01 Jul 2023 Author of the Month: The Medieval Mysteries of Jay Ruud
By Susan L. Peterson
Jay Ruud, retired professor and chair of the English Department at the University of Central Arkansas, is a medievalist who loves writing about legendary figures – King Arthur, Lancelot, Merlin, and Robin Hood.
In the fall of 2020, Ruud completed his Merlin Mystery Series. In each of the six books, he takes a cryptic aspect of the traditional story of the Knights of the Round Table and weaves a mysterious, imaginary tale around it. Merlin the Magician assumes the role of lead detective. After all, as Ruud stated, “Merlin was the smartest of the bunch.”
Ruud’s first novel in the Merlin series was “Fatal Feast,” published in 2015. It was followed by “The Knight’s Riddle: What Women Want Most” (2016), ”The Bleak and Empty Sea: The Tristram and Isolde Story” (2017), ”Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail” (2018), ”The Knight of the Cart” (2019), and ”To the Great Deep” (2020).
Publishing the series did not come easily. He initially got the idea in 2001, and it took several years to complete the first book. But it took 11 years to find a publisher, which he finally did with Five Star Press. Fortunately for Ruud, when Five Star Press discontinued its mystery line after his second King Arthur book, he was quickly picked up by Encircle Publications and later sealed a six-book contract with them for his Robin Hood Mystery series.
Today, Ruud is devoting time to completing this newest series in which villains and heroes abound. Last year he published the first two books, “Sleuth of Sherwood” and “Ghoul of Sherwood.” The third book in the series, “The Treasure of Sherwood,” will be out this September.
Before retirement, Ruud would write sporadically when he had time. Now he tries to write every afternoon, completing at least 1,000 words a day. He advises writers not to “wait for inspiration” but believes inspiration comes during writing. His wife, Stacy Margaret Jones, is a published poet and novelist, and he credits her with providing valuable feedback. They often proofread and edit each other’s work.
In addition to his fictional work, Ruud published several books of literary criticism and scholarship throughout his career. His medieval scholarly work includes books on Chaucer, Dante and Tolkien and an encyclopedia of medieval literature.
More information about Ruud can be found on his website, JayRuud.com. The site also includes links to “Poetry with Dogs,” brief videos of Ruud reciting poems, often with a dramatic flair, to his four canine companions aptly named after legendary characters, Guinevere, Beatrice, Lavinia and Gareth. Also on his website are links to “Eat It Conway,” which has local restaurant reviews co-authored with his wife, Stacey, in a conversational “he said/she said” format.
Even as a child, Ruud knew he was a writer. He laughingly states that he wrote his first book at age 4, with his mother giving him enthusiastic reviews. Growing up during the ’60s, he loved watching TV shows about Robin Hood and King Arthur. Throughout his career, Ruud has creatively blended both interests, writing and medieval legends, to his advantage, and he continues to do so even throughout retirement.
His books are available on Amazon.com and other online stores.