Abandonment in a Dark Cave Begins an Edgy Journey in Ruby Falls by Deborah Goodrich Royce

My Review

Loved this quick moving mysterious psychological thriller. Young Ruby, abandoned in a cave by her father at age six has buried the trauma of her past and has reinvented herself as Eleanor. In her mid twenties now, Eleanor is a soap opera actress and has married the exotic and mysterious Orlando. They have settled in California where she has scored a role in a remake of Rebecca. Their whirlwind marriage starts out romantic and exciting, but in Ruby Falls, things may not be as they seem.

As Eleanor tells us her story, I began to wonder about her mental health, her charming and handsome husband Orlando’s honesty and ultimately her reliability as a narrator…black cats, clairvoyants and dreams add to the supernatural, darkness cast upon the Hollywood Hills and secrets and surprises complete this gothic tale.

Q & A with Deborah Royce

Q:  You have a very interesting life and have enjoyed multiple careers;  can you tell us a little about your background?

A: I have had a journey not so different from many people. I think we women are more accustomed to leading a somewhat episodic life (to use a television word) because much of our lives are organized around whether or not we have children and the inevitable impact of that decision on our careers. Increasingly, men are making some of those decisions, but they don’t have as long a history as we do in coping with them. My life went from a childhood in suburban Detroit to college in Ohio, where I majored in French and Italian and minored in dance. I studied in France and was back in the states when a chance casting as a dancer in a United Artists film called Those Lips Those Eyes gave me the idea to go to New York and give the theatrical world a try. From there, I had a great ten-year run as an actress (starting with a lead role on the soap opera, All My Children), before I married and moved to France and began my (eventual) pivot to writing. I started as a reader for a French film studio, returned to NY as the story editor for Miramax Films, and did my own somewhat clandestine writing after hours. Eventually, I joined two writing groups and went a little bit more “public” with the fact that I was writing.  This was all while my second husband and I were doing a lot of historic preservation work such as the Avon Theatre in Stamford, CT and the Ocean House Hotel in Watch Hill, RI. My first book, Finding Mrs. Ford, debuted in 2019 and Ruby Falls came out this May. So, it has been a long and incredibly rich path and I can say that ALL of it has contributed to what I have to say as a writer!

Q:  Your main character is an ex soap opera star – why chose that career for Ruby and how did you research?

A: Haha! Yes, I chose to make my protagonist, Eleanor Ruby Russell, a soap opera star who is written out of her show. Probably because I was a soap opera star who was written out of my show! She also plays the sister of the star, Sylvia Long. And, yes, I played the sister of the star, Susan Lucci. From there, however, the similarities end. Remember, Ruby Falls is a gothic thriller so I have taken a snippet of my own history and blown it up into a story that is edgy and suspenseful!

Q:  Is the difficult relationship between Ruby and her co-star based on your experience?  Has Susan Lucci read Ruby Falls and what did she think?

A: I had a very cordial relationship with Susan Lucci who gave me a Tiffany pen when I left the show. I had not seen her for thirty-five years until I ran into her in Palm Beach right before the pandemic. She told me she had my book, but she was referring to my first thriller, Finding Mrs. Ford. I don’t know if she knows about Ruby Falls.

Q:  There are a lot of movie references in Ruby Falls – are you a big movie fan?

A: When I think of my own life, I see it often through the prism of touch points in films and to books. I think of times and places and what I was reading and watching when I was there. I love movies as much as I love books and I had a great deal of fun naming my chapters in Ruby Falls. The chapter names, many of which are movie titles, are a fun literary puzzle if you enjoy that sort of thing. If not, the book is not diminished by not knowing what the titles mean.

Q:  Eleanor tells her story in a seemingly honest manner, yet we reach a point in the book where her truth becomes questionable.  How are you able to get the reader to buy in to all she shares for as long as you do?

A: It is my hope that the reader likes Eleanor and cares about what happens to her. I think the reader can see that she is very vulnerable. It becomes evident, as well, that she is doling out pieces of her history a bit at a time. By the time readers realize what is going on, they may not have fully seen it coming but they should be able to go back and follow the breadcrumb trail that got them there.

Q:  What happened to Ruby as a child is terrifying and clearly had an impact on her entire life.  How did you come up with the Ruby Falls incident?

A: The opening incident in the cave in which little Ruby is abandoned by her father in the pitch-black dark just came to me out of the blue!  I had not even anticipated writing this book when the first and second chapters seemed to download into my brain! I sat at my computer and transcribed the vision I was getting of those two chapters. So it seemed important to me to pay attention to Ruby and what she had to say. From there, of course, I had to create an entire book. I spent the better part of five years working on this, which overlapped with my work on Finding Mrs. Ford.

