Novelist Deborah Goodrich Royce appears via Zoom Sunday to discuss 'Ruby Falls'
“A reverse burst of creativity” is how author Deborah Royce Goodrich describes it.
That’s her explanation for the steady stream of ideas percolating in her head in recent years that have given birth to her novels.
“Ruby Falls,” a psychological thriller with gothic overtones, was released May 4 and is already receiving accolades. It is her second book; the first, “Finding Mrs. Ford,” was published when she was 61, and this latest, two years later. A third book is already well along in the process.
Royce appears today via Zoom to talk about “Ruby Falls” in a Stonington Free Library event. On June 24, Royce will discuss the book with New York Times Bestselling author Luanne Rice at the Ocean House Hotel in Westerly in an event benefitting Literacy Volunteers of Washington County.
Early in adulthood, Royce said, she did write, but with children to raise and other obligations, she had more difficulty being productive.
And then, in her 50s, “It was a real turning point for me. I had an empty nest and a huge chunk of my brain came back to me,” she said.
Shards of memory
There are bits of reality in “Ruby Falls,” or at least bits of memories. The story opens in July 1968, when a 6-year-old girl named Ruby feels her father untangle his hand from hers in a deep-down, pitch-black cave called Ruby Falls and disappear. She’s tiny and timid and terrified and left alone for strangers to find her.
“It’s such a shotgun of a beginning of a book,” says Royce, who developed the idea from her own childhood memories of visiting the real Ruby Falls in Tennessee with her father when she was 8 or 9.
The story quickly fast-forwards to Ruby in her early 20s, a one-time soap opera star in New York City who is now in Los Angeles, married, and starring in the lead role in a remake of “Rebecca,” the Daphne Du Maurier classic. That’s another memory for Royce, who was an actress in film and television, including playing the role of Silver Kane, sister of the epic Erica Kane, on ABC-TV’s “All My Children.”
A flow of ideas
But Royce is focused on writing now and said the ideas keep coming. She was on a book tour in Florida last year when the pandemic forced everyone into hibernation. She hunkered down in the Sunshine State and used the time to work on her third book, tentatively called “Reef Road.” Naturally, it’s set in Florida and draws on a memory.
In 1948, her mother’s best friend was murdered in her Pittsburgh home. The case has never been solved, but it had a lasting effect on her mother.
“When there’s an extreme act of violence, it’s not necessarily in a vacuum, it affects people around the victim,” Royce says. So the next book isn’t really about that girl’s death, but it draws from that, as well as the pandemic, which “sealed us all in our houses,” Royce says.
“What’s better for a thriller than a face mask?” she asks.
“Ruby Falls” is a thriller, too. It draws on the mystery of what happened to Ruby’s father in the Tennessee cave that day and her transformation into film star Eleanor Russell and wife of English aristocrat Orlando Montague. There are all kinds of twists and turns along the way.
Royce, the wife of Chuck Royce, the man behind the Ocean House and Weekapaug Inn, as well as philanthropist to many projects including local ones, is satisfied with her second book and pleased with the early reviews.
“‘Ruby Falls’ is a more polarizing book,” Royce says. “The people who don’t like it, don’t get it. It is an examination of trauma and how a young woman copes with this very seminal trauma of childhood. And it is also a flight of fancy taking off from ‘Rebecca.’
“It is very much the book that I want it to be,” she says.
She does most of her writing in the conservatory of her home in Riverside, Conn., which overlooks the Mianus River, not in her office, where she says “bills and notes are a reminder of daily life and obligations.”
She writes on her computer and prints out pages to edit and tries to write at least three hours every day — six on a productive day. But she’s always thinking about her projects and jotting down notes whenever an idea comes into her head.
Becoming an author later in life has been a good thing for her, Royce says.
“I’m a thousand times more creative now than when I was young,” she says. “Every aspect of my life led me to where I am now. Nothing disappears, it is all in there and it’s all useful and it all helps to make you who you are and create your world view.”
To see and hear
Who: Author Deborah Goodrich Royce
What: Discusses her new novel "Ruby Falls" in a Zoom event sponsored by the Stonington Free Library
When: 5 p.m. today
How much: Free
To register: stoningtonfreelibrary.org, deborahgoodrichroyce.com
What: Deborah Goodrich Royce in conversation about "Ruby Falls" with New York Times bestselling novelist Luanne Rice
When: 5 p.m. June 24
Where: Ocean House Hotel, One Bay St., Watch Hill
How much: $125 includes reception and a copy of "Ruby Falls"
Fundraier: Benefitting Literacy Volunteers of Washington County
For more information: Visit the websites of Deborah Goodrich Royce, Literacy Volunteers of Washington County, Ocean House Watch Hill.