An unforgettable debut novel, Saving Ruby King is a powerful testament that history doesn’t determine the present and the bonds of friendship can forever shape the future. We spoke with author Catherine Adel West about her inspiration, the process of writing and editing the novel, and more.
Catherine Adel West’s stunning debut novel explores the dark and cobwebbed corners that lurk in the history of two families. These long-buried secrets both bind and separate them through several generations, as they struggle to rise above. The murder of Ruby King’s mother is the catalyst that forces the past to the surface and holds the key to forgiveness, hope, understanding and the possibility of a new beginning.Maxwell Gregory, Lake Forest Book Store
Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.
Originally, I wrote this book to examine the relationship with my father. Saving Ruby King was a way (if only superficially) to figure out how we related and why our communication was sometimes fraught with misunderstanding and anger. Through this book I figured out how to begin to rebuild our relationship in a real and lasting way.
It took five years to write the rough draft of Saving Ruby King. There were so many versions of this book (at least 20). I went from omniscient third person to first person to multi-POV. From there, I slowly discovered my characters’ voices, their motivations, and the story itself. Then after some thoughtful critiques, I had to kill my darlings which included deleting an entire POV and timeline. It was an overwhelming process at times, but organic and ultimately cathartic.
In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise Libro.fm listeners about your audiobook?
I think most people will be surprised to hear one of the characters voiced in Saving Ruby King is the actual church. I went all out on the premise of “if these walls could talk.”
Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?
I have listened to part of my audiobook and what amazed me was the range of voices, and how each person seems to completely inhabit every specific character’s verbal nuance and turn of phrase. It’s riveting, haunting, and awe-inspiring to experience.
Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?
I’ve listened to audiobooks before. They give me a new perspective my eyes don’t. One of the audiobooks I listened to recently was Kindred by Octavia Butler which was narrated by Kim Staunton who voiced Alice King in Saving Ruby King. This was a straight-up coincidence and I didn’t realized this until I did this interview.
What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?
I think independent bookstores and booksellers are the creative linchpin by which writers are able to get our stories into the hands of readers. There are books I wouldn’t have thought to purchase and read had someone behind a counter not made a suggestion. I kid you not–95% of the time they were right! When preparing Saving Ruby King for its journey out into the world, I felt so welcomed by many indie bookstores and sellers, many of whom have reached out to me personally to congratulate me or ask how they can help get the world out even more! Saving Ruby King wouldn’t have half the success it’s experiencing right now had indie bookstores and booksellers not seen its potential. I owe them all a great deal.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Other than my deepest thanks for inviting me to do this interview, just a shoutout to some books/audiobooks I love!