Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with women’s contemporary author and life coach Ruthie Lewis. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Ruthie. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Ruthie: I’m from Oklahoma, and have always loved to read and write. As a child, I would make up stories and write them down – only a few pages. It wasn’t until I faced a very dark time in my life that I realized it was my passion, my calling. I journaled, then began to sense a tiny spark drawing me to write. So, in the spars pockets of time I had while raising three children – all three attending different schools – I “played” with it.
When my husband left after 30 years of marriage, I faced some hard truths in addition to having to go back to work after 25 years of being a stay-at-home mom. The truth I had ignored revealed itself: I had let my passions die, as many women do, by choosing to ignore who I was, while squelching fatigue and inner voices, in order to “give all” to my husband and children. It was like a light-bulb moment: my love of books and writing was my call. So, then, with even less time, I began to follow my inner light. It was a very long process, but the end result was “Fireflies”.
Morgen: What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Ruthie: “Fireflies” is women’s contemporary fiction. I decided fiction would be first because mentors and fellow authors told me I had a bent for fiction, however, my thought had always been to write about the things I’d learned in life and studied. Being alone after 30 years brought a plethora of self-discovery. Long story, but I also became a Life Coach as I began to see almost every woman living by the same lies I’d always believed. I thought that would be my first book but I am definitely working on that non-fiction. It will either be my next book, or after a sequel to “Fireflies”. I’m excited about it because it’s the culmination of everything I had to relearn about life and how critical it is to live our inner light; basically what I speak about and tools I use in Life Coaching in a nutshell.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Ruthie: This is my first book. I considered using a pseudonym, but I decided if I was going to write about living by inner light, not putting down or ignoring who you are, it seemed that a made-up name goes against the grain of everything I am.
Morgen: Have you self-published or would you consider it?
Ruthie: My publisher is not a self-publisher, but they do recognize how the publishing world is changing at lightning speed and offer authors a lot more opportunities, and allow the author to own the rights to their work. However, I encourage those who have a call and passion to write and have honed their craft, to check in to the vast options available to self-publish.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Ruthie: “Fireflies” was published September 2012 and is available as a book, and on Kindle. My publisher took care of it all. I do read ebooks because of the convenience, however, like most people, I shunned digital reading. The love of a physical, paper book will never change, there’s nothing like holding a book in your hands. But ereaders are here to stay, and there’s also nothing like having hundreds of books with you anywhere, on one device. It’s so bittersweet the way things are changing. As I said, it’s changing at lightning speed, and it’s very sad to me how bookstores are closing doors everywhere. If you love reading, you love bookstores, but I don’t think there’s any way to avoid the waves of change, and the price and convenience of ebooks trumps. Bottom line is, publishers and bookstores who ride the wave will survive.
Morgen: Let’s hope so. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Ruthie: That’s hard, because I birthed all the characters. Obviously, the main character, Tammy is the premise of the book, and the evolution of who she is, is drastic. The other character I love is Melissa. She’s a potter and a very minor character, but very interesting and influential in both Tammy’s and Charla’s life. I’ll let the suspense hang.
I think every novelist imagines their story as a movie. I’ve pictured Ashley Olsen as the young Tammy and Cheryl Ladd playing the older Tammy. Salma Hayek would be great playing Charla, not sure about the younger version. As for Eric, Tammy’s husband, Val Kilmer for the young Eric, and Kurt Russell for the older Eric. Then maybe Andy Garcia for the young Jerry, Charla’s husband, and John Travolta for the older Jerry. Ed Harris would be perfect for Mr. Balero, and for Melissa, the potter, Isabella Rosselini.
Morgen: Great choices. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Ruthie: Covers are critical and strategic. It’s the first chance to grab attention. Even from when I first began writing “Fireflies”, I never could get a clear picture of what I wanted or how the cover could depict the premise of the novel, except that there had to be a jar of fireflies. I had a discussion with the graphic designer at my publisher, and from there, he came up with three different covers. One stuck out to everyone who saw them. With a few tweaks, we came up with the present cover. He did a fabulous job, so far beyond what I expected! I was afraid I was going to drive them crazy till they were able to come up with something I was happy with, but that wasn’t the case and I’m more than pleased with the final cover, and the feedback has been amazing.
