Most Thursdays in 2019 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.
Today we interview Ruth Amos
Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from.
I am the daughter of missionaries and both my grandfathers were Anglican ministers. I’ve been brought up in the church my whole life and I’m grateful for the spiritual inheritance I have.
Pretty much straight out of high school I got married and had my two wonderful children. When my youngest was one year old I began my undergraduate science degree and ended up going right through to complete a PhD in chemistry. I then worked as a lecturer and researcher for eight years. In the middle of that time I decided that what I really wanted to do was write. So I started listening to podcasts on writing, watching YouTube videos, and, of course, actually writing. I started a blog in 2016, published my first book in early 2018 and later that year I stopped working at the university and started freelancing so that I could have more time to concentrate on writing.
I live in the most beautiful part of Australia. You don’t know where that is? It’s Tasmania, of course! I’ve lived here pretty much my whole life and I’m content to live here for the rest if that’s what God wants me to do. My house has views of Mt Wellington/kunanyi and the Derwent River. I love to walk on the beach near my home, and I love the friendships I have in my local community.
Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc). What do you write and why?
My novels (written as R. J. Amos) are mysteries. Cosy mysteries in the style of Agatha Christie or Dorothy Sayers. I found when I was struggling with my work life, that cosy mysteries were a really great escape. There’s not too much tension (unlike thrillers), not too much emotion, and you know that the bad guy will be caught in the end. I lived on a steady diet of cosies for years, so when it came time to write, that was the obvious choice.
I have a series called the Deadly Miss series which are mysteries set at universities where I have worked – The University of Tasmania for the first two, and for the one I’m currently writing, The University of Sydney. I thought that people might like to see what working at a university is actually like. They say ‘write what you know’ so that’s where I started. When I was at the university my colleagues were excited about my writing and would greet me in the hallway by saying, ‘Ruth, I’ve thought of a new way for you to kill someone!’ We used to brainstorm murder methods over morning tea.
Just lately I challenged myself to write some short stories using prompts that my husband found for me on Reddit. I had no choice in the prompts and some of them were suited to mystery, but many were science fiction (So. Many. Aliens.) and a few were fantasy. They were so much fun to write that when I finish the mystery I’m working on now (the third in the Deadly Miss series) I’m thinking I might try my hand at a different genre. Just for fun.
I have also written a memoir/self-help book called ‘My Year of Saying No.’ This book is written under my Ruth Amos author name as it is much more solidly Christian and is non-fiction.
I hope that my writing is uplifting, that it helps out others who might need a place of peace to escape to. But mostly I write because writing makes me very happy, it feels just right to do it.
Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?
I was very surprised when I launched my first novel in May of 2018, and my memoir a week later (it just worked out like that – crazy) to find that so many of my friends and colleagues were happy to put their money where their mouth was and buy my book. I had built a reader network without even knowing it.
The people who like my books like mysteries but don’t like gore or profanity. Many of my readers are women over 40, possibly because I fit in that demographic and I write books that I want to read. Many of my readers are in Tasmania and they enjoy seeing local landmarks in the books. I hope that my audience will continue to grow, though I’m sure the growth will be fairly slow as it seems to depend greatly on word of mouth. I’m hoping that as people from the rest of Australia and the world read my little mysteries they will be tempted to come down to Tasmania and see if it’s as beautiful as I say it is.
Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I write first thing. We have one child still at home but he’s a uni student now so I don’t need to worry about getting him ready for school or anything. So once my husband has left for work, I head down to my office and fire up my computer. I find that using Scrivener helps me fall into the story a little easier as I don’t use that software for any other type of work or writing. I write for an hour or so and then get on with my other jobs – I work as an academic editor for my ‘day job’.
On Tuesdays I don’t write first-thing, because in the afternoons I run a writing session at a local church. We open up the hall and people bring their own projects, we write for about two hours. On Thursdays I do a similar thing at a local café. I’m always there for the set two hours, and others join me as they can.
I think my biggest challenge in my writing is ‘show don’t tell’ I am always ‘telling’, and then I go back over and rewrite so that I can ‘show’ instead.
The thing that helps me the most is my outline. It’s a very brief outline – just a list of scenes – and it’s by no means comprehensive. But if I have a scene to write, then I know where I’m starting, and I can just sit down and write. I tried ‘discovery writing’ (pantsing) once, and I found I didn’t get to the writing because I didn’t feel like I had enough energy to decide what to write. I would procrastinate like crazy. An outline works for me like a writing prompt, it gets me going. And once I’m going, I find it easy to continue.
What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?
The Art of Slow Writing by Louise De Salvo. She suggests keeping a writing journal and I have found that very, very helpful. Before each session I write a few words about how I feel about the writing, and what I’m trying to do. After the session I write about how I think it went. I also jot down questions in my writing journal about plot or character or whatever is on my mind at the time. It’s helpful to go through the journal after I think I’ve finished a book and make sure that I’ve answered all of my own questions.
If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?
Megan Sayer is a writer who has been very helpful to me. Especially when I was just starting out. She read my very first draft and kindly but firmly told me what was wrong with it. And there was so much wrong with it. Four drafts later I had a book I was happy to publish. I’m not sure I could have done it without her. She’s a brilliant writer and her blogs are both amusing and insightful.
What are your writing goals for 2019? How will you achieve them?
So far this year, I have published a book of short stories, I’m about to publish a stand-alone novel – Small Town Trouble – and I hope to finish the third book in the Deadly Miss series.
On the non-fiction side I want to publish a book of transcripts from my podcast (A Quiet Life), which is stories of people living their faith in their daily lives. I’ve interviewed all sorts of people, from school teachers to people working in prison ministry. Their stories are inspirational and I’m sharing them however I can.
I’m achieving these goals by attaching the seat of my pants to the seat of my chair and putting the work in each day. There’s so much that interrupts the writing and it’s easy to get discouraged, so I’m trying to keep my goals clear and keep a record of what I accomplish each day, so I don’t lose heart. I’m finding right now that fun animal stickers that say, ‘good job’ and ‘excellent work’ are helping me keep going. I stick them in my daily planner once I’ve ticked off all my jobs for the day.
How does your faith impact and shape your writing?
On the non-fiction side that’s easy. In my blog, podcast, and memoir I’m writing to Christians, encouraging them to live their lives for Jesus.
On the fiction side I’m hoping that my work shows enough excellence that people of all walks of life want to read it. My main character goes to church, and she models care for others. I also have tried to portray a good marriage relationship – not a marriage that is full of distrust and infidelity, but a marriage where the partners work to overcome conflict and actually talk with each other. So I don’t necessarily write ‘Christian Fiction’ but more fiction that is informed by my faith and hopefully waters the seed that has been planted and brings people a little closer to the Lord.
In everything I write, I want God to get the glory.
R. J. Amos is the author of the Deadly Miss series. She left her academic career in chemistry behind in 2018, choosing to concentrate instead on writing novels. She loves to walk on the beach with her husband, read cosy mysteries in front of the fire, eat chocolate, and drink coffee (though it’s mostly decaf these days). She has two grown-up kids and she lives in Tasmania — the best place in God’s good earth.