Q&A with seaside volleyball guide Burning Sand writer R.J. Ruggiero


BURNING SAND is the debut novel from R.J. Ruggiero, a screenwriter and playwright dwelling close to Boston.

It’s uncommon to have a novel about seaside volleyball, however Ruggiero does a pleasant job of drawing in readers with sturdy character growth, various ranges of suspense, and championship-level intrigue all whereas laying out particulars of seaside volleyball play for novices and consultants alike.

From the liner notes: From the dimly-lit alleyways of Boston’s North Finish to the sun-drenched seashores of Southern California, BURNING SAND is the action-packed journey of a person who discovers who he’s, solely after forgetting who he thought he was.

The interaction between Michael Delaney studying to embrace his life as Quinton Squid whereas combatting unknown demons from his personal and Quinton’s previous, saved our VBM readers on the hook from starting to finish. As Michael seeks clues to his true identification, he and the reader are taken alongside on a journey that features nice pals, mortal foes, and loads of time within the sand.

VolleyballMag.com visited with Ruggiero.

VBM: What was the inspiration for penning this guide? 

Twofold. My brother’s sudden and all-consuming curiosity in volleyball, and a transformational story I had began writing. The story explored going from the darkish to the sunshine, nature vs. nurture, and to what extent every influences who we’re and who we turn out to be.

My brother and I had been athletes our entire lives, rising up in an athletic household, my mom having performed basketball and my father soccer. Like many athletes, taking part in sports activities and physicality was not as a lot a aware determination as a pure manifestation of who we have been and what we liked to do. It was our best pleasure – like so many people, we linked to sports activities on a deeply non secular degree. I performed most sports activities and studied martial arts, however there have been no volleyball groups at our faculty. For me, volleyball was an athletic delicacy the fitness center trainer introduced out yearly, like a dessert cart at a flowery restaurant. And I liked it. 

A 12 months later, my brother turned obsessive about volleyball when he went to a special highschool with a group. It was not a passing fancy, he was severe about it. He pursued his dream and went on to turn out to be an out of doors hitter in faculty volleyball, then performed professional seaside.

Seaside volleyball affected him on a primal degree. He at all times mentioned ‘Seaside Volleyball is God’s sport – you’re linked to the earth, your toes are within the sand, the ocean is by your facet and the solar above is shining down on you, feeding you. It’s a mix of explosive energy and unimaginable finesse, these athletes use their physique like a paintbrush, the courtroom their canvas.’ 

His connection to the game was deeply non secular, firmly rooted, and persevering with to flourish. I wished to attach with him about it and perceive what had so utterly captured him, so I started to voraciously study in regards to the sport, imbibing all I might. I then realized that this was the sunshine I had been searching for to stability the darkish within the story I used to be writing. The character wanted to go from the darkish to the sunshine, and to me, seaside volleyball represented the sunshine in a myriad of how. I’ve at all times appreciated the thought of placing human themes in entertaining packages. 

VBM: What was probably the most tough a part of writing Burning Sand?

Having historically been a author of dialogue for many of my profession, one of many greatest challenges was capturing the power of the sport in a novel. I believed it was crucial to reflect the sport, and to construction each the story and the volleyball scenes in a extremely kinetic manner. It doesn’t cease, it simply retains transferring. 

As any athlete is aware of, preparation is paramount. And as in all walks of life – know your topic. It was crucial to be credible to the reader, so thorough analysis was key. I’d watch and browse all the things I might get my palms on. I acquired stacks of out-of-print volleyball books from the library. I particularly loved the tales Gene Selznick wrote about his experiences with the Olympic group and Olympic Video games. I additionally devoured numerous copies of Volleyball Journal and different periodicals from the Nineties. 

I feel the largest problem was to write down a guide for individuals who already knew and liked volleyball, in addition to those that didn’t know something about it. It was important that the seasoned volleyball participant might take pleasure in it and never be tired of ‘directions,’ however that it even be a novel that novices might learn, perceive, and be drawn into the game by. We convey the reader into it by way of Quinton Squid. Virtually childlike after dropping his reminiscence, he’s ostensibly a new child – as he learns about volleyball, so does the reader. To take action in such a manner that didn’t intrude with the broader story was of paramount significance to me. 

VBM: How did you resolve on the title Burning Sand?

The working title was initially Quinton Squid, however I felt it was too particular to the title character solely, and didn’t actually exposit among the broader components of the story. 

Burning Sand works on a number of ranges. Actually, the sand actually does get that sizzling and you need to play on it for hours at a time. Extra symbolically, the hybrid character of Michael/Quinton is definitely conceived in hearth, exists in a state of lava-like flux in his inside life, and is making an attempt to adapt all through the story to the shifting sands of his life’s previous, current, and future circumstances. These are sometimes fluid and generally painful. 

As one character says to Quinton, “Fireplace definitely has taken lots from you.”  In a way, he’s just like the Phoenix rising from the ashes. As his outdated life actually burns away, a brand new life and new journey can start. So hearth may be damaging however can be transformative, and on this case finally artistic.

VBM: Michael’s transformation into Quinton is expansive. What steps led you there? 

In creating the character of Michael Delaney I wished to discover the thought of discovering oneself in a state of affairs not of 1’s personal making (on this case a benevolent youngster being adopted into, and having to come back of age in, the Mob), and the steps they take to try to defend their integrity, whereas doing the minimal required by the state of affairs to outlive. 

When he tries to flee, his outdated self is bodily destroyed, and he’s thrown into the lifetime of Quinton Squid. 

At first look, we see that Quinton was not individual, however as Michael learns extra in regards to the lifetime of this man he now believes himself to be, it turns into clear that the unique Quinton’s personal journey is what had introduced him to that degree of absolute callousness & cynicism. 

I used to be intrigued by the thought of an individual making an attempt to piece collectively a brand new identification from the ashes of two males, Michael and Quinton, and within the course of discovering out who he actually is. 

In having a clean slate he may be one thing extra actual, not simply his culturally created self. And in doing so, he turns into a catalyst for progress for the individuals round him. Repairing the harm that his former self had performed. Creating a brand new hybrid self with which he can stay.

VBM: What was the inspiration for Holly O’Connor?

It was important to have a robust feminine lead character who was additionally a high seaside volleyball participant, with the intention to stability out the power of each the unique (after which hybrid) Quinton’s character, each on and off the courtroom. 

Holly O’Connor is a badass, and she or he is launched to us as such. We additionally see that honesty and loyalty are her touchstones, alongside together with her energy. She will not be impressed by Quinton’s profession or his seems, as she has her personal mental and bodily energy. She is an emotional grownup with no guile, a complete individual on her personal. She’s not missing in any manner. If he by no means got here alongside, she could be high quality. They discover a true partnership in one another not primarily based on want or lack.  

VBM: What’s subsequent?

I’d love to write down a sequel. Maybe Holly & Quinton have a daughter, who grows as much as be a high seaside professional. Possibly she moonlights in worldwide intrigue whereas on tour. Possibly Gina is her ‘Godmother’? Who is aware of – the sky’s the restrict!  

I’d additionally like to see this guide made right into a film and am engaged on issues in that regard.  

Burning Sand can be out there as a Free E book giveaway for 2 days solely on Amazon Kindle on 09/29/23 & 09/30/23, and for buy at Amazon (and Barnes & Noble) thereafter. Or test it out anytime on Kindle Limitless.



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