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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Rue Matthiessen shares the inspiration behind her new book, Castles & Ruins: Unraveling Family Mysteries & Literary Legacy In The Irish Countryside.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Rue Matthiessen about her life and career, what inspired her to start writing, and the creative process that went into her new book, Castles & Ruins: Unraveling Family Mysteries & Literary Legacy In The Irish Countryside.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Rue Matthiessen. I live in Sag Harbor, NY.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
When I was 10 years old I wanted to write a book, and did it. Called Tuscarora, it was a story about an elephant.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I was seven years old when I was first writing journals and poems. As an adult, I was a photographer, and had my own studio. But I began to feel limits with photography. That was when I began writing. For me, there were so many places one could go on a page. No limits.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
About 2 years.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
About 5 years. However, getting it published took many more years. There’s the writing side, and for many writers now, the business side. It’s hard to do both.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Castles & Ruins?
I had to write it. Once I went back to Ireland, there was no choice in the matter. Fortunately, I have a supportive family.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Castles & Ruins?
I had no challenges. No day was complete for me if I wasn’t working on it. I Just kept going.
What was your research process for Castles & Ruins?
First, going to Ireland. I had my parents’ books and journals and poems. Also my husband’s father handed down a great research library on Ireland.
How did you plan the structure of Castles & Ruins?
As with the book I’m currently writing (a novel), I’ve found that a big plan doesn’t work for me. Always, for me, it’s about the characters. Once the characters are clear, they sort of tell me where the story should go. In the case of Castles & Ruins, which is of course non-fiction, this still applied. I used my mother’s writings about that summer as a guide, and conversations with my father were helpful.
Through them, and the trip I took with my family, the book took shape, and so did my place in the book. At first I thought I was writing a memoir of my mother. Eventually, I realized that Castles & Ruins was really my memoir.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Castles & Ruins need?
I did most of the editing myself. For me, in the early stages, it isn’t helpful to get a lot of guidance. I need to interface closely with a text in order to find a direction for a book. Later on, in some cases, much later, it’s time to get an opinion. Still later, would be the final polish.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
First, read, read, read. Think about the different styles of writers that appeal. Consider the mechanics of their paragraphs and narratives. Second: But when you sit down to write don’t worry about what you think your writing should be. Don’t force anything. But do sit down and work every day. Absolutely stay in touch with it, and listen to what it’s trying to tell you. (However, people have a very individual approach to work. That’s only my approach.)
Also, I think all the workshops around, coaches and conferences – can be helpful for some. For connections, to a degree. Maybe. But I would say it’s good to keep in mind that it is an industry. I myself have encountered advice and critiques that were extraordinarily bad.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I am in the middle of the 3rd draft of a novel called Julia With Closed Eyes. It’s about a band of Dutch thieves, a British spy, and an American woman who is blind to her own situation. The theft of the painting, Julia With Closed Eyes, is the catalyst that changes all of their lives.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I am, and yes.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Buttonwood Cottage: https://amzn.to/47NyBHo
Castles & Ruins: https://amzn.to/47I7XzM
Latah Books Page https://www.latahbooks.com/castles-and-ruins
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