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Creative Spotlight on Author J. D. Ruffin

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Tell our readers briefly about yourself.

Hi, I'm J.D. Ruffin. Thanks for having me today. I spent the last twenty years working in finance, never even knowing I had a creative side to my brain. A few years ago, at the height of the pandemic, I remembered a story I'd made up as a kid and decided to write it down. Three months later, I'd written a novel. Guess you could call me an accidental author. Since then, I've published a total of six fantasy books, with many more on the way. In December of 2022, I left my corporate job to write full-time, and it's been awesome.

Can you tell us about your most recent release? Album? Song? Art piece? Etc.?

My latest book is called The Rising Son. It's the first novel in a new series, The Isles of Jade and Fire. A couple of reviewers said it was like Game of Thrones set in ancient Japan; though I'd never be so bold as to put myself in league with J.R.R. Martin. While that's my last book, I'm really excited about the upcoming re-release of my Kingdom War series, the first set of novels I wrote. They've undergone a serious overhaul, including reworked books one and two, and new, fully illustrated covers for all the books. Oh, and Peter Kenny, the voice actor who recorded The Witcher audiobooks, is performing this series. I'm thrilled and humbled- that a world-class player like Peter is reading my work.

What inspires you?

Authentic, complex characters who I want to know in real life . . . and stories that take me away from real life and drop me into a fantastic world I wish really existed. More than anything, though, I'd say readers inspire me. When I started writing, I wasn't sure how I would enjoy interacting with the folks on the other side of my books. I'm not shy, not by a mile, but when it's your own work on the line, it's personal and nerve-wracking. What surprised me was how much I love the emails and messages from readers. I answer every one personally and have been caught laughing at my desk, many times, as I read something a reader sent. They crack me up. And sometimes, they come up with crazy ideas that make it into books!

What is your creative work routine like? Do you balance it with another job?

Like I said before, I left corporate America back in December, so writing is all I do now, and I love it. It's crazy, but I actually work more hours now than I did before, but I guess it's different when it's your business, your personal work.

Do you plan out your creations? What is your process before you create?

I always have an end-point in mind, where I want the book or story to wrap up. I spend a lot of time plotting out the story, chapter by chapter, before ever writing anything; but, once I've started typing, the chapters evolve and change. Sometimes they split into several chapters; other times, they vanish altogether. I usually know the main points I need to happen in a chapter, but rarely plot out more than highlights. I've tried being more structured, but the writing felt forced. It needs room to breathe and grow.

Do you have a self-care routine or want to have one? What do you do or wish that you did to take care of your mental health?

Oh, Lord. What author doesn't want to do better here? I play tennis three to five times a week, and my dogs keep me off the couch, but I should definitely do more.

What is your favorite creation thus far?

I really love the Asian culture in my latest books. Japan is a beautiful and mystical place to me, and I'm honored to have represented the culture in my work. But, the Kingdom War series is my baby. I fell in love with the characters and might go back to write more books in that universe just to spend more time with them.

Do you have a character that is your favorite over others you've written into creation?

Oh, sure. Declan in Kingdom War. I understand him. He feels a little lost . . . a lot lost, actually. He's one of the unfortunate souls born without a magical gift, and that weighs on him. He feels outcast. As a child, he learned to use humor to hide himself and make others like him. And that's just scraping the surface of Declan. I didn't have a traumatic childhood, but I understand what it feels like to be outside the mainstream and to use humor as a mask.

Are there any recurring themes in your work?

I always enjoyed the Good vs. Evil and Heroes' Quest tropes, though I would never follow their rules too strictly. I have 20 years of pent-up creativity that's dying to come out and play.

What does success look like to you considering your creative passion?

It's two-fold. First, I thrive on reader reactions. When someone tells me my book made them smile, or feel better, or even cry, my heart sings. That fulfills a part of me I never knew needed it. But I have dogs to feed, too, so success also means reaching a point in my career where I am financially successful, too.

What is something your fans/readers/followers don’t know about you or something unique about yourself?

In my early twenties, I worked in political campaigns and was invited to travel with the U.S. delegation to assist the Baltic states as they formed their new governments and wrote their constitutions.

What advice would you share with new or aspiring authors/singers/artists/etc?

I think the best advice I can give is:

1. Don’t edit while you write. Get the story on paper and know it’s going to need a lot of work. Finishing the manuscript is where most people get stuck because they get distracted with things like “making the chapter perfect.”

2. Writing is only a tiny part of being successful. Become a student of the game and learn marketing, social media, publishing, and the other hundred things involved in being an author.

3. A lot of people will offer advice. Learn who to trust and who to ignore, but know there’s something useful in almost every bit of guidance.

Where do you get your ideas for world-building?

Everywhere. It could be as simple as a song or painting that sparks an idea, or something as complex as researching an ancient culture. I'm learning that readers seem to connect to fantasy worlds with at least one toe still touching our world. If it's too "out there," audiences tend to narrow. Readers want to imagine the world as possible, even if our logical brains know better.

What genre do you prefer to read?

Fantasy, suspense, and spy/political thrillers are my favorites, but I'll read most anything.

What hobbies do you have?

I'm an avid tennis player, spend a ridiculous amount of time with my 3 Australian Shepherds, and love getting all cheffy in the kitchen. I've always wanted to go to culinary school.

Do you have any outside experiences that influenced your work?

It's become cliched to say JRR Tolkien, but it's the truth. I hated reading when I was young. A friend gave me a copy of Fellowship of the Ring, and I fell in love with reading thanks to him. More recently, Joe Abercrombie's work has driven me to be a better author. His style is effortless, like watching a master paint, or one of the great players move on a tennis court.

Where can our viewers/readers/listeners find you and your work?


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