Ilie Ruby grew up in Rochester, NY and spent her childhood summers on Canandaigua Lake, the setting for her debut novel, THE LANGUAGE OF TREES.  She is the winner of the Edwin L. Moses Award for Fiction, chosen by T.C. Boyle; a Kerr Foundation Fiction Scholarship; and the Phi Kappa Phi Award for Creative Achievement in Fiction.  Ruby is also a recipient of the Wesleyan Writer's Conference Davidoff Scholarship in Nonfiction and the Kemp Award for Outstanding Teaching and Scholarship.  She has worked on PBS archaeology documentaries in Central America, taught 5th grade in Los Angeles on the heels of the Rodney King riots of 1992, and written two children's books.  In 1995, she graduated from the Masters of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California, where she was fiction editor of The Southern California Anthology.  Ruby is a painter, poet and proud adoptive mom to three children from Ethiopia.

Ruby’s website:


Twitter: @ilieruby

Gripping, suspenseful, magical, and richly atmospheric—a story told from several distinct and unforgettable viewpoints—Ilie Ruby’s haunting debut novel, THE LANGUAGE OF TREES is exhilarating fiction that announces the arrival of a truly extraordinary storyteller.

In the sprawling lake region of Canandaigua, New York—a place where two families have secrets they would do anything to keep—little Luke Ellis disappeared.  Now, over a decade later, his teenage sister, Melanie, has vanished, abandoning her infant son.  As the frantic search for Melanie ensues, Grant Shongo, a Seneca healer, is taken up by a spirit that draws him into a world where nature and the spiritual realm are intertwined and nothing is as it seems.  When he reunites with his childhood love, Echo O'Connell, the secrets of the past and the mystery of the Ellis children can be put to rest.

Written in a magic realist vernacular, THE LANGUAGE OF TREES examines the tremulous bonds between parents and children, lovers and friends, and restless spirits—both living and not.  It is a story that will make you believe that the spirits of those we love watch over us, that people can heal each other, and that if you can truly forgive yourself, the world will return to you all of your forgotten dreams.

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1. Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?

Not a dream, but an assertion, and I say that with humility as an adult. But as a child this was indeed an assertion to the extent that when I was 6, I actually tried to bribe the tooth fairy for a blue plastic typewriter in exchange for one of my front teeth.  My mother just sent me the letter I wrote to the tooth fairy, stating my argument.

2. Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Some are based on real people, some are based on me, and some, well, I’ll never tell. Let’s just say everyone in my family is terrified when I say I’m writing a new book.

3. What was the most interesting research you had to do for any of your books? 

Going back to Canandaigua Lake, where my book is set, and interviewing the Seneca folks at Ganondagon State Historic Site.

4. How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story?  Is the process the same for every book you write?  How long does it take you to write a book? 

It took me ten years to finish The Language of Trees, but that’s only because I fell in love several times during my nomadic 30s and put love before writing.  Now that I’m married it’s just the opposite.  (Can I say LOL, here?)  Sorry, for the irreverence…

5. Are you currently working on any new book projects?

Yes!  A contemporary love story interwoven with a Scottish folktale. This book is brimming with lust and is such fun to write.

6. Do you have any advice for beginning writers on how to write a book?  Do you have any advice for them regarding promoting that book once published?

To beginning writers I say this, begin where there’s heat.  People get stuck on beginnings.  They don’t know where to start.  So I say start where there’s heat, which means where there’s something true and emotional.  And know that you don’t have to write the beginning first.

7. What is your favorite work of literary fiction and why?  Do you have a favorite literary author?

I just love Alice Hoffman’s Turtle Moon.  I could read it 9000 times and never tire of it.

8. What’s your writing schedule like?  When do you find time to write?

I have three young children so I write at night, which suits me perfectly because I’m a night owl.  Always have been.  Always will be.

9. How have your friends and family received your career as an author?  Are they supportive?

Yes, I can’t tell you how many people cried tears of joy when I found out Harper Collins had accepted my book.  It was a day of tears and balloons. 

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