by Jessica Rudd


Ex-campaign worker and lawyer Jessica Rudd tells the story of her book Campaign Ruby.


Ruby Stanhope is the first imaginary friend I’ve had since preschool and by far the most real. I knew her well before I knew I wanted to write Campaign Ruby.


She came to life in March last year and has been there ever since. Ruby is present for me in voice and spirit—almost the perfect best friend, but without the hugs.

At the beginning of last year, when my husband was transferred with work from London to Beijing, I had no idea where my career would take me next. I had been working in PR, but with Mandarin confined to the topics of pets and weather my Chinese clientele would have been limited. With my newest career crisis in mind, I went window-shopping with Mum on London’s New Bond Street. ‘Mum, what the hell am I going to do with myself when we get to Beijing?’ I remember asking her as we perved at a pair of shoes. ‘Just write something,’ she replied.


So I did. We found an apartment in downtown Beijing, unpacked our boxes and got to work in our new city. I found a cafe with WiFi and city views in which to write. At first I struggled and got bogged down with the idea of designing a synopsis. I knew broadly where Ruby was headed—a young unemployed Englishwoman on the campaign trail—but I didn’t know exactly where she might end up.


When I relaxed I realised that writing Ruby is like reading a choose your own adventure. Ruby sits on my shoulder and tells me what happens next. She’s like a GPS, but more inclusive. Her dialogue flows from my fingertips because I can hear her speak—accent and all. That’s why I’m reluctant to do readings. I worry about losing her Englishness in my ockerness.


The political narrative of Campaign Ruby was secondary to its protagonist’s. ‘If you’re going to write your first book, Jess, you must write what you know,’ advised an author friend of mine. I know politics. I’ve grown up with it. When I was little our scrap paper came from the Queensland Premier’s Office—we finger-painted on discontinued official letterhead. So, I decided to use Ruby’s voice to share some of the buzz of political campaigning. I remember thinking to myself, ‘hmmm, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a snap election brought on by the untimely ousting of a sitting prime minister by his female treasurer?’ The answer should have been, ‘no, not cool at all’, but in June last year it was a resounding, ‘yes’. At the time I thought the political scenario was original and innovative. Clearly not.


But despite its plot and subsequent plotting, Campaign Ruby is still a story about Ruby. She is clumsy, lovable, capable and adaptable. Her head is wise and her heart impulsive. She muddles through her first campaign with panache, pluck and a flair for federal politics. Her escapades continue to delight me.


I want my readers to enjoy reading Ruby as much as I’ve enjoyed writing her.