Ruth Logan Herne is a contest circuit success story. Her first-place entry in the 2008 Finally A Bride contest sponsored by Oklahoma Romance Writers sold to one of the final round judges, Steeple Hill senior editor Melissa Endlich. Winter’s End is due out in March 2010. That was more than enough to make Ruthy shout “Oh. My. Stars!” But the good news didn’t stop there. Oh, no! She’s sold two more titles from her North Country Series.
A lover of modern country music, Ruthy believes she was destined to be Southern but was dropped into upstate New York by a directionally challenged angel. The seventh of nine children, Ruthy and her mostly patient hubby had six kids of their own. All grown, their four sons and two daughters, along with two daughters-in-law and two sons-in-law, have blessed them with 5.5 beautiful grandchildren.
One of the fifteen women who founded the popular blog The Seekers, Ruthy regales visitors to Seekerville with a repast of cyber treats that leave visitors happy the tempting fare is calorie-free. She also dishes out her trademark brand of humor, which runs the gamut from good clean fun to downright snarky at times. But what can you expect from a witty woman with one post categorized “Ruthy Being Nice” as opposed to four bearing the label, “Ruthy’s Harangues?” She keeps her Seekerville sisters and visitors alike in line as no one but Ruthy can, doling out pep-talks borne of lessons learned during her many years in pursuit of that first contract–and is loved for her witty ways and down-home charm.
When not writing, doting on her grandkids or putting smiles on the faces of Seekerville visitors, Ruthy loves to bake. Cyber-baking allows her the old-fashioned pleasure of feeding others with no weight gain, thereby filling multiple directives. Her favorite kind of day would be one filled with God, friends and family, chocolate, probably not in that order.
Join me as we learn about more about Ruthy and her journey to publication.
Before We Begin . . .
•Ruthy, no interview with you would be complete without the delectable cyber fare you’re known for. So, what can your visitors look forward to? And is there anyone in particular hanging out to serve the goodies?
Well, I contacted Barista Jack, but he has prior commitments working on the filming of the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I tried every which way to get a fellow Seeker to serve as lackey, but they’re somewhat full of themselves and think day jobs and writing take precedence. I mean, hey! What’s up with that?
And Keli, dear, YOU’RE the host. Really, darling, it should be up to you to provide the food for the day, don’t you think? Get right on that, dear. We’ll wait.
Aw, shucks, Ruthy. Thought I could get out of cooking. I’m sooo not talented in the kitchen. But since you insist, I’ve contacted a shop in town that makes to-drool-for cinnamon rolls. I mean these things are massive as well as scrumptious. And you can get yours with or without nuts. I’m nutty enough without adding more, so I go without. As for coffee, I don’t drink the stuff, although I love how it smells. But since many do, I’ve got Java City ready to fill your mugs with whatever you’d like. So, prepare to munch out. ~ Keli
Ruthy’s Journey Begins
•Seven years ago you turned your dream of being a published author into a goal, beginning your first story. What prompted you to embark on a journey known to be fraught with hard work, hardships and heartbreak? Was it a story that had to be told, characters who wouldn’t stop chattering in your head or dogged determination not to let dismal publishing statistics staunch your creative spirit?
Oh my stars, darling girl, let’s just strike that last line now… I’m nervous even contemplating the words dismal publishing statistics. 🙂
You can’t look at those, I repeat: do not look at those stupid statistics. Statistics have nothing to do with God’s plan for you or your level of determination.
This is where I say I wrote the story of my heart, right? But they’re all stories of my heart. You can’t live this long (or shouldn’t, in any case) and not have tales to tell. So yup, I dove in, made multiple stupid mistakes, learned from them, pulled up my big girl panties and moved on.
•The Books page of your Web site lists seven completed manuscripts. Is that the total of your works, or are aborted attempts not fit to be seen by others shoved in some dark corner?
Those are the seven I had time to play with and load, LOL!
I have fifteen completed manuscripts right now. The early ones don’t count. They were horrible. Unfortunately they had good beginnings and made it onto an editor’s desk. She ran screaming and hasn’t been heard from since. This is a true story; the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Find a good critique partner (thank you Sandra Lee Smith!!!) to watch your back and save you from yourself before you do what I did. It wasn’t pretty.
