We interviewed over a dozen writers, artists and social activists at the 2015 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Check out our interviews with Tavis Smiley, Karen Bender, and Robert Putnam, and stay tuned for upcoming interviews with Mallory Ortberg, Issa Rae, John Scalzi, Heidi Julavits, Rashad Robinson, Octavia Spencer, and many more.

CYNTHIA BOND started writing Ruby over 10 years ago. What started as a 900-page epic was reworked and reworked, scribbled in notebooks and on Post-it notes hung on a clothesline, and finally made whole in a debut novel released earlier this year. The story is about Ephram Jennings and a beautiful woman named Ruby Bell, whom Ephram has been in love with ever since they were kids back in small-town Texas. Now in their thirties, they both return home, where Ruby is forced to relive the violent and painful memories that caused her to leave in the first place. The book is at once a delicate love story and an epic, multigenerational saga driven by the trauma imposed by slavery and prejudice on black families in the South.

In this interview, Bond explains that the story was inspired by her mother, who grew up in a small Southern town that she felt she needed to escape from, and that Bond drew further inspiration by digging deeper into the family well and finding the pastoral, almost otherworldly beauty of her grandfather’s hometown in the Piney Woods. She also talks about her inspirations — from the historical fiction of writers like Zora Neale Hurston to the magic realism of poets like Pablo Neruda — the grueling 10 years of work on this debut novel, and the challenge of writing from a personal place to then creating characters with lives of their own.

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Minda Honey is an MFA graduate student at the University of California, Riverside. She is writing a memoir, An Anthology of Assholes, about her time spent out West squandering her youth on the wrong men.