Over the past year or so, Ruthie Knox has become one of my very favorite writers. I always, always look forward to her new releases. And, I often make my husband read them as well. Not because Ruthie includes a new technique I want him to learn, but she certainly writes some steam that any husband would be wise to inhale.
Recently, Ruthie introduced a new serial through Random House. ROMAN HOLIDAY is serialized like a TV Show, with about five episodes in two “seasons.” This is designed as a serial so it’s a different experience from reading a novel that has been serialized, that is, cut up into chunks and released over time. I have been fortunate enough to receive the e-galleys and I have loved and devoured them *hiccups.*
Recently, I asked Ruthie some burning questions after I read the first three entries in the serial.
Hello Ruthie!! As you know I am ridiculously fan girlish over your books so I am thrilled to have you here in my little library. I have some delicious champagne (real, of course), or since this is cyber space, anything your cyber self would like to drink. What may I get you?
Hello! I love me a fan girl. Bring me all the fan girls, that’s what I say. And if they want to provide me with a steady stream of gin and tonics, I’d be cool with that, too.
And, I am writing this on Halloween – I give kids cold cash but keep some Halloween treats from my youth here with me in the bloggoverse (that way they don’t get stale and being virtual treats have zero calories) please take what ever you would like from my stash and your imagination – which treats did you pick?
I’ll have a peanut butter cup, please, and also a week in the isolation chamber with my laptop and no distractions. You do have that in your bowl, right? RIGHT?
1. My library has a quote running across the tops of the shelves, “Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible.” What would or does the quote in your library say?
That’s a great quote! Being trained as a historian, I do sometimes find myself thinking about the invention of the printing press and all the ways the world has been transformed (for worse and for better).
I don’t have any quotes in my office, actually, or a library. I’m kind of jealous that you have a library!
My mom used to say “Progress, not perfection” to me when I was getting all het up about some unimportant and possibly imaginary failure. I’ve considered having it tattooed on my arm. I think it would be a good library quote for me — although it isn’t so much about books as it is about life.
2. Your characters are all very different although they are all on a journey of healing and self-discovery. Which of your characters (and from which book/series) are you most like? Which do you like most?
Those are tough questions! There are pieces of me in all my characters — sometimes bigger pieces, sometimes smaller ones. Some of them I think of as completely separate people, and others as versions of lives I might have lived if a number of things had gone differently in my life.
I have some of the same faults and strengths as Lexie from Ride with Me — a confidence in my own ability to achieve things that sometimes gets me into trouble, an enjoyment of being in and part of a physical environment, a similar struggle with actually letting myself be in that environment instead of inside my head, planning and counting and plotting. I think if you put together Lexie and May from Truly, you’d get me somewhere in the middle.
I like all of my characters a lot. I think part of writing that’s interesting is that you can’t write without empathy, and you create these people with big problems who engage your empathy completely. It’s one reason that reviews can be hard — because as the writer you’re so utterly on the side of your characters, it feels a little bit outrageous when readers dislike them, or even when they like one (hero, usually) and not the other (heroine). Not outrageous in the sense that they have insulted you, or your precious baby manuscript, but more like they have failed to sympathize with your friends. Which is wild and weird, but true, for me.
Anyway, I think if I had to pick who I’d want most to hang out with from among all my characters, I’d pick Amber from the Camelot series. We don’t have much in common, but I like her. I feel like we could have coffee once a week for a long time before we ran out of things to talk about. And she could use the company.
3. Serials: I have been following Truly on Wattpad and now I am reading the advanced releases for Roman Holiday. I have read another author’s serialized book and it seemed like there was a difference between a weekly serial and a regular novel.
What’s the challenge in writing a serial on purpose like Roman Holiday versus serializing a novel like Truly which is being released as a novel next year? Was Truly a roadtest for Roman Holiday?
Truly was never intended to be serialized. It just happened that I’d written it and turned it in, but because of other scheduling shifts it wasn’t going to be released for a long time. Meanwhile, Wattpad had been in talks with Random House about potentially having one of their authors serialize a book, and Random House asked me if I’d be willing to try it with Truly.
