Hello Ruthie, welcome to Romance Around the Corner. We are so happy you could join us today!
Q. For any of our readers who may not be familiar with you and your work, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
RK: Sure thing. I write contemporary romance novels that readers often describe as “smart,” “sexy,” and “funny.” While I can’t speak to “smart,” the other two elements are pretty much guaranteed in anything I write. Funny is my default mode—I can’t really do sentimentality without some humor for leavening—and who wants to read romance novels without sex? Not me.
My first book, Ride with Me, came out in February. It’s a cross-country romance set on bicycle-back with a wounded, grumpy hero and a cheerfully anal retentive heroine. About Last Night is my second release, which came out on June 11. Both are with Loveswept, Random House’s new digital-first imprint.
Q. I would love to know about how you became a published author. Was it a difficult journey? How does someone with a Ph.D. in modern British history become a Romance author? How does the idea of being an author compare to the reality of it? Is it how you imagine it would be?
RK: One of my friends told me last year, “You reinvent yourself,” and I was shocked. Shocked! Because, you see, I have a mother who reinvents herself, but it had never crossed my mind that I might be the same way. Ahem.
The thing is, I have a very busy brain, and it needs new things to think about or it gets bored. I went to grad school after college because I’ve always been an approval-seeking, rule-following girl, and that seemed like the thing to do. Good at college? Go to grad school! Don’t do this. It’s a terrible idea. But I did finish my degree anyway (see: rule follower), and in the meantime I worked in academic publishing for several years and launched an editing business after I graduated.
After a while, the academic editing got old, and I became an obsessive knitter and knitting blogger. I designed a knitted turtle with a removable shell that became quite the thing—more than 3,000 people had knit it at last count! Finally, I had a baby. Babies don’t mix well with knitting, but they do mix well with obsessively reading romance novels on a Kindle. After reading a ton of romance novels, I wanted to write one. So I did. A bit less than two years later, here we are!
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, actually. But on the other hand, just about everything I’ve done as an adult has affected my readiness to be a writer. And having a lot of editing experience certainly doesn’t hurt. Thus far, I consider myself kind of a “junior author,” because (a) I still have no idea what I’m doing, and (b) I still have two other jobs. But I’m delighted to be able to do this at all, and I’m excited to see what happens next.
Q. Since you write Contemporary Romance I’m assuming that you’re also a fan of the genre. What is it about Contemporaries that makes them popular? Is it because regular people are easier to relate to? Why did you decide to write Contemporary Romance instead of Historical or Paranormal?
RK: Contemporaries have everything I want in a romance and none of the extra stuff that distracts from it. My primary interest as a reader, and as a writer, is character, character, character. My friend Delphine Dryden (who’s an amazing writer) once told me, “My characters should be grateful I let them leave the room,” and that’s true for me, too. I just want to get inside their heads and poke around, to torture them with emotional wounds and heal them through connection to one another...and through love, which is mostly about emotional connection, to my way of thinking. Plot? Suspense? Magical powers? Meh. I mean, I do enjoy reading those sorts of stories, but they’re not what I get revved up about. I can’t really see myself writing in any other genre of romance.
As for what makes contemporaries popular, I think you’re right, there’s a certain relatability there — a sense that these characters could be people I know — but there’s a wonderful catharsis, too, as contemporary characters manage to solve problems that are ordinary. As readers, we recognize these problems, and it’s really emotionally fulfilling and reassuring to see them tackled and solved in fictional form.
Q. When I read your first novel, Ride with Me, I thought that all your books would be about bikers (just like other authors focus on FBI agents, or werewolves, maybe bicycles can be the new vampires!). That story was so detailed and passionate that I honestly believed you were a professional biker. Now I figure that you’re just that good a research (I bet your History degree helps). Can you tell us about your writing process? How much is research and how much is inspiration and imagination? What comes first for you: the characters or the setting/story?