As for the title, the editor and everyone else loved the title “Fireflies” from the beginning.
Morgen: It’s a great title, and gorgeous cover (purple’s my favourite colour). What are you working on at the moment / next?
Ruthie: Mostly promoting “Fireflies”, but that’s the dilemma; whether to finish the sequel or my non-fiction book. People are already telling me they can’t wait for the sequel.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Ruthie: Even though every day would be my choice, it sometimes just isn’t possible, unless I’m up against a deadline. I just have too many other things going on and sometimes other things take precedence.
I don’t think I’ve ever been stuck in full-out writer’s block, but some days are definitely better than others, the words flow more freely. If it’s slow going, I usually walk away and tend to something else, take a walk, or something like that. And I find morning is when my thoughts and energy are more focused and creative.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Ruthie: I did start with an outline, but found myself running with the flow. The story changed dramatically over time. Eventually, I had to actually lay out a plot board to keep track of timeline because it spans over 25 years. For me, plotting is more about tracking the story’s timeline and conflict levels than laying out the entire plot before you even begin. I learned a lot of things through trial and error that will make my next book much easier and less time consuming.
Morgen: You’ve mentioned some of your characters. Do you have a method for creating them, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Ruthie: That’s the fun part. Usually, as I envision the story, I will see and hear the character and their personality, and jot down characteristics, quirky and all. Then, someone I know or have met will pop in my mind and I take that and meld it into an imaginative character. I do the same thing with scenes. As a scene develops, I inevitably remember an incident I, or someone I know has encountered. You know those times when you witnessed something and someone says, “You couldn’t have dreamed that up?” It’s true, very often, real life is better than fiction.
Morgen: 🙂 Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Ruthie: A ton of editing? Finally, after all the editing, “Fireflies” is a very different book than I began with. As I said, I’ve learned a lot and I know the next book will be much easier, but without good editing, you will end up with a slower moving book and a weighed down plot; which spells boredom, whether the reader is enjoying the book or not. It’s the reason why all of us have books we never finished, fiction or non-fiction. That was definitely the hardest thing for me to learn because I’m a very wordy person. I love words – don’t cut my words. They represent expression and hard work. But… for instance: the prologue to “Fireflies” was originally seven pages long. Now it’s three and much, much more engaging.
Morgen: A lot of readers don’t real prologues so having a short one does help. I never used to actually but when I read one of Trisha Ashley’s I realised I’d be reading the book very differently without it, so I do now. Do you have to do much research?
Ruthie: Just like editing, research is a huge key to holding interest in fiction as well as non-fiction. Except for fantasy, real life facts and the opportunity for people to learn something is very satisfying for the reader. In the process of becoming a Life Coach, I had studied and researched life issues people struggle with. Because I was writing “Fireflies”, I focused specifically on women’s issues, religious teachings, abuse, and divorce. Not even 20% of what I’ve learned was included in the novel, but the research done provides a much richer base for any book. I know authors who travel to a city or even another country to learn everything they can about the culture and traditions.
Morgen: And I know some who pick somewhere exotic just so they could write about it. A great idea. 🙂 It’s very tempting to put in everything research brings up but I’ve read some books where it feels like the author is just showing off that they know so much. Of course there will always be experts on any giving topic so adding in too much not only runs the risk of boring the reader but getting caught out if there are any mistakes. What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Ruthie: I like writing first person, which is how I thought “Fireflies” would be written, but first person only works best when the other characters of the book don’t need to come out of the shadow with their own point of view. I decided, along with my editor, that writing from the point of view of the characters would be more riveting, especially when key elements of the story happen to someone other than the main character. So, I settled for leaving the prologue in first person, and the rest of the book is in Tammy’s or Charla’s point of view.
