Friday, 3 February 2012

Interview with Ruthie Knox + Giveaway

Button made by the very talented Susi! Thank you!!
My main goal with these Blogoversary celebrations was to introduce you to some wonderful authors and novels, who have become favourites of mine. Today's guest is special because I just discovered her and her novel about 2 weeks ago but she shot straight to the top of my 2012 Top Reads List. Please give a warm welcome to Ruthie Knox, whose debut novel Ride with Me enchanted me so much I'm counting back the days 'till I can once again read another story penned by her! (and until then I'll just have to re-read Ride with Me I guess *winks* - you can read my review here)

Stella: Hi Ruthie, welcome to Ex Libris! :-) Thank you for agreeing to do an interview with me, as you'll see I am quite the curious reader ;-) So let's start, shall we? When I read the blurb of Ride with Me, the first question that jumped to my mind was: why did you set your contemporary romance novel on the TransAmerica Trail and centered around bicycle riding? What inspired this unique and quite unheard setting?

Ruthie: Hi Stella and Ex Libris Readers! *waves* Well, they say to “write what you know,” and I know bikes. I had the idea for this book when I was looking over an issue of the Adventure Cycling Association’s magazine one day. Adventure Cycling is the group that created the TransAmerica Trail back in 1976, and they publish the trail maps for it, as well as doing a bunch of other stuff to support travel by bicycle. Great organization. At any rate, their magazine has a “Companions Wanted” column for people who want to do long-distance rides but need somebody to ride with. I like to read the column—I guess because I’m nosy—and on this particular occasion my writer-brain said, “Hey, that’s a great set-up for a romance!” *waves magic wand* And Tom and Lexie were born.

Stella: Could you please give a short description of your characters to those readers who haven't had the chance to read Ride with Me yet?


Hero name: Tom Geiger
Physical description: Tall, dark, and handsome, with a jaw you could crack walnuts on and a semi-permanent scowl.
Best quality: Tom’s a sucker for the underdog. He’ll rescue the maiden tied to the train tracks every single time.
Worst quality: While he does it, he’ll grumble constantly about what a pain in his ass the maiden is.

Heroine name: Lexie Marshall
Physical description: Short and fit, with a mane of unruly red-brown hair and a tendency to plant her hands on her hips, stubborn-like.
Best quality: Lexie loves people, and she has boundless enthusiasm for adventure.
Worst quality: She’s a bit on the overprepared side. Like, annotating-her-map-with-tape-flags overprepared. It drives Tom batty.

Stella: You describe your hero, Tom, as quite grumpy and grouchy. Why did you choose to make him bad tempered? Did you fear it would be harder for a grumpy hero to appeal to readers? Was it a challenge finding the right balance in making him irritating yet attractive?

Ruthie: I love grumpy heroes! They have so much farther to fall, you know? I enjoy watching as love cuts them off at the knees and makes them crawl along on their bloody stumps. (Okay, that got a little gross.) And really, there’s certainly no shortage of grumpy heroes in literature—Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice is a classic example, or Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights—so I figured it would be okay to make Tom a bit of a broody grouch. The tricky part was finding ways to let the reader in on the secret of his many redeeming qualities long before those qualities became apparent to Lexie. Because a grumpy hero can be loveable, but I can’t stand a hero who gets away with being a complete jerkface.

Stella: I LOVE grumpy heroes too! And yes, Mr. Darcy is a classic grumpy hero! *grins*
Can you tell us a bit more about your heroine, Lexie? How did she cope with having being partnered with such a frustrating and grumpy man?

Ruthie: Lexie’s not the easiest woman to faze. She knows what she wants, and she goes after it—and the thing she wants most is to ride the TransAmerica Trail. She’s willing to tolerate Tom’s idiosyncrasies if it means she gets her ride companion.

That said, she does give him the silent treatment for three days shortly after they meet. And he totally deserves it.

Stella: Do you prefer the opposites attract, from-enemies-to-lovers trope? Do you think the best and most sizzling sparks fly during verbal sparring and banter?

Ruthie: Actually, my very favorite kind of romance to read is probably friends-to-lovers, but I love combative pairs, too. I’m a sucker for all the tropes. Regardless of where my characters fall on the spectrum, they default to banter. Sometimes I try to make them sadder or angrier, and they end up teasing each other or making bawdy jokes instead. It’s a sickness.

Seriously, though, to my mind banter and argument are two of the most natural forms of flirtation. They’re how we humans take each other’s measure, how we start to get to know each other. So I tend to write characters who spar before they’re ready to start spilling their secrets.

