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?
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
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?
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!
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.
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
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?
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
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. ; )
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!