Morgen: Do you write any poetry or non-fiction?
Ruthie: I’ve only dabbled with some poetry, none of it published. I’ve had a few articles published, and as I said, I have a non-fiction book in the works.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Ruthie: One of the first things I started writing when I began to hone in to the voice confirming writing was my calling, I began a children’s novel. It was honestly an effort to write something to compete with the mysticism of Harry Potter, which I believe to be potentially dangerous. It happened that when the first Harry Potter book came out, my daughter was right at the target age of 4th grade. Every kid in the class was reading it. I realized there was nothing for that age group nearly as enticing and my hands found their way to the keyboard. But at some point, I realized my book wasn’t going the direction I wanted it to. It was not even close to sparking the excitement I wanted it to, and by the time I would have finished it anyway, my daughter would be well past the age group.
Morgen: You have more experience now. Maybe you could go back to it and re-direct it. 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Ruthie: Of course, over 30. For me though, it wasn’t rejection of my writing that was the hard part. I knew my writing was good and I knew enough about the industry to know that it was changing, and publishers just weren’t taking chances on first-time authors. It was the frustration that they all said the same thing in two lines: “not what we’re looking for at this time”. You know, if they aren’t going to give a first-time author the time of day, couldn’t they at least give you a one-liner as to the deficit they saw? At least, serious first-time authors could take that and run with it to improve for the next submission.
Morgen: I’m not far behind you, with 27 or 28. Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Ruthie: I did enter a couple, but found that it took so much time, it just wasn’t worth it. When you’re writing a book while working full time, every minute counts. I did have a few articles published.
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Ruthie: No, I don’t. There are definite benefits to having one, the greatest of which is that most publishers only take submissions from agents, however, again, things are changing so fast that you have to be very sure that the agent is very up-to-date. Assuming that you’re not the one-in-a-million that the agent was able to land a huge, advance contract for, one of the biggest parts of their job is to help market you, and if they aren’t social media savvy, you’re pretty much wasting your money. The same goes for public relations firms. They are not essential.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Ruthie: I am marketing myself as a “brand” – Let Your Glow Show! – because I’m not just marketing my book. I am also a Speaker and Life Coach. I have someone who has graciously offered to help me, and some great friends spreading word of mouth, but apart from that, I am doing it myself because no one knows my message like I do.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Ruthie: My least favorite part of writing is editing. Deciding what parts to cut is gruelling, and reading only for the sake of catching errors breaks my heart. Because of my love affair with words and stories, it’s like a broken relationship. Okay, you can call me dramatic. I guess that’s what makes me a writer.
The other thing I detest is marketing. I would much rather be writing, speaking or Life Coaching.
Morgen: I wouldn’t have said dramatic at all. The characters are our children and the story equally part of us. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Ruthie: First, settle the reason why you write. Then, no matter what, never stop. With every word, you will become better. Learn as much as you can about writing and the publishing industry and always, always take criticism as a gem that will make you a better writer. Most importantly, believe in yourself.
Morgen: Absolutely. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Ruthie: Wow! That’s what I call a thinker question. There are so many, only three is hard. I would have to choose the three people based on what I feel I could learn from them and the questions about them I’ve pondered. And because I would be so intent on listening and interacting, I would cater in food and waiters. Takeaway containers or not, I don’t want to be serving while the clock ticks away the wealth of knowledge and inspiration.
One woman who has fascinated me is Joan of Arc. She defied all mandates and tradition to follow her heart, and it is recorded that when she was burned at the stake, her heart did not burn. She is also the reason the country of France exists.
The second person would probably be Mary, the mother of Jesus. She experienced a miracle that no other person ever has, or ever will. There are so few details known about her, yet she is probably the most significant woman who ever lived. She must have been – God chose her to birth His son.
The third… are you ready? I’m gonna throw everyone, including myself, a curve ball. Strong, wise, accomplished women is who I read and study, and I said I would choose the three based on all the inspiration I would gain, but what can I say… I’ve been in love with Elvis Presley since I was seven.
