|Posted by E. Kaiser on January 22, 2013 at 8:35 PM|
Reader interview: Mary Ruth P., from southwest Missouri!
Thanks so much for joining us here on E. Kaiser Writes-A-Blog!
M.R.: Thanks so much for having me again! I had so much fun with the writer interview, and I'm looking forward to this one too!
E. Kaiser: As a reader, I know there are a lot of personal opinions involved in what you enjoy, and what you hate, and I do love a good, established opinion. (Especially if it's personal. ;-) )
So, tell us yours!
M.R.: Wow, that's a loaded question! Let me start off by saying that I have very eclectic tastes in what I read, and (contrary to a fairly common misconception) I'm actually very easy to please. For me, it's very easy to tell when a book was written simply because the author had something they couldn't keep inside, something they just had to say because they loved it and believed in it. I have a wild aversion to reading books where I can tell that the author had some ulterior motive, or that they were writing just to appeal to a certain audience. If a writer has written a story just because they had to tell that story, I can pick that up in the writing, and if the story is exciting chances are I'll like it regardless of genre.
E. Kaiser: That's a very good point.
What's your range of favorite genres? Can you introduce us to the why's of that?
M.R.: Historical fiction is my first love - my mom introduced me to that at age eight, with the Dear America series and later, the Royal Diaries series (both of which I love to this day). I think the reason I love the genre so much is that, even though human nature doesn't change, you get to see it in so many interesting applications in the different situations of history. Plus I love reading a well-researched historical novel and getting to see a faraway place in a long-lost time through a characters eyes.
I also love fantasy. I read The Chronicles of Narnia when I was ten, but didn't really get into the genre until I became friends with author H.A. Titus as a teenager. She was already a fantasy nut, and it didn't take long for her to recruit me to the cause! I love the opportunities fantasy offers to go all the cool directions history didn't go. I love swords and amazing architecture and long, gorgeous dresses and armor and the challenges (and blessings) of a world where technology doesn't do everything for you.
The only other genre that I think I can consider a favorite is science fiction. I'll admit, though, I'm a little harder to please in the science fiction department than in other genres. A lot of the same things about fantasy that appeal to me are present in science fiction - the room for imagination, the opportunities to see human nature in unique applications - but a lot of science fiction stories focus too much on the science and technology itself and let the plot drift to the sidelines. That I dislike. I like science fiction as long as the science part is merely a factor of the plot - not the other way around.
E: Among all the basic threads that just about all stories borrow from, what're your favorite story lines?
M.R.: Hmm... I like stories where the hero is reluctant to get involved in whatever the conflict of the story is, has to come to the realization that it's the right thing to do, and then throws himself into it with all he has. I also like stories in which a central character struggles to know or decide which side he or she is on. And of course, any story in which an ordinary little person gets pulled into something far bigger than themselves and becomes a hero is great, too.
E: How about your worst pet peeves? Let us have 'em!
M.R.: Book teasers that give away the story. Romance novels of all kinds, Amish and vampire romance in particular. Melodrama - i.e., shrieking, wailing, gnashing of teeth, weeping, and vomiting over things that really aren't that big of a deal. Over-the-top cliche-ness - "Can Kate and Jason overcome their mutual dislike for each other long enough to solve the murder... and find love along the way?" - seriously, just put me out of my misery!
E: Ha! I'm totally on that page with you, there!
Okay, how about that Thing-You-Can't-Stand-Above-Anything-Else.
M.R.: Sappiness. I review books for several publishing houses, and one time I accidentally got my name on a list to review this Christian historical romance novel. I almost gagged multiple times. I mean, I've been around guys that I've thought were handsome, but I've never felt "overwhelmed by his masculinity". And although I've never kissed a guy, I find it rather difficult to believe that doing so would make a girl "worried that her bones had turned to dust". I'm very much an action-oriented, keep-it-real kind of girl, and all the pining and wistfulness and mush and gushing emotions in sappy novels just really disgust me.
E: Glancing quickly backward over your reading history, what stands out as the moment that melted your heart, all warm and puddle-y?
M.R.: Well... in spite of how emotional I can get over books, I'm really not a 'warm and puddle-y' kind of person. It's just not the way I'm wired. So I'm afraid I can't think of a single moment that made me feel that way. : )
E: Same thing, what's the first-to-mind scene that fired your emotions?
M.R.: The first thing that comes to mind is the end of the Dear America book Voyage on the Great Titanic. I was... oh, maybe eleven or twelve when I read it, and it's the first book that I remember crying over. The main character had become really good friends with one of the cabin boys, and she got off safely but he chose to go down with the ship and his fellow crewmen. At the time I was pretty sure I would never ever get over it as long as I lived, but I've managed to piece together a normal life since then... barely. ; P
E: ...Made you so mad you couldn't see straight?
