Monday, February 11, 2013

Things I Love: Ruthie Knox

This Valentine's Week, we are celebrating all the things we love and I really adore Ruthie Knox. I adore her characters, her voice, her utterly revealing and human but still smoking hot sex scenes. I love her tweets, and the occasionally hilarious stories she tells me from the front lines of her life (which are the front lines of most of our lives, kids, family, home - her's just sound more fun). And I really like Ruthie. She's a person I wished lived closer. She's smart, funny, sincere and all of that shines through her books. Her last two Novellas - Room At The Inn and How To Misbehave are incredible examples of the power a great novella can have. And the best part is - she's very busy right now, so there's alot more of Ruthie's work to come, including a trilogy starting with Along Came Trouble, which I've had the pleasure of reading - and it's everything I've come to expect in a Ruthie Knox story. I strongly encourage you to check this woman out if you haven't.

I asked Ruthie a few questions at about 3:30 in the morning, and she answered at about 3:30 the following morning - another thing I love about her. And for one lucky commentor there will be a digital copy of How To Misbehave!!

How did you get into romance writing? Was it something you always wanted to do? You were a freelance academic editor, right? With a
secret life? A longing in your soul?

Totally. I was an academic first (I did a history Ph.D.), then a freelance academic editor and obsessive knitter, and then I had a baby, and I
didn't sleep for 11 months. The knitting kind of ground to a halt, because whereas I used to do it early in the morning with a cup of tea and in the hour or so before bed, now I spent those periods of time laying on any flat surface, either sleeping or wishing I were dead. Um, in the normal way for new mothers. Not the actually suicidal way.

So there I was, taking care of my kid and editing about 30 hours a week,and very tired, and I bought a Kindle to help me with the reading-while-breastfeeding thing. And Harlequin was giving away a six-pack of romances for free, so of course! I read those, and then I read 9,000 more--mostly Harlequin Blaze--and then one day at yoga, I
had an idea for a Blaze of my own, so I wrote it. Then I wrote another one (which, revised, became About Last Night), and a third one (Ride with Me), which I used to get an agent and sold to Loveswept. From putting my very first words of my first manuscript on the page to selling to Loveswept took eight months--which means that everything sincehas been a pretty wild ride.

I didn't always want to be a writer. I love to read and liked to edit,enjoyed writing papers in college, didn't mind writing a
dissertation--but I thought I had no ideas for stories. What category romance gave me was a structure to work with--a sort of mental
scaffolding to build a story around. And if it weren't for that scaffolding, I never even would have*tried* to write a book. It is the trying that teaches you how, of
course. I never knew that, but now I get it. The only way to become a writer is to write some books.


But the progression from historian to editor-who-knits to romance writer felt very natural, odd as that may sound. I consider myself to be a
rational, analytical person, but I have this streak of (mostly) buried romanticism, and I'm also deeply interested in what makes people tick.
Throughout my life, I've balanced thinky pursuits with art-making of one sort or another. Romance writing is, for me, a lovely mix of the
creative and the analytical/rational.

How did Ride With Me happen?

Well. Yes. So I was writing in something like total isolation (though I did manage to befriend the lovely Serenity Woods early on -- but even
she wasn't reading my daily output), and while I had a vague idea that I might someday wish to be published, it didn't dictate my decisions in any significant way. Writing was still something I was doing for fun, kind of on a lark. I got a copy of Adventure Cycling magazine in the mail, which is the publication of the Adventure Cycling Association. This is a group I belong to that exists to promote long-distance travel by bicycle. They have a "Companion Wanted" page in the magazine where people write little personal ads to find someone
to ride with them across the U.S. or in Peru or wherever. And I thought, "That would be a great way for a hero and heroine to meet. Especially if they HATED each other." Since there wasn't anyone around to tell me *not* to write it, I wrote it. It was great fun. I got some help on the early chapters from Harlequin Blaze author Isabel Sharpe,
but for the most part Ride with Me was the result of me writing about something I found entertaining and fun and sexy, sort of figuring that ifI liked all this stuff, someone else probably would, too.

When I'd finished, I thought it was pretty good, so I pitched it to agents. "I am writing to inquire about your interest in representing COMPANION WANTED, a contemporary erotic romance novel with bicycles."This worked on exactly one agent, which was, luckily, the number of agents I needed. :-)

You have written full length, 100,000 word books, shorter almost category length and novellas - do you have a preference? Is there something you've learned about writing each of those - I keep wanting to say distances. I'm amazed by your novellas. For my money, you and Courtney Milan own that length (distance) - do you have a sense when thinking of an idea, what story is better suited to which length?

I don't think I have a preference. As a reader, I like longer books best,because I read quickly and I'm stingy. But as a writer, I find I enjoy something different about every length. When you write a manuscript that's 110,000 words long, it's harder to keep from getting lost in the middle, and it's more difficult to manage the inevitable anxiety that's part of the writing process--I don't know what I'm doing, this is boring, there's no story here, these characters make no sense, I don't know what happens next, blah blah blah failpants. For a
20,000-word novella, it might take me a week to get the first draft down; a 100,000-word book will take me six weeks or two months. It's
hard to maintain my love for the story, my confidence in its worth, for that long. It's all just much BIGGER. But by the same token, I often love the long books more in the end, for what I've managed to achieve with them. So there are pluses and minuses.