RK: Bicycles can be the new vampires — that made me laugh. Wouldn’t that be great? Though what I’m hearing from a lot of readers is that they liked the book “despite” the bicycles, not because of them. :-)
I am, in fact, a biker, though definitely not a professional one — just an amateur. I’ve taken five or six week-long bike trips, so I know of what I speak, but I’ve never ridden across the country. I did a lot of research in ride journals and staring at Adventure Cycling maps when I was writing Ride with Me.
But generally, I tend to be drawn to stories that have at their core something I already know about. In Ride with Me, it was the biking. About Last Night is set in London, where I lived for a year, and it mostly takes place in settings I know well. What comes first in my writing process is a vague sort of situation—What if two people met in such-and-such a way?—and then I develop the characters from there. Plot comes last. I do whatever research I have to do to write the story I want to write.
Q. What can you tell us about your new book, About Last Night?
RK: Well, About Last Night started out as “What if a drunk American got rescued from the train station by an uptight Englishman?”—though the concept morphed quite a bit once I actually started writing the book. :-) The heroine, Cath Talarico, is a reformed bad girl from Chicago who’s trying very hard to be good. Only, she falls off the reform wagon in a big way one night, and she gets bailed out by a guy she knows only as “City”—someone she’s given a nickname to because she sees him a couple times a week at the park and on their shared train commute into London.
Cath thinks City is a Boy Scout—too good, too stuffy, too rich—and Boy Scouts aren’t her type. But once she gets to know him, she figures out that she had him all wrong. And once she starts to fall for him, she starts to figure out that she had herself all wrong, too. It’s a book about redemption, really, and trust, and finding love when we don’t think we deserve it.
Also, there’s a lot of sex.
Q. Your books are character-centric, something I really enjoy. Cath is a great and unique heroine. She’s a former bad girl, who is doing her best to stay good, and failing. I think she was strong but a little bit broken, something I found compelling but not intimidating. Was it difficult for you to find the right balance between strength and vulnerability? How do you give depth and honesty to a character that can so easily become a cliché?
RK: I’m not sure — that’s just how she came out! :-) I’m glad you liked Cath. Heroines can be so tricky to write, because romance readers are tough on heroines. Or, I am, anyway. My friends tell me they are, too.
I think for me, the core of Cath as a character is her sense that she’s in the process of making a huge mistake by getting involved with City. She’s sworn off mistakes, so she knows she shouldn’t, but she can’t help herself — she watches herself do it, and the censoring part of her mind is just so. ticked. off at her for allowing this to happen. And I know how to write that, because I’ve felt that way. I’m completely sympathetic with it. When I was younger, I think I believed on some level that smart people didn’t do stupid things, but...yeah. As we grow up, I think we all learn that everybody does stupid things. It has nothing to do with brains and everything to do with what we need — what our hearts want, what our souls crave. And sometimes we just go after that, even though we’re scared, and even though we’re certain we shouldn’t. It’s scary and risky and hard, but it’s exciting, too, to do something stupid on purpose.
Hmm. That’s not exactly what you asked. But I suppose it’s an answer, of a sort. I’m not precisely like any of my characters, but all of them have a core fear, a core problem, that I can relate to, and that I hope most readers will be able to relate to, as well.
Q. What do you have against suits? Your first hero used to be a businessman who quit his job to fix bicycles, and your second hero is a banker who wants to be a painter. Don’t get me wrong, jeans and shorts are sexy, but please, hot men in suits! You can’t beat that! Don’t you read GQ magazine?
RK: LOL — Nothing, I swear! I like all sorts of men. I think men in suits are just as sexy as men with grease ground into their fingertips. I promise, I’ll write a hot-man-in-suit hero one of these days. Oh, come to think of it, I have, actually! I have a manuscript with a hero who is frequently be-suited, and when I revise it he’s going to get even more so, because I’m going to turn him into a politician. (Long story. Don’t ask.) I’ll make sure to give him a bone-meltingly sexy love scene with his suit still on, just for you.
