1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I have always loved writing. When I was a child, I wrote poems, short stories, songs – pretty much anything. I never thought, however, I would write a book. After graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a degree in broadcast journalism, I moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas to work as a bilingual television news reporter for the CBS affiliate. That job began a six-year-long news reporting career. I lived in Davenport, Iowa, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma City, working for local news affiliates. To be honest, when I began that career, I was most excited about being on television. I quickly learned, however, that writing my story every day was my favorite part of the job. I also enjoyed getting out into the communities and interviewing people who had lives and stories that were so different from my own.
After a while, I wanted a change. So, I moved to New York City and transitioned into public relations. I started working as the Communications Director for a New York State Senator. I then moved to a public relations firm. Once again, my favorite part about the job was writing blog posts, press releases, bylines and pitches. I also enjoyed digging for story ideas – interviewing my clients to uncover interesting stories that deserved to be shared with the world. In 2013, my husband and I were expecting our first son, so we moved to Chicago to be closer to my family. I also landed a job as the Media Relations Manager for a cyber security company. Ever since, I have not looked back. Cyber security is now my specialty, although I have transitioned into a marketing leadership role. My favorite part about marketing is writing. I write bylines, blog posts, client-decks, value propositions, website content, sales enablement materials, mission statements, client emails – pretty much anything that is public or internal-facing.
“The Poop Diaries” started as a side project. I had a couple hours to myself every Sunday, and wanted to make the most of them. I always believed in the concept of the book, however I never expected to be where I am today! I am so grateful the ten plumbers in the book, and my publisher – Black Rose Writing – took a chance on a first-time author. I hope they are as proud of the book as I am.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
A clogged toilet. I realize it sounds strange, but it is true. My toilet clogged on a Wednesday evening. I could not sleep knowing my toilet wasn’t working so I called a plumber, Jon. He fixed the toilet within an hour, however he did not seem in a hurry to leave. He also had an energetic, tell-it-like-it-is personality, which I always appreciate. I asked Jon to share his “greatest hits” stories. I could not believe what came out of his mouth! The stories were so hilarious and surprising, I knew I had to share them with the world. After interviewing Jon and writing his diaries, I sought out to find more plumbers. Considering I was not a published, known author, it was tough getting people to talk to me. Most of the plumbers I found through word of mouth (you’d be surprised how many people know a plumber. And I do not mean someone who works for them. I mean someone’s uncle is a plumber; a friend is a plumber; a friend’s friend is a plumber). My husband found the two female plumbers, Carissa and Jac, by doing an online search. I was ecstatic that they both agreed to participate! The female perspective adds a lot of flavor to the book.
3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I hope people will realize that being a plumber involves so much more than unclogging toilets. Plumbers are engineers, artists, therapists and friends. As the book describes, they shoo birds out of houses, build beautiful copper puzzles, listen to insecurities and interact with people who spend every day alone. Plumbers encounter all kinds of people, and find some really personal items. They need to be patient, open-minded, and non-judgmental. The trade is also a lucrative, steady career, one that more people should get involved in. Many of the plumbers in the book have second homes and boats. Whether they went to college or not, they have built comfortable lives for themselves and their families.
I also hope people will think twice about what’s inside their cabinets before a plumber comes over I know I do (that is, after writing this book).
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
The genre found me. After listening to Jon’s stories, I knew I had to write this book. At first I was expecting the book to be pure humor. I just wanted to make people laugh. I realized while interviewing the plumbers, however, that their experiences are so much deeper than poop. Humor is woven in throughout the book, but it also dives into more serious aspects of the trade and the plumbers themselves. I open each diary with an introduction about the plumber, and end the chapter with a “Moment of Reflection.” I wanted the plumbers to have the final word. I wanted them to have the opportunity to share whatever thoughts about themselves and their work they thought were important.
5) Out of all the stories told to you, was there one in particular that stood out to you or possibly represents the book as a whole more so than the others?
No. Every plumber’s stories are so different (with the exception of a couple dildo stories). That’s what I think makes the book so interesting. And I only interviewed ten plumbers. I cannot imagine the other untold stories out there. I also made sure to include a variety of plumbers – different genders, backgrounds and cultures. Diversity is really important when trying to capture the truth.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I am very active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. My largest audience is on LinkedIn (due to my professional career). I have been posting about the book so much, people may be getting sick of me. Although I hope not!
Here are my handles:
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
Persistence is everything. I always believed in my concept. I knew other people would enjoy this book. I just had to (and still have to) find influential individuals who agreed with me. I pitched more than 100 agents and publishers, hoping to land a contract. Finally, one publisher (Black Rose Writing) said “yes.” To write the book, I worked every evening and Sunday. And I am still working. The persistence does not stop. I am now working every night, pitching reviewers, celebrities, agents, influencers – doing whatever I can to get the word out. Believe in your idea, and keep swinging for the fences.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
I am still very focused on marketing this book. I think the book would make a fantastic scripted television series. I am working with a screenwriter in Los Angeles to pitch the concept to producers and agents. We want to build the series off of one of the female plumbers, and weave in everyone else’s stories into her plumbing life. I am also reaching out to influencers and journalists to see if they are interested in reading and writing about the book. Anything I can do to get the word out I am doing. It is much harder as a first-time author to get the word out. Persistence is everything! As far as another book, I have some ideas. If plumbers start reaching out to me with more stories to share I may write a second book. Otherwise, I have ideas cooking. Just need the time to write about them!
About the Author
Abby Ross has nearly two decades of experience working in journalism, public relations, and marketing. She has written countless news stories, bylines, and blog posts. Abby began her career as a television news reporter, which fostered her passion for interviewing and writing about interesting people from all walks of life. After six years of reporting, Abby pivoted her career into public relations and marketing, which has been her focus for the past decade. This is her first book.