R.H.R.: A wife, mother, daughter, and friend. One who despises judgmental spirit murderers. A people-loving introvert. A long-winded quiet person. A spontaneity-loving planner. An over-analyzing over-thinker with good intentions. A storyteller who pours everything I have, everything I see, everything I feel—good, bad, ugly, and beautiful—into all that I write.
RR: What about you would surprise fans of your work?
R.H.R.:I think people would find it surprising that when I am out and about, and someone asks me what I do for a living, I never say I am an author. I don’t think I’ve ever said that. I may have said that I have written books and short stories, but I have never, for some reason, come out and said that I am an author. Why? I have no idea!!!!
RR: You write incredibly dark characters in a broad range of impossible situations. What draws you to that theme?
R.H.R.: Great question. It’s true; I do tend to create dark characters. Sometimes, I try to figure it out, and a few times, I’ve said to myself, “Okay, this is going to be a happily ever after story.” But it just doesn’t happen. My books always take a dark turn. For some reason, I find it much more cathartic, and as if I am fulfilling my purpose, when I write about something that is real, raw, gritty and needs to be uncovered—things that are dark, and require illumination and awareness. When it comes to things to which we are blind, I like to create stories that are eye-opening—things that are familiar yet distant. I think that these past two years, I’ve realized that deep down, this is my purpose.
RR: We’ve talked before about how I find some of your characters very much based in the darker side of reality. Do you draw these people from your own experience?
R.H.R.: In a way, yes, they are art imitating life. Are the stories my life? No. But nearly all of us have felt such immense all-consuming pain that we’ve wondered how we were going to get up out of bed in the morning. I think that this shows that, when it comes to emotions, hurt, anger, rage, losing control—we are all more connected than we realize.
RR: Has anyone ever recognized themselves in those roles?
R.H.R.: People I did not know have recognized themselves or someone they have known/loved in the books. Also, people I knew, who had experienced trauma or were quietly suffering at the hands of an abuser, have come to me and told me that the situations in the books were very familiar to them and struck a cord. (And most of the time, I did not know about their situations until after they’d finished the novel or short stories.)
RR: “Just Beneath the Surface I” and “Just Beneath the Surface II: Landon’s Story” deals with people you might pass on the street. In “Like Shards of Glass” you take your writing into a more event specific place and to the spouse of a person who has committed the sort of act for which everyone who had contact with him would be villianized. What inspired that?
I love this question so much. It’s really making me think. Going back to the moment I began jotting down notes for this book (which was originally supposed to be a short story) I remember wanting to touch on addiction. I was somehow inspired by another book I’d written in 2011, in which a love triangle, with addiction at its core, drove the story into a deep, dark, place. I didn’t want to recreate the exact same story, and the more I jotted down notes, the more it concerned me. But somewhere along the way, I became more intrigued by the characters’ process, the journey, every painful step. And in honing in on the details, I wanted to build characters who were all very different, but all very much alike, who did not see themselves as others saw them. The inspiration behind Carter Helt, who was a firefighter/volunteer, now that I think about it, was watching so many acts of terrorism, and thinking of the person behind the villain. You will see many glimpses into Carter—the monster, and just as many glimpses into Carter—the father. And ironically, the thing that many would say destroyed Carter, was the blood, gore, and death that he encountered while volunteering … the very act that made him a hero to begin with.
RR: The character of Monroe Song is very deep into herself and bent on self-medication and forgetting in the aftermath of her husband’s act. How tough was it to write a character that had lost three children and maintain a character with some sort of unique edge and spirit?
R.H.R.: Monroe Song was difficult to create. I did not want to be repetitive in that she was broken, hurting, and on the edge of losing it—scratch that—she definitely went over the edge. What made Monroe’s character even more difficult, was the relationships and life outside of brokenness that she tried so desperately to maintain. Her son, her lover, her eery guilt-driven ‘relationship’ with her deceased husband, and the thing that she referred to as her baby: her work, were all challenging, and made her so very complex. One minute you want to tell her it will get better, the next you want to slap her and tell her she’s awful, then you’re back to wanting to embrace her all over, again.
RR: Did you ever consider going another way and not writing a survivor?
R.H.R.: With the way it all flowed so quickly and so effortlessly, I didn’t have a chance to second-guess or consider changing the direction!
RR: You said originally that the piece was meant as a short story but took on a life of its own. Where had you planned to stop?
I never write outlines or plan out my books. In some cases, I may happen to know the end, sometimes I may know a few of the characters’ conversations and build around that. Sometimes, I may happen to know what I wanted to convey, but I’ve never been able to stick to an outline. So … That said, I had no idea where the book would end until it ended. The best answer I could give, would be that, I think I thought the story would end with Monroe and Dominique, just as it began with them. And even there, I was wrong!
RR: I, of course, won’t go into specific spoilers of the novel but you showed why a person might fall into addiction. Will we see more of the Song story line?
R.H.R.: I want to!!! I really enjoyed the way that story flowed. And seeing those characters take off and grow and surprise me with their twists and turns. For a sequel, I have so many ideas, even for character spin-offs. And I want to go in whatever direction is the most unexpected!! Even if that means going in the direction that is … ahem … expected. Tell me, did I confuse you?
RR: You’ve done some signings. Do you have a favorite response from fans at these events?
R.H.R.: My favorite response at an event? Well, as far as fans … I’m still pretty under the radar. Not too many people know of my books, just yet 🙂 But the best thing that’s happened would be seeing friends show up and surprise me at one of the signings in my hometown.
RR: You books are available at Blue Dragon Bookstore. Are you still stunned as an author to see your novels on a selling rack?
R.H.R.: Very stunned!! And very grateful that they’d give me a chance. Every time I scroll through the pictures in my phone and see the picture of my books in the Blue Dragon New and Used Bookstore, I want to drive back there and see if they’re really there. Absolutely stunned. Still.
RR: What does R.H. Ramsey read in her downtime? What genres are you favorite?
R.H.R.: My favorite thing to read is poetry (and essays). But for quite a while, now, I’ve been wanting to read some sci-fi/fantasy books, because my long-term project has a sci-fi edge.
RR: Favorite reading/writing place anywhere on the planet would be for you…?
R.H.R.: Know what? I don’t think I have a favorite reading/writing place. I like to wander. I like to find a spot, look around, feel the energy and vibes, and dive in. It doesn’t matter if it’s noisy or quiet, I can write anywhere—but I prefer to write when everyone is content and peaceful.
RR: Thanks for answering these questions.
R.H.R.: Thank you for reading the book, for these thought-provoking questions … I truly appreciate it. Thank you.