Rising Star Spotlight: Elle J. Rossi

Elle J.

Oh my goodness, you have such a great life story to tell!  First, you grew up in Indiana but left and became a traveling musician!  Explain this whole experience!
Goats, and horses, and chickens, oh my! I’ll bet that gives you a visual. I did grow up in Indiana, aside from several summers spent in Florida early on. We lived on a five-acre property surrounded on three sides by woods. We had tons of animals, four-wheelers, tractors, and never less than 5 or 6 cars in the driveway. I helped my dad build a barn so we could bring our first horse home instead of keeping him in town at the boarding stable. One horse turned into two, then doubled, then doubled again. I learned how to bail hay, and I mucked more stalls than I care to remember. My mom took me to dog shows so I could show our German Shepherds, and spent hours watching as I worked with a trainer to teach a couple of them how to search for drugs.
I took a handful of clogging lessons with my mom, but we quit before we learned much of anything because as much as we love the song Fishing in the Dark, we didn’t realize that was the only song they would ever play. My sisters and I were outside from dawn to dusk, always getting into some sort of trouble. Our one and only brother would egg us on and either cover for us or tattle depending on his mood. I had the best friend a girl could ask for, and neighbors who knew more about me than I knew about myself.
Life was good. But I always wanted more. I wanted to see the world, find some excitement. Two of my sisters had been “on the road” for years, traveling and singing in bands. Every time I looked at them, I had stars in my eyes. That! That was what I wanted to do. So that is exactly what I did. The day after high school graduation, my parents drove me to New Jersey and left me in the hands of my oldest sister, Beth Ciotta. She got me an audition at Resorts Casino where I became a “strolling character” who entertained patrons with a little song and dance while they meandered on and off the casino floor. From there I sought out bands and before long, I too, was living my dream “on the road”.
What was traveling and singing on the road like?
Honestly, it was amazing. To me, being on stage in front of a crowd every night with the lights flashing, the dance floor packed, seeing all the people enjoy themselves while listening to me sing is THE BIGGEST high there is. That probably sounds weird but there really is no other way I can explain it. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. I miss the stage. A lot. The singing bug kind of runs in the family, and for a very long time, music was a huge part of my life. It was everything. It molded me. Gave me confidence during those awkward years of high school. I wouldn’t always know what to say or do one-on-one (still don’t), but put me on stage in front of a hundred people, and it was like a whole other person emerged. I like that person. She’s the me I always strive to be.
Now, the traveling part I don’t miss. Sure, it was fun for a while, but living out of suitcases and moving from state to state, hotel to hotel every week or two gets old fairly quick. It definitely had its perks though. I was blessed with the opportunity to see so many wonderful cities and towns, meet incredible people from all walks of life, and I never had to spend a dime on rent or utilities. That’s a pretty good gig for someone right out of high school. Who knows, maybe I would still be rolling with it if the music scene hadn’t flipped the switch. One day, five-piece cover bands were all the rage, the next we were being pushed aside by DJs with clever names and big personalities. That’s okay. Everything has its time, and usually more than once. When it swings back around to cover bands, I’ll be the lady with butt-length grey hair, a blinged-out cane, and a microphone basking in the spotlight one more time.
How did you meet your husband?
Ahhh, that story is a bit different depending on who tells it. For the record, mine is the correct version. We met while I was singing in Florida and working part time at a shoe store in the mall. My now husband was in Florida for spring training and happened to walk past my shoe store one day. Once, I see this cute guy. Then, I see him again. Maybe even a third time. Finally, he came in and struck up a conversation. Good thing he had the courage because I probably wouldn’t have. He flirted, I flirted back. Before he left, he asked for my number. Of course, I gave it to him because he’s really cute and really tall and really polite and not creepy at all. (All this did, in fact, go through my head at the time.) What I didn’t tell him was that it was my pager number.  When my beeper went off later that night, I was thrilled. Him, not so much. I’ll never live down the fact that I gave this man my beeper digits rather than my phone number. A girl has got to be cautious! Am I right? What’s there to complain about? It all worked out. We’ve now been married twenty years, have two great kids, and 4 cute, but naughty, cats.
