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Ruth Kaufman: Writing What You Know
Monday, February 12th, 2018

Hello, everyone! Thank you for stopping by. And Delilah, thank you for having me as a guest.

They say, “Write what you know.” I didn’t for my first four novels and a Kindle World novella, which are medieval. But I really enjoyed extensive research on topics as diverse as the last battle of the Hundred Years War (my first book), stained-glass painting (second book) and tournaments (third book) so I could include appropriate descriptions of actual events and daily life.

I decided to take that advice for my fifth novel MY LIFE AS AN EXTRA (humorous women’s fiction). Why? I’ve accumulated quite a bit of knowledge about the film industry while working as an extra on more than 80 films and TV shows.

My first was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (parade scene, you can’t see me), and one of my last was the ABC TV show Betrayal (as a juror, you can see me). I’m pursuing principal roles now, and you usually can’t audition for speaking roles on a film/show if you’ve been an extra on it.

I set the book in Chicago, where I live and the vast majority of projects I’ve worked on have filmed. And, since I’m over 40, I decided the heroine should be, too. I did my best to incorporate accurate details, but even in a city I know well, things change, such as beer prices at Cubs games.

A challenge was figuring out how much to incorporate that’s actually true, how much to base on truth and how much to create from scratch. Only my hairdresser knows for sure what the final blend is. Another challenge was finding the balance between making a day on set seem believable and real vs. overloading the reader with information. Finally, though I’ve been in scenes with and worked with many famous directors and stars, since it’s a novel and not a memoir, I wanted to be careful about how many I mention and for what purpose. Bonuses included not having to look up many words to see if they were in use at the time and not needing to double check historical details.

The sequel, coming later in 2018, is MY LIFE AS A STAR (romantic comedy). I had to do some research, because that hasn’t happened…yet?

MLaaE and MLaaS are about pursing your dreams because someday is now. What have you been wanting to do that you’ve put off, and how can you make room in your life for it?


After an unexpected divorce, Marla Goldberg yearns to believe “someday is now” and pursue her dream of being an actress in Chicago. But how can she quit her frustrating radio station account executive job when she’s only booking work as an extra?

When she dips her toes into the daunting dating pool, her first “date” wants to meet in a pet store parking lot. Other forays yield equally unfortunate results that make her friends laugh out loud. As she seeks a talent agent and speaking roles, it’s one step forward, one step back. When told to eat a muffin at a commercial audition, her mouth is so dry she can’t spit it out in time to say her line.

Dealing with overachiever siblings, judgmental parents and longing to make her dreams come true, she struggles to learn the hardest lesson of all: how to feel special when you’re not the star.

Brief excerpt from the middle of Chapter 1 when Marla is on a film set as an extra…

After another rehearsal, my hand and feet warmers have already failed and are bean bags weighing down my mittens and crowding my boots. How much more freezing can I take?

Adam Markham gets off his high canvas chair with the movie logo embroidered on the back in bright yellow and his name on the front and comes over to us.

My surprise is real, because usually the director talks to the assistant directors, or ADs, not extras. The second AD, or sometimes the first, passes on what we’re supposed to do. Almost everyone wears earphones and microphones, so you don’t always know who’s telling what to whom.

His furry hood covers most of his narrow face, but I glimpse light blue eyes as he looks at me.

My heart starts to race. A famous, award-winning director has noticed me. Will he pluck me from obscurity? Will I be upgraded to a slightly better role and higher pay, or will he even give me a line, a boon bestowed on rare occasion?

“I don’t like the way her scarf is blowing.” The director walks down the row of extras and borrows a dark green, fringed wool one from some guy. For a second the guy’s face perks up. I know he thinks he’s going to be moved to a better place in the shot, my place, but Adam, if I may be so bold, just wants his scarf. I put it on and a wardrobe person safety pins it to my coat.

“Rolling….” a voice calls.

“Rolling!” several people echo.

“Picture’s up.”

“Background action!”

Leaning over the wind machines as the train rolls by, I and the others brave icy blasts. My hair and the borrowed scarf blow straight up. The cold has pierced my coat and layers, so I’m shivering harder. I know my nose is bright red. The woman beside me jumps up and down.

We endure a few more takes.

Adam comes toward me again. My heart starts pounding again. Why an intelligent person such as myself gets nervous because a famous movie director approaches is beyond me, but I can’t seem to help it. I hope I’ll get to do something good and fear I did something wrong at the same time.

“Will you step out of the shot, please?” he asks.

Buy Links:
Amazon- Available in print, e-book and in Kindle Unlimited:

Audio book (Ruth voiced the female characters and hired a colleague to voice the males)-

About Ruth

Ruth Kaufman is the author five novels including MY LIFE AS AN EXTRA (humorous women’s fiction) and the Wars of the Roses Brides trilogy (medievals), AT HIS COMMAND, FOLLOW YOUR HEART and THE BRIDE TOURNAMENT. Accolades include winner of 2016 Booksellers’ Best Historical and Best First Book and Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® awards.

An actor and speaker with an M.S. and J.D, Ruth has had roles in independent feature films, web series, pilots, national TV commercials and hundreds of voiceover projects. She enjoys chocolate peanut butter milkshakes and singing in a symphony chorus.

Learn more or join Ruth online at:
Acting website:
Twitter: @RuthKaufman
Facebook: Ruth Kaufman Author & Actor
Amazon Author Page:

One comment to “Ruth Kaufman: Writing What You Know”

  1. Morgan Mandel
    · February 12th, 2018 at 12:12 pm · Link

    Maybe by the time that star book comes out, you’ll know more about being a star!

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