Robin, thanks so much for joining us here at the “Easy Writer” blog.
Hi Kathi…this is my first visit with you and I am totally honored. Thank you for hosting me.
Before you tell us about your wonderful new book, Ruby Red, I know there are a lot of exciting things going on in the writing arena of your life. Can you give us a brief rundown on your writing journey so far?
My writing is a schizophrenic journey. Years ago I began writing articles that were quickly snatched up, followed by selling every short story I wrote. I then co-authored my first fiction mystery series with someone you know quite well, Susan Wales. (Congrats on Valeria’s Cross, the book you co-authored with her, releasing this fall!) From there I jumped into the romance genre and debuted writing solo with The Turtle Creek Edition series. We all need more romance, right? The first book of the series, The Christmas Edition, is in post production and will be released this 2010 holiday season as a movie, Journey to Paradise by Salty Earth Pictures. Next year, 2011, is the major release. Be sure to watch for the special edition re-release of the book The Christmas Edition this holiday season. Although filmed this past winter in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, I was able to watch it via FaceBook here in Texas. The next two books in the series are The Valentine Edition and The Easter Edition. They too, hopefully, will become movies.
And now Ruby Red. As a writer I know that whatever book we’re working on at the moment is usually our “favorite,” but Ruby Red is especially meaningful to you, isn’t it? Would you give us a summary of the story with a lead-in of how and why you came to write this particular story?
Ruby Red is close to my heart and years in the making to get it right.
Homeless children roamed the streets of New York City from the late 1800s through the 1930s. Death and disease were heaped upon poverty and overcrowding, causing thousands of children to be abandoned and left to fend for themselves. Adding to the malaise, boatloads of European immigrants flooded our shores and soon succumbed to the same adversities, leaving thousands of their children parentless. Accounts have been written of the Orphan Train that carried white-skinned children out into the heartland of America to find new families, but history is totally silent of what became of the dark-skinned children.
Ruby Red is a fictionalized tale of a true event. It’s the end of the Orphan Train run in the mid-1920s. The story is told through Ruby Red’s eleven-year old eyes. After Ruby is taken in as a maid, she finds she has little hope of being anything more and makes a risky move by faking insanity. After being expelled from the household, she sneaks onto a train heading west where she finds adventure, danger, and renewed hope.
Every book has a story behind it and so it is with the debut of my first young adult novel Ruby Red. When I was in middle school, I read a book that changed my life. It was about a remarkable family that adopted ten children, one at a time. I was so moved that I read the book time and again. And then I somehow knew that I would never have biological children but would instead find my children through adoption. Although I would have loved to have raised at least a half-dozen children, God saw fit to bless me with two, first Kimberly and then Matthew.
Kim was in third grade when Good Housekeeping and IBM teamed up for a national writing contest. Kim entered and won national in her division. The story was about her adoption and what it meant to her being part of a family; it was published in A Bear Named Song (a mother’s assertion that “when something valuable goes out of your life, something more precious enters”), later published by Standard Publishing. Although the book is now out of print, it can still be found on the secondary market and through places like Amazon and eBay.
Around this same time I became aware of the Orphan Train. Ruby Red became a speck of an idea that quickly grew and changed over the next several years. This young adult novel is a fictionalized tale of a true event.
Ruby embodies Kimberly’s indomitable spirit, an impish brown-skinned girl who walks into your heart and takes over your life in beautiful ways. Matthew is my son, who is the same shade of white that I am. He is gentle and filled with joy and imagination like Andy. Andy? Who is Andy? You will meet him and others in Ruby Red.
Now that the story is done, do you mind telling us how the telling of it challenged and changed you?
It was challenging to write about a young African American girl in the 1920s. Getting the time period right is the easy part with research, but how does one research the feelings of a little girl from a nationality different from mine? I quickly came to realize there are elements that are universal to us all, such as the need for love and family—a place to belong, a place to call home.
I know there’s a lot more to you than writing. Tell us a little about your personal life—family, hobbies, interests?
I am the Special Education Coordinator for JJAEP (Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Plan) in Denton, Texas. I work with teens who have been expelled from school or court ordered to attend. My days are filled with crises and reward. At night, in the still of my quiet house, I am a writer. It is what centers and calms me. On weekends you will find me at garage sales, and I am also a seller on eBay. My total obsession is cupcakes. At this time of year I get homesick for my hometown of Delavan, Wisconsin, where I grew up on a lake, frittering away my summer vacation boating.
So what’s next? Ruby Red will be a hard act to follow because it’s no light, fluffy read. The message is poignant and hard-hitting. Can we anticipate more of the same in the near future?
The sequel to Ruby Red will be out in time for the holidays. Writing about Ruby has become a precious journey. Once this series is laid to rest, I have another young adult series in mind.
Robin, thank you so much for joining us on “Easy Writer” today. How can our readers contact you and/or order Ruby Red and your other books?
The pleasure is all mine, Kathi. Readers can find me on Facebook and also on my blogs:
My books can be found on Amazon: