Saturday, July 25, 2020

Inside the Mind: Lauren Hall Ruddell

Welcome to Inside the Mind where we here at The Faerie Review interview authors and creators.
Our guest today is Lauren Hall Ruddell, the author behind The Portolan.

* Please note all the photos included in this interview were taken by Lauren Hall Ruddell and are under copyright and may not be reproduced without explicit written permission, and The Faerie Review was given permission to use them in this interview *

Lily: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Lauren I LOVED The Portolan. What made you decide to write this? 
Lauren:  Sometime back in the early 2000’s I read a treatise on Granuaile.  I was fascinated by that historical figure.  I did a lot of research and even went to County Mayo (Western Ireland) to do more research on her using original documents held only at the Westport Library.  That was back in the days before Google Earth and most of the Internet!  Historical research isn’t nearly as difficult now as it was back then. While doing that research, I realized that a number of other writers had focused on her life as a source of inspiration, and I decided that I wanted to do something a little different.  The life of a fictional best friend seemed to open up some intriguing plot and historical avenues, as well as some additional characters outside of the real, of the strictly factual, allowing for a little mysticism and Celtic spirituality to be woven into the story line. I really liked the idea of a plot addressing the challenges that any young woman faced in that time period, or any time period, really.  Narratives that combine fictional characters with historical female heroes or leaders are inspiring, at least to me.  They are more common now than when I started the book initially, since it took nearly 15 years to write while life intervened occasionally. I’m seeing now that they have become very popular, which I find validating and exciting.  The more the merrier!
Lily: I've loved seeing more strong female leads enter the book market as I get older, and I do remember the days before you could just pop onto Google and look up anything. Gale was so headstrong, I could definitely relate to her even though we live in different centuries. Did anyone inspire her? 

Lauren:   I was inspired by several women: Myself a little, Grace O’Malley a lot, and various family members, one of whom was the first woman to descend into the deep in a diving suit, the old kind with the big bell helmet!  I was always more independent than my parents were truly comfortable with.  Now that they have passed, I can truthfully say that although my childhood was wonderful in many ways, they purposely held me back in certain endeavors out of fear for my safety and concern for appearances in that day and age.  For instance, even though I grew up around wild animals all my life, being a San Diego Zoo brat at an early age with multiple family members working there, my parents strongly objected when I took up falconry.  They considered it a man’s activity and possibly dangerous. At 22 years old, I did it anyway.  So Gale is a bit of an alter ego, yes, although she sets her feet upon a contrary path years earlier in her young adulthood than I did.
Lily: I can understand wanting to push the boundaries a bit and I love that you went for falconry! Why choose the 1500s when you could pick any time period? 
Lauren:  The two protagonists dictated the time period. So in a way, it chose me! 
Lily: That's a great way to fall into a time period. Any idea on when book 2 is coming out? I definitely want to read it when it does! 
Lauren:   It should be out in February 2021.
Lily: ​That seems so long away now that I have so much time to read! I can't wait to read it. Now we’d like to talk about you as a writer. Do you have any special routines you do before you sit down to write? 
Lauren:  Yes, whether I want to or not! Correspondence with clients for my freelance writing gigs at 5:00 AM, Breakfast at 6:00 AM, Daily Goat Hike at 6:45 or 7:00 AM (in summer), landscaping and barn chores until 9:00 AM and then finally…writing time. Then, whenever inspiration seems to be waning, I take a 15-minute break in nature and then return to the work.  I either sit on the back deck and view my goats for a bit, or on the front deck and contemplate trees and the snow-capped San Juan Mountains (Rockies) in the distance. 
Lily: That just sounds like an excellent way to start the say. What’s your favorite place to write? 
Lauren: My very favorite place to write is the orangerie at the top of the Knockranny Hotel just east of Westport.  5 hours of writing there can zoom past, and the staff is very patient with writers camping out on a table as long as they buy something occasionally.  My usual place is my tiny office in Western Colorado.
Lily: I can definitely see just getting lost in your writing. Do you ever have to fight with writer’s block? How do you deal with it? 
Lauren:  I do sometimes have to fight it.  Now I get writer’s block in a tiny way.  Time in nature, which is so accessible to me here at my home, usually does the trick.  It propels me out of a space of ‘voluntary’ attention and into ‘involuntary’ attention.  Not jargon that fiction writers use much, I know, so for a bit, picture me with my professor’s cap on.  My area of scientific expertise is in Attention Restoration Theory, a cognitive discipline with a side order of neuroanatomy.  I know when my executive function is depleted and the default network needs to come out and play (a subject I address in my non-fiction book on the benefits of time in nature, Zoodulcis).   That said, there was a time over twenty years ago when I experienced severe writer’s block for over two years.  Big city life and writing environmental documents 40 hours per week sapped every bit of creative energy I had and nearly ruined my health and sanity.  That is when I left San Diego for Colorado.  It took two years for me to get my mojo back, and a round of “The Artist’s Way” with some other blocked creatives.  The Portolan was the very next work I began.  It took a while, but what a labor of love!  Now I produce about 3 books a year, and large number of animal care guides.  Golly, that was a long answer to that question!
Lily: It's great insight though! Let’s finish up with some fun questions and get inside your mind. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Lauren:   County Mayo that I have come to know intimately and where I have wonderful friends.
Lily: I can definitely see you writing in the Irish countryside instead of rural Colorado. Would you rather live in a rural cabin in the woods, an RV, or a sailboat? Why? 
Lauren:  Rural cabin, plainly!  Because it’s where I am now.
Lily: It definitely sounds like you enjoy your life there. What’s your favorite hot drink? 
Lauren:   Irish Coffee – extra whipped cream.
Lily:  Extra whipped cream makes everything better, and an Irish Coffee doesn't sound too bad right now. What’s your perfect vacation look like?  
Lauren:   Two weeks in Ireland, including tons of pony trekking.  Still haven’t done that in the southern portion of the country yet.  I guess if I ever lived in Ireland full time, my ideal vacation would be two weeks at Glacier National Park and surrounds.
Lily:  Sounds relaxing. Would you rather never have a toilet clog on you again or never have the power go outagain? 
Lauren:   What a funny question!! Toilet clogs begone!! The power goes out in the country here regularly so just part of the gig. 
Lily:  I have to admit I panic a little without the power! Have you ever seen a ghost/spirit/fae?  
Lauren:   More felt than seen, mostly.  Since I pray daily to the Goddess, I am plainly open to guidance where it is offered.  These moments of being watched and guided are subtle, as a rule, but not always.  Once, when I drifted off to sleep at the wheel while crossing an overpass in San Diego, a female voice screamed at me. Startled, I snapped awake just in time to correct and not smash into the guard rail.  That was 30 years ago, but I knew an intervention had happened.  
While researching the old castle of the O’Malley’s just outside of the town of Murrisk on Clew Bay, I was climbing through some natural arbors filled with moss, shadows and light, right next to the river that would have provided Granuaile and her family with water.  I had ventured away from the vine covered stone walls, reputed to be the foundation of the old castle in order to take some artsy river side photos. There was a presence there underneath those bowers, always just out of sight.  It was neither benevolent nor malignant, just watchful and curious.  I felt honored to be examined this way!
In a different vein, once as a kid, at the British Museum, I paused before an exhibit of a Chaldean goat statue.  A gold goat adorned with lapis and other gems stood upright with its feet in a golden tree.  Sounds lovely, right?  But not to me.  This was long before I had goats of my own, but I had nothing against them.  This icon instantly radiated malice, human suffering and sheer dedicated, purposeful evil.  It was indeed, I found out later, dedicated to human sacrifice. Another instance, not fun, I placed my hands on the stones of an ancient site in Chaco Canyon that was off limits to the public. I felt such fear, anguish, and watchfulness radiating from its cooling stone, that I snatched my hands away.  My Navajo friends complemented me on my perceptions.  We had not discussed the history of this tower, but it was built to give a view of approaching enemies, and said enemies wiped out the people in a terrible slaughter eventually.  So I seem to be somewhat sensitive.  In the wilderness I sometimes feel eyes on me, but they don’t frighten me, I just feel part of a wholeness that extends both forward and backward in time.  
Lily:  That's a beautiful feeling. Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?  
Lauren:   Not that I can think of.
Lily:  Let's wrap up with how readers can discover more about you and you work?
Lauren: I’m constantly trying to keep my website updated with tidbits, from recipes to excerpts from new and old works.  My next contribution will be what it’s like to be a country writer with COVID, in a diary type of format.  Once I did a similar piece for Farm and Ranch Living for 30 days, and I found it really enlightening when looked back at it a year later. I will try to post weekly updates on my coronavirus journey. 
Also, I personally answer all fan mail sent to
The Portolan
Zoodulcis: Our Fascination with Animals on Amazon
A Small Matter of Ethics (Book One of the Peony Creek Murder Mysteries) on Amazon

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