Saturday, June 8, 2013

Ruth Sims, a Petunia in the Onion Patch

Song on the Sand is the story of Tony Dalby who is confined to a nursing home, with his days as a dancer a thing of the past. One day life brings a welcome distraction, Drew, who is a bit of mystery. Tony Dalby wonders why Drew constantly visits the wheelchair-bound, comatose Jesse. As secrets are revealed, Dalby finds he may have a renewed purpose for living after all.

Ruth Sims describes herself as "a petunia in the onion patch," a liberal surrounded by conservatives in her small Midwest town. Ruth's inspiration for this title was firstly, "the play “La Cage aux Folles” and its lovely music and a most interesting man she met at a performance, who became a good friend—and the inspiration for Tony. "He was a lot younger than Tony but just as outrageous in his own sweet way. I was so enthralled by the play I ended up going back for every performance at the little college town theater, and each time I saw this tall bearded man he was wearing a flaming pink feather boa. But the story would never have been written without the emotion I felt when I saw the play and heard the music, especially the title song. I guess there was actually a third inspiration: the fact that I had reached my seventies and had become sharply aware of how different life is, how different things look, and how differently people react to you when you’re older. If you haven’t reached that age yet, you will. And you’ll be as bewildered and, yes, angry, as I have been. Katharine Hepburn said in a rare interview that “being old was hell.” It certainly can be!"

Ruth reflects; "We need more stories about older people, not stories about them romping through sexual escapades for laughs and entertainment, but stories about real people struggling with difficult and often lonely, bitter times, sometimes finding humor and often needing courage. Things are different on this side of the fence, but everyone except the unlucky, will get here."

I got a chance to interview this author, and her responses were so delightful and elegantly written I feel compelled to share them in their entirety.

#1. How does an individual from the Midwest evolve into a gay romance novelist?

 I don’t know the answer to that one. My first gay book started out to be a straight Civil War romance but the longer I worked on it (years!), the more it changed. One minor character, a gay actor, took over more and more of the story until he WAS the story and the Civil War had become the 1890’s and the star-crossed lovers were gay men. And the funny thing was, until I wrote the book I had never met a gay person. Well, I had but I didn’t know it for years. How it all came to be is “a whole ‘nother story.” By the time I got to “Song on the Sand” I knew what I was doing.

#2. If your readers walk away with one thought or feeling after reading this title what do you hope it would be?

There are many different kinds of love, but they have one thing in common: when love is real, when it goes to the bone, it will last beyond death.

#3. What are your hobbies? Who is Ruth Sims outside of the writing realm?

I’m timid and very crowd-shy; more than six people constitute a crowd. I reckon I’m just your basic wallflower personality. I’m someone who enjoys live amateur theater (no professional theater around here) and who enjoys reading plays but would I never have the guts to get on a stage and perform. I love to talk one-on-one, and can gab for hours with one other person, even people I don’t know. I’m not too smart, with no head for math or science, finding only words to be easy. I have no degrees. I live an Emily Dickenson kind of life with no adventure. Most folks would find my life boring, but it’s the life I love with the people I love. I’m afraid of dogs, and have a sixteen-year-old cat who rules. I’m an Old Movie buff, especially the classic silents seen on TCM. The most important people in my life are my husband of more than half a century (a conservative!), my two children, my three grandchildren, and my friends. That’s it. Not exciting—but it’s my life and I’m sticking to it.

#4. What is one fact or quirky thing about you that most people don't know?

If I could turn all firearms and bombs into Twinkies, I would. My fantasy is for Ted Nugent to reach for a gun and find a Twinky. I’d love to see the “cold dead hands” picture of Charlton Heston holding a gigantic Twinky over his head instead of a gun.

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