Author Spotlight #4: Kimberly S. Ruff

Kimberly S. Ruff


My featured author this month is multi-talented writer, Kimberly S. Ruff! Her credits include a children’s book, romance novels, and her epic fantasy Saving Tir na nOg, inspired by Irish mythology. Learn more about her in this exclusive interview!

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Hi, Kimberly! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! To kick things off, tell me a little about yourself.

Hi, M.H. Thanks for inviting me today. I grew up in Montana, where I worked for several years as a paralegal/investigator and elder rights advocate. I moved to Virginia after being awarded a fellowship in the U.S. Senate, where a handsome Air Force Captain swept me off my feet. He gifted me two beautiful daughters and remains our most steadfast protector to this very day. Eventually, I began teaching courses in conflict resolution, peacekeeping, and environmental security for the American Military University. When I’m not teaching, I’m writing or
reading. There are few things I love more than curling up with my dog and losing myself in a good book. I’m also a huge fan of family game night.

Wow, that’s amazing! What a range of experiences to bring to your prose. What led you to write fantasy?

My first-born daughter suffered multiple organ failure at birth. She was on dialysis until she grew big enough to receive a kidney transplant at the tender age of two and a half. Her courage and strength inspired me to write my first book, a children’s book entitled Brave Just Like Me. I wrote this book to comfort and encourage children facing a broad range of medical experiences (staying in the hospital, getting x-rays and shots, surgery, etc). We donate copies of this book to children’s hospitals every chance we get.

I began writing romantic suspense novels a few years later. I was five books into that romance series when my youngest daughter asked me to write a book about fairies, and, of course, she wanted to be the heroine in the story. I was worried by the time I completed the book she’d no longer be interested in fairies. Of course, I was picturing Tinkerbell inside my head. But then, I realized I could introduce her to the very grown up, beautiful, and sometimes terrifying faeries, better known as the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Celtic deities born in Irish Mythology. I’ve always been intrigued by the Sidhe. There is Irish blood coursing through my veins after all. And so this novel Saving Tir na nOg was born.

I have to insert here that I truly admire your strength, as well as your family’s, through your daughter’s circumstances. I love that you donate your children’s book to hospitals. That’s wonderful!

Tapping your Irish roots is awesome! Going along with that, what sub-genres of fantasy do you prefer to write?

I most enjoy reading and writing epic and heroic fantasy. I really enjoy world building, creating emotionally charged high-stakes battles, that relentless struggle between good and evil, challenging perceptions on what it means to be good or evil, and the character growth required for the hero/heroine to persevere.

I love that. Do you write with a particular message or worldview in mind?

Absolutely. In both my romance series and in my epic fantasy series I challenge readers to view the world not in black and white but in shades of gray. In Saving Tir na nOg creatures that have historically been viewed as evil are simply misunderstood. For example, the kelpie only drowns those who seek to harm him, and he will occasionally invoke his magic to bring those in need of protection with him, deep within the lough. It’s true the Far Darrig may cause nightmares and swap human babies with changelings but only when it serves a greater good. The Fomorians are an angry, violent sort, but this is due to some physical deformities that cause excruciating pain. Dain, Dother and Dub may represent violence, evil, and darkness, but there is a reason for this as well, which is yet to be disclosed.

All these incredible references! I’m salivating to read your book. It’s on my reading list.

What is your preferred writing style? Does it coincide with your reading preferences?

I write in first person, past-tense. This is my preferred storytelling style. I feel books written in first-person are more immersive. They place the reader squarely into the protagonist’s shoes. Writing past-tense just feels more natural to me. It is how I would tell a story orally, “once upon a time…” or “when I met my husband…”

I prefer past-tense myself, so I definitely relate. First-person is very immersive, it’s true!

So, how do you feel about a hero vs. a protagonist in fiction?

In my epic fantasy novel and in my romance series the protagonist is also the heroine. I like having a protagonist who can face difficult experiences, grow from those experiences, and work them for a greater good. I feel the courage and strength required to persevere when combined with an effort to save others from that same pain and suffering is very heroic.