•Your characters face tough stuff–painful pasts marred by abuse and alcoholism, disillusionment and divorce, liars and loss. What is it that compels you to work such heartache and hardships into your characters’ lives? And what part does faith play in their recovery and redemption?
Heartache and hardships???
Oh Mylanta, girl, wait. I need more coffee. With sweet creamers, please, maybe a shot of vanilla.
Here’s the scoop. I love using humor to defuse tough situations in life and fiction. God has a sense of humor. I’m sure of it. I’ve seen possums. It took a humorous and possibly quirky mindset to craft a creature like that, let me tell you, and they’re not all that funny when they set up camp on my front porch, enjoying the cat food originally intended for the… you guessed it… cat.
Life’s tough. I don’t downplay that in my books. It’s how my characters deal with a given situation that rounds them out. So I try (that being the operative word, Cupcake) to develop characters who CAN handle what I throw at them, with God’s grace. This generally takes repeated smacks upside the head, but eventually they get it. I’m still trying to figure out what takes them so long, LOL!
Ruthy’s Milestone Moments
•You and your Seekerville pals met as you bumped into one another on the contest circuit, juggling the placements amongst yourselves. I performed a Google search to discover some of your successes, Ruthy, and quickly lost count of how many contest winners’ lists you’ve graced. How many placements have you racked up? Of those, which have meant the most to you, and why?
I have no idea, but isn’t it SAD that it took this long, LOL???
I loved placing in contests. Winning did not matter. Still doesn’t. While I’m outrageously competitive, it’s self-competitive, aimed at making myself a better writer, public speaker, person and friend. Contests were a means to an end, to getting good critiques (sometimes) and on an editor’s desk (sometimes).
I have to say that I loved winning the Noble Theme (now Genesis, run by the American Christian Fiction Writers) in the General Fiction category with a book called The First Gift. But I was just as pleased to draw the attention of Paula Eykelhof with my query letter entry in The Peninsula Pitch contest two years ago.
I love writing warm, funny, inspirational stories and to have editors like Melissa Endlich, Wanda Ottewell and Paula Eykelhof like my work, that’s huge to me. That’s what matters. These women know their stuff, like good bird dogs in the bayou, unafraid to ferret out the prey. In this case the prey is good fiction, and nobody does it better.
Do you think they’re going to love that analogy, the whole dogs in the bayou thing? 🙂
Forging the Seekers reflected this mindset for all fifteen of us. Our goal wasn’t to beat one another (although it happened, and still happens frequently) but to earn and glean that first contract. To make the step off Unpubbed Island. With four more gals to go, we’re redoubling our spiritual, emotional and humorous efforts to kick them off the island. I mean, seriously, how much fish can one girl eat? Even with a huge supply of coconuts?
•Congrats on your stellar showing. It’s clear your stories have stood out to many contest judges. No doubt, one win stands out to you. Please tell us about the 2008 Finally a Bride Contest.
Well, that one is in a category of its own. The gals at OKRWA do a great job with their contest. Entries must have finaled in but not won a contest in the past year, so already the competition is stacked. Every one of the entries has merit noted by a team of judges somewhere. I entered two manuscripts. Both finaled, and resulted in multiple requests by Melissa Endlich of Steeple Hill and Rebecca Germany of Barbour, the two final round judges. What a lovely honor!
•So, the FAB paid off in a BIG way. Melissa made The Call in June of this year. But you missed it. You’ve shared the detailed account of that incredible experience at The Seekers, but please give an abbreviated version for your visitors here who may not have heard it.
Oh my, what a crazy experience that was! I was out of town, watching my beautiful granddaughter while her parents traveled to Ethiopia to pick up their newest addition, little Nathan. My second daughter called me from home to tell me Harlequin had called.
We all know what that means. They only call for ONE THING.
The question right then was, WHICH HARLEQUIN? Inadvertently, I had two versions of the same manuscript on two editors’ desks as the result of different contests.
