MW: Congratulations on being shortlisted for the 2016 Sunday times EFG short story award for “The Phosphorescence”. Where did this story come from?
NR: When I was once in Nice when I was twenty or twenty-one years old and I walked past the Hotel Le Negresco, it occurred to me that a high wire could be strung from the cupola down into the sea. It was years later my wife and I saw the phosphorescence off the coast of Newfoundland…and somehow I put those two together -- that someone could ride down a wire from the hotel and hit the water and create a magical kind of scene.
MW: Let’s turn to Night Ambulance, your second novel. Where did this story come from?
NR: I spent a lot of time in Newfoundland and I wanted to write a particular novel set in St. John's and about the south coast...I wanted it to be in Newfoundland and I wanted it to be about how men can walk away from pregnancy and women can’t.
MW: So do you see it as a novel about abortion?
NR: Yes…the central crux of it is about abortion, and there are two girls in there who are faced with a similar kind of problem and they take different steps -- one opts one way, one opts another.
MW: You originally published the most gripping scene of Night Ambulance as a short story in The Antigonish Review. Do you always write the central scene of a novel first and then fill it out?
NR: The first novel, The Parabolist
, I wrote without any thought whatsoever. The second one, this book, I wrote without a lot of planning either -- I just went through it. The third book [Birds and Stones
], which I’ve just finished, is much longer. It was completely planned from the word “go”. I probably wrote a lot of stuff that was discarded from the first two books. Whereas the third one is just smack on.
MW: Can you talk about your connection to Newfoundland?
NR: I went out there as an unformed person, having graduated from medical school, and I ended up with a job as a district medical officer in a very remote place called Belleoram which is disguised very shallowly in this book as Belle Harbour. I wanted to call it by a slightly different name to emphasize that it was fiction.
MW: How did you get from practicing medicine to writing?
NR: I’ve now become more a writer than a doctor, whereas before it was always the other way around. For Birds and Stones
I wrote 1500 words a day for 100 straight days -- four months it took. I used to say I wrote about three hours a day, and then I couldn't think straight. But the last one I picked it up to six or seven...It just sort of rolled along.
MW: Any advice for aspiring writers, young writers or people wanting to enter a second career?
NR: You have to read really good writers -- the best, the most famous writers, which are probably not the best sellers, but the edgy sorts of writers -- to learn what you can do with language. It was doing that that totally galvanized me 15 years ago when I read Roberto Bolaño.
Ruddock has published two novels, The Parabolist (2010) and Night Ambulance (2016), as well as a collection of short stories entitled How Loveta Got her Baby (2014). Watch the newly released trailer for Night Ambulance