Yesss! I love it.

Do you prefer a sympathetic villain or someone a reader loves to hate? Or is there another kind of villain you prefer to write?

I prefer a sympathetic villain. I don’t believe people are all good or purely evil. I like flawed heroines and villains with wounded hearts.

Definitely agreed. So, you write both romance and fantasy. Tell me more about one of your published works.

Of all the books I’ve written, Saving Tir na nOg has proven to be my favorite. As intimidated as I was to attempt world building, I loved every minute of it. I really enjoyed seeing this world unfold inside my mind, within the story, and eventually in the map created by my cartographer. I adore the characters, the good and the bad. I enjoyed learning more about the gods and goddesses, demons, and creatures in Irish Mythology. And, if I’m being entirely honest, I believe this is my best work by far. 

The story begins when Madison’s father fails to return home from a business trip. Madison and her family fly to Ireland to search for him. But then? Her entire family vanishes. This sparks a shocking revelation from Madison’s godmother. Madison is one of the Chosen Ones, one of three young Sidhe secreted inside the human realm at birth. They were born to fulfill a prophecy. The time has come. There are those who seek to destroy them so they can rule the realms. Madison’s godmother, who has served as her Sidhe guardian all along, leads her through a portal into Tir na nOg so Madison can awaken her powers in Ogham. Before Madison leaves this ancient realm of trees, the Rowan Tree asks the one question no twelve-year-old should be forced to answer… “Would you sacrifice your life for those you love?”

It gives me chills. I love the premise. What are you working on now?

I just finished creating a special keepsake edition for my children’s book Brave Just Like Me. I’m planning to donate several copies to the National Kidney Foundation’s birthday boxes for children on dialysis. I’m also working on a spin off novel for my romance series, but I’m anxious to return to this epic fantasy series.

Wow. You’re amazing! I wish you ever success with all your efforts.

Are you traditionally published or do you publish independently? Why did you choose that path to send your books into the world?

Both. My children’s book is traditionally published. My romance and epic fantasy series are independently published. Having experienced both, I prefer to publish independently. I don’t like giving up control over the price point, the print quality, revisions, book promos, etc. 

That makes a lot of sense. I’ve drawn similar conclusions.

What are your writing habits?

I’ll write anywhere it’s quiet. I don’t want anything pulling me from the scene or the world I’m immersed in while writing. I frequently have chocolate, coffee, or wine within reach. My dog is always by my side. 

Do you prefer to plot your books out in advance, or do you dive in and see where the story takes you?

I plot my stories out in advance, but the characters frequently drag me off into unexpected directions. I don’t mind. Interestingly, my favorite scenes are the ones I didn’t plan, they’re the ones the characters’ demanded.

Haha, that sounds about right.

What type of fantasy medium do you enjoy most?

Fantasy books are my favorite. I prefer to conjure the characters and scenes inside my head. Fantasy movies run a close second. I do occasionally listen to fantasy music, mostly Celtic music, while working on my fantasy novels.

Switching tracks, what destination in the world would you most like to visit?

I would most like to visit Santorini, Greece. I researched Santorini for one of my romance novels, and the island just looks so beautiful and relaxing. And don’t get me started on the food. I’m drooling, just thinking about it.

Mmm. Now I’m hungry. Haha.

In closing, what advice do you have for up-and-coming writers?

I know writers loathe editing. Edit is, after all, a four-letter word. But multiple editing runs will help transform a decent book into a fantastic read. I spend far more time editing than I do writing, even though I have an editor and beta readers who serve as additional sets of eyes. My advice? Don’t think of it as editing. What you are really doing is massaging the story and wordsmithing. You are ensuring your readers stay immersed in the story, that nothing trips them up and dumps them out of your story. You are ensuring they turn that next page. Writing is re-writing, as they say.

I couldn’t have said it better. Thank you again for taking the time to interview with me, Kimberly! I wish you every success with your continued writing endeavors!

To keep up with Kimberly S. Ruff’s books, check out her links below!

Author Spotlight #4: Kimberly S. Ruff

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