UF Alum Rektok Ross’ YA mystery novel “Ski Weekend” arrives just in time for fall
Rektok Ross is simply a writer breaking onto the YA scene, but the person behind the pen name is someone whose journey is anything but straightforward.
Rektok Ross is the pen name of Liani Kotcher, a lawyer turned writer who quit her corporate job to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. These dreams have finally come true: her first novel, “Ski Weekend”, will be released on October 26th.
Kotcher grew up writing and telling stories, but she did not come from a family where she had the financial privilege to pursue creative endeavors. She attended UF to study public relations before going to University of Miami Law School to become an intellectual property lawyer.
After four years working at an international law firm in Dallas, Kotcher took writing classes at SMU. For an hour every week for two years, Kotcher studied the ins and outs of writing novels and eventually began writing the book while being a full-time lawyer.
After a back injury left her bedridden and physically unable to work at the law firm, Kotcher did nothing but write for the two years it took for her to recover.
Then, three years ago, she left her law firm and began working as a full-time writer.
These events, which unfolded over a decade, culminated in “Ski Weekend”, a young adult crime novel by survivors.
âThis is really the story of what you would do to survive. I’ve always loved survival stories and really the existential question of what is your life, your values? said Kotcher. “Because all of these things really stripped off and became very clear in a survival situation.”
The inspiration for “Ski Weekend” is, surprisingly enough, unrelated to horror, given that it is a detective story.
âWe kind of pitched it as ‘The Breakfast Club’ needs to live,â Kotcher said.
The novel tells the story of six teenagers who wouldn’t normally spend time together and find themselves stranded in the mountains during a blizzard. The group, who come from different backgrounds, must figure out how to work together to survive and escape.
Kotcher wanted to explore the dynamic between young people who come from different backgrounds and beliefs, something that she believes is emblematic of how all ages must navigate the world today.
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The message, Kotcher said, is to examine the stereotypes and thoughts we have about each other. And if there is a way to come together, Kotcher encourages readers to bridge their differences and unite.
Along with John Hughes films like âThe Breakfast Clubâ, Kotcher was also inspired by his love for survivor horror thrillers like âJawsâ and âAliveâ.
Kotcher specifically wanted to explore the theme of man against nature, because, according to her, it is something that seems scarier and more frightening.
The novel is set in Northern California because, as someone who grew up in Florida, the mountains and snow have always had a kind of mystique for Kotcher.
âNature really doesn’t care. There are no roles, it doesn’t matter who you are, âKotcher said. âIt’s just, he does what he wants, and I feel like in the mountains you see him more than almost anywhere else. It can be really brutal.
While there are elements of real-life horror in the works that inspired her, Kotcher chose to write a YA novel because they have always been a source of comfort to her.
âThe longer you live, the more bad things you see,â Kotcher said.
As someone older than those in the YA demographic, she finds revisiting her teenage years to be therapeutic. She also finds that by reading YA, she can explore experiences that she may not have had during her teenage years.
As someone who has had to change careers, Kotcher is no stranger to the ebb and flow of life. After her mother passed away at a young age, Kotcher realized that the most limited resource she had was time. This prompted her to take the plunge to become a writer.
âThe easiest way to make this transition to get to this milestone is to do it in stages,â Kotcher said. âYou cannot go from zero to 100 in a career changeâ.
For Kotcher, becoming a writer and writing “Ski Weekend” was a gradual progression, she said, made possible with the support of other writers.
Stephanie Elliot, YA author of âSad Perfectâ and freelance editor and publicist, worked as a writer on âSki Weekendâ.
âLiani is immersing himself in the whole project of bringing a book to life,â Elliot said. âI enjoyed it so much that she asked smart questions when we were working on the ‘Ski Weekend’ sets. She was very practical, which also made my job as a copywriter easier.
Kotcher has also done her part by supporting other small writers and small businesses, especially women in these fields. In the âSki Weekendâ presale campaign, anyone who purchases a copy from the ten included independent bookstores before October 26 is eligible for bonuses – such as âSki Weekendâ products made by small business owners.
To promote Ski Weekend, Kotcher is also embarking on a two-week nationwide tour, half of which is online and half in person.
âSki Weekendâ has already received accolades from publications like Cosmopolitan and She Knows, and it’s widely anticipated by Kotcher’s audiences on social media.
Amid the anticipation and the journey behind âSki Weekend,â Kotcher finally saw her dream of becoming a writer come true around her.
Contact Anushka at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @anushkadak.
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Anushka, a third year in journalism and feminist studies. She has previously been published in Local Wolves Magazine and is the Editorial Director of Rowdy Magazine. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to old Bollywood music and learning about the ‘processes’ of other writers and obsessing over them whenever she feels like she has no idea what is going on. ‘she does (which is often the case).