M.R.: I was reading The Sword and the Flame, the third book in Stephen R. Lawhead's 'Dragon King' trilogy. The main character (who I had loved in both of the previous books) watched one of his best friends be murdered, so he murdered his friend's killer (who had dropped his weapon and surrendered already) and sort of went mad for the rest of the book and just sulked in his quarters while everyone else was running around trying to save the kingdom. And then all of a sudden, 'poof!' he gets over it and everything goes back to normal after everyone else has been running themselves ragged trying to keep it all together through the whole book. It made me so mad at him that I actually put the book aside for a few months right in the middle. The only thing that brought me back to it was the fact that I cared about the rest of the characters too much not to find out what happened to them.
E: What is your favorite trait in a character, and why do you love them?
M.R.: I absolutely love it when a character expects to fail in a task or quest, but does it anyway simply because it's the right thing to do. I love self-sacrifice, protectiveness, and loyalty. Protectiveness and loyalty in a character appeal to me because they're so central to the way I was raised. From the time my siblings and I were tiny our parents taught us that you look out for the people you love, you look out for people who can't look out for themselves, and you stand with your friends and family no matter what. If they're in the wrong, you correct them, but you don't stop being loyal to them. Self-sacrifice is a part of that too, in a lot of ways, as well as being part of doing the right thing even if and when it costs you. That's a trait I want to possess myself - being able and willing to do the right thing no matter what it costs, and to know that the cost is worth it - so I like seeing it portrayed well in fictional characters.
E: Good one! I like the way you explained that. Very true.
So, what most makes you most hate the villain?
M.R.: That's kind of a tricky question, since there are only so many villain-making traits and they're pretty close to universal (e.g. cruelty, self-centeredness, lust for power, corrupt desires, etc.). I guess the thing that makes me hate a villain most depends on how well he's written. Writing a truly evil villain requires a deep understanding of evil itself, and I think a lot of writers either don't have that or are uncomfortable with delving into the understanding they do have. In cases like that, you usually end up with the cliche 'kicks-kittens-and-tortures-servants-for-enjoyment' kind of villain, which bugs me to death. True evil is, quite often, far more subtle than that.
So I guess, in order for me to really loathe a villain, he has to be realistically evil. The exact details of how that evil manifests itself don't matter nearly so much to me as being able to believe that the villain is truly evil. And of course, the more I love the protagonist, the more I'll hate the villain for hurting him or her. ; )
E: What was your favorite "switch" that caught you completely off guard, but you loved the result!
M.R.: The first thing that comes to mind is the revelation towards the end of Angela Elwell Hunt's novel The Immortal. There's a moment when the main character and the readers all realize that 'Oh... Asher's immortality wasn't a curse... it was a gift! And I've been missing that for the last 200 pages of the book, but he's been missing it for the last 2,000 years!!!' That moment is a total game changer in the book, but the result is heartrendingly beautiful. In fact I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it! : )
E: What small things do you especially like to see included?
M.R.: I love it when books talk about the food the characters eat. The Secret Garden and the Redwall books are particular instances that come to mind. The food in those books always sounds so delicious! Of course, I always end up having to put the book down and go find something to eat because just reading them makes me hungry, but it's a really nice detail to include. I think more authors should write about food in their stories. There's a special kind of happiness that really good food makes people feel, and weaving that into the happiness of loveable characters and exciting adventure just adds another layer of delight to a good book. : )
Thanks for joining us, Mary Ruth!
You're so very welcome, Elizabeth. This has been a lot of fun and I've really enjoyed it. Happy reading, everyone!
Hannah Scheele said...Hi Mary Ruth!
I laughed out loud when you complained about that trashy romance novel with the " bones turning to dust". Oh dear, that is AWFUL.
I remember reading the Titanic Dear America book! Sure was interesting seeing someone else mention it online.
I totally agree with you about cheap, overdone villains. Real villainy is subtle.
January 23, 2013 at 5:27 PM
Kelsey Bryant said...This was so interesting! I loved what you had to say about your favorite genres.
I remember well being choked up by that Dear America book about the Titanic, too. I absolutely loved the Royal Diaries and they were also a part of inspiring me to love history and write historical fiction.
I like the mention of food in books. I can recall The Secret Garden and the Redwall books' tasty meals. Your explanation for why it's so special makes a lot of sense. Taste is one of the five senses, so writers need to remember to include it!
This was a fun and informative read!
January 23, 2013 at 5:47 PM
Mary Ruth Pursselley said...Thanks, ladies!
That's so cool that both of you have read the Titanic Dear America book - most people I talk to aren't familiar with the series.
I'm so glad you both enjoyed the interview. : ) Elizabeth and I had a lot of fun doing it.
January 24, 2013 at 12:09 PM
Sarah Scheele said...Hannah has heard of this Titanic book and I haven't? That's weird. . . we're sisters. We live in the SAME HOUSE. lol
With you on bad romance writing, vampires, and anyone vomiting as a special effect. I downloaded a book that my mother read part of (I haven't read it yet) which reportedly contains a boy whose magic power is throwing up. lol . . .not good.