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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Debut Author Ruth Trippy Reveals Character Inspiration

Ruth Trippy was born in western Michigan to a Dutch family with values similar to the Victorian era she loves. She left home to teach high school language arts in Florida where she explored her love of apologetics. She also worked as Public Service Director for a radio station in Ft. Lauderdale. Ruth and her husband reside outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and have two grown children. 

Some say a writer is born and others say anyone can learn. What do you say?

Both make up the equation, I think. There has to be some kind of spark, or intelligence or sensibility that is a gift. But then the real work begins: learning the craft of writing. A few writers are like Mozart. They get an idea in their heads, write it down and it’s beautiful from the get go. Most are like Beethoven. They struggle to express their idea, reworking it many times, then finally—it’s beautiful.

Was there a specific ‘what if’ moment that sparked your latest release story?

When I read George Howe Colt’s The Big House and learned what characterized Boston Brahmins—and recognized many of the same traits in my family members—the character of Edward Lyons took off, because I knew him.

Do you have a full or part time day job? If so, how do you balance your writing time with family and work?

I teach piano part time, have since I was fifteen. But balance—what’s that? I’m constantly looking for the perfect “lifestyle” where I feel all warm and cozy and inspired. Simplifying my life—again and again—has helped. Mental outlook is key: Sarah Young’s Sept. 3 devotional in Jesus Calling, depending on God, is wonderful.

Did anything unusual or funny happen while researching or writing this book?

Unusual, yes. My childhood nemesis provided inspiration for the character Loydie, the mischievous boy. During a Michigan winter, “my” Loydie made me walk in a deep ditch covered with ice. I was terribly afraid, not knowing when the ice would break. Years later I saw him at a high school reunion. We mended our fences, and he looked forward to reading this novel. As a high school basketball coach, he was in great shape, but a few months ago died suddenly from a heart attack, before the novel was released.

Do you consider yourself a visual writer: If so, what visuals do you use?

I don’t use visuals in the normal sense. My “visuals” are people and settings from my past and, of course, others are completely made up, but all expand to have a life of their own as the story develops.

What is your writing MO? Are you a plotter, a pantster, or somewhere in between?

Somewhere in between. I know where the story is generally headed, but as I continue to research while writing, new information will suggest another character or scene or additional layer. Often while I’m having my time with the Lord in the morning, something will pop into my head for the story and I quickly jot it down on a post-a-note. I figure it’s from the Lord!

Have you discovered some secret that has helped your process for writing?

I read before I go to bed each night, usually fiction, because it feeds me emotionally, “fills the well,” which is a big part of writing. Then I trust the Lord to help me draw from that well the next day.

What are your thoughts on critique partners?

The right critique partners are invaluable; we all have our blind spots that need to be detected, especially someone like me whose writing background was “spotty.” My novel is a better book not only because my critique partners are savvy, but I worked hard to keep them entertained!

Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing?

Editing! I’d better, because I do so much of it. In fact, I think of myself as a Rewriter—rather than a Writer. I feel a great affinity with Beethoven’s painstaking method of working.

What’s the most difficult part of writing for you – plotting, setting, characterization?

How about all of the above. Every once in a while I get an idea and the words just flow. Also, I’m not a writer who can lie down on the couch and dream up the next scene. I get as far as the opening and then my mind goes round and round on a merry-go-round. Like the Israelites who had to put their feet into the water for the Red Sea or Jordan River to part, I have to physically put pen to paper or type words into my computer before a character or scene starts developing.

What’s your strength in writing (characterization, setting as character, description, etc)?

Hmm. I don’t think I have a strength, it all comes so hard. However, I do have a fire deep inside of me—a moral premise—that I hope comes out as my characters live their story. I write intuitively, often not knowing what I’ve really written, how it’s coming across to a reader. Only recently, when I read a couple of random passages of SOTR did the Lord allow me to see it as someone reading it for the first time. This was encouraging after feeling in the dark about my writing for so long.  

Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy attic nook?

I have this lovely study where I do most of my work. However, when I get “creative,” papers and books start piling up Everywhere, and it doesn’t look so lovely any more.

Did you have any surprising discoveries while writing this book?

Yes, the color red and its many shades kept cropping up: the red leather of Tennyson’s book of poems, the deep red roses at a dinner party, the dusky pink of Celia’s dress. I finally saw that it was Edward Lyons’ favorite color so let it blossom in the story.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve heard?

Be persistent. Don’t give up. After years of writing, I was given the Persistence Award at a writing conference. That was years ago. And finally now, I’m published.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

Be willing to learn from others, even when you think your scene, chapter or manuscript is polished to a wonderful sheen. Writing can be a humbling business. Now I’m glad I wasn’t published when I thought I was ready—that I had to wait, was forced to keep growing. My son, a virtual non-reader, read The Soul of the Rose and expressed with wonder in his voice, how real the characters were. A reaction like that made the waiting worthwhile. 
Soul of the Rose

“And the soul of the rose went into my blood…”

This line from a Tennyson poem captivates young Celia Thatcher, who supposes every woman’s heart hopes to be that rose that enchants a man.

Celia is searching for her own sense of hope after the tragic death of her closest friend. In 1876, she starts life afresh by taking a job in a Massachusetts bookstore. There she soon catches the eye of not one but two men: the elite but unkempt Edward Lyons and the charming law student Charles Harrod. One is hiding from his past and from God. The other promotes a religious belief Celia had never before considered. Both leave Celia wondering if either is right for her.

When one of her suitors is accused of murder, Celia is challenged with a deeper choice: should she follow her heart or her faith?

1 comment:

  1. I met Ruth years ago as I was beginning my writing journey. We lost touch for a few years, then through ACFW, we met up again. I was so thrilled when she got this, her first contract, and now her debut novel! It's been so fun to host her here on Novel Rocket! Congratulations on the release, Ruth! It's a beautiful story. :)


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