Interview for the Scholastic Australia Newsletter —
Where did the idea of Ruby Rosemount come from?
It was in 1999. I was a busy self-employed web designer, as well as a multimedia trainer. Life was hectic – full of deadlines and challenges – and I was exhausted. One day in my office (or, more precisely, the corner of my apartment which had become my office) I wondered if this was the sort of life I wanted. At my feet was a Persian rug I refer to as my Magic Carpet. I wished for a fleeting moment that it would whisk me away on an adventure. Somewhere with no deadlines or work schedules. This idea became a story. The writing of this story became a new career. So, in a way, the magic carpet did whisk me away from it all.
Did you used to dream of magic tricks and entering another world when you were younger?
Yes. I once tried to do a magic trick with an egg for my mother. She was worried I would break it but I reassured her that I absolutely would not break that egg; I would just make it disappear. Of course, I broke it.
After reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I did fantasize about entering other worlds. My best friend and I even went so far as to take the back off a wardrobe in my cubby house and cut a hole in the wall, creating a secret passage through the wardrobe into the dark subterranean world beneath the house where Dad kept his timber and terracotta pots. It wasn’t until I had grown up and moved out that Dad discovered it. Thankfully he has a sense of humour.
Do the Ruby book covers match Ruby as you saw her in your head?
Absolutely! I did worry about how the illustrator would portray Ruby because I had her pictured so clearly in my mind. When the cover finally arrived I opened the envelope with trepidation. Then I saw her, exactly as I had pictured her, and was moved almost to tears. (Well, okay. I was moved to actual tears. I’m a cry baby.)
Will there be more Ruby stories in the future?
I am currently planning the third Ruby story in which she must solve some mysterious happenings which impinge on the human world. Ruby is coming into her powers a little more with each book. Magic is still a struggle for her though, because she is only half genie, but her efforts compensate for what she lacks in natural talent – something I learned myself at times. The third book will complete the trilogy. After that I am leaving the possibility of any further books open.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
I like working from home and being my own boss. I wake up, I turn on the computer, and I start work. There is no commuting or putting on makeup. My brain functions best early in the morning so 9 to 5 does not suit me. I prefer to start work at around 7.30 am.
I also love to research. For the Ruby books I learnt how Persian carpets were made, I learnt about the culture of oasis dwellers in Oman and other Middle Eastern countries, I learnt about camels, the ancient city of Babylon, the Bedouin way of life and their generous hospitality.
What do you think makes a great read?
Anything that keeps you turning the pages such as a good mystery, or getting so attached to a character that you are concerned for their future. I read all kinds of genres – crime, mystery, drama, comedy – and the good ones all have well developed characters that you care for, a well paced story, and a holding back of information that keeps you turning the pages. The best reads linger in your mind long after you have finished the book, leaving you with something to think about and, in some small way, they change your life.
What were your favourite subjects when you were at school?
That depended on which teachers were teaching the subjects. When I was ten I had a very creative teacher called Mr Sweeney who introduced me to the world of Tolkien. After he read The Hobbit in class, we recreated a goblin cave in the corridor outside our classroom. We made all the main characters, even the big hairy spiders. We covered them in real hair swept from the local hairdresser’s floor. They looked so real they made the girls scream. He had us writing some great poetry and short stories, painting, performing in plays, singing, and dancing. So I have to say, that during this time I loved all the creative subjects. It was the highlight of my school life.
In high school it wasn’t considered cool to like maths but, secretly, I loved algebra and geometry. I also liked science, languages, music, english and art, especially pottery. Although one day we were banned from the pottery wheel. I had a crazy idea that we should stand on the pottery wheel, turn it on, and see how long we could stay on it. It was so much fun! I’ve never laughed so hard. But Mrs Wharton came in and caught us and that was the end of pottery lessons.
What was your favourite book when you where growing up?
I cannot possibly pick just one. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. Anne of Green Gables, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Black Beauty, The Secret Seven and The Famous Five by Enid Blyton, Charlotte’s Web, and Roald Dahl’s books, especially, Matilda.
Do you have any pets?
I have had a succession of pets since childhood – three dogs, a cat, two birds, two horses – but not all at the same time. I taught my bird To-To to speak. He learned to laugh like me and to call my dog’s name. One day I heard To-To call the dog. When the dog came there was no one there but the bird laughing in his cage.
Who inspires you?
J.K. Rowling for her imagination and wit, Tolkien for his highly detailed worlds, Nick Hornby for his insightful comedies, and Zadie Smith for her characterization and cracking dialogue.
On a more personal level I am inspired by Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth), Shakti Gawain (Creative Visualisation), Fritjof Capra (The Tao of Physics), and Deepak Chopra (Quantum Healing). Through their insights and wisdom they have helped me to create the life I have now and to understand more profoundly who we are and what life is all about. But, of course, I’m still learning.