Judy Neil Ruth, author of the Isle of the Dead Series, took the time to allow me to interview him for my blog. Take a minute…or a few. Buckle up because you’re going to read some great answers by an amazing person!
So, Jody, what drew you into the world of writing?
“When I was a kid I had a problem with one of my feet, so my legs were placed in a brace for a long time. I think my mum said it was around two years! So, being immobile a lot of the time I was encouraged to read and write from a very early age.”
I love it when a person can use such an experience to empower them. Did you use your experience in braces as a motivator for your stories?
I don’t think I’ve ever used that moment, as such, but I’ve definitely taken other incidents in my life and turned them into tales. I had a pretty bad brush with mental health issues a few years ago. I blogged about it and it was then made into a documentary which has been seen all around the world! The book I’m currently working on is a self-autobiographical version of the events at the time, sprinkled with some creative fiction. It’s almost ready to be sent to agents and publishers, and I think if anything is going to get me “noticed” it’s probably this book.
That WIP sounds life altering. Do you think of how your work could affect someone else?
The feedback I had from my original blog about mental health issues stunned me, in a good way. People reached out to me to tell me their problems and to thank me for making them realize they weren’t alone. The documentary did the same, times ten! The book I’m finishing will resonate with many people, but in the end, it is a dark comedy and I think if anyone reads that then that’s what they’ll be expecting anyway.
Do you think your experiences with mental health gave you a true insight into the psyches of your readers?
Only the ones who have struggled themselves! And I don’t think I have an insight in all of them, but I can certainly sympathize and empathize.
I've read your novel, Isle of the Dead, what was your motivation for the story?
A lifelong obsession with zombies! Ha ha! It started when I was a kid and my dad ran a shop renting video cassettes (remember them?) and I used to watch Romero’s films and any other zombie flicks in stock. I think I may have watched every zombie film ever... oh, and I’ve been an extra in two of them! And the lead in a zombie music video... and I have a zombie tattoo... so, yeah, “obsessed”!
So, you would say that you're an expect on Zombies? lol That is quite interesting. Most pre/post-apocalyptic tales that involve zombies revolved around a very similar theme/trope. How is your story different than most?
For starters, because I wrote it! Ha! It’s different because I’ve set it on the Isle of Wight, and I’m 99% certain no one else has ever set a zombie story there. It’s perfect as it’s jus off the coast of mainland England, has around 170,000 people inhabiting it, and was rife for a tale of people trying to fight their way off it for a long time. So I stepped up and wrote the story!
Do you have any other plans for the series?
Yep! The sequel is about two of the thirds way through the first draft, and there will be a third book to make up the trilogy. I’m definitely open to expanding the “universe”, as such, but it will be a series I dip in and out of to extend. My priority is to get the trilogy finished as well as the mental health story, and then I’ll push on with other projects.
I found it very fascinating that you used your home area for the setting. How important was that? Not many people use their hometown, etc
Gotta “write what you know”, right? Ha! And I know zombies and I know the Isle of Wight, and I know the people who inhabit it. I lived there over three decades and I was a taxi driver there for 11 years. I don’t think many people know the place as well as I do, warts and all!
Oh, a taxi driver you say? How many stories have you heard? I bet you have countless stories inside of your head!
Oh man, like you wouldn’t believe. I drove a school bus as well. I used to write Facebook statuses about the stories and they became a staple in people’s lives! And of course I’m turning that into a book as well! It’s an active file on my desktop which I add to every few days when I remember old stories or if they pop up on Facebook in those “memory” things you wake up to each morning.
You said that initially you tried to seek traditional publishing for your novel. What made you decide to go the self-publishing route? We both know that some people place a divide between the two different styles.
I submitted my zombie story to agents and publishers, knowing full well the market was flooded with books like mine. I got nice replies from some agents saying they liked my writing style but they couldn’t market my book, but I did get four offers from small publishers. However, these guys would only advertise it in the US. I knew I could promote it and sell it myself in the UK, so that’s what I did! I self-published Isle of The Dead last year and it’s slowly gained momentum. It now sits at number one in the Smashwords free horror charts, and that’s something I’m extremely proud of. It also reached number 5 in the “paid” horror charts!
What are some tips that you'd give other aspiring writers when it comes to publishing? What's the real tea!
