Ruth Hogan in conversation
'The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes' is a story is about a spirited, rebellious, independent woman whose life has been changed by a tragic event. Unable to let go of her grief, she gains solace from visits to the local cemetery and to the town's lido. Chancing across two extraordinary women opens up new possibilities.
The evening before the official publication of the novel, we were treated to a visit by the author Ruth Hogan.
It was a grey day but Ruth looked stunning in vibrant colours, and gloriously 'on theme' red shoes, and she entertained, enthused and inspired the bookshop audience with her views on life and death, publishing and creativity.
Many of the guests had read Ruth's first novel, 'The Keeper of Lost Things' and she was able to tell us something of how that book came into being and its phenomenal reception.
She told of how a car accident left her unable to continue with full time work so, while being a 'grumpy receptionist' for an osteopath, Ruth started to write. But not until she was then diagnosed with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, did she embark on her first novel.
She had to go through the rounds of rejections before finding an agent and publisher for the book which eventually became 'The Keeper of Lost Things'.
Ruth admitted that she was ready to give up with the book after a particularly tough rejection letter, but as she filed away the manuscript, she looked at a picture on her desk of a very dear friend who had recently died. The memory of her friend, and Ruth's own experience of serious illness, made Ruth realise that she should not give up, but to make the most of every moment that she had been given, that life was indeed a gift to be treasured, appreciated and grasped, she said. So she sent the story to another agent, who replied the same day, and the book was accepted for publication soon after.
Even now enjoying tremendous success, Ruth admitted to having days of self-doubt. And she looks to a pebble on her desk to remind her to continue. It has the word 'Trust' upon it, and was given to her by a good friend. This urges her to trust in her own instincts with her writing, she says.
She writes longhand and then on a laptop. She prints it out and reads it two or three times, then leaves it overnight and makes one more edit.
There is less time to write now than when she was not a full-time writer, she says.
Ruth's perspective on life also informs her books. She told us how she feels it is important to have light and shade in her novels, explaining how some of the content is seen as rather dark. We value life more if we see it against death, she said.
She also spoke of how in society today we are squeamish about death. We speak in euphemisms, she said, recalling a comment made by her dad when he heard someone referred to as 'the late': "He's not late, he's not coming".
We could have listened to Ruth all night, and there were plenty of questions for her. What books does she like to read, was one enquiry. Ruth recalled how she loved hearing bedtime stories when a child, and loved the Moomins. She went on to enjoy Jane Austen and Dickens, but also recommended Morning's at Seven by Eric Malpass.
Tickets were £15 and included a copy of 'The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes' (RRP£14.99) with a complimentary glass of Prosecco on arrival.