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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ruth Interviews Elizabeth Ruth!

Canadian Author Elizabeth Ruth

I'm very pleased to showcase another fine Canadian writer, Elizabeth Ruth. We met years ago when I was still floundering around trying to figure out all this 'being a writer' nonsense, and found Elizabeth to be friendly and helpful-- eager to share her experiences and offer advice.

Elizabeth Ruth hit the Canadian literary scene in 2001 with her very fine first novel Ten Good Seconds of Silence, and followed up with the riveting Smoke in 2005. I was very excited to see a new novel from this talented and insightful author at last-- Matadora arrived on the shelves in April of 2013.

Q: Hooray! A new novel from Elizabeth Ruth! Please share a brief overview and give us a taste of what Matadora is about.

A: Matadora tells the story of Luna Caballero Garcia, an impoverished and intrepid servant attempting to make her name in the bullring at a time when it was illegal for a girl to do so. Matadora carries readers from bohemian artistic circles in Mexico City and Andalusia to Norman Bethune's mobile blood transfusions on the Madrid front. The novel is an exploration of love and ambition. The pain that drives our ambition, the yearning for love it reveals, the lengths we go to win that love - and of course, the price we pay along the way. Matadora is for anyone who’s tried, against all odds, to rise above circumstance.

Q: As we know, the best ideas for novels often hits an author out of the blue. It can be something innocuous: a snippet of overheard conversation, a quirky news item, or a half-remembered dream. What triggered you to write about such an unusual story? 

A: It all began one Saturday morning in my kitchen. The radio was on, and I heard the CBC broadcaster mention a 16-year-old girl in Mexico who was fighting bulls. Immediately intrigued, I wondered why would a girl want to become a bullfighter? Why would anyone choose to do such a violent and dangerous thing? Having once been a vegetarian for 18 years, I could hardly bring myself to squash a bug let alone imagine publicly killing an animal for entertainment. At that time I was also reading Emma Goldman’s collection, Anarchism & Other Essays. Before long, thoughts of fascism and resistance, the politics of the left, Spain, and women’s rights all began to meld in my mind with this notion of a torera. I had already written two novels set in Canada, and the second one, Smoke, was my take on the so-called quiet Canadian novel. I knew that for my third book I wanted to write something loud and brassy, full of colour and heat. I wanted to write a new kind of Canadian novel. That’s Matadora.

Q: Every writer has a different approach to their work. What's a typical day in the process like for you?

A: Well, since my daughter was born in 2007 there has been a major shift in my writing process. Before Violet, I wrote 9-5 during the days, and worked for pay at night and on week-ends. After Violet I wrote from 7:30 PM (after bedtime) until 2:30 am. (still working week-ends) I wanted to both write and care for my daughter during the days, so sleep had to go. I did that for a number of years. I’m trying to catch up on sleep now!

Q: In a perfect world, what would you most like to be doing five years from now?

A: Ooooh. In an ideal world, I would be traveling regularly, and completing another book of some sort. I would be bringing in bucket fulls of money from my novels, and working part-time in the arts & culture sector. Oh, and I would have my own horse to ride!

Q: With the ease of e-book publishing, there has been a flood of writers leaping into the fray. What three pieces of essential advice would you give to enthusiastic new Indies?

A: 1) Learn how to be your own publicist and creative marketing executive 2) Work harder than you’ve ever worked at your writing and when you think you’ve finished a book, hold onto it for another year and keep working. Books that sell now have to be of publishable quality when they are shopped around. 3) Don’t write for money. Do something else for money. Write because you have something to say.

Q: I know you teach creative writing. If any aspiring authors out there would like to learn from you, where can they find you?

A: I’m currently mentoring within the Humber School for Writer’s Correspondence Program, and will begin teaching creative writing at the University of Toronto again in the fall. I’ve taught at U of T for many years.

[Note: The Humber program is a great opportunity, because you can study from anywhere with some truly excellent mentors. I was thrilled to study with Peter Carey back in the day, and I got a lot from the course.]

Q: The media buzz for Matadora has been enthusiastic and full of praise-- congratulations! Are there any events coming up where readers can connect with you?

A: Yes, thanks for asking! On May 15th at 7PM there is a great event at the Metro Reference Library in Toronto.  Matadora has been selected to be part of Toronto Public Library’s “Eh” list Author Series. I will read from Matadora and Susan G Cole, NOW Magazine Senior Entertainment Editor will interview me. This event is free. In fact, I have a number of events upcoming, including festivals and book clubs. The list is updated regularly and can be found at my website:

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