Both editors were aware of the situation, and I had to check the area code to know it was Melissa calling from NYC. I had no Internet on my computer, had to use my daughter’s slower-than-an-Apatosaurus-on-Ambien laptop, and my fingers shook while I tried to access my e-mail. Yup, there it was, an e-mail saying: Greetings from Steeple Hill.
Smiling here. Big time. Of course I have big front teeth so I HAVE to smile big.
•Your FABulous win led to a fabulous editor, whom you’d interviewed in November 2008. Three months before Melissa’s life-changing call, you’d also interviewed your dream agent, Wendy Lawton. How did she become your fabulous representative, navigating the publishing waters for you?
That seems like a set-up, doesn’t it?
It was. First, I’m not afraid to chat with anyone about anything, and interviewing these amazing women helps me “see” the industry from other angles, very important if your dream is to emerge successful and financially sound.
Second, Melissa had just stepped into the role of Senior Editor at Steeple Hill, and I’d heard so many good things about her that I wanted to show her off to Seekerville visitors. We had an outpouring of hits that day because not only is Steeple Hill open to working with new authors, a huge plus in this industry, they carry the strength and magnitude of the “Big H”, Harlequin behind them. Nobody does romance better, and our Seekerville visitors love to actually “chat” with editors and agents. It rocks.
Of course it DIDN’T HURT that I knew I’d just entered the FAB and that my work would land on Melissa’s desk IF I finaled. And that was a big “if” because there are no guarantees in this business. (I’m reminded of a certain Keli Gwyn who toasted me in the GH two years ago but I’m SO OVER THAT, Kel. 🙂 ) I wanted Melissa to have a glimpse of me, of who I am, of my work ethic, etc. You only get one chance to make that first impression, right?
I did the same thing with Wendy. I’d missed a chance to meet with her three years ago and regretted it ever since. Wendy is funny, dynamic, warm and straight to the point. I love that. And Books & Such has a well-documented history of being a go-to agency. Janet, Wendy and Rachel run with the big dogs.
Oops. Another dog analogy. These women will have my head. 🙂
When I approached Wendy, she was on vacation. In Alaska. Unreachable.
But then she e-mailed me back from her phone, we eventually got a phone call in two days later where we could BOTH hear, and she agreed to represent me. Of course a contract on the table is never a BAD thing to wave in front of an agent. And it was my friend Andrea Wilder who said, “Go after your dream agent now. This weekend. Do not wait, do not pass go, do not collect your two hundred dollars. Just do it.”
For the record, Ruthy, a contract trumps a contest final any day. And you have–count ’em–three!!! So, I’m very glad to hear you’re over that little GH episode and am happy as can be for you. Smiling sweetly and with sincerity ~ Keli
•Selling that first book has got to be an experience unlike any other. But you received two more calls, each offering you a contract for another book. First Waiting Out the Storm sold followed by Made to Order Family. What were your reactions to your second and third sales?
I am so absolutely delighted to have this relationship with Steeple Hill that I can’t even describe it here, and I mean that sincerely. Melissa has been a tremendous help in extracting the “romance” out of my longer fiction works, guiding me with what to keep, what to cut. These books were originally targeted for the Steeple Hill Fiction line, so they had a single title length and feel. I had to drop 15,000 words from them and focus on the romance, but it WORKED BEAUTIFULLY! I’m thrilled with the results of each book and can’t wait to do another series for SH. What a blessing they are to the publishing industry.
I’m still not sure this is real; I still get those surreal moments when I wonder what I’m doing here, on the mainland. How I got here. Each move forward has been a writer’s dream come true.
•Missy Tippens whispered the word “plotter” in a recent post at The Seekers so you wouldn’t get the “heebie-jeebies.” I take it you don’t labor over character sketches, flow charts, etc. What does your process look like?
Since I don’t even know what most of that means, that pretty much answers your question.
Simple plotting happens in my head. I may have snippets of a book in there for months, just hanging out, waiting for its moment, or it may come to me all at once, which sounds weird but true. One of my favorite books came to me from something a cart attendant said at Sam’s Club a few years ago. I pushed my cart through the snow, put it into the corral, and he said something like, “Gee, thanks, almost nobody does that when the weather’s bad.”
