As the weather heats up, we tend to seek out books that give us the chills. This summer, author Deborah Royce, of Riverside, CT, serves up just such a juicy read with her new thriller, Ruby Falls. While it may be a nail-biter, fans of Royce’s previous suspense, Finding Mrs. Ford, don’t have to suffer a moment’s suspense about whether Ruby Falls will be equally engrossing: It’s already been named one of the most riveting books of Spring 2021 by Veranda magazine, while Kirkus Reviews hails Royce’s prose as “taut and propulsive.”
The novel begins with a harrowing scenario: A 6-year-old girl is abandoned by her father during a cave tour. “They’ve turned the lights off… and when the lights come back on, he is gone,” Royce explains. The story then picks up 20 years later; the little girl is now a young actress who’s just been written out of a soap opera. “She high-tails it to Europe, and meets a glamorous stranger named Orlando Montague, and mar- ries him on the spot,” Royce shares. But whether Orlando is who he claims to be remains to be seen, as the novel’s twisting plot unfolds.
“I’m very interested in the concept of identity and who people are specifically—what they reveal and what they conceal,” says Royce, 62. It’s a fascination that dovetails nicely with her previous life as an actress: in the 1980s and early 1990s, she appeared in various movies and television shows. Her credits include All My Children, in which she played the role of Silver, sister to Susan Lucci’s infamous character Erica Kane.
A move to Paris with her first husband and their two children in the mid-’90s prompted Royce to make a career pivot. She landed a position as a story reader for a French film company, and later, after returning stateside, became a story editor for Miramax. “I kind of honed my writing ability in that way,” she observes. “It was the bridge from acting to eventually writing.”
Yet Royce’s activities go beyond authorship. She and second husband Chuck Royce have acquired and renovated a series of hotels for the past 15 years, including the Weekapaug Inn in Watch Hill, RI, and Ocean House Hotel in Watch Hill, RI, where they own a home. They’ve also remade the Deer Mountain Inn, an Adirondack-style lodge nes- tled in New York’s mountainous Catskills region.
Closer to home, she and Chuck restored the historic Avon Cinema in Stamford, CT. Through these efforts, she struck up a friendship with the late actor Gene Wilder. “We had an email correspondence, and he said to me one day, ‘Are you a writer? I think you’re a writer,’” Royce remembers. “So I sent him a screenplay, and his response was very encouraging. Every time I talked to him after that, he would say, ‘Are you writing? I hope you’re writing.’” It was his encouragement, Royce says, that, in part, awakened her inner novelist.
Speaking of screenplays, Ruby Falls has been optioned by a film producer, so there’s a chance it will eventually become a movie. “It’s kind of an early-stage option, what they call a ‘shopping option,’ where this person has the right to shop it around to studios,” Royce says humbly. “But anyway, that’s all good.