For Ruth Axtell, life has been about detours. After studying comparative literature and graduating with a Bachelor’s degree from Smith College, she taught English and worked as an au pair in the Canary Islands. She met her future husband—a Dutchman from Suriname—in Miami, Florida, and he took her to live in the Netherlands for six years. As a stay-at-home-mom in Holland, Ruth finally began to pursue her dream of writing full-length historicals.
Ruth’s spiritual journey has been just as compelling. She recounts in her testimony the time when, after several wrong turns in life, she met Jesus Christ in a personal way and He directed her onto a new and fulfilling path. You can read her testimony here.
You put your writing dream on hold for a while. Was there ever a time when you “gave up” on the idea? What kept you encouraged?
When the Lord asked me to put my writing “on the altar,” I knew very well that there was no going back. The Lord could very well have closed that door forever. What made this even more difficult was that by then I was far enough along in my writing journey that I was within reach of being published. From impersonal rejections, I was getting personal responses with encouraging words from individual editors.
What kept me encouraged was that a few months later, the Lord responded with neither a “No, publishing is out for good,” or a “Yes, here’s a publishing contract.” It was a clear-cut “Wait” (for two years). It was still difficult to wait but the Lord filled my life with a lot of spiritual growth and ministerial opportunities during that time.
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?
Yes, I think that two-year waiting period in which I pursued no writing or research was such a detour. I learned a lot about discipleship and mentoring. At the end of the period the Lord blessed me with a story idea which became the basis of my first contracted book.
How does your faith play into your writing?
Another writer once compared the inspirational romance to the “threefold cord” described in Ecclesiastes—a man, a woman, and God threaded throughout their relationship, keeping their love strong through good times and bad. My characters cannot come to truly love each other unless they first come to a deeper relationship with God. Some of my characters start out as mature Christians, but there is always some area of their lives which they need to relinquish to the Lord before they can find lasting happiness. I find it comparable to my own faith walk, where the Lord is always showing me areas that need to be surrendered to Him if I want to grow in wisdom or experience true freedom.
Moonlight Masquerade, like my first published novel, Winter Is Past, came to me as a wisp of an idea in a dream. All I recall is something about an aristocratic lady and her butler, who was not who he appeared to be. From there I needed to come up with a believable premise. I knew it must be set in the regency period, so what better scenario than the spying going on during the Napoleonic Wars?
I had never written any kind of tale of suspense or thriller, so it was a steep learning curve. From the reviews so far, I think those readers expecting a nail-biting, edge-of-your seat, rollercoaster ride, will be disappointed. For me, the plot is only a means of unfolding a story of two very different people meeting and falling in love. That journey is what fascinates me. I think the readers who like my kind of books are those who love Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and any of the earlier writers of regency romances, where witty dialogue, romantic tension, and all the glamour of the regency reign.
Your heroine, Lady Celine Wexham, sounds intriguing. Where did you get the idea for her character and the story?
As I said, from a dream. It’s hard to say how characters evolve once I start to mull over them and begin to research the period. They just begin to morph until I know them through and through.
God often uses our stories to teach us when we’re writing them. What did you learn (about life, faith, and/or even yourself) in the process of writing this book?
For me, it’s probably the reverse. Things that I’ve gone through in the past may come out in stories, not as specific events, but more as emotions or conflicts the characters experience. For Moonlight Masquerade, I think it was seeing the division in America at this time in history with people’s ideologies separating them so much. I wanted to show a country at war where two people begin to fall in love despite their opposing ideologies. Ultimately, love is stronger than ideology—at least in my book, LOL.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
A late morning-to-noonish cup of coffee and some kind of homemade treat—cookie, muffin or pumpkin bread. That usually both rewards me for page count achieved and helps jumpstart the creative brain cells to keep plugging away a bit more.
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
No, alas, though music does inspire me at times during the writing stage. For Moonlight Masquerade, I liked to listen to baroque music to get the ambience of the regency ballroom.
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
Some type of ballad with haunting lyrics, à la Joni Mitchell or Leonard Cohen—or a very witty Broadway piece, like something from Company or from A Little Night Music—definitely Sondheim!
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
None of the above. I’m the bookworm/bluestocking wearing frumpy clothes and thick glasses which the hero can see beyond, LOL!
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
I never had pets as a child since we traveled a fair amount in the summer. As an adult I’ve had cats.
Thank you, Ruth! It’s a pleasure to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
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For more information about Ruth, visit her website at www.ruthaxtell.com.
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