Roman Holiday, on the other hand, was planned and contracted as a ten-part serial from the beginning, and by the time I started writing I knew it would appear in two “seasons” of five episodes each. The challenge for me was to think about the novel as ten small stories that made one large one, because I didn’t want the episodes to feel like chopped-off bits of a novel. I wanted them, as much as possible, to feel like they had their own trajectory of beginning-middle-end, and that they each developed some kind of theme to a conclusion, even as they made one seamless story with continuous chronology.
That was difficult to do on its own, but then there were also considerations of serialization — I had to think about the reader’s temporal experience and how long it had been since he/she encountered a character or theme. I also had to think about how many more people are likely to read the serial straight through, not week-by-week, and try not to overdo the cues and make those people feel as though I was beating them over the head with things.
There’s a balance to be struck there, but it’s hard to find, and I think this is one reason we see a lot of serials with a tight focus on a single couple, almost a locked-room type story with two people and one problem — or a very high-concept sort of problem like in Noelle Adams’s Listed, which has a heroine who’s dying and wants to do X number of things on her list before she dies. These are the kinds of stories that don’t challenge readers’ memory from week to week.
Whereas I decided to write this epic, complex, sprawling road-trip book with a zillion characters and the most screwed up protagonists I’ve attempted yet. So, yeah. We’ll see how that works out. J
4. We discussed my experiences off of Little Torch Key and shared my key deer picture. What a coincidence that I had been there!
Each of your books takes place somewhere different; usually real places like Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Ohio, New York, Little Torch Key, London
— Is this a clever ruse that allows you to travel to do research? If not how do you choose and do research on a location?
Ha! I wish. No, for the most part I’m writing about places I’ve lived or been, or places that I feel capable of imagining. (I’ve never been to Little Torch Key, actually. I picked that particular key because I liked the name, mainly, and it’s small.) I did spend a few days in New York City before I started work on my New York series, but that’s the only research trip I’ve done so far. I do a lot of Internet research, and sometimes interlibrary loan, if I feel like I need to know more in order to write.
5. Mary Janice Davidson tells some wild-ass stories about growing up. What was your childhood like and where was most of it passed?
I had a very pleasant childhood, most of it spent in Gambier, Ohio, which is the town that Camelot, Ohio (the Camelot series) is based on. “Camelot” is meant to be a joke, mostly to myself, because Gambier was such an absurdly easy place to be a kid — I could walk or ride my bike everywhere and be gone for hours with just a note to my mom, and there was never anything to be worried about. There were college students to admire and observe (Kenyon College is in Gambier), and good concerts and lectures when I was a little older, and a bucolic campus, and interesting professors’ kids to be friends with. Then when I was a teenage there were college parties to crash and college students to have hopeless crushes on. It was pretty much ideal.
I have two older brothers and identified, growing up, much more strongly with boys than other girls. It’s only as an adult I’ve felt able to be friends with women (as opposed to with just one or two other girls). I was the sort of girl who wanted a dirt bike instead of a pink bike, and a Michael Jackson red jacket with zippers, and who walked while reading a book, even downtown, and who was allowed to ride to school without a coat. I dressed kind of crazy, too, with no clear body or image awareness but a lot of flair. I sang a lot and was in all the plays. I think I was a larger-than-life kid in some ways, and no one ever knew what to think of me. Also, when I was a teenager no one ever asked me out, so I’m solid on writing about yearning, because I had a lot of yearning years.
Wow, Thanks for taking the time to send back such thoughtful and candid responses. I can’t wait for the next episode in Roman Holiday!
Ruthie’s Website: http://www.ruthieknox.com/
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ROMAN HOLIDAY Discussion Forum NEW! (see the groovy badge to the left – it will take you there!)
RH1 at Amazon CHAINED Released 11/11/2013 from Random House
RH2 at Amazon HITCHED Releases 11/18/2013
RH3 at Amazon BLINDSIDED Releases 11/25/2013
RH4 at Amazon RAVAGED Releases 12/2/2014
RH5 at Amazon IGNITED Releases 12/9/2-13
For many more ways to buy this fantastic serial visit RUTHIE KNOX at RANDOM HOUSE where all her books are listed.
You know I like Ruthie’s writing so much I am going to give one of you a copy of ROMAN HOLIDAY 1: CHAINED for Kindle from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. You must be able to download a copy from the US version of either store. Usually, that is going to mean you are in the USA. Sorry. 18 and older.
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