I recently had the privilege to interview Ruth Hill. She is a prolific and talented freelance writer who has made a name for herself interviewing actors associated with Hallmark television and movies.
She is also extremely kindhearted and selfless. More than one “10 questions” interview has come either at her suggestion or with her assistance. She is a joy to associate with and it is a pleasure to present her interview.
Kurt Manwaring: Welcome! Before we begin, would you tell us a little bit about yourself and “My Devotional Thoughts”?
Ruth Hill: I am a single mother of a fifteen-year-old daughter (who is very artistic), and writing and music has always been a part of my life. In my “other life,” I was a music teacher, and when God began to redirect me back to my home state of Washington, He began to close the doors to a full-time teaching job and rekindle some of the sparks that a bad marriage had nearly extinguished within me. While I am a Bible college graduate with a degree in music, writing is my true passion. I used to foster ideas of being on the stage (Broadway was where I longed to be), but in truth, being a substitute teacher and a writer is my genuine calling in life.
I have been blogging for roughly ten years or so now, and this is actually the second blog domain I have owned. My first was inadvertently shut down by Google because it was perceived as being spam, and although they eventually reversed their error, I had already changed to my present blog domain, a much more secure platform which gave me more control.
Although I began as a mommy blogger, reviewing products and even books became tiresome. The day that I discovered Twitter and the Hallmark series Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I was forever changed in my focus. I am now an entertainment journalist with more actor/director/writer friends (as well as fans) than I could have ever imagined.
One thing I would like to say is that my current status is a fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I spent my time as a child longing to befriend actors and actresses. I was obsessed with old Hollywood and I regularly read biographies of my favorites. I watched the great musicals of yesteryear more times than I can count.
I never could have dreamed that having actual friendships with so many actors and other industry professionals would happen to me once I reached my forties, but I am grateful to God that He saw that dream and desire within my heart, and in His infinite wisdom, He granted it.
Kurt Manwaring: What is your professional background and how did you decide to jump into the world of freelance writing?
Ruth Hill: I discovered my natural writing ability when I was in the fourth grade, and by the time I was twelve, I was already writing my first three-hundred-some page book. Remember Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman? I wrote a story like that long before that show even hit the airwaves! It was a book I planned on publishing as a teenager, but alas, I discovered that world was far too complicated back in those days. Self-publishing didn’t exist in that 1990’s, so I let that dream expire.
Even though I was a voice major, I could have been an English major. I once challenged myself to take a course in college that only English majors took, and I was quite pleased to discover that I ended that semester with the highest grade in the class. In fact, had it not been for my music classes, I would have had a 4.0 when I graduated from college. As it was, I graduated a semester early just shy of that 4.0 goal but quite happy to be pursuing whatever God had for me next.
I continued to write as an adult. As a music teacher, I regularly adapted and wrote programs for my students. I was always writing plays and stories. I permitted two men in my life to rip that dream from within me, but once I relocated to Washington state, I decided, on a whim, to try “mommy blogging” because after all, I knew I could write just as well as the bloggers whose work I was regularly reading and supporting.
Thanks to the Hallmark network, their fantastic executives, and a dear actor friend (Sebastian Spence, “Cowboy Cliff” on Cedar Cove), I jumped into the world of reviewing Hallmark movies and shows. Almost three years ago, on the urging of my friend, Sebastian, I jumped into the world of interviewing (Brennan Elliott was my very first interview ever).
Initially, I was writing for a wonderful internet magazine (Starry Mag), but as I honed my style, I realized that I needed the freedom to write my interviews as I saw fit. I understand the benefits of writing for someone else, but there are moments when you know you have to step out on your own, as scary as it might be. Thankfully, the editor of the magazine was very supportive of me, and now here I am with more work than I could have ever imagined.
Kurt Manwaring: What role does Twitter play in your freelance writing and what kind of time investment do you make in social media?
Ruth Hill: In the beginning, I had a very love/hate relationship with social media. I resisted joining Twitter, but because of my foray into blogging, I knew I had no choice. Once I realized that benefits of Twitter (and Instagram and Facebook), I began to harness every interaction I could in order to advance my readership.
I have labored intensively to utilize every tool at my disposal, and I try to be as active on social media as I can be. There are certain people I regularly support, and I have discovered that others rely on me to keep up with their favorite actors and networks on Twitter.
And I know that sometimes it is because of this incredible following I have that I have been handed wonderful writing opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten had my following been meager.
