I’m happy to introduce Ruth Jacobs to tell you about her Soul Destruction series and her journey as a writer.
Ruth Jacobs & the Soul Destruction Series
Labelling myself a writer and novelist has been significant for me. I decided to call myself a writer at the time of writing my novel, Soul Destruction. I think I read somewhere that I could call myself a writer even though I wasn’t published. So, I did. More often now, I call myself a novelist, probably because I am proud of my achievement of actually completing a novel. And since I started my blog, I also call myself a blogger. I am believer in labelling theory, examined in my study on prostitution published on my blog http://souldestructionblog.wordpress.com/on-prostitution.
I started writing when I was thirteen. I wrote poetry inspired by my depression and, at the time what was then undiagnosed, post traumatic stress disorder. At sixteen, I began writing a novel. It wasn’t until I was thirty-seven that I finally completed my first novel. When I was younger, I didn’t write continuously. I would pick up my work in progress every few years, reread what I’d written, decide it was rubbish, delete most of it, and then start over. That went on until about five years ago when I began writing a new novel from scratch. I gave up that novel after a few months, probably because it was too personal. Then, in 2010, in a little over two months, I began and finished the first draft of my novel, Soul Destruction. The story follows Shelley Hansard, a heroin addicted, crack psychotic, London call girl who gets the opportunity to take revenge on a client who raped her.
That summer, I was on holiday in Tenerife, reading John Irving, Until I Find You. I told my children that when we got home, and once I’d finished reading that book, I was going to write a new novel. In August, when we were back in Hertfordshire and I was still reading the John Irving book, I was sitting in my lounge one day and suddenly felt compelled to write. I turned on my laptop and in the midst of my noisy children, I began typing (I can’t write in noise usually but on that day, it wasn’t an issue).
The book I was embarking on was inspired by a very dear friend who I hadn’t seen in years. The next day, I decided to contact her on Facebook. When her page came up on my laptop, it was flooded with RIP messages left on that day, and I think the day before as well. I was devastated. As I am writing this now, my eyes are filled with tears. A few days after reading that she’d passed away, I found out that she’d gone into a coma before she died. I believe that on the day I began Soul Destruction, she touched me and inspired me to write it. An interview I undertook with her in 1998, entitled In Her Own Words, is published on my blog http://souldestructionblog.wordpress.com/in-her-own-words.
I was passionate about the book I had begun. I wanted to dispel the happy-hooker myths the media was feeding society. I wanted to expose the dark world and the harsh reality of life as a call girl. My story would be authentic with genuine characters. Having studied prostitution, and known a number of call girls, I knew they weren’t happy. It was true that on the outside their lifestyles were glamorous, as the media depicted. However, all the women I knew in the life were struggling with drug addiction and were haunted by past childhood abuse. Even though they worked at the high-end of prostitution as top London call girls, there were times they were raped and beaten by clients. From my research on prostitution, I had discovered the statistics: 75% of prostitutes have been sexually and physically abused as children, 70% have experienced multiple rapes, and 67% meet the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder.
The first draft of Soul Destruction was easy, and mostly a pleasure, to write. I had fallen in love with it and it spilled out of me. I was living and breathing in the characters’ world. All my thoughts were about my story. I was completely obsessed and at times, felt like I was in paradise – that could be my bipolar a bit too. However, some of the scenes were painful to write. I had to draw on personal experience to describe the right feelings and thoughts of my characters. I had to put myself back into some horrific situations to do it. There were also scenes where it was cathartic too.
My grandmother, who is no longer alive, was also a writer. She had some short stories published and read out on the radio, but her novel was never published. I always believed she was the one who’d passed me the story-telling gift. When I was writing, sometimes I’d be stuck for a word, and a word would come to mind. On occasion, I’d have to look it up to check its meaning because it wouldn’t be a word I’d normally use, or sometimes, it was a word I didn’t know. I believe she told me those words. All this communicating with the dead is going make me come across to some like a crackpot, but it’s the truth for me, so if anyone thinks I am a crackpot, then that’s just how it has to be.
My dedication to the long and arduous process of editing Soul Destruction came from my friend who had died. The novel was for her. She is the inspiration for my character, Nicole O’Connell. As well as being in Soul Destruction as Shelley Hansard’s (the protagonist) closest friend, Nicole is the protagonist in Soul Destruction Diary, the current novel I am writing on my blog www.soul-destruction.com. In that story, Nicole travels to Sydney, Australia, in the hope of breaking her heroin habit. The diary charts her time there, the numerous people she meets, and the situations, some dangerous and life threatening, in which she finds herself. Nicole is my favourite character, though I love Shelley too. I hate to admit it, but Shelley’s personality is based somewhat on mine. If I am honest, many of my characters have a little of me in them. I’ll also mix them up with other people I know and have known, let them exist in my head for a while, and then they seem to morph into their own people.
Making submissions to literary agents has been a tough experience. I received numerous rejections, though a quarter came back with positive comments. Some said I wrote with passion; one said I wrote strongly and the storyline was intriguing; another said my writing style was really gritty and I portrayed the protagonist’s life with realism and accessibility; another said it made an interesting, and in places uncomfortable, read and was well written prose. I console myself with those comments when I’m feeling low. However, last week, a literary agent responded to my submission by asking for the complete manuscript of Soul Destruction. I am trying not to get too excited, but it’s hard not to.
As I writer, I experience self-doubt and I think that’s why it’s important for me to call myself those names: novelist, writer, blogger. I am those things. I might not be the best writer, creating the most wonderfully crafted prose. But I do think I am a good storyteller. Perhaps having been a tragic character myself, writing tragedy is natural for me. I am able to use my life experience and my feelings that have taken me to the darkest places. I draw on events I’ve survived, situations I’ve escaped, people I’ve known, and places I’ve been to for inspiration. I think, and hope, that makes my stories believable and my characters real.
The Soul Destruction blog www.soul-destruction.com
The Soul Destruction Facebook page www.facebook.com/souldestructionnovel
Ruth’s Twitter @RuthFJacobs