My November guest is Carolyn Ruffles. Welcome to By the Letter, Carolyn, and thank you for being here.
Last month I read and reviewed Carolyn’s dual timeline, witch-vibed mystery, The Lightbody Legacy.
Now we get to meet the author herself.
A former teacher, Carolyn lives in rural Norfolk in east England, where she has spent her time since taking early retirement to send four books into the world.
Here’s what Carolyn has to say about her life and writing.
Tell us where you live and what a typical day might look like for you.
I am very fortunate to live in the countryside in Norfolk in the east of England with my husband, Mark, and golden retriever, Ted. Getting out in the fresh air and walking is an important part of my day (and Ted’s). I have two gorgeous grandsons, aged six and three, and provide childcare for them two days each week. Other than that, there is no typical day. I write/edit/ read every day but have no set timetable. When I can, I enjoy meeting up with friends and family. My life is fun and busy, especially as we are currently in the process of renovating a new home.
What kind of writing do you do and what led you to that?
I’m an avid reader and enjoy many genres, including crime, historical, mystery and romance. Most importantly, I love books which tell an intriguing story: books with emotional depth; books with compelling characters; books which keep me reading late into the night/early morning and have a satisfying ending. I am fascinated by human interest stories – ordinary people embroiled in extraordinary dramas and learning about themselves in the process. This is what I try to write. My books do not fit neatly into any one genre but are a mix of the ingredients I want in a novel. I write for myself, first and foremost, and then hope my readers will enjoy what I have written.
How does writing begin for you? Is it an idea, a conversation, a title or an image?
Anything can inspire me to write. I’m never short on ideas – the discipline for me is to harness them and craft them into a good story.
The inspiration behind my first novel, The Girl in the Scrapbook, was personal. It was a torn photo showing my grandmother, Nora, taken when she was a child in the 1920s, standing beside her father. Half of it was missing. My grandmother had ripped off her much-hated stepmother! This intrigued me and the germ of the story was born.
When my son read The Girl in the Scrapbook, he joked that I should include a car chase in my next novel. I tried! In the opening chapter of Who To Trust, Anna realises she is being followed by someone driving a dented, blue Peugeot. The scene is tense as her fear grows but doesn’t quite deliver on the car chase front!
The Vanishing Encore, my third book, was inspired by my love of magic and the film, The Prestige. The metaphor of a magic trick runs through the novel, inspiring the many twists and turns of the plot. There are lots of surprises in this book on the way to the big reveal!
What is the most essential aspect of the story? The characters, the settings, or the plot?
As a reader, it is impossible to choose. I want a story to grip me and force me to keep reading. For that to happen, I need to relate to the characters but also to be intrigued by the plot. To keep me suspended in that other time and/or place, descriptions of the setting are crucial.
As a writer, I plan the plot and the settings. I try to plan the characters but they tend to assume a life of their own! As they grow and develop, they inspire new ideas and the plot can take on a whole new dimension. That, for me, is the most exciting thing about being a writer. So, I guess, I would have to say the characters.
What is your most recent book about? What inspired this particular story?
I’ve just published my latest book, The Lightbody Legacy, the first in a duology. This novel starts with a witch-drowning in 1645, the repercussions of which colour the views, superstitions and lives of the villagers in the present day. There is mystery, murder, romance and a colourful cast of characters. It is set in the fictional village of Wickthorpe in Suffolk.
When visiting my childhood home village of Woolpit with a friend, she said I should write a book with that setting. The idea appealed to me and I decided to write a story called The Woolpit Witch, based upon the seventeenth century witch trials which took place in the nearby town of Bury St Edmunds. However, then my imagination took over and, whilst Woolpit remains the inspiration for the setting, the book is entirely fictional and now has a different title.
What are your future writing plans and especially, when can we expect a new book from you?
I am currently in the process of editing the sequel, The Lightbody Bequest, and hope to publish it by the end of the year. Early feedback from readers of The Lightbody Legacy has been that they cannot wait for the follow-up so I am doing my best to get it out as quickly as I can.
What’s the best thing someone has said about your writing?
Knowing that a reader has enjoyed a book I have written is always thrilling. When he/she has taken the time and trouble to write a review for one of my books, I still become emotional. It means so much.
The comment which touched me the most was from a fellow author. She messaged me about my free novelette, Memories Forgotten (available on my website by signing up for my readers’ list). She wrote that the narrative, ‘held me suspended in a place of beauty.’ What wonderful words! I still become teary-eyed when I think about it.