When and why did the writing bug hit?
I get asked this one a lot, and while I’m terrible at remembering dates, I do remember the why. After I got married and moved to Wisconsin, singing in bands wasn’t really a full-time option anymore. I found a job working at a horse stable and enjoyed it until winter hit. I needed a job with a heater! My husband saw an ad for a dental office looking for a receptionist, and I thought why not? This, in fact, turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. Nineteen years later, I am still in the dental field, and have gained the best of friends along the way. All that said, I missed performing, missed the creative side of things. My sister Beth had started writing years before and encouraged me to give it a try since I was such an avid reader. I thought she was crazy, but again, why not? I was pretty hooked from Chapter One. It didn’t matter that I was horrible at it. It didn’t matter that those words would (thankfully) never see the light of day. What mattered was that I was doing something creative, and I was loving it.
Had you been a big reader growing up? Is this something you thought of through the years?
I actually didn’t start getting into books until high school, and I don’t remember why or how that happened. But I do remember it was romance, and I do remember hiding books within my schoolbooks and getting busted once by a teacher, and being thoroughly embarrassed by the page she made me read out loud. That didn’t stop me though. My love for fiction grew from there, and I am thankful every time I crack open a new book, digital or otherwise, for the escape and the entertainment.
What inspired you to write paranormal?
This is an easy one: Kresley Cole, Gena Showalter, and JR Ward. Oh man, can they tell a story. Once I read my first paranormal, I was in it for life. I wanted to write stories with fantastical characters who became real to people. I love the idea that maybe there are in fact supernatural beings out there. Are we sure vampires aren’t real? Has science proved werewolves are an impossibility, that phoenixes could never light up our skies? Well, yeah, they probably have, but I’m not buying it. Immortality is incredibly intriguing to me. I’ve put together tons of pros vs cons lists, and I’m definitely leaning toward the side of living forever. I just have to remember to stay away from wooden stakes and really sharp teeth.
You also run an AMAZING cover design company.  How did that come about?
Thank you for that! Cover design is so much fun, and I thoroughly enjoy putting that shiny bow on an author’s sweat, blood, and tears. I have my critique partner and long-time friend, Rachel Aukes, to thank for igniting this particular fire. Several years ago, I was in a pretty dark place after losing my brother. I had so many questions I knew I would probably never have the answers to. Those questions were the fuel behind the book BROKEN FLIGHT. It’s not one of my best books, but it is one of my favorites. Anyway, I was struggling through it when Rachel sent me a mock cover to inspire me. I still remember exactly what that image looked like and what it meant to me to see my name on a book cover. I begged her to tell me how she did it, and then started playing around with images. My husband surprised me with an Adobe program, and everything grew from there. I’ve had the honor of working with so many wonderful authors and publishers over the last several years. The best part is when I actually get to meet them in person at book conferences. I know I don’t have to tell you that book people are THE BEST people.
How is creating covers and creating stories alike? Different?
I think both come with a lot of puzzle pieces. Having one missing part will screw up everything. All the pieces have to fit together in a certain order, and you have to keep trying until you get that perfect fit. To me, book covers are just as important, if not more so, than the first chapter of a book. Hook. The. Reader. If you don’t right away, you may have completely lost the opportunity to turn them not into just a reader, but your reader.
What are your dreams for the future (personally and professionally?)
Oh TJ, I have so many dreams! I think that’s what really keeps us going day after day and year after year. The most important thing to me is to turn those dreams into goals and those goals into reality.
Personally, I want to take more time for me and my family and friends. I am a worker and a doer. I always have been. My day job keeps me very busy, and then add in my writing, my cover art business, and now my fascination with making creepy rag dolls. All of that doesn’t leave a lot of time to simply breathe and enjoy, so I’m working toward a better work/life balance. That is definitely easier said than done, but I’ll get there.
Professionally, I want to see my books on shelves next to some of the top authors. I’d love nothing more than to one day turn writing into a full-time gig. Or maybe more realistically is a fuller-time gig as I’m not really a solitary person, and writing is most often a solitary endeavor. I like being around people and working with others, so I’d have to find a clever way to get my fill of both.