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Matt Ruff

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Matt Ruff

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Born
in Queens, New York, The United States
Website

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Member Since
June 2011


I was born in New York City in 1965. I decided I wanted to be a fiction writer when I was five years old and spent my childhood and adolescence learning how to tell stories. At Cornell University I wrote what would become my first published novel, Fool on the Hill, as my senior thesis in Honors English. My professor Alison Lurie helped me find an agent, and within six months of my college graduation Fool on the Hill had been sold to Atlantic Monthly Press. Through a combination of timely foreign rights sales, the generous support of family and friends, occasional grant money, and a slowly accumulating back list, I’ve managed to make novel-writing my primary occupation ever since.

My third novel, Set This House in Order, marked a critical tur
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Matt Ruff I grew up in a multicultural theological debate society. My father was a Lutheran minister, originally from the Midwest. My mother, a missionary’s dau…moreI grew up in a multicultural theological debate society. My father was a Lutheran minister, originally from the Midwest. My mother, a missionary’s daughter, was born in southern Brazil and raised in Argentina during the Peron era. Our house in New York City served as Ellis Island for a nonstop parade of immigrating South American relatives. Most of my mother’s people were Lutheran, but a few – like my maternal grandmother, who lived with us for many years – were converts to Mormonism. And they all loved to argue.

The upshot of all this is that I learned at an early age that I’d be spending my time on this planet surrounded by people who didn’t see eye-to-eye with me, or with each other, and that there was value in learning to understand other perspectives. And my writing reflects this: My novels are all over the place in terms of genre and subject matter, but they often involve some sort of culture clash, and most of my protagonists come from different backgrounds and have different beliefs and worldviews than I do.

I realize that the issue of white authors writing from black perspectives is a particularly fraught one right now, but to me, what I was doing in Lovecraft Country is a natural extension of what I’ve always done: use the power of fiction to understand other ways of looking at and living in the world. I wouldn’t say I was “comfortable” doing this – it’s always good to be a little nervous, so I don’t get lazy – but I was reasonably confident that I could do justice to the characters, or that if I couldn’t, I’d figure that out before I embarrassed myself publicly.

The biggest challenge wasn’t the characters, but the history. I’d turn things up in my research that were hard to wrap my head around at first. Like the idea of whites-only ambulances that would literally let black people bleed to death rather than lift a finger to help them – that sounds like something out of dystopian science fiction, but in large parts of 1950s America it was just how things worked. So that was the tricky part, learning the rules of this strange country that my protagonists were trying to make their way in. Once I had that down, figuring out how intelligent, resourceful human beings would respond and adapt was relatively straightforward. And of course I had plenty of real-life examples – anecdotes and stories of how people coped – to draw on.

As for what I would do differently in hindsight, it’s still too soon to say. Ask me again in ten years, and I might have some thoughts, but for now I’m really happy with the way the novel turned out.
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Matt Ruff Yes, I initially conceived of Lovecraft Country as a potential TV series back in 2007. (My elevator pitch was, “It’s The X-Files, if Mulder and Scully…moreYes, I initially conceived of Lovecraft Country as a potential TV series back in 2007. (My elevator pitch was, “It’s The X-Files, if Mulder and Scully were black travel writers living in the Jim Crow era.”) The people I was talking to passed on the idea, but the story stayed with me, and I decided to try to make it work as a book.

A part of the original TV show concept I wanted to preserve was this “monster of the week” element where each member of my ensemble cast would get to star in their own reimagined weird tale. I didn’t want to write a short story collection, though, I wanted to write a novel. Eventually I hit on the idea of an episodic novel – basically a TV season in literary form, that you would binge-read instead of binge-watching, and whose individual episodes would gradually be revealed to all be pieces of the same arc story.

Obviously in structuring the novel this way, I hoped that the finished book might also serve as a proof of concept for a possible TV series, but I knew that was a longshot and I certainly never expected it to work out as well as it has.
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Average rating: 3.95 · 68,129 ratings · 8,235 reviews · 8 distinct worksSimilar authors
Lovecraft Country

4.02 avg rating — 39,520 ratings — published 2016 — 65 editions
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Bad Monkeys

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Set This House in Order

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Fool on the Hill

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More books by Matt Ruff…

The Destroyer of Worlds giveaway on Goodreads (#2)

Goodreads is hosting another giveaway of The Destroyer of Worlds. You can sign up here to win one of 25 copies; winners will be selected on November 25.

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Alternate history is one of the most reliably interesting subgenres in the book game. As a kind of subset of speculative fiction, alternate...
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The Destroyer of Worlds giveaway on Goodreads (#2)

Goodreads is hosting another giveaway of The Destroyer of Worlds. You can sign up here to win one of 25 copies; winners will be selected on November 2 Read more of this blog post »
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Quotes by Matt Ruff  (?)
Quotes are added by the Goodreads community and are not verified by Goodreads. (Learn more)

“But stories are like people, Atticus. Loving them doesn’t make them perfect. You try to cherish their virtues and overlook their flaws. The flaws are still there, though. "

"But you don’t get mad. Not like Pop does."

"No, that’s true, I don’t get mad. Not at stories. They do disappoint me sometimes." He looked at the shelves. "Sometimes, they stab me in the heart.”
Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country

“That’s the horror, the most awful thing: to have a child the world wants to destroy and know that you’re helpless to help him. Nothing worse than that. Nothing worse.”
Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country

“But stories are like people, Atticus. Loving them doesn't make them perfect. You try to cherish their virtues and overlook their flaws. The flaws are still there, though. But you don't get mad.”
Matt Ruff, Lovecraft Country

Polls

Vote for the August 2019 Adult / Non-fiction BOM.

Details of the books can be found in the nom thread here

 
  55 votes 19.6%

 
  37 votes 13.2%

 
  29 votes 10.4%

 
  22 votes 7.9%

 
  20 votes 7.1%

 
  19 votes 6.8%

 
  17 votes 6.1%

 
  16 votes 5.7%

 
  16 votes 5.7%

 
  10 votes 3.6%

 
  9 votes 3.2%

 
  8 votes 2.9%

 
  6 votes 2.1%

 
  5 votes 1.8%

 
  5 votes 1.8%

 
  3 votes 1.1%

 
  3 votes 1.1%

280 total votes
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