Today we have the pleasure of visiting with travel writer and historical fiction author Ruth Kozak. I first met Ruth at a poetry event in New Westminster, then again over coffee on a snowy morning in Burnaby, both of us keeping an eye on conditions to ensure we could each get home safely. (We did.)
Hi Ruth! No coffee today, I’m afraid, but welcome to the Showcase. Let’s kick things off, please, by introducing you with your bio:
Ruth Kozak is a writer and writing instructor with a strong interest in history and archaeology. A travel journalist, she has published in EuropeUpClose, the APA Insight Guides 1994, Foreign Flavours, Limitless, three poetry anthologies, and on-line publications. Her ebook Athens and Beyond was published in 2015.
Ruth’s 2-volume historical fiction novels Shadow of the Lion: Blood on the Moon, and Shadow of the Lion: The Fields of Hades, both published in the UK, are available on Amazon.
Ruth is also a playwright. In 2000 her play The Street: A Modern Tragedy was produced by Theatre in the Raw, highlighting the drug scene in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, which began in the early 1950s (the setting and time of the play). She is currently working on a three-act play about the lyric poet Sappho, titled House of the Muses. Ruth participates yearly with Theatre in the Raw adjudicating one-act plays for their contest.
Ruth is a member of the Royal City Literary Arts Society and president of the BC Association of Travel Writers, and her book of poetry, Songs for Erato, was recently published on Amazon.
Q. Thanks for joining us Ruth. With that diverse resume, tell us, what do you feel you’re best known for?
A. I am probably best known for my historical fiction writing and travel writing.
Q. And what brought you here?
A. I was born in Estevan, Saskatchewan, then moved to Stratford, Ontario. I came to British Columbia at the age of 12 back in the late 1940s after my dad returned from the war and was given a church in East Vancouver (my father was a Baptist pastor). I had started writing plays during grade school (war plays and fairy tales) and on the trip by train across the prairies I got interested in the history of First Nations, and then the Romans, and started writing stories about them.
Q. Who’s a role model or mentor of yours?
A. My literary mentor and role model was the author Mary Renault. She influenced my writing and inspired me to write about Alexander the Great who I had first learned about at the age of 16 in a high school history class. He became my ‘beacon’ and I felt compelled to tell his story. I wrote one Alexander-themed story in grade 12 and later got introduced to Mary Renault’s books and eventually decided to write Shadow of the Lion, which tells of the fall of Alexander’s empire. My interest in this history eventually took me to visit Greece in 1979 and later live there during the 1980s and part-time during the 1990s when I was working on my Alexander novel.
Q. (Your familiarity with the area definitely drives your historical writing, placing the reader right there.) Tell us please, what are your favourite book, album, movie, and food dish?
A. Any of Renault’s books, also Stephen Pressfield and Scott Oden, American writers who became mentors of mine while I wrote Shadow of the Lion. I like various kinds of music: jazz, blues, and I also love Greek music. I have lots of favourite foods and enjoy cooking different meals for myself. I am very fond of Greek food.
Q. And what are you currently working on?
A. I am working on a novel titled, Dragons in the Sky, which I actually began back in the 1970s, then ditched when I decided to write Shadow. It is a first-person narrative in the voice of a young Celtic Druid girl who is being brought up to be a healer. She is eventually kidnapped by a renegade chief’s son, taken across the channel to Europe and eventually rescued by a young hunter who happened to know Alexander as a youth, who turns her over to a Greek physician where she learns more of the healing arts. It is a different kind of book with bardic verses at the beginning of each chapter so that it’s like a bard telling a story. I am writing it as an adult or YA (young adult) novel, with the protagonist as a young girl.
Q. What’s your advice to others?
A. Follow your dreams! I started out after high school with dreams of being a journalist (an investigative journalist) and went to work for the Vancouver Sun editorial department. Later, I was in the news library where I was in charge of crime files and bios. When I started to travel on my own in the late 1970s I decided to put my journalism skills to work and started writing travel stories. But I never lost my passion for history and archaeology and kept at it. Writing a novel is a long, difficult task and requires discipline but when you finally get a novel finished and published it’s an answer to a dream! Now I also instruct writing classes for people who have those dreams.
Q. (Wonderful advice!) And now for our Quirky Question. Make a choice: Track or Field?
A. I’d say ‘Field’ in particular, in reference to hiking, as that is one of my favourite things to do (as well as swimming).
Thanks very much, Ruth. For all of us currently feeling stymied through travel restrictions, it’s good to know we can always escape in travel writing and literature! Learn more about Ruth’s writing at her website here, and her historical travels here.
And thank you, Showcasers, for supporting authors, artists, and creativity. See you next time!