The writing world is very interconnected. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rob Samborn, and in that post, I quoted today’s guest, author Ruthie Marlenée. She is the author of Isabela’s Island, Devil’s Island: A Novella, Curse of the Ninth, and Agave Blues, which released earlier this year. The tagline for the novel is intriguing—“Mix together a little family, drama, and Tequila and you get a hell of a cocktail!”—and so far, readers are truly enjoying it. One reader wrote that the novel “is a beautiful, poignant piece of fiction from start to finish,” while another said, “A love letter to Latin American culture, complicated families, and tequila, Agave Blues is a magical and moving tale that would make for excellent summer reading.” The praise doesn’t stop there, either, as positive reviews have come in from Publisher’s Weekly, The Desert Sun, and more. Ruthie also writes short stories, poetry, and screenplays, so I know just how busy she must be. Many thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about the book and the writing life.
Christina: Publisher’s Weekly wrote that the book is a “touching mother-daughter reconciliation in a freewheeling road trip narrative.” What about the mother-daughter relationship is so compelling to write about? Did any of your own experiences make it into the book?
Ruthie: Certainly, my own experiences are what I know best and what I can draw from. I am a daughter and I also happen to have two daughters of my own whom I’ve braided bits and pieces of into my characters. While we all experienced wonderful, meaningful interactions, there were also the normal teenage trials and tribulations that came as everyone had their own ideas and paths to follow. Even though I’m the mother, I continue to learn so much from my daughters about life, the world, and myself.
Christina: In an interview with Angels Flight • literary west, you talked about your inspiration for the story and that you “kept coming across the saying la sangre atrae–“the blood calls you back.” How did you work from a saying to a full novel? When you started, did you know it would become a novel?
Ruthie: I’m Mexican-American, having grown up in a barrio with my family, including my maternal Mexican grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins. During the era I grew up, Mexican children were not allowed to speak Spanish in school so, unfortunately, I was always getting in trouble for interpreting for my cousins. Some of us ended up losing our language, our culture. We assimilated. But if one really listens and heeds the call, no matter what the language, the blood will call you back. The call to return home is a universal idea. “In the Wizard of Oz,” wasn’t it Dorothy who said, “There’s no place like home”? And didn’t she venture out on a journey in search of returning home? In the fictional town in my book, during the months of December and January, thousands of people from all over Mexico and the United States return for “Las Fiestas Patronales” to reunite and celebrate in honor of La Sagrada Familia–“The Holy Family.”
When I first started writing my novel Agave Blues, I wrote it in scenes for a screenplay that ended up winning several awards. It was later that I decided to take complete control over this piece of art. As a novelist, you are the writer, director, set designer, choreographer, music composer, etc. Add sensory details and voila, you’ve got a novel.
Christina: You’re also a poet, screenwriter, and ghostwriter. Which form of writing calls to you the most? Which do you think you’re most successful at?
Ruthie: I believe I’m most successful at writing prose. I like a less structured way of writing, not that novels don’t have beginnings, middles and endings, and not that they can’t be lyrical or full of inciting moments, but to me, novel writing is much more liberating.
Christina: Multiple readers have said this is a book about love and loss. How do you balance the heaviness of both those themes and keep them from weighing down the reader?
Ruthie: Love and loss are real experiences so it’s best to try and balance the two. In reality, it’s healthy and okay to sit in the difficult moment, “have all the feels,” but not for too long. Writing is what makes me feel better. I write to bring myself to a better place, so of course, when I’m writing a scene that is difficult, I can’t wait to write my way out of it—the sooner the better.
Christina: Have you always been a writer? At any point in your life, did another vocation call to you?
Ruthie: As a child, I wanted to be a social worker so that I could help others. My mother told me there was no money in that. “Learn to type,” she said. And I did. Except when I use pen and paper, it’s come in handy.
Christina: What advice can you offer to writers just starting out?
Ruthie: Whether you’re writing for yourself or others, write something everyday. Even if you string only a couple of words together, it could be epic! You might even create a masterpiece!
Ruthie can be found in multiple places!
Thanks to Ruthie for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.