AHF Interviews Ruth Danes

Ruth Danes has enjoyed history and fiction since childhood and has travelled widely within three continents. These interests and experiences were the inspiration for the Life on another island series which is set in a world where many characters unexpectedly start new lives in foreign, sometimes seemingly hostile, lands.

Ruth currently lives in the heart of England and works in administration. Writing novels forms her secret life.

Her website is at

Thank You Ruth Danes for your interest in being interviewed. There follows below, the questions and answers:-

1. How long have you been writing?
I wrote a few novels as a teenager and tried unsuccessfully to get one of them published. Then my life became too busy due to university and then getting a job. I began writing as an adult in November 2014, just after I began a new job that gave me a good work life balance. This was when I wrote North of the Azores, which was published in November 2017.

2. What is the earliest work of yours that you have published or intend to publish?
My earliest work that is published is North of the Azores. The novels I wrote as a teenager will never see the light of day again. They were terrible!
North of the Azores, the first book of the Life on Another Island trilogy, is the first of my books to be published. I really enjoyed writing it and wanted to see if others would also like it.

3. Who were the earliest authors to be an inspiration for your writing?
I read a lot of Roald Dahl as a child and loved his story-telling and sense of humour.

4. Which other authors do you consider to be an inspiration and for what reason?
I like Philippa Gregory for her world building and ability to immerse you in a story.

5. North of the Azores, lie the Devils Isles - have you based these on anywhere in particular?
I haven't based the Devil's Isles on anywhere in particular but I deliberately chose a location that is far from any continent to make a mysterious place where odd beliefs might flourish due to limited contact with other cultures.

6. Is the reader expected to imagine that they lie around where Bermuda is, or have you created a map for the book with a specific location marked?
In the first chapter, I describe the islands as being north of the Azores, south of Iceland and closer to Ireland than to the Americas, to give readers a rough idea of where they are. I did not provide a map as I did not want to provide a more precise location than this.

7. Are you inspired by any landscapes or buildings, or even towns and cities?
I am inspired by various parts of the British countryside and seaside, including places I visited long ago and will not go back to.

8. How closely did you research late eighteenth century England, and what were your main resources for doing this?
I already knew quite a bit about the period as I am interested in history and have read books set or written around that time. I used the internet to check facts that I was not sure of or did not know i.e. how many sailors there were on a frigate. I tried to be as historically accurate as I could.

9. Are historical figures who we know from reality likely to appear in the stories at any time?
King George III is very briefly mentioned, he gives a decree but he does not actually appear in any of the books. No other real life people from that era appear although they, and current events, are sometimes referred to i.e. the Napoleonic wars are mentioned in the third book.

10. Have you been surprised by a negative reaction to any of your work?
I have not had any negative reactions so far but I appreciate that it is not possible to please everyone all of the time so not everyone will enjoy what I write.

11. Other than authors (and friends and family) who are your heroes?
I admire Josie Dew, a woman who cycled around much of the world and who faced terrible dangers calmly. She just got back on her bike and continued peddling as soon as she could.

12. Is the magic practised by those on the islands real, or are they shamen who imagine that they are practising magic, but where the story remains, probably, within our own scientific understanding of reality?
Some of the magic is either real or practised by very clever tricksters. It would be hard to explain some of the events that take place in the second book using science alone. However, some of the magic could also be described as the power of suggestion or people seeing what they want to see.

13. Do the names "Dr Moon" and " Mr Lastman" reflect something about their characters, or their origins?
Dr Moon was just a name that I liked. I wanted a deceptively weak-sounding name for Mr Lastman and created that name: Last man, a man who comes last.

14. Book 2 of your trilogy is "Life on Another Island", the title volume of the trilogy. Did you intentionally make the decision to use the title volume as the name for book 2 or did things develop into that?
When I thought I was just going to write two books, I chose the name "Life on Another Island" for the second book as I felt it best described the plot in the shortest number of words. Then when I wrote a third book, I felt it best described the trilogy and could not think of another name for the second book. I still can't!

15. Is "Life on Another Island" set at the time of the French Revolution, or have events such as that been butterflied away, or made less relevant, by the alternate history of the existence of the islands?
The book "Life on Another Island" is set in the mid-1780s and closes in early January 1787. There is a gap of less than a week between "North of the Azores" and "Life on Another Island" and a gap of several years between "Life on Another Island" and the third book, "The Heiress to the Fairy Tales." The French Revolution and its consequences are mentioned in The Heiress to the Fairy Tales but they are not massively relevant to any of the main characters. They have their own, very different battles to fight!

16. If you could go back in time to learn the truth about one historical mystery or disputed event what would it be?
I'd like to find out what really happened to the princes in the tower.

17. Where did the inspiration for the name "Adeliza" come from? Was it a usual one for its time, or one which had a usage that stood out for you?
Adeliza is an old Norman-French name and very unusual both in the 18th and the 21st centuries. I chose it because it is beautiful and unusual. Other characters comment on Adeliza's beautiful and rare name.

18. Where do you get your covers from, and are you using the same artist? Will the covers for the kindle and print versions of "North of the Azores" be different?
The books are not currently available as print books. My publisher, Rogue Phoenix Press, arranged for a cover artist called Cherith Vaughan to come up with designs based on my ideas. Hopefully, Cherith will work on all of the books. For "North of the Azores", I liked the idea of a frigate sailing as the sun shone. Cherith added some sharks swimming around the ship and I liked that as it hints at the dangers to come.

19. Where did the idea of the trilogy come from?
I have lived in four different countries, including the UK, and I speak three languages, including English. I felt like I had landed on the moon at times but then I found things and people I liked and settled into a new life. That sense of feeling alien and then discovering how it is possible to fit in and find common ground was the inspiration for "North of the Azores".

20. What inspired you to write your most recent work?
I have recently completed Transtime, a spin off to the Life on Another Island trilogy. It involves a modern woman being given the opportunity to live in the 18th century. I was inspired by the idea of romanticizing the past and how the past is represented to us in the present day.

Life On Another Island is a trilogy, whose first two books have been published. As well as the third book, a spin-off is also in production.

North of the Azores is the first book and can be purchased:-
Kindle US
Kindle UK

Life on Another Island is the second book and can be purchased:-
Kindle US :-
Kindle UK :-