Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Q&A with Rudy Ruiz



Rudy Ruiz is the author of the new novel Valley of Shadows. His other books include the novel The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez. He lives in San Antonio.


Q: What inspired you to write Valley of Shadows, and how did you create your characters Solitario Cisneros and Onawa?


A: I grew up in Texas and Northern Mexico. Both my father and my maternal grandfather had ranches in Mexico, which I spent time on during my childhood and teenage years. I also watched plenty of Westerns and Mexican charro movies with my dad. All of these experiences were baked into my DNA, one could say.


Then one day, my teenage son asked me to write a Western horror story. It was a very specific request, but one that resonated with me. I thought it would be an exciting challenge to do a revisionist Western with Mexican and Native American heroes, something I never witnessed in the American Westerns.


Once I had decided on the overall setting and themes of the novel, the characters just came through to me. A major inspiration for Solitario Cisneros, though, was a piece of artwork depicting a Mexican charro and gunslinger by artist Dolan Geiman. I would stare at this collage and draw ideas from it, including elements of the character’s magical powers and his backstory.

Charro, by Dolan Geiman

Q: You describe the book as a “stand-alone prequel” to The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez. Can you say more about the relationship between the two novels?


A: Whereas The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez is set in the 1950s, 1980s, and 2000s, Valley of Shadows takes place in 1883 with flashbacks to events that took place dating back to 1850, when the Rio Grande was declared the border between Texas and Mexico.


Both Fulgencio and Solitario Cisneros, the protagonist in Valley of Shadows, are members of the same family and are haunted by the same curse.


All that said, whereas Fulgencio’s journey was primarily a love story, Solitario’s is more about his efforts to escape that curse while simultaneously fighting for justice on behalf of traditionally marginalized people.


Q: The writer Jennifer Givhan said of the book, “Filled with ghosts both literal and metaphorical in a desolate place overflowing with unforgettable characters whose stories are woven by a masterful storyteller, Ruiz’s Valley of Shadows is searing, incisive, and, at times, utterly terrifying.” What do you think of that description?


A: I love it! Jennifer Givhan is a gifted writer, and I feel very blessed and grateful to have received such positive feedback from her. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed her books, which are likewise set in the Southwest and often deal with Latinx characters and magical realism.


I am always so excited and fulfilled when somebody totally “gets” my work and where it is coming from, and Jennifer Givhan definitely understood and embraced the story.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: So many things! It’s a rich tale that works on multiple levels. I would like readers to enjoy seeing Mexican-American and Native American characters as heroes and heroines in the kind of setting and story that has typically reserved those roles for White men.


I would also hope that readers might be inspired to search for ways to redefine how America sees and treats the U.S.-Mexico border, taking into account its long history as context.


While conflict is at the heart of most stories, in this novel I also try to reflect that people can find common ground despite their racial, ethnic and cultural differences and work to make their communities better through collaboration.


I’d like for readers to grapple with how hard it is for us to outrun our personal curses, yet find inspiration in Solitario’s character and journey to never give up.


And, I’d love for readers to find some hope in the idea that even when we feel isolated and depressed, we are never truly alone. We can reach out for help and find a way out of the darkness.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on a couple of sequels for Valley of Shadows, continuing Solitario and Onawa’s story.


Also, I recently completed a semi-autobiographical border bildungsroman which is a novel in stories based on my experiences growing up on the border. Several short stories from that manuscript have been featured in literary journals and I’m eager to someday see the whole collection published as one complete novel.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I appreciate all your support and that of your readers! Please visit RudyRuiz.com to learn more and follow me on Twitter @Rudy_Ruiz_7


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Rudy Ruiz.

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