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Rima Ray on Mysteries, Representation, and Her Debut Novel 'Ruby Roy and the Murder in the Falls'

Rima Ray has achieved her dream of becoming an author with her debut novel, Ruby Roy and the Murder in the Falls. The first book in her Ruby Roy series follows the titular 29-year-old business professor as she unwittingly becomes entangled in a murder mystery following the death of a colleague. With nods to a classic whodunit, the author reinvents the typically overly serious genre with her uniquely comedic and entertaining style.

While the complex mystery keeps you guessing to the very end, the true heart of the story is its main character. Between her obsessive love for true crime, online shopping, and “America’s Ass,” Ruby Roy is one of the most relatable protagonists I have ever come across. Easily distracted with an unfortunate habit of embarrassing herself in public, Ruby is perhaps the last person you'd put in charge of a murder investigation. But isn't that why she's the ideal candidate for the job? Unpredictability can be extremely effective.

Rima Ray has delivered an intriguing and charming debut. I simply cannot wait to follow Ruby on her next adventure. To learn more about the story behind the story, read A Good Book To End The Day’s interview with the author below.

When did your love of writing begin?

My love for writing and storytelling began at an early age. I have always loved listening to stories and sharing stories. I started reading mysteries at the age of six when my grandfather from India gifted me a copy of The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes for my birthday. And growing up, I would always come up with little stories and scenarios in my mind of what it would be like to solve crimes. Mind you, I was an only child and my parents moved around a lot (by that I mean several countries and schools across the globe while I was growing up) so my imagination and books were my best friends and the only constant in my life. And that’s where my love for writing began.

I think my personal exploration of writing stories started in college. I remember when I was attending Cornell University as an undergraduate, I came up with a few short stories. I didn’t intend them for publication, but just something to amuse myself. So, those were the early stages of my writing. Then when I graduated with my Ph.D. at McGill University in Canada, I started writing a script and that was my first completed writing project.

What inspired the story of Ruby Roy and the Murder in the Falls?

Several factors inspired me to start writing this mystery series. The first impetus was the pandemic. The past two years have been difficult for all of us. Like most Americans, I was at home social-distancing and working remotely as a professor. And that’s when I had more time to start thinking about this project. I had wanted to write my debut novel for a while. But the pandemic allowed me to have the time to make it happen.

The other inspiration of why I wrote this book was because of all the suffering we witnessed during the pandemic. So many people lost their lives, their livelihoods and almost everyone was struggling with their mental health. That’s when I thought it was important for me to write a mystery story, but one that would make people laugh rather than expose them to the grim realities of life. Joy and happiness are important in these trying times and that became the vision and mission for my novel. I wanted to spread smiles on people’s faces and hopefully so far, based on the reviews, it seems to be happening.

What do you hope readers take away from the story?

I hope readers laugh a lot while reading this book. I want this to be a book that they can turn to whenever they feel sad or low, just like we re-watch our favorite comedies and comedians when we are down. So, I hope readers find this book hilarious enough that they keep coming back to it.

The other takeaway from this story would be the importance of compassion and kindness towards others. I believe that’s an underlying message in this story, and I hope that resonates with readers.

You mentioned that your main character, Ruby, is an exaggerated representation of yourself. Are there any therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after yourself?

With modeling the protagonist, Dr. Ruby Roy, after myself, I wouldn’t say there are any therapeutic benefits as such. But it matters for representation. Growing up, I didn’t read of any fictional detectives that looked like me—a plus-size person of color or a female sleuth in general. So, by having a sleuth that is largely based on me, I am bringing a realistic character that readers can enjoy. Also, I don’t know of any other book which is about an academic turned amateur sleuth, so even the milieu of academia and what life is like for university professors has not been explored in-depth to my knowledge in existing fiction. And with me being a professor at a university, I can provide an honest perspective of academia for readers. So, the first benefit is realistic portrayal and representation of characters and settings that have not been adequately explored previously in fiction.

The other benefit for me as an author is that I know myself better than anyone else. So, basing the protagonist on me allows me to tap into quirks and facets of my personality and background, little touches that make Ruby Roy credible and interesting.

With this being your debut novel, what was the most surprising thing you discovered while writing this story?

The most surprising thing was how much I enjoyed the writing process. I was worried that the pressure of writing my debut novel would overwhelm me. Like a lot of authors, we want our writing to be as perfect as possible and as we all know, seeking perfection is futile but it plagues us nonetheless. So, I did worry if this project would take a toll on me especially given my teaching, research, and service responsibilities as a full-time professor. But instead, I found the experience very enjoyable. So, that surprised me and bodes well as I work on my next Ruby Roy mystery.

Is there any advice you would give to a writer working on their first book?

I would just advise writers to stay focused and develop some discipline. Like any vocation, you need to work on your craft every day to hone it. I think there is a lot of nervousness and anxiety that comes with working on one’s first book. But don’t let that bog you down. Make sure you are dedicated and in the end that’s the key to success: if one pursues discipline and dedication, then success in some form will definitely follow.

There are two upcoming sequels in the Ruby Roy series. Can you share a little about them?

Yes, I’m currently working on the second Ruby Roy book in the series which is titled Ruby Roy and the Hawaiian Mystery. You will see why I picked Hawaii when you finish reading the first book. And I have started thinking about the third book as well which is tentatively titled Ruby Roy and the Fishy Affair in Kolkata. So, I’m thinking of taking Ruby Roy around the world, much like my upbringing growing up. Hopefully, readers will join me in Ruby’s forthcoming globe-trotting adventures.

What does literary success look like to you?

Literary success to me is really about receiving love from my readers. If readers love my writing and they fall in love with Ruby Roy, that is the highest form of success for me and the greatest compliment. There is no greater asset in this world than love. Everything we do is for love. Even the quest for money and material possessions in the end is about love or experiencing love from accumulating things that we grow attached to. Basically, all roads in this journey of life lead to that one destination, to love and be loved. So, I hope readers continue giving my book lots of love.

How can readers keep in touch with you?

There are many ways to get in touch with me. I can be contacted through my website. I’m also available on social media through Instagram and Twitter. Readers can also follow me on Goodreads. And I have my YouTube channel which they can subscribe to. So, there are many ways to get in touch with me and I would love for readers to reach out.

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