The Writer Behind the Words — Ruthie Burrell

Writer Behind the Words

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Ruthie Burrell is a writer, blogger, and storyteller who loves stories for their power to soften hearts, inspire people to hope and action, and reveal truth in new and unexpected ways. She currently serves as the Director of Biography at FamilyArc, a company that helps families share their stories and values. In her free time, she loves hanging out with friends at coffee shops, traveling to new places, and volunteering with a local after-school program.

She’d love to connect with you on her blog (ruthanneburrell.com/blog) or through social media (Ruth Anne Burrell on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram)!

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Welcome to the blog, Ruthie! I loved meeting you at ACFW and working the registration desk together. 🙂 That was such a fun weekend! I’m thrilled to have you here today.

So tell us… When did you first start writing?

When I was 8! I got a puppy for my eighth birthday, which served as inspiration for a “trilogy” of stories about a girl and her dog who were very creatively named Annie (my middle name is Anne) and Perky (our second choice of name for my puppy). Looking back, the stories are pretty hilariously terrible. The second one was a mystery about Perky being stolen—Annie and her friend go to the police station to look up license plate numbers in “the license plate book,” and it turned out that the bad guy stole Perky “just because he suddenly felt like it.” Great understanding of motives right there. 😉

Ha! That’s awesome. You definitely don’t want to lose those first stories. 😉

What are you working on right now?

I’m currently editing a historical romance tentatively titled A Rose in the Flame. It’s a Beauty and the Beast type story set in World War II Germany—an American nurse trapped in Germany fights to keep her disabled patient safe from the horrors of Hitler’s euthanasia program.

Sounds amazing. I LOVE historical romances!

Can you tell us about one of your favorite characters you’ve written so far?

Can I pick two?

Mattan is a secondary POV character in a YA fantasy novel I was working on a couple years ago. He has awesome swordsmanship skills, he’s a sweet and strong father-figure to my traumatized heroine, and his back story reveals a lot about my villain. He wasn’t even in my first draft of the story, and now I can’t imagine it without him!

Rosalind isn’t actually even alive during my current historical novel—she’s the mother of my two main male characters and she passed away when they were boys—but I’ve always felt her presence very strongly in the story through her influence on them. Recently I started writing a few excerpts from her journal, and I love her voice!

They both sound like unforgettable characters. 🙂

What’s something you love about your home state?

The sunsets, for sure! I live in Kansas, and with nothing but corn and wheat fields to block the horizon, we get some pretty gorgeous sunsets.

Love your picture! We’re not too far away then. I’m a Missouri girl. 😉

What’s one of your favorite books?

I loved all of the Chronicles of Narnia books growing up (they’re hard to beat), but my favorite was definitely The Last Battle. I read it when I was about eight or nine, and it was the first book that helped me picture heaven in a way that excited me. I remember finishing it and feeling this indescribable longing to be able to go to the place it described.

My favorite non-fiction book is Me, Myself, & Bob, the autobiography of Phil Vischer, founder of Veggie Tales. The book goes all the way from Phil’s growing up years and the conception of Veggie Tales, to its bankruptcy in 2003 and the journey he went through after that. I recommend it to all my writing/creative friends because of how much I appreciate Phil’s wisdom on what to do when your dreams fall apart.

I’ll have to look that up. Thank you for the recommendation!

What is one of your favorite Scripture verses?

Zephaniah 3:17—“The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”

Beautiful!

Can you share with us a special moment from your writing journey so far?

When I was 18, I traveled to Israel for a 3-week study abroad program at my college. I was just starting out my college career studying writing, and I’d been struggling a lot with my motivation for writing and whether it was pure or not. Toward the end of the trip, we were staying beside the Sea of Galilee, and I got up early one morning to go have some quiet time with God beside the water. As I was sitting there, He impressed on me that this was where Jesus had called Peter and Andrew, James and John, to follow Him—and to give up everything they knew to do so. I felt God asking me whether I was willing to do the same. Suffice it to say, I definitely wrestled with the question for a while. I wasn’t sure what He would ask of me, and the idea of possibly giving up my dream of writing was terrifying. Ultimately, I ended up leaving my pen buried in the sand on the beach—my way of telling Him “yes.” I actually wrote about this experience a little more in-depth on my blog!

Wow! That is incredible! Now I have to hop over to your blog for the rest of the story. 🙂

What’s been one of the most challenging aspects of writing?

I think for me, one of the biggest challenges has been figuring out where I fit in the writing world. I have so many things I’d like to write—young adult fantasy, historical romance, Sunday school curriculum, in-depth Bible studies—and none of them really go together. I’m still very much in the middle of figuring out what direction to go on this. I’m hoping by some miracle to find some way to combine them or try out all of them!

Finding time has been a challenge too. I’ve worked full-time for most of the last four years, and when I haven’t been working full-time, I’ve also been taking classes or running a volunteer after-school program. Life’s busy! (And I think that’s true for most of us. 😊) One thing that has worked well for me is to set small, reasonable goals. NaNoWriMo is awesome, but it’s hard for me to commit to that much with my schedule. Setting smaller goals, 3,000 words a week for example, works because I have time for it and then I don’t get discouraged by falling behind.

Love all your ideas and your advice for balancing a busy schedule. Great tips!

Name a few authors who inspire you.

I love Madeleine L’Engle’s book Walking on Water. It has some really beautiful thoughts about writing and Christian art. C.S. Lewis, of course, is always an inspiration. I loved getting to visit his home in Oxford a couple years ago and hear about some of his quirks, like how he and his brother had books stuffed in every nook and cranny of their house. Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead has some of the most beautiful depictions of love and grace and returning home that I’ve read in a long while. And more recently, I’ve become a fan of Rae Carson’s A Girl of Fire and Thorns series. Rae admits she isn’t a religious person, but says she was tired of how condemning a lot of literature is toward faith. I’m fascinated by the way that she, as someone who doesn’t hold to any particular faith, is able to write about a faith-filled character in what I think is a very engaging way. (Lisa Bergren has a great interview with Rae on her blog!)

Can you share a word of advice to other writers out there on the road to publication?

These three things have been hugely helpful in keeping me encouraged in my writing journey.

1) Write whatever you can, whenever you can. I’m not published in book-length work yet, but I’ve had opportunities over the last few years to work as a writer in a number of capacities—biographer, blogger, journalist, grant writer, etc. These roles haven’t necessarily furthered my publishing career, but they help me hone my writing skills and they let me make a living as a writer, while I keep working on my more creative projects.

2) Find a tribe of likeminded writers. Whenever I finish a writing project (or when I get stuck in the middle of one), my go-to people are two wonderful friends from my college writing program. Not only do they give me great advice and point out the sometimes-hilarious plot holes in my writing, but they also offer an immense amount of encouragement and affirmation. Keep your writing buddies close!

3) Remember why you’re writing. One of the Scripture passages I often go back to is Matthew 13:12-13. I love the way it’s phrased in the Message version. “Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight.” These verses always remind me of why it’s worth it to keep pressing through discouragement or the scary prospect of starting something new or the tedious work of editing. As storytellers, we have the awesome privilege of creating readiness in people’s hearts.

Wonderful advice, Ruthie. Thank you SO much for joining us today!  Many blessings on you and your stories. I look forward to reading your books someday! 🙂

READERS, Ruthie has a question for you…

“Which authors inspire you?”

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Posted in Aspiring Authors

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