Ruth Sutton – giving a narrative to real Cumbrian events and lives

Teacher turned author Ruth Sutton talks to Rachael Grealish about her series of books based in Cumbria that cover the fictional lives of Cumbrian characters from the 1910’s to the 1960’s.

Ruth with the beautiful backdrop of Cumbria which, over the years, she grew to love and make her home and the setting for her series of books  -photo by Robert Haile

Ruth with the beautiful backdrop of Cumbria which, over the years, she grew to love and make her home and the setting for her series of books
-photo by Robert Haile

SOME people wake up one day and decide to an author, but for Ruth Sutton, it was different.

Ruth was trained as a teacher, she enjoyed writing and she was good at it, so upon retirement she did just that – she wrote a novel.

Ruth Sutton, isn’t local to Cumbria but, after years of travelling to here as a child and now living here in retirement, she decided to base her series of books in villages and towns on the west coast.

Her books; The Good Liar, Forgiven, and Fallout, follow the characters of the same family from the first book’s heroine, Jessie.

Ruth’s most recently released book Cruel Tide is the beginning of a new series, yet still retains the families and descendants from the first three.

One of the wonderful things about Ruth’s books is that they flow into the next, but each work is a stand alone book for the reader.

Her character’s personalities emulate that of real people.

Ruth said: “Each of my main characters has a story board of their lives. Most of them I know where they’re from, where they went to school, their favourite food, drink where and what they did at university. I think they’re believable as real characters because to they are real – to me.”

A Good Liar follows the life of teacher Jessie who gives up her baby for adoption during the chaos of the Great War.

Twenty years later Jessie is the head teacher of a a school, but soon her past comes to haunt her – in the form of her long-lost son.

Forgiven, again, follows Jessie’s life in post-war Cumbria and Jessie is still struggling to get by.

But this novel strays north to Whitehaven and the lives of ‘screen lasses’ in Haig pit. Among them, Maggie Lowery.

And the third Fallout follows what it was like inside Sellafield during the infamous fire of 1957.

An occurring theme throughout these three novels is they all have a heavy presence of strong female characters.

Ruth said: “Those women in the mines basically did exactly what the men did, it was just as hard, but they didn’t get paid as much for it. What Jessie went through happened to so many women, but she was strong, as a lot of them where, and she got on with it.”

All of Ruth’s books give an interesting and compelling narrative to real events and occurrences in Cumbria.

From disaster in the mines to problems with nuclear power; Ruth covers the evolution of Cumbria in pointing out how it changed in such short years.

She said: “In the village I live in they didn’t even have electric until the early fifties and only a couple of years later they were building Sellafield.

Ruth also taps in to real cultural and social issues at the times the books are set; such as the role of women in work and illegitimate pregnancies.

Both issues that where mirrored throughout the UK during pre and post-war Britain.

Ruth said that her way of writing the original trilogy was driven by the characters, but it was different when beginning writing her most recent novel, Cruel Tide.

Cruel Tide is Ruth’s first crime thriller with a very current-theme of the exposure of child abuse.

She said: “When it comes to writing a crime novel I really needed to have my story planned, I had to know all my plot twists and how it would end for it to work.

“People need to be able to follow a good plot. Obviously, my characters are important, but because how I’d worked on previous books that came rather naturally to me.”

Ruth first published her first book in 2012, and though she was nervous about releasing her first novel, she was no stranger to having her name on a shop bookshelf.

“I was an educational advisor and I’d had my work published all over the northern States of the US and Canada and the UK, but becoming a self-published author seemed like a natural step because I loved writing, and I was good at it.”

Though, Ruth hasn’t left her teaching career behind, she now holds workshops on how to write a novel.

Ruth said: “I held a workshop and had everyone write out their process for their books and their steps for it and someone phone me up and said ‘I’ve done it, I’ve finished my book’ and it was brilliant. I felt very proud.

“Like when I was a teacher and pupils used to come back and tell me how they were doing, that’s what you want. You want to know that all that hard work has paid off.”

Ruth’s books are available online on Amazon as well as in many local shops up and down the coast, including Lowes Court Gallery in Egremont.