To be compared to Courtney Milan on any metric is a thrill for me. Itseems to me (having written only three short things in my entire life) that in a novella, it's more important to have a tight concept--one problem to solve, a strong inciting incident, something with a lot of muscle that will pull the reader in and propel the story along. There is less space to develop character and no words to waste. The biggest challenge in a romantic novella, I think, is to sell the romance itself, especially if you have a short timeline. Give me 100,000
words, and I can convince you my characters fell in love in three days.But in 30,000 words? Tough to do.

You seoem to be a totally natural social media user - do you like social media? At times it's such an awkward balance between promotion and friendship - and courting readers and reviewers, but somehow knowing when to stay out of the conversation and when to join - I'm at a loss at times. How big a piece of the pie is it for you in terms of promo?
Do you have guidelines you try to follow?

I love Twitter. I like Facebook sometimes, dislike it other times, but don't mind using it as a tool to connect to readers who prefer it. I like answering email and making friends online. I love talking about romance with readers, reviewers, other writers--just *love* it. Could doit all day.

I agree, the balance between promotion and friendship can be awkward. I find it helps to slough off the pointless worry as much as I can. Not everyone will like everything I do on the Internet. There isn't any perfect way to do it. So I just try to be me, and have fun, and let the chips fall.

I think most people appreciate authenticity and honesty, so that even if they get irritated with me for excessive retweeting or using the f-word or whatever it is I'm doing "wrong" today, they won't hold it against me.

It probably helps that I'm deeply conflict averse and a serious people-pleaser. My default mode is, "Let's all be friends!" Not a bad default mode for social media.

You have a lot of books coming out this year, and more in the works and you are the mom to a busy four year old - what's your schedule like?
What time of day is your "I can never get anything done in my life because I am constantly cleaning up dropped toast and lego!" freak out?

My schedule is adequate but fragile. I have about 30 hours of babysitting a week, which I spend in my office working while my son plays with the
sitter out in the living room. There's a morning shift and an afternoon shift; my husband and I split the middle of the day, late afternoon / bedtime, and morning before the sitter comes. We have a schedule that governs when we get a workout. I usually get up at 3:30 a.m. to write, because it's dark and quiet and no one needs me. I love that time of day the best.

I tend not to freak out except when the schedule gets broken, which it does pretty often. Whenever our son gets sick, or a babysitter gets sick, or a babysitter randomly flakes, or my husband has to travel for work, etc., everything falls apart and I start hyperventilating. But, you know, "most precious days of our lives" and all that. I try to get several hikes/runs/walks/bike rides in every week and endeavor not to take myself too seriously. That helps, too.


Wanda (A Book Lover's Retreat) said...

Hi Ruthie! You are a newly discovered author to me thanks to Molly's interview. I would love to read your book! Thank you for the interview!


Moran V said...

Great interview.

It was fun reading how you started writing your first published book and how you end up writing romance books.

I can't wait for Along Came Trouble to come out next month!

Wendy S. Marcus said...

Hi Ruthie!

Great inteverview! I'm a fan! I already have How to Misbehave so no need to enter me in the drawing.

Joy Allen said...

Hi Ruthie! I so love your style of writing and the answers in your interview! I am looking forward to Along Came Trouble release so I can get a copy. You are a new author to me and I look forward to changing that!

Kim said...

Nice interview. It must be difficult juggling things at home. Besides the babysitting setbacks, what about friends that drop by thinking you can write after they leave? Is it difficult to tell people you can't always entertain when you're working?

Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview, Molly and Ruthie! It's always great to catch a glimpse into another writer's habits, and I always love hearing how someone "broke into" publishing. Thanks for sharing!

Maureen McGowan said...

Great interview, Molly and Ruthie! I love how you described the romance genre as giving you a scaffolding on which to build a story.
I think that's why I credit the genre for turning me into a writer too--even if I'm not writing romance now. I'm not sure I would have had the courage, or the tools, to write my first novel if I hadn't started with a scaffolding on my first one.
Then the experience of accomplishing that gave me some of the tools and some of the confidence needed to try again And again...

Stephanie Doyle said...

Great interview... But seriously Ruthie - 3:30 in the MORNING. That's not morning - that's the middle of the night.

I'm lucky my brain still functions enough at that hour to keep me breathing yet alone writing.

Bless you.. and I wish you much sleep in your future.

Maureen McGowan said...

Steph, I think the way you feel about 3:30 in the morning is how feel about 7:30 in the morning. Who in their right mind would be up at 7:30 am? On purpose? ;)

Fedora said...

Very fun interview--thank you both for taking the time to share a little! And ouch--3:30! Although I do understand--usually the house is nice and quiet at that point ;)

f dot chen at comcast dot net

Ruthie Knox said...

@Flghtlss -- Thanks! If you check one of my books out, hope you enjoy!

@Moran -- I know! Me, too!

@Joy -- Thank you! Hope you enjoy.

@Kim -- This sounds like a good problem to have! I live far from my family, have a small child, and all my friends are (a) employed full time and (b) have kids of their own. No one ever drops by. Ever. :-)

@Jessi -- Our pleasure!

@Maureen -- Thanks! I think we see some of the same things happening with "pulled-to-publish" fan fiction -- one reason I always wince when someone tells these authors "Write your own book." They did! They just leaned heavily (or sometimes not even all that heavily) on a structure. :-)

@Stephanie -- Thanks! It helps that I go to bed at 8:30.

@flchen -- You got it. Quiet! Dark! No one bothers me at all. (And when they do -- GRR.)

Sarah said...

Yay! I really enjoy both Ruthie's books and her social media presence. Though, my mind is kind of boggled that anyone can function, let alone write, at 3:30am!

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