Morgen: Oh yes. Elvis Presley would be on my list if I could have more than three (Kate Atkinson, Roald Dahl and my father are my three). Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Ruthie: “The key to life is the awakening and lighting of what has been asleep.” The awakening of a person’s inner light is the premise of ‘Fireflies’.
Morgen: I felt like that when I started going to creative writing evening classes. I’d left school 20 years before not having a clue what I wanted to do with my life then ‘ping’. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Ruthie: No, only Speaking and Life Coaching.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Ruthie: I read or hang out with friends. I love to travel but don’t get to do it nearly as often as I would like. If I had time to pursue a hobby, it would be scrapbooking and a few other crafts. I love creativity!
Morgen: Me too. I have arts equipment and an electronic keyboard in my loft waiting for the day… Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Ruthie: On facebook, there are some reading groups such as The Book Club Network and Crazy for Books. There’s Novel Rocket http://www.novelrocket.com ; Mary Fields Jackson http://themarybookreader.blogspot.com ; Robin Prater http://robinsnest66.blogspot.com ; Rita Schulte http://ritaschulte.com/ . Of course, there’s my own blog, http://ruthielewis.com/category/uncategorized
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Ruthie: Yes, a few. I find them valuable because it builds relationship and opportunities to gain knowledge and open doors.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Ruthie: The book world is changing at lightning speed. And I think it’s a very good thing in that it offers more opportunities for writers. Writing will always take hard work because it’s so much more than sitting and writing, it takes making as many connections with people as possible and learning everything you can about the book market and the subject you’re writing about. But if it’s your passion and you’re willing to put in the hard work, the world is at your fingertips.
Morgen: It certainly is and that’s really exciting. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Ruthie: www.Ruthielewis.com and my book is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Fireflies-Ruthie-Lewis/dp/1613468148
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Ruthie: Only that I welcome emails and connections on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, whatever way someone would like to communicate with me. I am available to speak to most any group someone might be a part of, or to Life Coach. Simply contact me at: www.RuthieLewis.com.
Morgen: Thank you, Ruthie.
I then invited Ruthie to include a synopsis of her latest book…
Tammy and Charla have been friends since childhood, but lost touch when life took them separate directions. In their time apart, both women have found themselves in situations far beyond their control.
Tammy Trovich had been full of dreams, but had sacrificed and forgotten them all. Truth collides with her head-on when she realizes she’s been caught like a firefly in a proverbial jar, living a life of have-to and supposed-to, when all the while, freedom was only inches away.
Despite many obstacles, Charla Calibrisi thinks she’s living her dream as a news anchor, but when her husband’s aggressive behavior mirrors her dark past, will she allow the truth she has buried to be excavated, or will she be buried with it?
Trapped in a jar with their lights dimming, both women wrestle with their devotion to the sanctity of marriage. To what limit will Tammy and Charla let their lives grow fainter before their light is extinguished—unable to emanate even the faintest glow?
Think avalanche! — Unstoppable devastation; loss; reshaping of the entire landscape – a GPS repositioning. That’s what happened to Ruthie’s “perfect” life. Just when life was getting good, devastation and tragedy quaked, burying her.
Only a mother’s love encapsulated her with the strength to dig out, gasp for breath, and seek the fire to comfort and warm.
Peace and abundance was the fruit that bloomed, as she never took her eyes off the sometimes, tiniest spark of light, enabling her to take the next breath. Would she, or even could she follow that spark – or lay down and die?
Choices — there’s always a choice. Now, that spark of inner light is a flame, brighter than any firefly’s glow, emanating through Ruthie’s writing, speaking and Life Coaching, empowering others to connect with their inner light, that will survive an avalanche. You see, though the landscape is drastically altered, the majestic mountain stands.
Ruthie resides in Edmond, OK and is the mother of two amazing grown sons, and a daughter who was a life-long dancer and brought light into the lives of everyone who knew her, and now dances with Jesus.
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