It is great to have you with us, Ruth, and we are all eager to know about you and your books! I for one, am a huge fan of your work and having read them all, I want to know a lot more about you.
1. First of all, let’s talk about your Winter trilogy. How did you come up with such an excellent idea
Hi Malika, thank you for having me! Well… I have answered this question in lots of different ways because truthfully there were lots of different seeds to the Winter trilogy but the basic core of it came from one day when I was listening to the radio and it was a discussion about romance novels, and the commentator was saying how hard it was to write a convincing romance in the 21st century because you need a good reason for the protagonists not to fall into each others’ arms on the first page.
These days if you like someone, and they like you, there are not so many reasons why you can’t be with each other. And I was listening to this thinking that for me, the most compelling reason not to fall into someone’s arms would be if I wasn’t sure how they really felt about me. And that’s when the idea for the series came into my head: a girl casts a love spell on a boy and she gets his eternal love – but the price she pays, which gradually poisons their relationship, is that she never knows for certain how he really feels about her.
2. How long did it take you to write the first book, and was there any research involved?
I wrote the first book comparatively quickly – about 3 months. And yes there was lots of research – into ancient magical grimoires, and folk superstitions, and witchcraft history. I love research and some of my best story ideas have come from unexpected research avenues.
3. You have portrayed witch magic very differently in your book series, how did you come up with this inspiration?
I’m not really sure! I guess it just seemed like the natural way witchcraft would work to me – like it would be an extension of people’s personalities – not good or bad but a mixture of the two, of good intentions and mistakes and half-learned truths, and a mix of learned skills and gut inspiration.
4. Thank you so much for an insight into your first three books, but I can’t let you go yet! Your next story is set in the 1800s and follows the same concept of the Winter trilogy. I can see a lot of research gone into writing Witch Finder, can you tell us what part was the hardest to research?
As I already mentioned, I love research so I deliberately took on a historical setting because I knew it would take a lot of research and I’d have fun doing that. It was the tiny mundane details that were hardest to fine. Stuff like, could you just turn up at a blacksmith’s with a lame horse, or would you have to make an appointment like at a doctor’s? How much did a night at an inn cost?
5. ‘Social class’ is a big issue in Witch Finder, and Witch Hunt. What do you personally think about it?
Oh my goodness – that’s a question that could take hours to answer! Well I think that class, along with women’s rights, were the two big issues in Victorian times. There was horrendous inequality between the lives of the wealthy and the poorer members of society, and a lack of social mobility meant that people were often condemned to live the life they were born to without any chance to improve their circumstances.
In spite of this, there was a general feeling that people deserved their fate – that rich people had somehow done something to deserve being born this way and that poor people should be desperately grateful for the crumbs of charity which fell their way – crumbs which could be withheld if they didn’t behave in the “right” way or seem properly grateful. I suppose part of the reason I wanted to write about this was because I think as a society we’re in danger of slipping back that way.
Our levels of social inequality aren’t back at Victorian levels yet, but we’re facing a lot of the same issues – a London that’s split into the haves and have-nots, those with prospects and those without, and a general feeling that the poor are deserving of their lot. And although things are legally massively much better for women, we’re still, depressingly, fighting a lot of the same battles as we were in Victorian times – judged on our appearance and our behaviour in a way that men aren’t.
To know more about you, here are some random questions.
1. What books have inspired you to become a writer?
Too many to list – sorry! But a few that helped inspire the Winter and Witch Finder books – The Morte D’Arthur, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, the Earthsea Trilogy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Beowulf – many more!
2. Who are your favourite authors, please name three.
These are not my favourite three – I don’t think I could pick a top three – but three that I love – Diana Wynne Jones, JK Rowling, Nancy Mitford
3. When did you begin writing?
As soon as I could write!
4. Did you always want to be a writer/author?
Yes, but I never thought it would happen
5. What advice would you give to potential writers out there?
Keep plugging away, have a plan b, don’t lose faith. Writing is 93% perspiration, 5% inspiration, and 2% luck.