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Andrew Gross: Thrilling the Page

#1 New York Times bestselling author takes us on one thrill ride after another with his suspense novels.

As an amateur writer, I began my research into the life of author Andrew Gross completely intimidated. Picture a finger-painting kindergartener standing in front of the Mona Lisa. Yeah, like that.  Once I discovered we had some things in common regarding style, I felt a bit more comfortable.

Like me, he uses fragments on occasion instead of Grammarly-approved sentences. He also likes to kill off characters unexpectedly. I soon felt a kinship with this literary genius that I had absolutely no right to possess, and I’m keeping it. Being an amiable genius, I’m sure Gross won’t mind.

It was kinship with an established author that began his own climb up the literary ladder of fame. But as anyone knows, once you reach certain heights, the struggle is to stay there and keep proving yourself worthy. No one has done that more effectively than Andrew Gross, penning 14 action-packed thrillers and blockbuster collaborations with world-renowned author James Patterson.

Big Apple Beginnings

Gross was born in New York City to a family well established in the garment industry. After dabbling with a bit of poetry in high school, Gross abandoned his musings in college, concentrating on a degree in English at Middlebury College and a master’s degree in business policy from Columbia. He left home and joined the business world on his own, first as a fashion buyer and later opening a restaurant in Colorado. Eventually, he returned home to embrace the family business. Writing a novel was, at this point, just an item on his bucket list to accomplish someday. Maybe.

Continuing the Legacy

Leslie Fay, his family-owned business, consisted of over twenty subsidiaries. Gross was fully in charge of one-third, putting his master’s degree to good use. Gross thrived there for twenty years before setting out on his own once more. To date, crafting memos worthy of the “Memo Hall of Fame” was his only writing accomplishment.

Fleeing the Family Biz

Wanting to stretch his legs in the business world, Gross began working “turn-around” projects, rescuing companies in trouble, and making them profitable. He worked for various sports-related companies before hitting a wall: he was suddenly let go with no warning.

From Fired to Fire in the Belly

Daunted, Gross wondered what to do next. With kids in private school and a wife asking frantic questions, he needed direction. He decided to work on his bucket list and decided to take a year off to write a novel. Having worked very hard for over two decades, he felt he’d earned this chance, but selling the idea to his wife took every ounce of business acumen he possessed. His efforts worked, and she finally agreed.

5 Words Can Change Your Life

Using the time his loving spouse had generously allotted him, he worked diligently on his manuscript for Hydra. Gross found an agent in Richard Pine, based at Random House in London. Then came the agonizing wait for publishers’ replies. Gross received 22 rejections before one phone call, and five words changed his life.

“This Guy Does Women Well.”

One publisher had written these words on the title page of his manuscript. The same manuscript that serendipitously landed on the desk of James Patterson, author of two New York Times bestsellers. Patterson called Gross to tell him he liked his book, but his pacing needed work. Gross was gobsmacked. Not so much at the criticism but the attention of so famous an author. Patterson asked for a meeting which Gross eagerly agreed to.

A Writer Unleashed

Two days and one meeting later, Gross was ghostwriting a series novel for Patterson, excited to be given this opportunity. The book, written in his signature thrill ride style, skyrocketed to #1 on the bestseller list. Little did he know his collaboration with Patterson had just begun, along with a new direction in his life. Gross went on to write 24 books in partnership with Patterson, enjoying colossal commercial success.

Every Writer’s Dream

Gross felt the need to stretch his legs again. Armed with a detailed outline for a new suspense thriller, he contacted literary agents to land a book deal on his own. The first agent to read it couldn’t put it down and agreed to represent him on the spot. The resulting bidding war between publishers over his raw outline is a rare and wonderful thing for any writer. HarperCollins Publishers, the winner of this epic battle, offered Gross a six-book deal.

Becoming Sisyphus

Writing what Gross terms “suburban thrillers” can be difficult one after another. With a contract to fulfill, he had little choice but to write what the publisher was expecting. As any creative person knows, art comes from inspiration and cannot be compelled, at least not the good stuff. He began to feel like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up an endless hill. He longed to expand his horizons.

Letting the Boulder Fall

His contract completed, Gross did a 180 and wrote a deeply personal thriller. The One Man, based on his grandfather’s life during WWII, is a story of true heroism with Auschwitz as the backdrop. This poignant, action-filled tome sealed his fate as one of the greatest storytellers of our time. For Gross, it serves as both a family record and a well-deserved tribute to his grandfather.

Time Traveler

With commercial and critical success under his belt, Gross began writing the novels he wanted his way. He has a unique ability to grab the reader by the scruff of the neck and throw them into a whirlwind adventure that doesn’t relent until the last page is turned. Gross is also a bit of a time traveler; writing stories set in unexpected eras like Medieval Europe, early 1920s New York, and present-day Florida.

Keep Evolving

So, what advice does Gross give to aspiring writers? Keep evolving and improving. Gross advises reading as much as you can and to let others read your work. Do as many rewrites as it takes to get it right. Make a proper outline before you begin and keep control of your story; it should never control you. Take a moment to watch this video and gain a little insight on how Gross works…

A Humble Artist

Watching his taped interviews, I was impressed by how unassuming Gross still is. He strikes me as a man fulfilled, enjoying his success quietly with his family in Palm Beach. On his most creative days, he stares at the ceiling in his office for hours, imagining new adventures to take us all on. And while his wife may not be convinced he’s actually working, we can’t wait for the ride.

Learn more about the man and his books at andrewgrossbooks.com.