Sunday, August 12, 2012

Interview with author....

Anne Marie Ruff!


Anne Marie has taken a moment to stop by and answer a few questions, so sit back and relax while you read about the author and her book, Through These Veins.


AM: What inspired you to become a writer?

AMR: I don’t know that I can answer that.  I have been writing all my life.  I remember writing a letter to myself at 14 asserting that I knew I was meant to be a writer.  I seemed to have forgotten that letter for many years.  I floundered around for what seemed like an eternity during and after college trying to figure out what to do as a profession.  When I kind of stumbled back into writing when volunteering with a public radio station, I felt this incredible sense of relief, as if I had found something I had lost. 

How did you decide on your book's genre?

I think the book decided on me.  I didn’t set out to write fiction, which seems so contrary to the ‘just the facts ma’am’ axiom we associate with journalism.  I was living in Bangkok, Thailand working as a freelance journalist.  My intention was to shine a light on unreported or underreported environmental stories.  The medical reporting I did was not really my passion, as much as a byproduct of living in Bangkok; a hub for HIV/AIDS research and activism.

When, in the course of my reporting, I met a charismatic Italian scientist who approached plant collecting and conservation as if it were an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones. I had a shazaam moment.  He ignited an idea for a new approach, a fictional story centered on a character like him.  He could carry readers around the world, and inspire in others the passion he felt for the richness of life on the planet.

I met this man, Stefano Padulosi, in Malaysia at a scientific conference focused on agricultural biodiversity and the promotion of traditional and medicinal crop plants. I interviewed Stefano about his work, and he told me adventure stories about traveling across a dozen African countries in search of…hold your breath here… unusual varieties of beans.   He told me that he was planning a trip to Turkmenistan a few months later to study – what was at the time – the world’s largest collection of pomegranate varieties. So a week after the conference, I asked him if I could join the expedition to the mountain orchards of Turkmenistan. He said yes. Three months later I was there, peppering my notes for magazine stories with little tidbits about Stefano’s character.

I spent the next several years continuing my research and finally writing and revising (and revising and revising) the novel.

Other than a writer, if there was anything else you could do with your life, what would that be?

I think it would be easier to look back, as I have had a number of careers already.  From the ages of 9 to 19 I worked as a professional stage actress.  I have also worked as a bookkeeper, a cashier, a consultant to seed companies on agricultural issues, a secretary, a yoga instructor, a nanny, a media analyst for the government of the United Arab Emirates, a journalist, and most recently as a business development manager at a global law firm.  I toyed for a while with going to law school, getting a real estate license, opening a restaurant, finding a job as a sustainability officer, and have fantasized about running a retreat center. 

A teacher and dear friend told me years ago that no experience is ever wasted.  Indeed I have found that in writing fiction I draw on almost all of my disparate career directions.  Who knows what the future could hold?

Who or what is the driving force that keeps you going?

I grew up in a family with an incredibly strong Germanic work ethic.  I began completing small tasks to help my mother’s business when I was 5 years old.  So a really strong internal drive and sense of discipline seems to keep me going.  As my mother would say, that is just part of the original operating equipment.

How do you balance your personal life with your  writing career?

This is a nearly constant challenge.  No one could fault me for abandoning my writing in favor of dedicating that time to my children, right?  And plenty of people, including my children, could possibly accuse me of selfishness to steal away and continue my love affair with words, maybe.  (see the documentary Who Does She Think She Is? for an intimate exploration of this challenge creative women with children face ).

After some years of assuming that the reasons I couldn’t find time to write were external (the laundry piling up, the care my children require, the full time job that takes so much time), I realized that these external forces would only recognize the importance of my writing if I demonstrated its importance to me.  I started dedicating an hour every Saturday morning to leaving home to write.  The first Saturday there were tears and guilt and I almost turned around and walked home rather than attend to my writing.  But I bargained with myself that if I took this time for the novel, I would devote the rest of the day, undistracted, to my family.  I repeated the same bargain a week later.  By the third week my family hardly noticed I was gone. 

Then we moved into a house, and my weekday commute to my office went from a four block walk to a four mile bus ride.  The bus commute turned into a windfall of undisturbed time.  So for the last ten months, every weekday morning I meet with my novel, writing 250 words on the bus.  In fact, I am writing on the bus right now (I reserve the afternoon commute for blogging, article writing, or other non-novel writing).  The time is so precious that I don’t waste any of it.  I know by the time the bus passes through Chinatown I need to have an idea about what I am writing, I know that once the bus turns on to Grand Avenue, I better be at least halfway done, and I know that once I press the ‘stop request’ button on the bus, I have a single block to dash out the last thought.  

(along the way, a couple of resources helped me tremendously, including the books Art and Fear, and 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women)

Please, tell us about your book.

I spent months drafting the back cover blurb to describe the story of Through These Veins, not sure I could do any better than this:

In the coffee-growing highlands of Ethiopia, an Italian scientist on a plant collecting expedition discovers a local medicine man dispensing an apparent cure for AIDS. As the medicine man’s teenage daughter reveals the plants behind the cure, their lives become irrevocably intertwined. Through These Veins weaves together the dramatically different worlds of traditional healing, U.S. government funded AIDS research, and the pharmaceutical industry in an intensely personal, fast-paced tale of scientific intrigue and love, with both devastating and hopeful effect.

All profits from the sale of this book will be distributed to the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders and the Institute of Biodiversity Conservation in Ethiopia.

Do you have any upcoming events or book promotions?

I will be around the blogosphere in the coming weeks.  And if you invite me, I would be happy to promote the book by joining your book club, either in person if you are in Southern California, or by Skype to points beyond. 
Where can people find you and your work on the web?, @annemarieruff, on Facebook, and Goodreads. Through These Veins is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.


Anne Marie, it was a pleasure having you here, thank you for taking the time to stop by! I truly wish you all the very best in your future endeavors!

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