I'm going to stay away from the old cliched tips and go with something I've found super important for my writing. GET YOURSELF A BUDDY. Find a writing friend who will tell you how shit is. Someone who won't lie but will encourage you. I've got an A-star friend called Cheyenne who reads what I write, points out my mistakes, notes inconsistencies, tells me when things don't make sense, yet she's also one of my biggest supporters. If you can get a friend like that it is a MASSIVE help to your writing. I'm 43 and have been writing all my life and even today she's helped changed a tiny aspect of my writing that I didn't even know I needed changing.
As an active member of the writing community, have you noticed any trends among writers?
Yeah, and not a good one. Some "writers" who I newly follow then send me an automated link advertising their books or "services". One guy sent me a message in text speak asking me if I'd like a PDF of his "best selling ebook on how to promote myself". Here, let me copy and paste it: "R U an author? Market UR Books On Twitter? STILL Struggling 2 get SALES?" So I sent him a reply asking if the fucking PDF was written in text speak as well. He didn't reply. I unfollowed. But I get more and more of these automated replies from people and sometimes I can't sift the fake accounts from the new ones, so I go through their tweets and if it's just a bunch of retweeted adverts, etc, I get rid of them. Maybe it isn't so much of a trend, and maybe it's more of me having a bug up my arse, but one certain way to get yourself unfollowed by me is to send me an automated message the second I follow you. It's so impersonal. Rant over.
I understand, I get those as well. I’d rather pay a PR person honestly. If I had the money. So, what other genres do you plan to write? Fantasy? Romance? Etc
Fantasy for sure. I’ve got an idea bumming around my head that I need to get down. Romance is actually something I’ll be working on soon, but I’m busting to write myself a western! I love a good cowboy story! The only thing is I know there’s going to be a dark streak through everything I write. I just can’t help it!
I feel that is part of your voice as a writer. When did you realize that you had found your voice as a writer?
Probably back when Facebook really blew up and I started writing funny statuses about taxi and bus driving. I think that’s really when I found the rhythm in my style of writing, as a lot of people reacted to my tales and I grew it from there.
So, what is your ultimate goal for your Isle of the Dead Series? Tv? Movie? Graphic novel?
Ah, I think it would make a nice little lottery funded or channel 4 film movie. Here’s to hoping!
You said that you have a son. How would you feel if your son came to you and told you that he wanted to be a writer?
I have three kids! If any of them wanted to take up writing seriously I would encourage them, but also remind them to get a full time job to pay the bills!
That is amazing. You know, some people would discourage a writing career because it can be risky. But, I feel that those people are too scared to follow their dreams. One never knows. Besides a theme of zombie craziness, what other themes do you want a reader to get from Isle of the Dead? It's such a compelling story and quite realistic in my opinion.
Themes? I’m not sure. I kinda just want people to enjoy it without me laying any subversive undercurrents! It’s a tale of the undead attacking people on a small island. I just hope people enjoy it. The reviews have been great and it’s number one, so I guess I’m doing something right!
And, you are. Your story is so well done. I really enjoyed it. And from your reviews, I can tell that people do enjoy it. So, what else do you want the readers to know about you?
Thanks Jacob! I hope the sequel is just as well liked! I’d just like them to know I’m very approachable if they’d like to talk.i can be found all over the net. With a name like mine there’s never any room for confusion! Ha!
Do you offer services to other writers? Critique Partner? Beta Reader? Etc.
Well, I don’t really advertise anything, but I have written menus for restaurants, brochures for charities, and pretty much anything anyone asks me to. I wouldn’t say I offer services, but I can also say I’ve never turned anyone down! Ha ha!
I think that is what makes a better writing community. When a writer can give back, I truly believe that someone who doesn't have a clue where to start and they come across you, it relieves pressure. Makes someone feel like they aren't alone. And, we all know the writing world is so vast and abundant that I can scare some.
I hear that. You can type in #writingcommunity on twitter and lose hours of your day getting involved with it all! The info a ration, advice, and friendships you can create just off of that hashtag alone really sums up what being a writer and what being friends with other writers is all about.
I have met some great people in the Writing Community on Twitter. Some helped me during my launch of Augur of Shadows. So, where can readers find you? You have a personal website?
Sure do! https://www.jodyneilruth.com