Social media is the wave of the future, and I believe that if handled correctly and with a little patience and ingenuity, it can advance the career of practically anyone.
Kurt Manwaring: In what ways are your social media efforts strictly marketing and in what ways are they interactions with an online family?
Ruth Hill: I have a core group I regularly retweet. It is usually those who are well-respected within the Hallmark family and/or those with whom I have made a connection due to my interviews. There are days I feel like all I do is retweet these people, but I know that there are far too many who rely on my efforts, and I do not take that responsibility lightly.
However, I also recognize the personal element in all of this. I have been told by others that it is not important for me to try to respond to most of the people who leave me comments, but I beg to differ. If someone has taken the time to leave me a comment, I think it is worth my while to let them know that I am reading and appreciating what they write. Furthermore, in so doing, I have made some friends who regularly lift my spirits when I am overwhelmed, and they know that I genuinely care about them too.
I believe it is a sacred responsibility and a facet of my ministry to reach out to everyone I can and at least let them know that they are appreciated. As a result, I have been a sounding board for a variety of people, and I am honored to know that they are willing to come and share themselves with me in a genuine way.
I am truly blessed to have so many people who regularly interact with me on a professional and personal level. And again, I do not take that responsibility lightly.
Kurt Manwaring: How many interviews do you try to do each month and how do you prepare?
Ruth Hill: That is a really good question, and I have to say I do not have a solid answer. I know that I try to post on average three-to-five interviews per week. But sometimes I am interviewing someone every day of the week. Or there are days where I literally interview three people–one right after the other. It really depends on scheduling, which I must admit is a real beast at times.
As to how I prepare…honestly, I research the person on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), and occasionally, I will read other interviews they have done with other outlets. I try to keep things as relaxed as possible, as I believe genuine interactions are best. I would rather have a conversation peppered with “chit-chat” than an interview that is very methodical, dry, and boring. And on the rare occasions that I am not prepared, I am up front and let the person know that. And sometimes, those result in being some of the best interviews.
Kurt Manwaring: What are the criteria you use to gauge whether an interview is successful?
This can be a very difficult issue to gauge at times. After all, success is measured on so many levels, and I believe everyone has their own ideas about what is successful and what is not. There are a few interviews in my repertoire of which I am not proud, and I take full responsibility for those. I always use those as a learning experience that can sometimes be very painful.
However, I would say that if the interviewee enjoys the interview (it’s even better if they are truly touched), then I call that success. It’s even better if the fans like it too.
Or on the occasions when a network executive retweets it–trust me, I am truly awed by that!
Or one of the A-list stars takes a notice…oh my goodness, there are times I am truly speechless.
I never expect anything less than giving the interview my best, and if I did my best, what more could you ask?
Kurt Manwaring: Rank your Top 5 favorite interviews of all-time and share a brief memory or excerpt from each.
Ruth Hill: Okay, this is a really hard one because my current interview is always my favorite. Or almost always, I should say. But I think I’ll tell you my top five favorite people to interview. (But know that if I leave anyone out, it doesn’t mean I didn’t like that interview or person!)
Brennan Elliott will always hold a special place in my heart since he was the first person I ever interviewed. Our first interview was fraught with difficulties due to my phone company and living in the country, and that first interview was actually conducted in the parking lot of a nearby gas station. Brennan was absolutely the easiest person on earth to interview, and he was patient, kind, supportive, and flexible. Since then, I have interviewed him a few other times, and each one is always better than the last because we have fostered a true kinship where we “get” each other. He knows that he can trust me to promote his works and make the interviews real and conversational.
Paul Greene has the distinction of being the person I have interviewed the most. We have done a record five interviews, and meeting him last year at HFR3 was an amazing moment I shall never forget. Our first interview was one that was nerve-wracking for me. He said he could give me fifteen minutes, and I kept staring at the clock so we wouldn’t go over the time. Interestingly enough, once I touched on his true passion–ALS–all the time restraints were thrown out the window, and his heart came through in our interview. Since then, the most intriguing interview we did was when he messaged me from Costa Rica and said we should do an interview to promote My Favorite Wedding. I know at least one fan was blown away when he sang a song and dedicated it to her as a result of our interview. Indeed, Paul stands as one of my favorite people on the planet.
