TBF Author Q&A with Rudy Ruiz

Rudy Ruiz is the author of the novel VALLEY OF SHADOWS.

TBF: Why did you write your new book? What was your inspiration? Where did the idea start?

RR: My son, Lorenzo, asked me to write a Western horror story set in West Texas. I thought it would be very interesting to do that and use it as an opportunity to expand on the genres, weaving in my style of magical realism and social issues that remain relevant today. I drew inspiration from Texas’ troubled history with Mexico, Mexican-Americans, the original Tejano settlers and Native Americans. In particular, the Porvenir Massacre of 1918 – during which Texas Rangers and the U.S. Cavalry murdered 15 unarmed Mexican boys and men – motivated me to reflect on the harsh racial injustices and law enforcement atrocities that have traditionally been swept under the rug by Texan and American historians and teachers. What would have happened had there been a lawman around like Solitario Cisneros, the hero in Valley of Shadows? If we could rewrite history, what might it look like? How can we build on those ideas as we examine our present state and try to solve these problems that still tear our country apart to this very day.

TBF: What’s the last book you read, loved, and can’t stop recommending? Why is it so good?

RR: I’ve read some really wonderful books lately and it’s impossible to pick just one. What they all have in common is that they each give readers a unique glimpse into a unique experience that’s very different from their own. They transport you and transform you.

Books can build bridges between worlds. When we travel across those bridges and walk in others’ shoes, our sense of empathy grows. Books are bridges that help us cross borders, bringing us closer together as human beings. This is what I love to do in my writing, build understanding through immersion and empathy. The books I’ve read recently that do that include: Kelli Jo Ford’s Crooked Hallelujah, Sergio Troncoso’s A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant’s Son, Alex Temblador’s Half-Outlaw, and Jennifer Givhan’s River Woman, River Demon.

TBF: What’s the first book you remember reading? Who gave it to you?

RR: My mom put books in my hands at an early age, so early I can’t really recall the first one. I’m very grateful to her for introducing me to reading at an early age. It fueled my imagination and took me on journeys around the world and far beyond, all from my hometown of Brownsville, Texas. Reading made me yearn to experience the broader world and appreciate the cultural experiences of others. When you open a book, you open your mind. And, for being gifted with an open mind through reading, I’m forever thankful to my mom, who is also a lifelong avid reader. 

Catch Rudy Ruiz on Sunday, November 6 at the Latinx Lit Tent from 12:00 – 12:45 and the State Capitol E2.012 from 3:15 – 4:00 at the 2022 Texas Book Festival!