Jen: This week we are happy to have Ruth Sims as our guest at Romancing the Book. Ruth, will you please share a short bio with us?
Ruth: I was born between the Depression Generation and the Baby Boomers so I don’t belong to a generation known for anything except blah. Before I married at 21, my major accomplishment was surviving a childhood that included poverty and other unpleasant things. I had two great kids, worked at various dead-end jobs, regretted not going to college, finally retired, and finally fulfilled my dream of writing full time. It will never make me rich or famous but that’s ok. I love to write and expect to do it until I’m planted. Since I’m the slowest novelist on the planet, I will have to live until I’m 220 in order to finish all my works in progress.
Jen: Tell us about Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story and where it’s available.
Ruth: It’s the story of a young man’s passion to create music for a new century, and his passion to live and his love for another man, and it’s the story of the courage it takes to survive a loss and love again. The publisher is Dreamspinner, and their books can be purchased in any brick and mortar store (though Borders drags their feet about ordering them). If the books are not on the shelves the bookstores can order them. If readers are looking to find it on the shelf, it is best to try a GLBT store, if they can locate one. Sadly, many independent bookstores have gone the way of the dodo. If the reader buys online, the best place is probably Dreamspinner’s site www.dreamspinnerpress.com though, of course, it’s also available at Amazon.com and elsewhere in both print and electronic. The reviews so far have been phenomenal.
Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Ruth: I wrote my first story when I was six or seven and I still remember the Pulitzer-Prize-worthy beginning. “It was spring. There was a horse.” I ask you, could any Pulitzer or Nobel committee resist such an opening? It was written in pencil in a school tablet. I wish I still had it.
The first thing published for which I was paid (1/4 cent a word as I recall) was in the early 1980’s in a now defunct little literary magazine. I don’t remember the name of the publication, but the story was called “Andre.” It was about the last hours of John Andre, the handsome young British officer who was hanged by George Washington as a result of the Benedict Arnold treason.
Jen: Describe your writing in three words.
Ruth: Characters. Characters. Characters.
Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Ruth: I just go with it. I’m not saying it’s the best way; it’s not. But it’s the only way I can do it. To plot requires one thing I don’t have: an analytical and logical mind. My writing is like life; it just seems to happen. I pull it all together when I revise. And revise. And revise. I revise until a publisher’s editor starts work on it. As I said, I am the world’s slowest living novelist. Both The Phoenix (revised version Lethe Press 2009) and Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story (Dreamspinner 2010) were begun in the mid-80’s.
Jen: What is it about the romance genre that appeals to you?
Ruth: That’s a hard question to answer because there are so many varieties and gradations of romance within the genre. I think a lot of people, maybe most, like their romance flavored with reality and I’m just the opposite. I like the reality spiked with a love story. I especially like to read and write historical romance.
I truly believe in love, the “you and me against the world” kind that endures hardship, separation, and sometimes even beyond death. Want proof? I just celebrated my 50th wedding anniversary. After a half-century with the same man I think I know a bit about love over the long haul, but I’m not so old I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be young and in love. Stories I write and books I enjoy reading can have love/romance as a major part, but there has to be more to it than that, and “happy for now” is my kind of ending because characters are people and people are unpredictable—and so is what will happen to them after the book is closed.
I like all kinds of books, but especially well written gay romance because I think relationships are difficult for everyone, and when the pressures of societal prejudice and disapproval are added in, the struggle is intensified.
Lol — I’m not sure I answered that question at all. Sorry.
Jen: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Ruth: They do, indeed. I can’t go into detail because it would mean writing a major spoiler, but one event in Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story, gave me nightmares for a long time. In fact, one of the reasons it took so many years to get it finished was that I kept rewriting to make that event go away—but it wouldn’t. It had to be in there for the sake of the story.
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Ruth: Whichever one I’m working with at any given time. Though, overall, I think I’d have to say Laurence, in Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story, because he has a similar bemused view of the world: it is what it is and you learn to deal with it the best you can. Laurence is a lot wiser than I am.
