When a fireman or a policeman would visit his school, most of his classmates’ heads would swim with aspirations of growing up and catching bad guys or saving someone from a blazing inferno. When these moments came for Ethan Cross, however, his dreams weren’t to someday be a cop or put out fires; he just wanted to write about it.
And his dream of telling stories on a grand scale came to fruition with the release of his first book, The Shepherd, which went on to become an International Bestseller published in several countries and languages. Ethan followed this up with more great titles like The Prophet, The Cage, Father of Fear, The Judas Game, Callsign: Knight, and Blind Justice. His latest book, Spectrum, is the first installment of the new August Burke series coming from Bastei Entertainment in July 2017.
In addition to writing and working in the publishing industry, Ethan has also served as the Chief Technology Officer for a national franchise, recorded albums and opened for national recording artists as lead singer and guitar player in a musical group, and been an active and highly involved member of the International Thriller Writers organization.
Ethan Cross is the pen name of an author who lives and writes in Illinois with his wife, three kids, and two Shih Tzus.
My Road to Publication...
I’ve always had a deep love of stories and knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. I had written a partially-finished screenplay in High School, and at one time in my life, I had considered moving to California and attempting to break into the film industry. But I knew that was an uphill battle, and much of my time was being consumed by another dream: music. While reaching for that dream, I was able to play all over the Midwest, record a few CDs, and open for national recording artists as a lead singer and guitar player. But I never gave up on my dream of telling stories, and I continued to develop the ideas in my head.
Up to this point, I had never been a big book reader, but then a friend introduced me to a series of Star Wars books that picks up where the original movies left off. I had always been a Star Wars fan, so I decided to give the books a shot. I loved them, but I also discovered a love for books. It wasn't long before I was reading three to four books a week, everything from suspense thrillers to action and adventure. I had always considered writing a novel, but it was at this point that I knew that was what I wanted to do. So I began writing The Shepherd, which was based upon a short story that I had written for an English class during my senior year of college. My main goal with The Shepherd was to write a book that I would want to read, and the books that I loved were fast-paced with a lot of action. After more work than I could've possibly imagined, I finished a first draft. But the book was far from finished.
After doing a lot of research and knowing that I couldn't get my book published without an agent, I decided to attend a writer's conference in New York City called Thrillerfest. It included a period of time where you were able to pitch your novel to a group of agents, but you only had three minutes with each. I did well during my pitches and generated interest from all but a couple of the agents with whom I spoke. However, during Thrillerfest, I also attended three days of classes taught by some of biggest authors in the world. It was at this point that I realized my book wasn't ready for primetime, and I still had a lot of work ahead of me. I also made a lot of new friends and contacts within the publishing industry, and one of them referred me onto a man named Lou Aronica.
The funny thing is that Lou had been the head of several of the big publishing houses, and while heading Bantam Spectra, he was the guy that came up with the idea of having Star Wars books (the same books that got me into reading). It all felt very serendipitous, so I began working with Lou to take my work to the next level. But Lou wasn't finished with me yet. He also loved my book so much that he referred me onto my agent, Danny Baror, a man who represents some of the biggest authors in the world. Then, a few months later, Lou contacted me about a new undertaking. He had decided to start a new publishing imprint that was going to be invitation only. He asked if I would want to be one of the first authors to be published under this new imprint. I was, of course, excited to continue working with Lou and accepted. Since then, I've signed on with Random House in the UK and have deals in other countries as well including Russia and Bulgaria.
Why I Love Stories…
Telling stories on a grand scale has always been my dream, but to what can I attribute my undying love of books and films?
It started as early as I can remember. I wasn't an only child, but since my three sisters are so much older than I am, it felt that way growing up. I've always been an introvert and my favorite pastime as a young boy was playing pretend with my action figures and my imaginary friends (as my parents called them). But I'm not sure if they were truly the imaginary friends that we traditionally think of. I say this because they were more like characters in my own little movies. At the time, it was a boy playing with his imaginary friends, but I still do basically the same thing as an adult, only my imaginary friends find life on the pages of my books.
I've also been an ENORMOUS fan of movies since I was very young. How many ten-year-olds do you know that had a calendar hanging on their wall marking the release dates of every major Hollywood production? I would force my parents to take me to sometimes two or three movies in a single weekend. We would often hit the 4:30 matinee at the theater, walk out, and drive straight over to get a good spot at the drive-in or turn around and walk back into a 7:00 o'clock showing at the same theater. In high school, I would rent a couple of movies every night from our local video store, although I did still find time to date, sing and play guitar in a rock band, play sports, and serve as our senior class president and valedictorian. Not much has changed since then; my wife and I still take in a movie every weekend. Shortly after college, I also discovered a great love for reading, sometimes consuming three to four books a week. For me, movies and books have always been and always will be magical experiences. But still the question remains. Why?
I think there are many reasons, but I'm going to touch on two in particular for the sake of this article. The first of these is probably very unique and personal to me. The second is why I feel the entertainment industry exists in the first place.
The first, very personal reason is that the only time that my brain truly "shuts off" is during a great movie or book. What do I mean by that? The easiest way to describe it is that a thousand small televisions are constantly playing within my head. Imagine the giant wall filled with flat screens that you can find within most Las Vegas casinos, the ones that are playing all the sporting events and horse races. Now imagine that wall behind your eyes. That's kind of what it’s like for me. This example may be slightly exaggerated, but it gives you a basic idea of the concept. It's not something that keeps me from functioning in any way, and I've learned to ignore most of the screens and focus on the real world around me, but it can be tiring. For some reason, when I'm sitting in a movie theater or reading a great book, the rest of the world and all of those other screens disappear.
The second big reason that I love stories is one that I think many others share with me: stories allow us to escape. They allow us for a few moments to be the hero, to get the girl, to save the day, to fall in love all over again or for the first time. Let's face it, most of us live pretty ordinary lives. I'm not saying that's a bad thing; I'm glad that no one is trying to kill me as I'm writing this and the world isn't being overrun by hordes of alien parasites or flesh-eating zombies or the multitude of other bad things that often happen in books and movies. But isn't it cool that we live in a world where we can pull back the curtain and experience a glimpse of what it would be like as an FBI profiler, a fireman, a lone assassin, a special forces commando, or the President of the United States. We only get to experience life through our own very limited perception, but through the magic of stories, we can become other people. We can stand on the outside and look in on a world of endless possibilities, and we can do so from the comfort of our own homes.
That's why, for me anyway, stories truly are magical.