Q:  You sure know how to add a little spook to a lovely story about a young marriage!  Cats, clairvoyants, dreams/nightmares… What is your process for making these types of choices and do you know your ending before you write it?

A: The tone was set from the start with the very scary incident in the cave. I relied on my great love of gothic novels—classics like Jane Eyre, The Woman in White, and Rebecca—to remind me of the type of mood I wanted. Mostly, I wanted to teeter on the edge of the supernatural, the frightening, the  destabilizing feeling of a world that isn’t quite what it seems.

Q:  Orlando seems exotic and handsome but every now and then he acts odd, giving the reader a reason to pause.  Did you add in those odd moments after writing the book or did they come naturally in the flow?

A: Orlando’s character was known to me from the get-go. He seems too good to be true and—guess what?!?—of course he is. In the classic gothic novels, there is always a male figure who may be benign but may also be malevolent. I wanted to keep the reader guessing as to which one Orlando would turn out to be. 

Q:  How and when in the writing process did you come up with the chapter names?

A: Every chapter name refers to the plot unfolding in that chapter. Or the mood of it. Many of the chapter names are movie titles. The Day of the Locust is a movie about the seedier side of Hollywood. The Postman Always Rings Twice, is a film noir. Flores Para Los Muertos is a quotation from the crescendo of A Streetcar Named Desire when Blanche DuBois is coming unglued and a woman is outside intoning that creepy phrase! And on and on. As I mentioned above, these titles are a fun literary puzzle for those who enjoy it.

Q:  How did the gorgeous and haunting cover of Ruby Falls come about?  Can you tell us more about the visual?

A: The story of the cover of Ruby Falls is extraordinary! Artist Melanie Willhide was preparing for a gallery show in California when her computer was stolen. This was devastating because all her work was on that computer. After three harrowing weeks, the police caught the thief and returned Ms. Willhide’s computer. However, when she tried to retrieve her work, it turned out that the thief had tried to wipe the computer clean. The end result, when she finally gained access to her photographs, was very similar to what you seen in the haunting image on the cover of my book. Her photographs had become striated and rearranged. She was so inspired by what she saw that she created a new show based on this “accident.” This image, Grace and Thorns, is one of the images that she created after the theft of her computer. And my creative team was so inspired when we all saw it that we just had to acquire it for the cover of Ruby Falls. 

Q:  If Ruby Falls hit the big screen, who would you choose to play Ruby and Orlando?

A: I just ADORE Elle Fanning’s portrayal of Catherine the Great in the series, The Great and I think she would be absolutely divine as Eleanor/Ruby. And, for Orlando? Well, Henry Golding would be perfection.

Q:  How was the writing process different for Ruby Falls compared to Finding Mrs. Ford?

A: There were many similarities in the writing process for my first two books. With the exception of that initial download of the first two chapters of Ruby Falls, which appeared to come by magic. I am a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book about the creative process, Big Magic. And Ruby definitely came in an unexpected burst of inspiration. From there, however, it was the same daily process of sitting at my computer. I write anywhere from three to six hours a day. I do take notes about timeline, characterization, plot points, etc,. though I would not define it as a straight-up outline. And, as I write, things change, characters reveal different aspects of themselves, and plots travel in new directions. It is important to pay attention to where the book wants to go.

Q: What books have you read recently that you recommend? 

A: A couple favorite books this year are Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian and  What Could be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz. Pop onto my Instagram page or my website where I have Friday book recommendations!

Q:  Can you tell us about the readers/writers retreat you are hosting at the Ocean Club with Zibby Owens?

A: In November, Zibby Owens will hold her first Moms Don’t Have Time to Travel writers’ retreat at our very own Ocean House Hotel! I am honored to be part of the hosting team. The event filled up immediately but it may still have spaces for writers who don’t need accommodations. I cannot wait!

Q:  Where can we keep up with you and all you are doing?

A: Please check out my Instagram page (deborahroyce) and my website (deborahgoodrichroyce.com) for upcoming events, book and movie recommendations, news, articles, blogs and all that good stuff! Other than writing, there is nothing I enjoy more than connecting with readers.

About the Author

Deborah Goodrich Royce’s first psychological thriller, Finding Mrs. Ford, was published in 2019 to rave reviews. Her second, Ruby Falls, was published in 2021.

Deborah graduated Summa Cum Laude from Lake Erie College in 1980 with a BA in modern foreign languages (French and Italian) and a minor in dance. In 2008, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the same institution.

Deborah was an actress in film and television for ten years. Her big break came with the leading role of…READ MORE HERE.

Book Nation by Jen’s Review of Finding Mrs. Ford by Deborah Royce

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