The first of my “long” interviews (coming in at just under two hours) was with veteran actor Marshall Teague. Though not a Hallmark actor, I knew him from Walker, Texas Ranger, and once we started chatting, he was just amazing! That guy can tell the most fantastic stories, and he has the singular honor of being the only actor’s interview that was broken into two parts on my site. Marshall is the real deal, and I hope one day to update our rather lengthy chat.
Interviewing Alexa PenaVega was very special because she is probably the most popular actress I have ever interviewed. She is practically at A-list standing due to her Spy Kids stint and her time on Dancing With the Stars, and when I first chatted with her, I had no idea that she was a Christian. As we chatted and discovered we were sisters in the Lord, the entire conversation changed, and I was absolutely blown away by her both professionally and personally.
I have to say that Andrew Walker is another long-time favorite of mine. Our first chat was an early interview of mine, and he was as kind and as gracious as could be. It was his response to our interview is what makes this interview so special to me. Very often, when people chat with others, they tend to “ramble,” for lack of a better term. (I do it too–trust me, listening to the audio version of these interviews sometimes makes me roll my eyes as I realize just how much I rambled!)
When Andrew read the interview, he thanked me for essentially making him sound better than how he was during the interview. And honestly, I reference that memory quite a bit when chatting with people. I work very hard to organize their thoughts and give a valid representation of how they sounded in the interview. And I honestly have Andrew to thank for recognizing a talent in me I never knew I possessed.
Kurt Manwaring: Why do you think family-friendly TV still resonates with so many viewers despite the overwhelming presence of adult material on most networks?
Ruth Hill: For the simple reason that there is too much darkness and negativity in this world today. I find myself turning off the news and regularly dismissing updates on TV, social media, and the like that are nothing but hateful and capricious.
When I turn to Hallmark, I have never been disappointed in the family-friendly content. It is something the entire family can watch together, and I know there will be no surprises, i.e. offensive content, pop up during the show. I can turn my brain off for a couple hours and just enjoy the movie. I often say that even a “bad” Hallmark movie is better than practically anything else offered on other networks. And when I say”bad,” that is said rather tongue-in-cheek because even if I didn’t particularly care for the movie or show, I know that others truly enjoyed it. And bottom line, there is no vulgar language, blood/gore, or sex scenes.
Kurt Manwaring: What are your thoughts on the departure of Daniel Lissing from “When Calls the Heart,” including the heartfelt responses from cast, creators, and fans?
Ruth Hill: I applaud everyone involved with the show for handling a very difficult situation with grace and understanding. While I was shot down by an irate fan for supporting the show, I discovered that there is a silent majority who understand this was a hard decision. I especially applaud, Brian Bird and Lori Loughlin (as well as the others involved behind-the-scenes) for being very classy in their responses.
And of course, the way the actors hid this for so long–well done! I feel for Erin Krakow as I know she and Dan became close friends, and I know that Dan will be missed. I understand if people were upset and hurt, but at the end of the day, this is a show. If you don’t like it, please turn the channel because there is no law that says you HAVE to watch every Hallmark show or that you even have to watch Hallmark.
I am very excited to see the direction season six takes. And I can only wish Dan all the best in his future career endeavors.
Kurt Manwaring: What are you looking forward to in Season 6 of “When Calls the Heart”?
Ruth Hill: So much! I want to see how the dynamics change without Mountie Jack, and I am ready to see things move in the right way. I hope that Elizabeth does take some time out to grieve, but I also know that she will need someone to help her raise the baby.
I am hoping that Faith gets a real love interest, and I hope that Florence and Molly get a new love interest too. I want to see life go on and how things continue in this amazing Hope Valley. Oh, and I really hope that Lee and Rosie get that blessed news that Rosie is pregnant too!
Kurt Manwaring: Would you give us a sneak peek of some exciting coverage you have lined up for later this year?
Ruth Hill: Yikes, that’s a hard one. I sometimes don’t know too far in advance about what I will be covering. This is a very “last-minute” business, and being flexible is key. But I am sure that I will continue to bring the fans interviews with the supporting cast members and an occasional lead actor here and there.
I will be attending the Hearties Family Reunion in October, so I am sure I’ll be able to get some more in-person interviews. And here’s hoping that I finally land that interview with Daniel Lissing and Martin Cummins (they both agreed to it, but getting a hold of them can be difficult due to that scheduling thing again).
I do have an interview coming up soon that was three years in the making, however. I won’t say who–some people know–but you’ll find out before Chesapeake Shores premieres.