Episode 25: Ruth Mitchell | Author of "Deleted"


On this week’s dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm, our guest is Ruth Mitchell, the author of Deleted, which is YA science fiction. We met through Instagram, then she sent me copy of her book to read and review. Today we swap book recommendations, discuss the publishing process, and talk about her life as a reader and a writer. She even gives me a “what Jane Austen book should you read next” quiz! 

Ruth @literally.ruth.mitchell

Ruth's website

Buy Deleted on Bookshop or Amazon (affiliate link)

Laura @library.laura

Book list (affiliate link)

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Ruth Mitchell is the author of Deleted, a mother of 4, lives in San Diego, and is a writer and reader. 

"Even though I wrote this sort of cautionary tale about being attached to technology, I'm very attached to technology. It's hard to let go!" said Ruth, while talking about her debut novel, Deleted. 

In the book, a girl named Lucy is on the run and being pursued by a man who has figured out how to hack into "specs" which are activated smart glasses, and delete people's memories, including memories of her from the minds of her own family and friends. 

To me this concept felt very plausible. "Oh yeah, we are really close," replied Ruth. (As we talked to each other on the internet! Ha!) 

Ruth started the book quite a while ago, before Google Glasses or Amazon's Echo Glasses became available. She said "I've got to hurry up and get this published, before it's no longer science fiction, and is just reality!"

She started writing very young. While she didn't have good hand writing and wasn't good at math, she always excelled with creative writing in school. She would write plays for the kids in the neighborhood (all through elementary and middle school), would sell her toys to buy lumber to make backdrops for her performances!  This reminds me of Jo and her sisters and their productions in Little Women. 

In college she majored in journalism, because she was afraid that she might not make it as a writer or that it wasn't "a real job." She worked as a reporter, in marketing, and then as a stay-at-home mom, while writing on the side. 

"Whenever I talk to young writers I try to tell them that the biggest stumbling block was myself, was just that it didn't seem possible to be a writer. So I had just set that dream aside."

She had written one book, that no one has seen, and then she went to hear Alexander McCall Smith (author of the Ladies Detective Agency series) at a library. Someone else asked what advice he would give to an author struggling to write their first book. He, without missing a beat, said, "Start your next book." So that's what Ruth did. She went home and started working on another story. She said that was a great decision because the first book she had been laboring on for years, trying to write a great literary masterpiece. That next book was not Deleted either! After that she wrote a screen play, and THEN she wrote Deleted. 

"Deleted was the first book where I thought, yeah, I'm okay with people seeing it." So she started pursuing opportunities to get it published. The main feedback all the agents had was that her main character was  freshman in college but the book really has a YA feel. At the time, the publishing industry just really wanted her to be in high school. Part of it was that her family has their memories of her erased, and that just wouldn't work with her still living at home, unless they were a really dysfunctional family, which was a direction that Ruth didn't want to take. At the advice of one agent, Ruth went through the exercise of rewriting the book in 1st person narrative instead of 3rd person close. In the end, nobody loved it that way, especially not her young adult male readers. 

"I kept on being ready to give up, and then someone else would show interest in it." So she kept trying.

One of her friends told her after a while, "You know, some books are meant to go with a small publisher." And the moment she said that, it clicked. Ruth had preferred to go with agents because she had been getting good feedback from them! But she entered another pitch contest shortly after that, and several small publishers (including her publisher) were interested. Small publishers can be good, according to Ruth, especially if a book doesn't fit into a stereotype or check the 'boxes.' 

The entertainment industry likes to do what has been successful before. So the more original your book is, the harder it is to sell. 

Ruth is still looking for good "comps" for her book. If you have any suggestions for her, message her or comment below!! Reviewers have mentioned Hunger Games as being kind of like Deleted. Others have mentioned Inception, but it also has an element of YA romance in it. "I like to think it's like 'warmhearted sci-fi,'" Ruth said. 

We talked about writing themes of religion in her book, even though she wanted it for a wider audience. "I felt super bold, it felt weird to me having a character be Christian in my book. But then I thought about it, and realized that great writing is truth. And it is true! Even in the future, even though there is a decline in the number of believers in America, there is still a good percentage of the population who are Christians, and go to church and believe in God. And also with the themes of this book, I thought it was really important to have a character be someone who is a believer. I felt super bold and like I was sticking my neck out. and it turned out that was never anyone's problem. Nobody really minded it."

Recently someone who read the book and isn't a person of faith said "I really enjoyed reading about some of the benefits that people get from their faith. But there is a point where she is hiding in the woods and she begins to question everything. Because what if memories can be erased and people can be changed, what is truth? Lucy's in this sort of moment of personal questioning, she talks about how much it had meant to her to always  believe in God and truth." 

It was also important to her that there be people of color in her story, as the population of San Diego is diverse. Even though it was fictional, she wanted to make the world as real as possible. 

I think good writing is truth and showing the world the way it is. 

Ruth is working on the sequel to Deleted! She's got a first draft done and is in the process of reviewing and revising it. She's enjoyed the reader feedback she's gotten from buddy reads and book clubs about what to include in the sequel.  

She's also working on a collaboration with another writer to make a screen play for The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. They met through Instagram. They know it's a long shot to get it produced, but they are going to try! 

She's excited to be working on a screenplay, because when she's writing, the dialog is the part that always comes first and easiest to her.

