Five Questions with ... ALICIA ROQUE RUGGIERI
This Five Questions interview features Alicia Roque Ruggieri, author of the novel The House of Mercy. I met Alicia online in a Goodreads group, and was struck by her fervent and sincere Christian faith.
I asked Alicia to tell us a little about herself. Here's what she had to say:
"Born and raised on the New England coast, I grew up breathing in the salt air, pretending I stood on the balcony of Cair Paravel. The youngest of three sisters, I’m married to a fun and furry Italian-Frenchman, and I’m also the mother of a second-hand pug with more physical and emotional problems than I have fingers!
I love playing hymns and classical pieces on the piano (quite badly, I’m afraid!), sewing by hand, baking, and walks through the woods and on the beach. My two nieces and two nephews have captured my heart, and so I relish spending time with them as well.
I graduated from Rhode Island College (B.A. in Mass Media Communications and History) and have had the privilege of attending private school, public school, and homeschool before that. A big part of my life until now has included teaching and directing children’s theatre, a field which I still love! Other than that, God has given me experience in restaurant management, freelance writing, and owning a consignment business."
Now that we know some background about the author, I'll give you a little review of her work.
The House of Mercy is a compelling tale of a host of characters, interwoven through faith and the lack of faith. Taking place in Arthurian Briton, we see themes of the new Roman Christian faith in one God versus the pervasive pagan polytheism prevalent at the time. Ruggieri's novel deftly weaves historic fact with "mythical history", presenting a compelling tale that will have you turning pages until the end.
Five main characters are featured in the story: Bethan, Deoradhan, Calum, Lady Tarian, and Aine. In these key roles we find budding faith, outright refusal to believe, a faith beleaguered by years of shame and guilt, hidden faith in the face of abuse, and stolen innocence and redemption. All are sewn together with the thread of mercy.
After reading The House of Mercy, I couldn't wait to dig into Ruggieri's mind a bit. Without further ado, onto the interview! (Dr. Suess, I am not.)
Me: Alicia, you weave a mythical tale that feels incredibly real! Well done! Which leads me to my first question.
Alicia: "I don’t think that becoming a writer was ever a conscious decision; becoming a good writer and a disciplined writer – well, that’s a different story! I’ve been scribbling down stories from around the time I learned to write, from the “horse stories” of my second- and third-grade years to the medieval-style fiction of my high-school years. Whenever a topic interested me, I would read, read, and read some more about it, and then let my enthusiasm for it overflow into my own storytelling. So writing has always played some role in my life. In the past few years, I’ve become more disciplined about completing my writing projects, and that has turned me into a more productive writer."
Me: I completely relate. Discipline in writing doesn't come easy for me. You mentioned your high school years, so here's a fun question. Kind of a throwback.
Alicia: "Hmm… There are a lot of verbs that could fill in that blank, including “trip,” “drop things,” “drink too much coffee,” and more! But more seriously… Probably, “persevere,” for better or for worse. Once I get an idea, particularly if I believe that God has given it to me, often I will hold onto accomplishing that, regardless of how difficult the opposition to it may seem."
Me: I think mine would be Most Likely To Trip Over Her Own Shadow! It seems like perseverance and discipline go hand-in-hand. That leads me to motivation, what spurs you to persevere.
Alicia: "I want to show the beauty and mercy, the deep goodness of God working through life. Sometimes, it’s hard to look at your own life – when you’re in the midst of a strong trial or an ugly tragedy or just the usual difficulties that appear in everyone’s lives – It’s sometimes hard to believe that God “doeth all things well,” as the hymn says. But in a book, I’m able to display the intricate way in which God weaves all things together to bring about good – to help us see that the difficulties we are facing may only be one thread in a glorious tapestry of His grace. So that is why I write: to exhort others, to encourage them that we do indeed serve a good God … As C.S. Lewis said of God when writing about his allegorical lion Aslan, 'He’s not a tame lion, but He’s good.'"
Me: It's very interesting that you use the word "weave" to describe the way God works. It's how I felt you worked throughout The House of Mercy, weaving the tale of the five main characters. You mentioned C. S. Lewis. Which begs the next question.
Alicia: "Reading widely and deeply propelled my writing forward, and for that, I have my mother to thank. When I was a child, she dedicated a couple of hours a day to reading aloud to my sisters and me before I could read; then, as I began to read for myself, she kept a ready supply of reading material available constantly: everything from George MacDonald to L.M. Montgomery to Beatrix Potter to Gertrude Chandler Warner to Austen. I am forever grateful for my mother’s tremendous care to ensure in me an appreciation for reading and, from there, writing.
But regarding the biggest influence on the spiritual nature of my writing? Outside the Scriptures, of course, the nonfiction writings of Elisabeth Elliot, George MacDonald, John Piper, and Oswald Chambers have deeply impressed me; and I think you can see their imprint on my writing.
Outside of reading, however, real life has inspired me most. Everyone has a story; everything has a story – All of life is part of the Great Story, whose Author is God. I’m glad that He has given me some stories to echo, in some small way, His own."
Me: Well said! And I couldn't agree more. I've always said that my story has been written since the beginning of time, and I just follow along one page at a time. As a fellow writer, I have to ask ...
Alicia: "I’m finishing up the first draft of a novel that I’m just calling, “The Geranium Story,” right now because, well, red geraniums play a significant role in the storyline! Of course, I’ll re-title it something with a bit more flavor before I release it. “The Geranium Story” takes place in 1930s Rhode Island, the state in which I was born and raised, and focuses on how our God redeems that which seems utterly lost… how all things work together for the good of those who love Him… and how He longs to bring His people to Himself. The idea for this story sat in the back of my mind for almost a decade, so it’s about time that I did something with it! After that, I may return to the characters in The House of Mercy, writing a stand-alone sequel. And after that… We shall see!"
Me: Alicia, thank you so much for stopping in and "sitting down" with me. Many blessings on your work and continued success!
Dear Reader, if you would like to pick up your own copy of The House of Mercy, please follow this link to Amazon (not an affiliate link).
You can also follow Alicia by clicking these links: