Interview with Arlen Rutledge

First, why is your Author Profile Video a baby donkey in a hammock?
Do you ask everybody that?
No, but you're the only author who—
Did you watch it?
Actually, no, I—
Obviously you didn't. It's a baby donkey swinging in a hammock, for crying out loud. What's wrong with you?
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
According to my mom, my first favorite story was "Robert the Rose Horse." My grandma read it to me in the backseat of the family Vista Cruiser during our road trip to Monterrey, Mexico, in '74. Five thousand times, if Mom is to be believed, but Mom is known to indulge in hyperbole.

The first story I remember loving was Walter Farley's "Little Black, a Pony." It's about a pony who longs to run with the bigger, faster horses on the farm where he lives. But when he's faced with a life-or-death test of courage, he learns that size and speed aren't everything, and finds a purpose meant for him and him alone.

Just writing those two sentences made me cry a little. That story always stuck with me. The author also wrote the Black Stallion books, a series I read over and over as a kid.
How do you approach cover design?
I want potential readers to perceive my book as a thing of real value—worth their money to buy, and worth their time to read. To that end, a professionally designed cover is absolutely essential.

An artist named Greg White designed the cover for Leah Bishop & the Book of Tsen-Ke. Greg was the second artist I worked with; I had to ditch the first one. That guy just couldn't be dissuaded from the image of a wasp-waisted Barbie doll in a supersuit. "But Leah's an everygirl," I kept telling him. "No cleavage, okay?" He'd say okay, and a few days later he'd send me another draft, and can you guess? More boobs.

So I fired him, found Greg, and never looked back. He asked lots of questions and paid close attention to my answers. He asked for excerpts from the book that I felt best exemplified its theme or that could give him an idea of visual elements he might incorporate into the design. And when I told him I'd named my protagonist after my best friend, Leah Bishop, who died our senior year of high school, he asked if I wouldn't mind sharing some photos of her. Long story short, now I see Leah—the real one—every time I look at the cover of my novel.

Are all these questions going to make me cry?
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Pride & Prejudice. A Confederacy of Dunces. Lonesome Dove. Harry Potter—those seven only count as one. The Once and Future King.
What do you read for pleasure?
My tastes are pretty broad. I read Paris Review and Granta for short stories. Elmore Leonard and James Lee Burke are two of my favorite crime novelists. Right now I'm reading one of my son's Rick Riordian books, the first one in the Magnus Chase series, and it's terrific. And I just finished a novel called Dreadnought by April Daniels. It's about a trans superhero, and I cannot say enough good things about it. Go read it right now!
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle Paperwhite. Because I hate screens, and the Paperwhite makes it pretty easy to pretend I'm not looking at a screen. Mine's an old one that's just for reading, no whistles and bells, just the way I like it. I don't want the novel I'm reading to remind me to check my email or try to sell me the latest Rhianna record, you know? Just tell me a story, please, like they did back in the good ol' days.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
What? I thought that's what this interview was about.
Yeah, but I—I mean, I assumed you'd done something else, like—
Like distribute 1,000,000 fliers via helicopter drop over a densely populated urban area?
Actually I meant like Twitter.
I have one of those. But every time I get on there, I end up reading news and getting pissed off. I have a website. Does that count?
It does.
It's You should check it out.
I will. Is Arlen your real name?
No, my real name is Rebecca Rutledge. But I had this idea that my author name should be androgynous. I don't know why I wanted to do that, but I did. So I was thinking I might use my initials and publish as "R.L. Rutledge." But that felt like ripping off J.K. Rowling. My middle name is Lynne, and I kind of liked the sound of "R. Lynne Rutledge." Say it fast—"R. Lynne" sounds like "Arlen." So there you go. Fascinating tale, isn't it?
What motivated you to become an indie author?
"Self-published" used to have a stigma, but that had worn off by the time I was ready to publish. At least among book people it had, and who else matters?

I got some great feedback from an agent early on, but nothing that indicated I wasn't about to embark on that same long, heartbreaking and ultimately unsuccessful journey that crushes the dreams of 99.9999999999999% of hopeful authors. You know, those poor sods who cling to the notion that traditional publication is the only way one can call one's self a real author.

Bah! is what I say to THAT.

What I love about Smashwords is that the company makes our books accessible to readers at a level commensurate with what we put into them. I'm talking about things like manuscript quality & cover quality, elements that set professionally written & edited books apart from the not-so-much ones.

But there's a place for those other books, too. As a freelance editor, I work with lots of memoirists who wouldn't be writing if they didn't see a clear path to sending their stories out into the world. I think the promise of self-publication motivates lots of people to write who wouldn't do so otherwise. Some people argue that they (amateurs) shouldn't, that traditional publishers are gatekeepers who safeguard the quality of published blah, blah, blah. They're entitled to their opinion, of course, but I don't share it. I'm for anything that encourages the making and sharing of art in any form.
Published 2018-04-03.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Cleanse & other stories
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 3,950. Language: English. Published: April 3, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Themes & motifs » Psychological
A four-day juice cleanse flushes out some unexpected toxins in "The Cleanse." A mass abduction leaves the ladies in charge in "Huldred, the Sea-Witch." And in "Done With Mirrors," a sleepwalker embarks on a brutal campaign of self-sabotage.
Leah Bishop & the Book of Tsen-Ke
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 86,170. Language: English. Published: April 3, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban
Tricksy owls and talking cats, time travel and teleportation—it’s a perilous landscape for a waitress. But Leah Bishop’s no ordinary waitress. Recruited by a shadowy group of crimefighters to find and destroy an ancient weapon before it falls into enemy hands, she feels powerless against the dark forces she’s meant to fight...