A plot fell into my head, of a guy with places to go, things to do, who sees a young woman with a small child approach an old car with a very flat tire. He hopes and prays it’s not her car. He’s busy, due at a posh dinner with a friend, and it’s cold and wet outside.
Of course it’s her car. It had to be, right? And then she tucks the little one into a car seat after unloading their meager cart. And then she pushes that cart back through the snow, nudging it firmly into the corral even though it’s cold, dark, wet, and she obviously isn’t well-heeled or dressed for the elements. He has no choice but to stop and help and thereby meet his destiny. That plot was done by the time I got home, and the book was done a few weeks later.
Writers create differently, same as artists, actors, songwriters, etc. Sometimes it just floods you and you have to go with it, right?
•I saw that for a time you worked as a senior editor for what was then the White Rose line at The Wild Rose Press. What lessons did you learn while holding that position, and how did your experience on the other side of the editor’s desk affect your own writing?
That was a great experience. It taught me to look beyond the style of writing to the depth of writing, and it showed me that there is not enough time in my world to be both writer and editor. Writing won, hands down, but a gleaming moment in that was working with Dana Mentink (now writing for Steeple Hill, Love Inspired Suspense). What a great gal and delightful author.
Ruthy’s Journey Continues
•You’ve sold three books and have completed a dozen more. What are you working on now?
Multiple things. I have a series I’m developing for Steeple Hill, a possible fourth book in the North Country series, and I’ve got a fun book I’m re-tooling for Superromance, one of the two series I’ve developed with them in mind. I always work a book or series ahead, so I’m researching one while writing another.
One of my favorite quotes is from Ben Franklin, a patriot who is a huge inspiration to me: “Plenty of time for rest in the grave.” Right now I want to embrace the time God’s given me, give it my best shot and have fun with the amazing people he’s put in my life.
Five Fun Facts About Ruthy, the Writer
Unfortunately, I’m way too boring to have FIVE facts. How about four???
~ I have a penchant for M&M’s. They are the ultimate food group.
~ I used to “fix” my characters too soon, the Mommy in me. This is no longer the case, LOL!
~ Derek Jeter is an entity unto himself and I dare you to think otherwise. On this I stand firm. And doesn’t he look SO GOOD in pinstripes??? There’s a young man who saw his dream as a child and lived it through hard work and determination. As a kid he told his parents, “I want to be the Yankee shortstop someday.” The rest is history.
~ I love winter so it’s no surprise that Winter’s End is the title of my first book because even crazies like me who don’t mind winter, LOVE when it ends, when spring bursts forth. Sweet.
Five Fun Facts About Ruthy, the Person, That Even Her Seekerville Sisters Don’t Know
~ There aren’t any. With these women I can be completely myself, and if I weren’t, they’d nag me ragged. They’re a tough bunch, let me tell you! I’m truly blessed to have them as “sisters”. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for them, for what we’ve found together.
Ruthy’s Question for You
•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest immensely, Ruthy. You brought a huge smile to my face. Thanks for your awesome answers to my ho-hum questions. Now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors, so have at it.
Hmm, a question. Without handcuffs? An interrogation room? Modes of torture?
Keli, you’ve really got to expand your parameters, girlfriend!
Let’s focus on men… 🙂
Heroes draw us into a book. Their characterization makes or breaks a romance.
Badly drawn hero = bad romance
What draws you to a hero? What makes you root for him, despite the odds?
Learn More About Ruthy
Visit her Web site ~ www.ruthloganherne.com
Visit her group blog, The Seekers ~ www.seekerville.blogspot.com
Leave a Comment for Two Chances to Win
To leave a comment, click on “Comments” below the date in the title at the top of the post.
My Regular Drawing
My next drawing will take place October 31st. I’m giving away a copy of The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, a book recommended by many authors as a must-have for a writer’s reference library. (If the winner already owns the book, I reserve the right to substitute an alternative prize of my choosing.)
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by October 31st and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On November 1st, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and October 31st. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.
On November 1st, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your debut novel in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)
Note: Offers void where prohibited.
Prizes will be mailed to US addresses only.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.