Ruth Davis Hays is one of my favorite fantasy authors. Jorthus, the world of her imagination, astounds me. Her characters are well rounded, her dialogue snappy, her plots unique. I'm delighted to have her as my guest today at Writer's Sanctuary.
Where are you from?
I live in Kissimmee, Florida. Born in Jacksonville, I moved to Orlando with my husband in 1997.
What sparked your interest in writing?
Reading, really. I grew up listening to my mother read bedtime stories, and I enjoyed any creative writing assignments I was given in school. Once my teachers began encouraging me, I pursued every composition class I could find.
What components, in your opinion, makes a great story?
I think the classic elements of character development are essential. Without characters that entertain the reader, I find even good plots can fall flat.
How would you generally categorize the books/stories you write?
I would say they are fantasy adventures, with a touch of indelicate romance.
Do you set your books/stories in your home town, or do you prefer more exotic locations?
The stories that I'm writing now are set on another world, one similar to Earth in the past. Only where we advanced through technology, they use a spiritual kind of magic.
How much of your writing is based on people or events familiar to you?
Since it is fantasy, events are out of my ordinary realm of everyday life. But, the interactions between characters involve emotions that I've dealt with in my life, and some aspects of the characters are taken from personalities of friends and family.
I've always loved fantastical/fairie tale settings. And, growing up, many games that I would play with my sister or friends were acting out of our imaginations, whether play-acting or role-playing. I took a few elements from some of our more original or memorable adventures and expounded on them with characters that I had created with my friends. The inspiration to put them in story form came when I would share the new ideas in letters with my best friend.
How did you come up with the title?
Well, I wanted the stories to seem like tales chronicling another world, but filtered, or translated through our own understanding here on Earth. So, I referred to them as story translations from Jorthus, the main world. THE DAWNSTONE TALE is, of course, the story of how the major characters encounter the mystic crystal known as The Dawnstone. It's simple, but I liked the ring to it. With the second and third book, I tried to think of one word that would describe the major action in the books.
What was the hardest part of the story to write?
The scenes that connect between major action scenes. Sometimes they are necessary, but I just wasn't inspired and had to drag them out of my brain. The first draft would seem so dry, until I could integrate them as part of the whole.
What was the easiest part of the story to write?
The dialogue. I can hear conversations between the characters in my head all the time, so I try and catch the good parts on paper.
Was there much research involved?
I love researching, always have. I try to draw on things that I learn from history, the humanities, word origins, geology, astronomy, and psychology. I'm fascinated by all of those.
Is there a message in your story you want readers to grasp?
I write to entertain, but I think each of my main characters carries a message for me. Readers usually see different things in a story than the writer does, and that's what makes it special.
What do you feel is your biggest strength as a writer?
I'm not sure. Keeping track of a plot timeline without having to write it down, I suppose.
When your first started writing, did anything about the writing process surprise you?
Editing and how much I had to cut out.
Do you celebrate when you finish a story, and if so, how?
I usually indulge in something naughty, like eating some decadent chocolate thing.
Do you have a set writing routine?
Not really. I should, but my days are so erratic.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Most of the time. Usually something instrumental because if I know the words, my brain insists on singing along instead of concentrating.
What do you like least about writing?
Previously, I have had an awful time with the number of files that I used. I would be writing on one computer and save my work, and then find myself writing somewhere else later, like my laptop or a new hard drive, and would end up saving the work under a different name. This led to my biggest headache with the first two books, comparing and condensing all the files into one master file. Too many backups! Now, I just keep one name and one backup copy.
Give us a mini-tour of your writing space.
I usually sit on the living room sofa with my laptop on my knees and earphones on, so I don't hear too much of the television. I dream of having a desk someday.
Which authors do you feel have influenced your writing most?
Probably a mix of Anne Rice's early work and Douglas Adams.
Name a few titles I’d find if I browsed through your personal home library.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, Salem's Lot (or most Stephen King circa 1970's and 80's), Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles, Dragonlance, a collection of Greek myths, and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
If you could go back in time, what author would you most like to invite to share a chat and a bottle of wine?
Edgar Allen Poe.
You’re marooned on a desert island. What’s the one book you’d want with you, and why?
I suppose I would want my big ol' works of Shakespeare, because it has a little bit of everything: love, betrayal, drama, fights, tragedy, comedy, gore, and plenty of cross-dressing!
Have any new authors caught your interest?
I recently read a short story by Tori Truslow that I found beautiful and fascinating. I’m also enjoying some writings by Tracy Angelina Evans. They both have poetic style prose that envelope the reader and whisk her/him away to dark, intriguing places.
What’s next for you?
I am going to finish up the plot-line started in THE DAWNSTONE TALE. It may take two more books, but there is an ending to that cycle from which I just can’t deviate until it is completed.
Can we look forward to a new story in the near future?
Yes. After the Translations from Jorthus series is done, I hope to start a more personal series, based on one of my main characters called The Northgate Papers.
Who supports your writing activities most?
My husband, my sister, and my best friend. Oh, and my son talks about my books a lot, even though he's too young to read them. Some parts are not exactly G-rated.
What does your family think of your writing?
The ones that don’t normally read Fantasy have a hard time with my writing, but the ones that enjoy ‘other worldly’ stuff seem to really enjoy it. They are all encouraging me to write more.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Write what you enjoy. Create a story that you'd like to read. Because if you don't like it, then who will?
Name a few of your favorite non-writing activities.
Listening to music, watching good movies, drawing, designing costumes, chatting with friends (of course), working on film/play sets, and traveling.
How can readers reach you?
You can find more information here: