Ilie Ruby, author of the critically acclaimed The Salt God’s Daughter, chats with SheKnows about her novel, how she chose the playlist for her book, and her secret to juggling her career and her family.
SheKnows: You’re active on Twitter (@IlieRuby). Tweet us about your novel (in 140 characters or fewer, of course.)
Ilie Ruby: “This is a bewitching tale of lives entangled in lushly layered fables of the moon and sea.” You can thank Kirkus for that review.
SheKnows: On your website you share a playlist for The Salt God’s daughter. Tell us about the songs you chose and why you chose them.
Ilie Ruby: I can tell you that Tori Amos’ songs are mythic and are the pulse of this book. All the songs, including the lead title song, “We Don’t Eat” by James Vincent McMorrow, have to do with motherhood and childhood, with periods of feeling out of touch and alone, feeling motherless or fatherless, and then of other times spent reveling in the freedom of youth, filled with celebration; the songs capture the essence of finding and losing love, and finally of resurrection — making peace with the life that is yours. It’s a gorgeous playlist and I listen to it all the time. My kids know every song by heart.
SheKnows: How did you come up with the title for your novel?
Ilie Ruby: Titles are unpredictable things. They can come at the most unlikely of times. For this novel, the title came to me when I was editing my first book. I was sitting in my office working one night and suddenly I just had it. I sat up and wrote out the title on a piece of paper and pinned it to the bulletin board in my office. Over the next year, I began to fill in the novel, but I didn’t write it. I just thought about it and let it percolate. I probably spend as much time thinking about the book as I do writing it. Then, when I sat down to write it, I had most of the story worked out.
SheKnows: You’re a mother of three, a painter, a novelist, and you teach writing. How do you find balance and what does it mean to you?
Ilie Ruby: This is the question of my life. I don’t even aspire to find balance — I only try to get everything done in the time allotted each day. When I was younger — having had a great deal of responsibility as a kid (taking care of a parent who was chronically ill), I learned how to multitask. It taught me how to maximize the time I had. Though it was difficult when I was younger, it has turned out to be a great asset. Today, I write at night, after my kids have gone to bed. I absolutely cannot write during the day anymore. My kids are very active and lead very full lives and I need that time, too, to connect with friends. I want to be there for my kids, to experience all the great things they are doing. In terms of painting, I don’t do this nearly enough anymore, but when I do, it is meditative and restorative. It’s the way I relax. I really should do more of it. I teach private writing classes mostly, to one or two students every several months. These are people whose work I become invested in, and who I care a great deal about.
SheKnows: What are you reading right now?
Ilie Ruby: Right now, I’m re-reading Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel because I’m looking at doing a series, and that book feeds my interest in anthropology and archaeology, and because the characters are all so endlessly complex, despite their being primitive, especially in the way the male-female dynamic is depicted.
SheKnows: Are you working on your next book? If so, can you give us any hints?
Ilie Ruby: I am about 100 pages into my third novel, and I have to tell you that this book will not leave me alone. I had planned to take some time off after this second one — I need time to refuel, but I always say that. I love this process, that’s the truth. I’ve been doing it for 25 years (maybe even longer), and I still have the same passion about it that I had to begin with. That’s pretty good for a job that has lasted this long! So, yes, I have no doubt that next year at this time you will find me wholly engaged in this new story and hopefully still as inspired as ever! I can rarely turn down a good story, and the opportunity to remind readers of not only the difficult times in life, but of the lovely times as well, the things that fill you with warmth when you think of them.