Q. What else are you working on? What can we expect and look forward to reading in the future?
RK: Oh, many, many things. I’m a busy woman. I’ve sold two longer novels to Loveswept for next year. They’re currently in the process of being re-titled, but I can tell you that they follow a brother and sister, Caleb and Katie Clark, and they’re set in small-town Ohio. These are my own off-beat version of bodyguard books — Caleb is ex-Military Police, and he has a security company — and they’re going to be wonderfully fun and sexy. So be on the lookout for titles and covers for those appearing later this year.
I’m also working on a Christmas novella (which may or may not end up being an alternative-version-slash-homage to It’s a Wonderful Life), and I have another novella with a “strangers on a train” theme that’s on submission.
That’s not all, but that’s probably all I’m allowed to talk about. :-)
Q. And finally, what is your favorite Romance novel?
RK: Oh, fine, end with that doozy! Good gravy. *thinks* *drums fingers* All right, I’ll give you two. I’ll say Jennifer Crusie’s Anyone But You, because the characterization in the early chapters just blows me away, and I’m a sucker for both of the characters, and Sarah Mayberry’s Hot Island Nights, because it’s sexy and poignant, but also very redemptive for both the hero and heroine, and Nate makes my knees go wobbly.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I’ve had a blast reading your books and talking to you. Come back soon!
About the author:
Ruthie Knox figured out how to walk and read at the same time in the second grade, and she hasn’t looked up since. She spent her formative years hiding romance novels in her bedroom closet to avoid the merciless teasing of her brothers and imagining scenarios in which someone who looked remarkably like Daniel Day Lewis recognized her well-hidden sex appeal and rescued her from middle-class Midwestern obscurity. After graduating from Grinnell College with an English and history double major, she earned a Ph.D. in modern British history that she’s put to remarkably little use.
These days, she writes contemporary romance in which witty, down-to- earth characters find each other irresistible in their pajamas, though she freely admits this has yet to happen to her. Perhaps she needs more exciting pajamas. Her debut novel, Ride with Me, came out with Loveswept (Random House) in February.
Connect with Ruthie:
About Last Night, coming from Loveswept (Random House), June 11, 2012!
Sure, opposites attract, but in this sexy, smart eBook original romance from Ruthie Knox, they positively combust! When a buttoned-up banker falls for a bad girl, “about last night” is just the beginning.
Cath Talarico knows a mistake when she makes it, and God knows she’s made her share. So many, in fact, that this Chicago girl knows London is her last, best shot at starting over. But bad habits are hard to break, and soon Cath finds herself back where she has vowed never to go . . . in the bed of a man who is all kinds of wrong: too rich, too classy, too uptight for a free-spirited troublemaker like her.
Nev Chamberlain feels trapped and miserable in his family’s banking empire. But beneath his pinstripes is an artist and bohemian struggling to break free and lose control. Mary Catherine — even her name turns him on — with her tattoos, her secrets, and her gamine, sex-starved body, unleashes all kinds of fantasies.
When blue blood mixes with bad blood, can a couple that is definitely wrong for each other ever be perfectly right? And with a little luck and a lot of love, can they make last night last a lifetime?
Random House has kindly offered an e-copy of the book to be accessed through NetGalley, to one lucky commenter. For a chance to win, all you have to do is leave a comment or question for Ruthie, or telling us what do you think is sexier: a man wearing a suit, or man wearing a more laid-back outfit like shorts or jeans. You must have an account on NetGalley (if you don’t have it you can sign up for free here, you don’t have to be a reviewer to do it). Contest open to all.
- Winner gets an e-copy of About Last Night by Ruthie Knox through NetGalley (this is a preview so the copy expires 30 days after receiving it, you must read it before that).
- Contest open internationally.
- Contest ends 06/24/12
- Winner will be chosen using random.org and announced here and via email and will have 72 hours to respond.
- Comment must have an email address to be valid.
- For more details visit our review policy.