids off on the school bus and get a morning of peace and quiet in my office.  My ideal setting is at our island cottage.  Here, distractions seem part of the inspiration rather than interruptions.  We have no electricity, but a solar panel powers my laptop.  I have a desk in our rustic boathouse that sits out over the lake.  I listen to the sound of the water, the call of the loon, the bird’s song and the laughter of the youngsters, and I write.

CS: Describe the most memorable response you received from a reader.

JR: I write a weekly column about cottage life, and I get a lot of feedback from my readers.  They might tell me that they enjoyed a particular story.  Sometimes they say they laughed.  At other times they berate me for making them cry.  Sometimes a column twigs their own cottage memory.  One time a reader told me that she had read all my stories and hadn’t yet figured out where my cottage was.  “I know cottage country like the back of my hand,” she bragged, “but I have no idea where your cottage might be.  Where is it?”  I imagine her reading each column carefully and taking detective-like notes.  Writing them on those little yellow sticky pieces of paper and plastering them all over her office walls.  “Log Cottage” on an “Island” with a “Boathouse Bunkie” a “Dock” listing badly to the right, and lots of “Kids” and “Dogs” running around.  Haven’t found it yet.  I have my first stalker.  I’ve made the big time.

CS: What did you read as a young adult?

JR: On the log rocking chair on our cottage porch I read the Hardy Boys, and then Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Black Arrow.  I loved adventure and mystery.  I read Ian Fleming and became a Bond afficionado, fancying myself as the secret agent type.  I have carried that with me until today, hearing the Bond theme music playing in my head whenever I ski, or boat, or drive a car.  Whenever girls I fancied were around, I would make a show of reading Margaret Atwood, Alice Munroe or Fyodor Dostoyevsky … The Idiot.

CS: What are you reading right now?

JR: I usually have a few books on the go at any one time.  I still love a good adventure story or mystery, and I enjoy literary travel.  Charles Cumming’s The Trinity Six sits on my bedside table.  I just finished Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia.  As I try to prep for the release of my new book, I have Facebook and Twitter for Idiots sitting on my desk.  It is similar to Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot – at least I feel like an idiot trying to figure out how to “tweet”, and “twitter” and “like” things.  My publisher tells me I need to learn this stuff to sell books.  Beside my comfortable leather chair in front of the fire, is a third book on the go – Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.  I sit down with this book and a dram of single malt when I’m in need of inspiration.  I’m not sure if the inspiration comes from the glass or the page.  I guided Ms. Dillard on a week long horse back trip into the Canadian Rockies when I was in my 20’s.  She offered me her Cape Cod writer’s studio for my use – stupidly I didn’t take her up on it.  What a wonderful writer.

James Ross has a degree in journalism and has worked as a newspaper reporter, cowboy, mountain guide, museum curator, dogsledder, movie stuntman, animal trainer, photo double, and freelance writer. He enjoys and misadventures at his Muskoka island cottage in Bracebridge, Ontario.