J. Ross Victory (Ross) is an American author, songwriter, singer, travel enthusiast, and author of the new memoir, Views from the Cockpit: The Journey of a Son and accompanying song Savor the View.
Ross is a millennial. He was born in the late 1980s in the land of low-riders, taco trucks, and celebrities—Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles--also a place known for its income disparity and increasing homeless population. As the son of public servants, a missionary father and a law enforcement mother, exploration and service come naturally to him. And messages he will continue to develop.
He spent his early years collecting pens, notepads and interviewing himself in a tape recorder. With an acute awareness for his young age, he was eager to point out hypocrisies and character inconsistencies in children and adults through English assignments. He delighted in provoking a reaction -- any reaction from his English teachers, with writing that seemed to wink and smile.
He quickly progressed into writing lyrics. In high school, he wrote and recorded a song about a nine-year-old victim of gang violence. He submitted the song to an annual songwriting competition. Competing against a sea of experienced adult songwriters, he was awarded the distinction of Runner Up. This validation was formative for Ross at his young age; it gave him the sense that he was on to something and that it was worth developing.
Over the next several years, he began to write and submit his songs and stories to contests for professional feedback, ultimately to find his direction, style, and voice. Editors and songwriting judges have described Ross’ writing as ‘never lacking soul’—palpably passionate with the ability to bite or soothe--but always descriptive and transparent.
He incorporated this feedback to write non-fiction and fiction projects with depth and precision—stories of captivating, complex characters expressed in all their dimensions usually on a path to self-discovery and harmony. Like great music, great characters balance simplicity and complexity. He went on to teach English abroad, which married his love for international travel and language.
Q: Mr. Victory, describe yourself.
A: Adventurous, Extroverted introvert, Car-lover, Caring, Writer, Zen-seeker, reserved, imaginative, information seeker, nerd.
Q: What's your relationship with books?
A: I guess my relationship with books started as a child like most things. My parents had a library built into the side of the wall with tons of books, quotes from intellectuals and artifacts from around the world. My dad and I collected library cards like the true nerds we were. I think I was about 9 years old. We drove from L.A. to Georgia and stopped at most of the public libraries asking for free library cards! The embodiment of nerds, right? Honestly, it was kind of fun--seeing the different library architecture and who was concerned about their cards' appearance. I write more than I read.
Q: What's on your reading list these days?
Dreams of My Father (Barack Obama)
The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing (Kevin Young)
Seat of the Soul (Gary Zukav)
The Four Agreements (Don Miguel Ruiz)
The Mastery of Self (Don Miguel Ruiz)
48 Laws of Power (Robert Greene)
The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
The Power of Myth (Joseph Campbell)
I enjoy real-life stories, self-help and business books--practical stuff. I read a lot of technology articles, too. If I read fiction, I prefer sci-fi or dystopian fiction.
Q: How long did it take to write Views from the Cockpit?
A: About 2 years to complete it. Not 2 years of constant writing. Two years altogether, including the random 3-months gaps of being uninspired, the editing process, the design process, and the printing process. My goal for 2019 was to get it done and get it out!
Q: Your bio mentions that you write songs. What is the biggest difference between songwriting and book writing?
A: Yes, songwriting is my first love. The biggest difference is that songs get a lot of support. The melody--the vocals--the instruments--the arrangement, all of these things support "the narrative of the song." Stories, articles, books are linear. Tone, mood, color has to be established per word and per association for chapters at a time. Of course, songs are deliberate, but songs get more support.
Q: Who are some of your musical influences?
A: I grew up on 94.7 The Wave, which is an adult contemporary station in L.A. They play smooth soul: Anita Baker, Toni Braxton, Babyface, Jon B., Mariah Carey, are some of my favorites to name a few. I really admire Craig David, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown and artists who are able to write, produce, record and perform all of their material. I grew up in the church, so Kirk Franklin, CeCe Winans, and Yolanda Adams were always on the home's playlist.
Q: The book cover for Views from the Cockpit is quite evocative. It depicts a young boy on a path holding a toy airplane next to a gravestone while watching planes crash. What inspired the cover?
A: The cover is from a super vivid nightmare I had throughout childhood up until my early 20s. I would dream of planes crashing and falling out of the sky like heavy meteors. The fireballs and smoke would hurl toward me as I watched. I would wake up before the planes or fire hit me. I thought that this memory as a visual would be interesting and a good way to integrate the nightmares, my memories airplane watching with my dad and the metaphorical purpose of the title to evoke a sense of perspective.
Q: So tell me about the title - Views from the Cockpit - what inspired the title?
A: Check out the LinkedIn article about what inspired the title.
Q: You cover some tough topics in the book - death, divorce, fraud, neglect among others. What was the hardest topic for you to write about?
A: I was worried about criticizing family. Some of whom I know did their very best at the time...but also left me hanging in the long run. That was a tough decision. I didn’t want them to come across negatively. I realize none of the hurt was intentional. They were on a separate timeline of development and also facing whatever it is they needed to heal from...I know that. But in order to serve the main theme of the book--perspective-- I had to share my own.
Writing about mental health was rough, too. I hesitated with that for over a year. We live in some weird delusion where men don’t have fears, concerns or struggle internally (laughs). We (society) know that men have internal struggles, fears, hesitations but we just gotta deal. It’s not funny though because people are dying prematurely, damaging relationships and wondering why – that’s the result of the framework we find ourselves in...And it’s actually perpetuated socially. And with men.....I don't know...I don't see too much movement in conversations about mental wellness. I felt it necessary to share my experience. I now understand that my life experiences are not my own...they really aren't. Especially when you're trying to work in the arts. So I had to share and I feel comfortable sharing. If one person can be inspired to make a positive change in any aspect of their life then “my discomfort” is worth it.
Q: You are relentless in some of your descriptions of people and your criticisms of organized religion. Some of the writing laugh out loud hilarious. Do you think you took anything too far?
A: Yea, it has some good zingers! But I didn’t write to appease or consider how others would interpret this... it's a symbolic homage to my dad and the release of my 30+ years experience with him into the universe. I really wasn't concerned about taking anything too far. I don't speak for anyone but myself. Remember...some sections of this book are literally journals (laughs) converted into book form...I never intended for some of this to be read. But as a writer... it would be a bit disingenuous to not give people the real real. I am asking people to pay money and spend time with me, so I want to give them the real. That's what I want when I read a memoir. The real includes the outrageous, the zingers, the vulnerable, the joy, the magic... I think observing others lives leads to inspiration and changes that just may be for the better. For those that are offended by the use of my language or criticism...I'm offended by absentmindedness that causes misjudgments. Let's talk and get on the same page!
Q: In the first chapter, you wrote that some aspects have been fictionalized - names, occurrences, settings, etc. to protect privacy. I'm wondering if you can share what was enhanced and what is true?
A: Good question :)
Q: Last question, any regrets or things you’d change about this project?
A: I wish my dad could have experienced this book. It's because of him and my mom that I was given the chance to accomplish something like this.