A Few Quick Questions With…Beth Ruggiero York

Earlier, I posted about Beth Ruggiero York’s Flying Alone. York kindly took the time to provide a few As to some Qs that I sent her. They probably do a better job of recommending the book to you than I may have pulled off. I think I’ve said it before, but I don’t read what an author says in these before I write a post about the book. So it looks like she’s actually responding to that post I wrote over the weekend. Which works out nicely.

Hope you enjoy this, I did.

Could you start off by giving the reader a quick “elevator pitch” for your book and tell us why you decided to tell this particular story and why do it now?
“From the time she was a teenager, Beth knew she wanted to fly, and a solo trip across the country to visit family confirmed her aspirations of becoming a pilot. But her dreams were almost grounded before they could take off when she received the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis at the age of 22. Beth vowed that this new challenge would not put restrictions on her life and embarked on journey to become an airline pilot. Starting at the small local airport, the aviation world swallowed her whole, and the next five years of her life were as turbulent as an airplane in a thunderstorm, never knowing when, how or if she would emerge. An agonizing love affair with her flight instructor, dangerous risks in the sky and flying broken airplanes for shady companies all intertwined to define her road to the airlines, eventually being hired by Trans World Airlines in 1989. Flying Alone takes readers through the struggles and the challenges of civil aviation that Beth faced 30 years ago. Ultimately a story of survival and overcoming overwhelming odds, Flying Alone is told with soul-baring candor, taking readers on a suspenseful journey through terror, romance and victory.”

I wrote Flying Alone when my aviation career came to an abrupt end in 1990. The years leading up to that had been so turbulent and challenging that I wanted to write it all down while the events were still fresh in my memory. The story is of the challenges of a young woman and how she battled through them and came through on the other side a stronger person. The message is very important for young women of any generation as they find their place in the world.

I’m always interested in the writing process, why writers make the choices they make along the way—and know that so often the important choices aren’t what to include, but are what not to include. How did you make those choices? Especially looking back at the book now, are there things you’re kicking yourself for not finding a way to work in (or the opposite, I guess)?
Because this is my memoir, it was extremely difficult to decide to include certain things for fear of making myself look like, for lack of a better word, an ‘idiot’. I made many bad decisions during those years, so the ultimate decision to tell the story candidly and expose my vulnerability was difficult. In the end, I bared it all and am so glad I did. It couldn’t just be a story of triumphs, because triumph doesn’t come without struggles and setbacks.

Looking back now, though, I wish I had not ended it where I did. I’ve had feedback that readers want to know more, and, in fact, there is so much more to tell from that time. So, I am planning to write a follow-up memoir to give ‘the rest of the story’.

What was the biggest surprise about the writing itself? Either, “I can’t believe X is so easy!” or “If I had known Y was going to be so hard, I’d have skipped this and watched more TV”.
The biggest surprise about writing has been how therapeutic it can be to go into my own physical and mental space and let the words flow.
A lot of what makes a writer are the books that they’ve read—what books, in particular, do you think made you the writer you are/the book the book it is?
There are a number of books that will always be with me because of their words and messages. Foremost are Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s North to the Orient, and Beryl Markham’s West with The Night.
(This is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but not wholly) How do you expect your readers to feel safe flying – or being anywhere near a flight path – after some of what you say about Cash Air and other ill-advised piloting choices here?
I’ve had some readers tell me they’re going to take it on vacation and read it on the flight, and I always squirm a little. Really, though, commercial flying is very safe. It has changed quite a bit since the 1980s, and the world of Cash Air and those types of companies were isolated situations flying freight. I feel safe flying, and I know what goes on up there in the cockpit!
Thanks for your time—and thanks for Flying Alone, I enjoyed it, and hope you have plenty of success with it.

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