Stella: Ride with Me is a very funny contemporary romance, full of wit and humour. Was it at times challenging to be/write funny scenes and dialogue? To write humour instead of heartfelt, more dramatic scenes? Or did they come naturally to you?

Ruthie: Humor is integral to how I interact with the world. I’ve always been someone who weeps at sad movies but would never cry in public. Too much earnestness makes me uncomfortable. So while I do love to deliver poignant, heartfelt scenes of character torture and reconciliation, I have to use levity as a way of balancing out the heavy stuff. It’s just the way my writer-circuits are wired.

Stella: Because I am nosy, can you tell us a bit about the background of Ride with Me, about the writing process? How long did it take for you to write it? Any initial scene which remained despite the numerous edits/or an initial scene that got axed that you were sad to see go?

Ruthie: Ride with Me was the third full novel manuscript I ever wrote, and the first one I thought of as really “done.” I can’t remember how long it took me—a few months, I guess? It’s the book that landed me an agent and the first book I sold. While I was writing it, I worried a bit that no one would ever want to read a romance novel about a cross-country bike ride, but I loved the idea so much, I went ahead and wrote it anyway.

The first few chapters gave me fits. I think the very first scene of the book, where Tom is on the phone with his sister, is essentially the same as it was in the initial draft, but there used to be a scene before that one that I wrote, rewrote, and then threw away. Everything else in the first three chapters has been scrapped and rewritten at least twice. Here’s hoping I got it right this last time!

Stella: Ride with Me is a road-trip novel. Why do you think people like reading/watching road-trip stories? Do you have a favourite road-trip movie?

Ruthie: Oh, I love this question. I didn’t even realize Ride with Me was a road-trip story when I wrote it—though how this escaped my attention, I’ll never figure out—but I’m already planning another one. I have a weakness for road-trip-themed books and movies. Long journeys are such an excellent crucible for personal growth and adventure. In fact, I think “adventure” itself is usually difficult, inconvenient, and eye-opening—much like love!

As for my favorite road-trip movie, it’s a toss up between Planes, Trains, and Automobiles with John Candy and Steve Martin (1987), which I saw approximately four million times as a kid, and The Sure Thing with John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga (1985), which I saw five million times. They’re both really funny movies in which the characters are horribly inconvenienced by one another and end up falling in love. (Though Steve Martin and John Candy’s love is platonic, it’s there nonetheless, and real, and quite affecting.)

Huh. It would seem I wrote a cross-country bike ride romance with the same plot as my two favorite road-trip movies. Excuse me while I go lie down to process this for a while . . .

Stella: In Ride with Me, Lexie and Tom ride through several states (OR, ID, MT, WY, CO, KS, MO, IL, KY, and VA). Was this based on any of your personal experiences? Did you visit these places?

Ruthie: But of course! My parents live in Oregon, which is the primary reason I decided to start Tom and Lexie’s cross-country journey there, as opposed to on the other end of the country: I know Oregon better. (We authors—so lazy!) I’ve done a lot of riding in Montana and Colorado, and I’ve driven through Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, Illinois, and Kentucky. Actually, the only place in the book I haven’t visited is Virginia, unless you count D.C.

That said, I haven’t been to most of the towns Tom and Lexie visit. While I was writing, I read a lot of ride journals from the TransAmerica Trail (people post them on the Adventure Cycling website) to get the flavor of the towns and scenery along the way.

Stella: You are a full-time mom-author, what does this mean to your writing schedule? How and when do you have the time to write?

Ruthie: I’m actually a full-time mom-editor-author, which is worse. I do my editing work during two shifts, morning and afternoon, while my son plays with a babysitter out in the living room. When the babysitter’s gone, I’m mom. So in order to write, I have to wake up at 3:30 a.m. and write until 5:00 or so, when my son gets up, and then I usually get another hour to ninety minutes in during his nap.

It sounds insane, but it works. I’d rather write than sleep. Within reason.

Stella: Wow, that's quite a schedule, seriously, hats off to you! Can you tell us about any future plans? What can we expect from you in the future?

Ruthie: I have another romance, About Last Night, coming out this summer. Set in London, it’s the story of a Chicago bad girl who’s trying to reform and her affair with a London banker who seems very straitlaced at first but, er, isn’t. It’s a sweet, funny story about trust and figuring out how to be the person you want to be, with a lot of trains, a sham marriage, and Cadbury’s chocolate. Look for About Last Night to release from Loveswept on June 11!