Jen: What five authors or people, from the past or present, have been important to you as an author? What question or comment have you always wanted to say to them?
Ruth: First and most important has to be my “old maid” first grade teacher, who mentored me for years. She taught a painfully shy, very poor child who never “fit in” (and still doesn’t) to love books, and see a world beyond poverty and struggle. She took me to the public library and got books for me. She was a factor in my life until my teens, when she moved away. She has been dead many years now, but I wish I could tell her how much she meant to my life. I am basing a character on her in one of my works in progress, “A Bit of Earth.”
The authors whose writing influenced me when I was young were the ones I read most often: Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, Jack London, Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen Vincent Benet, Gene Stratton Porter. Once I learned to read well enough, I lost interest in kids’ books, though library rules kept me in the children’s section long after I was ready to leave! My blessed teacher lent me books of her own. Through them and others like them I knew I wanted to someday use the language in a beautiful and meaningful way. Maybe someday I will.
Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book?
Ruth: Had my first taste of alcohol and got giggly—and I was in my fifties. There’s an explanation. Since I grew up in a dysfunctional family with a number of quarrelsome heavy drinkers, I decided very young that I would never drink. But when I actually had a published book in the early 90’s a friend talked me into trying a Kahlua-and-cream. Now I have one whenever I sell another story. That’s the advantage of being such a slow writer:I’m in no danger of becoming an alcoholic!
Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Ruth: Whenever a reader or reviewer says they are erotic, I have to laugh a little because I think I’m the most un-erotic writer on the planet. Here’s are examples from early reviews of Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story:
“I know the author does not consider herself a writer of erotic material, and indeed there is nothing in this book that could be described as even remotely explicit, but if you like your male action, I think you’ll find some of her scenes intensely erotic, all the more so for their subtlety. Trust me, the romance here is more than holding hands and sighing wistfully.” (Victor J. Banis) and Amos Lassen said: “Most of us expect novels about male/male romance to be somewhat erotic but there is nothing overt here. What there is comes across as very sexy. This is because the author chooses to express “eroticism” in very subtle terms and very discretely. I found some of the scenes to be intensely arousing even though sex is not portrayed directly.”
Fabulous reviews! But that particular notion amuses me.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Ruth: Decision-making!! I have six unfinished novels and can’t decide which one to do. Until I make up my mind, I’m writing short stories, four of which have been published by Untreed Reads as e-books. http://www.untreedreads.com/?page_id=2
Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Ruth: My website is www.ruthsims.com, and I make occasional appearances on LiveJournal, Facebook, and Goodreads. I’m not very good at keeping up with them. On my website, a visitor can read excerpts, review snippets (with links to the whole thing), subscribe to my infrequent newsletter, etc. LJ and FB members are welcome to “friend” me. (I will never get used to using that as a verb!)
Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Ruth: Oh, yes! If you read a book or story you like, I beg you to let the author know! Not just me, but any author. You have no idea how much even a short note means to someone who spends his/her day alone in a room with only a computer and imaginary people for company! Writing fiction is a lonely business and only the certifiably insane do it. Most authors can be reached through their websites or their publishers’ websites. I don’t know about anyone else, but I answer every letter and email. Some people who have written to me have become close friends.
The other thing I would ask them to do is this: Never refer to yourself as “just a reader”! Without readers, books would not exist and authors would just be spitting into the wind. Without readers I’d have to give up and get an honest job or start robbing banks.
Jen: Readers, Ruth is giving away a couple prizes this week. Because of the high cost of shipping books, the prize winners will have to be US or Canadian residents. However, she will willing to send bookmarks anywhere across the globe. So, to enter the contest for print copies of Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story and The Phoenix, you first need to leave a comment or question for Ruth. Then to finish your entry, you must either leave your email address in your comment or send a message to email@example.com. If you’d like one of the 25 bookmarks up for grabs, just send a message to the same email address and include your mailing address. The first 25 responses will get a bookmark. And the book winners will be announced on Sunday, September 5.