When she was telling me about writing screenplays as kids, I told her about inviting all the neighbor kids over to act out the Tale of Martha B. Rabbit  (I think this edition is the same one we had) with a play kitchen, costumes, and props in the living room. We had a lot of fun, and this conversation brought back so many good memories!  On the topic of cute animal stories, Ruth loved the Beatrix Potter books as a kid, especially since they were kid-sized. 

As a kid, she read a lot of:

A Wrinkle In Time

Beverly Cleary's books

Lord of the Rings

Anne of Green Gables

Charles Dickens' books

Looking back, she feels a lot of books that she read as a kid were "so boring," so she moved on to adult books quickly. There was also not as much sci fi and fantasy available for child readers at that time. She then spent 10 or 15 years almost exclusively reading classics. 

"Knowing me, it's funny that my first book is science fiction, because I really didn't read a lot of sci-fi as a kid. But again, it's science fiction grounded in reality." 

She mentioned reading classics: Steinbeck, Edith Wharton, Thomas Hardy 

About her reading tastes, Ruth says, "During my period of reading classics, I read enough books that end with 'life is terrible and then you die,' so I am kind of done with that. I like books that have some hope at the end and a little bit of gravitas. I like books that are classically inspired, with lovely writing and some thought to theme." Not exactly literary fiction, because sometimes those are depressing as well.

"I always have this idea that good writing is Truth, it's just not true that life is terrible and then you die. If we look at history, things do get better. They change. It feels to me a little bit purposefully manipulative to leave it dark and sad. I think all stories, depending on where you choose to end them, can be a tragedy or have a hopeful ending. And I like the ones that end at the hopeful part."  

We talked about the eternal struggle of how to rate books on Goodreads. One of Ruth's friends has an Ice Cream Cone and Broccoli scale (which allows them to rate on both enjoyable and meaningful scales). 

Books that Laura recommended to Ruth:  

Ayesha at Last - a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in Canada within a Muslim community. (I also mentioned reading Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan) 

    Side note: we talked about watching YouTube Vlog adaptations of classics, such as The Lizzies Bennett Diaries, The Kate Moreland Chronicles, Emma Approved,  Green Gables Fables (this is the Anne of Green Gables one I couldn't remember during the show) . I also know that there is an Edgar Allan Poe vlog series...but I haven't seen it, so I cannot vouch for its quality! links here and here.

The Great Library series by Rachel Caine - a society controlled by The Great Library by Alexandria. Lots of YA action and thought provoking.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret - a beautiful Caldecott award winner that illustrates the beginning of cinema. Hugo the movie is based on this book. 

We Hunt the Flame - fantasy set in Arabic-inspired culture. Debut novel.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January - beautiful YA portal fantasy. 

I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa De Los Santos - this is the 3rd book in a trilogy, but you don't HAVE to have read the other two. This is my favorite of the series. I love the hope and the story of the house and its former owner.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis - a historical fiction account of story of C.S. Lewis' wife 

We also talked about Kate Morton's writing and her way with setting, I think Ruth would enjoy The Forgotten Garden by her (bonus, Francis Hodgson Burnett, author of the Secret Garden, makes a cameo!). I have also read the Clockmaker's Daughter, but I didn't love that one as much. 

Books that Ruth recommended to Laura: 

We talked about Brandon Sanderson's writing, Ruth feels like they start a little slow, but the investment pays off. She would recommend that I read The Way of Kings series if I want to read more Sanderson than I already have. 

The Betsy - Tacy Series - I read Betsy, Tacy and Tib as a kid. Ruth suggests starting reading them once the plot reaches Betsy in high school because "that's when they get exciting." Set in 1910's Minnesota, they are stories the author told her children about when she was growing up. Charming and well written historical fiction with a happy ending. Ruth found Betsy more relatable than Anne. 

168 Hours by Laura VanderKam - A non-fiction about making the best of your life and your time. Includes the concept of writing 100 dreams for yourself, knowing what you want from life and making it happen. 

Jane Austen - Ruth gave me a quiz to see what Austen book I should read next!! We decided on Persuasion, which I have now started reading with my sister Rachel. Ruth said Persuasion is probably her favorite, and it's short!  (I mentioned reading The Jane Austen Society recently.)

One of the fun things about reading classics, it's never a loss to have read them because you catch the cultural references.  

Lovely War by Julie Berry - I had it from the library when Ruth and I talked. "Just read it, you'll love it," said Ruth. I did, in fact, LOVE IT. It's soooooooo good.

Read the rest of the Demon King Series by Cinda Williams Chima! It gets better and better, per Ruth. I lost momentum on that series because I was reading the Elemental Trilogy by Sherry Thomas. I kept getting them confused because I was reading them too close together. So...no I need to finish Demon King now that I've finished the Elemental Trilogy. 

Ruth has recently started reading Georgette Heyer's books. The first one was Frederica, and books like this inspired the modern regency romance genre. 

 Ruth and I both enjoy hearing people talk about books, because it gives a better idea sometimes of we would like it. An example of a recent book that didn't live up to the hype or the back cover for me was The Kingdom of Back... I think it was more sad and dark than I was expecting. I enjoyed The Other Einstein and Becoming Mrs. Lewis, which are both "women in the lives of famous men," kind of books that were much more enjoyable for me. 

Be sure to buy Deleted and find Ruth @literally.ruth.mitchell or on Ruth's website. If you have book suggestions for either of us, drop us a comment or message us on Instagram! 

Until next time, with lots of literary love from my library to yours! 

~ Laura 


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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