In this fun, scorching-hot eBook original romance by Ruthie Knox, a cross-country bike adventure takes a detour into unexplored passion. As readers will discover, Ride with Me is not about the bike!

When Lexie Marshall places an ad for a cycling companion, she hopes to find someone friendly and fun to cross the TransAmerica Trail with. Instead, she gets Tom Geiger — a lean, sexy loner whose bad attitude threatens to spoil the adventure she’s spent years planning.

Roped into the cycling equivalent of a blind date by his sister, Tom doesn’t want to ride with a chatty, go-by-the-map kind of woman, and he certainly doesn’t want to want her. Too bad the sight of Lexie with a bike between her thighs really turns his crank.

Even Tom’s stubborn determination to keep Lexie at a distance can’t stop a kiss from leading to endless nights of hotter-than-hot sex. But when the wild ride ends, where will they go next?

Available from Loveswept on February 13, 2012!

Pre-order on Amazon


Setup: Tom and Lexie have just met on the beach in Oregon. In this scene, Tom is discovering that “Alex Marshall” is actually “Lexie Marshall,” and he’s not very happy about it.

“You’re supposed to be a man.”
Alex Marshall raised an eyebrow. “I never said I was a man. Sometimes Alex is a woman’s name.”

When Tom didn’t reply, she shrugged as if to say What can you do? Life throws curve balls at us all. “It’s short for Alexandra. You can call me Lexie if you like that better. A lot of my friends do.”

“Well, I’m not your friend.”

“Not yet, but you’re getting off to a smashing start.” She planted her hands on her hips, staring at him. If she’d been able to breathe fire, he’d be toast by now, but considering her size and general adorableness, it was like being stared down by Tinker Bell.

“This isn’t going to work,” he said finally.

“Because I have breasts?”

Not precisely because she had breasts, no, though at the moment they weren’t a point in her favor. Those breasts were going to make it a lot trickier for him to find the right person to ride with her—he’d have to make sure whoever it was wouldn’t take advantage of her. Which, in turn, meant he was likely to be stuck with her company for a lot longer than he wanted to be.

That was the problem. Because attractive as she was, the woman screamed Type A. One look at her bike told him everything he needed to know. It was expensive, immaculate, and tricked out with high-end components. The narrow handlebars were choked with accessories, including an air horn to scare off dogs, a flashing LED safety light, a bike computer, and a handlebar bag topped with a plastic map sleeve. Inside the sleeve, she had a TransAm trail map—annotated, if his eyes didn’t deceive him, with tiny tape flags.

His general aversion to humankind aside, Tom liked women as much as the next guy. But hyperorganized, controlling women like this one reminded him of his ex-wife, and that was a reminder he could live without.

And if she needed another strike against her, there was the eight-inch reflective orange triangle hanging from the back of her saddle, on which she’d written, in large black letters, “Lexie—TransAm—OR to VA.” It may as well have read: Hi! I enjoy talking to strangers about riding my bike! Please drop whatever you’re doing to engage me in inane conversation.

Not his cup of tea.

Tom knew better than to say any of that aloud. He stuck with “This is a bad idea.”

“Which part?” she asked, with a perplexed shake of her head. She had wavy reddish brown hair pulled back in a tight ponytail. Very pretty.

Very definitely not a man.

“Riding together,” he clarified.

“But wasn’t it your idea? You answered my ad.” She looked irritated with him, a little confused. Vulnerable. He wanted to help her out, except he was the problem.

This was exactly why he avoided getting tangled up with people. You reached out a helping hand, and the next thing you knew you were up to your neck in quicksand, trying and failing to figure out a way to get everybody back out again.

“My sister,” he said.

“What about your sister?”

“She answered it.”

“You’re kind of losing me here.”

“Yeah.” He crossed his arms and stared at her. Maybe if he was rude enough, she’d give up and go home. There was a risk she would cry first, and that would be unpleasant, but he could weather it if he had to.

She crossed her own arms, mimicking his posture, and stared right back. “Yeah.”

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. Ruthie abhors an epilogue and insists a decent romance requires at least three good sex scenes.

You can find her at her website - blog - Twitter - Facebook - Goodreads


Thanks to LoveSwept, one lucky commenter will be randomly chosen to win an ebook copy of Ride with Me! (To get a first glimpse, you can read my review here)

To be entered all you have to do is:

1. fill out the main form so I have your contact info (just once, if you have already filled it out for a previous giveaway that's enough)

2. leave a comment for Ruthie either regarding the interview or her novel.

Giveaway is open worldwide and ends on 24 February 2012.

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