Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Sandra Ruttan to discuss her new book, The Spying Moon (Down & Out Books).
Congratulations on the publication of your new book! How would you pitch The Spying Moon to potential readers?
Constable Moreau became a cop so that she could investigate her mother’s disappearance. Just miles away from beginning that mission she’s reassigned and sent to a border town where she faces racism and sexism from both suspects and the other cops she’s supposed to be working with. Will her personal mission undermine her ability to solve a teenager’s murder before more teens die? Or will her uncertainty about who to trust put her in mortal danger?
There’s also another thread throughout the story. This is a young woman who lost her mom when she was a child and spent her life in the foster care system. As a person who is part Aboriginal, she’s lost all connection to her cultural heritage. She holds on to the principles her mother taught her, which is why she does the right thing instead of what she wants when she’s reassigned. She’s a strong, respectable character. Her mother also represents a sobering reality – no group of people is at greater threat of violence in Canada than Native women. Moreau is trying to figure out who she is, find answers about her mother, and understand where she belongs. And she won’t have all of those answers at the end of this story. To me, that would be a fairy tale.
What do you hope that readers take away from the book?
Some people have to overcome obstacles every single day just to do their job. In spite of this, I think we all hope for good cops out there like Moreau, who tries to do the right thing, even if it means she doesn’t get what she wants. A reviewer referred to her as admirable, and that was such a great compliment.
Do you think that crime fiction has a duty to draw readers’ attentions to subjects that often slip through the cracks?
No. Crime is a pretty wide genre with lots of different sub-genres, and it isn’t always going to perform that function. That said, I’m drawn to crime books that do. I write about issues because I’m often thinking about big issues. If I was a trust fund baby I’d live my life on a picket line, I’m sure.
Your book has been published by Down & Out Books – do you have any favourite D&O authors or titles you would like to recommend?
I really enjoyed Dana King’s Bad Samaritan. Dana does a great job of balancing the challenges a male PI faces in the #metoo era. Marietta Miles delves into stories about very unexpected protagonists, and I am inspired by that. You know I have to stop, because the list would go on and on and on…
If you could recommend one crime novel that people are unlikely to have heard of, what would it be?
One? Literature by Guillermo Stitch. It’s a dystopian sci-fi crime thriller that is amazing. Now, if I could sneak a recommendation for Brian Cohn’s The Last Detective in as well and mention I’m looking forward to reading Shawn Cosby’s debut novel…
Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?
This is the hardest question I’ve ever been asked. For me, the worlds that opened up to me through books were my escape. I was a very serious kid. I’ve never fit in. There’s a whole popularity/hierarchy thing in the publishing world, too. I don’t belong in that. I talk about books I’ve read and promote what I love and say what I think, even if it’s unpopular. That’s what I’ve been doing online since 2005. Sometimes, for a brief second, you can put someone on a reader’s radar or make a difference to a writer who’s struggling and needs some encouragement, and that’s nice, but I’m nobody in the book business. I’m just in my own corner doing my own thing. I don’t go to conventions or readings or anything so I don’t hang out with anyone. My husband should do that. He’s likeable. There are a few people I’d like to see again before I die, but at least one of them seems to have quit writing…
If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?
Well, it’s too late to be Gordon Korman, which sucks. But once I hit grade 8 and hadn’t written a publishable manuscript that was the case. Really. He wrote This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall when he was in grade 7 and it was published when he was 14. I’m not even sure you can say you grew up in Ontario if you didn’t read that book when you were a kid. That’s why it gets mentioned on Letterkenny.
I honestly can’t think of anyone I know of that’s taken the path I’m hoping for now.
Finally, what are your future publishing plans?
In an ideal scenario I’ll be able to get Toe Six to the next level, publish the manuscript we’re half a centimetre away from signing and put out some great cross-genre novels by up-and-coming writers.
I don’t know if I’ll have another novel out. Always depends on how well the current one does. I do have a short story called ‘The Graves by the Juniper Tree’ out next month, though.
Sandra Ruttan has been hit by a car, had her foot partially severed, survived a crash in the Sahara Desert and almost drowned. Who—or what—ever wants her dead will have to try harder. Ruttan’s books include The Spying Moon and Harvest of Ruins.