The characters offer surprises in second novel from 'All My Children' actress-turned-author from Greenwich

GREENWICH — Deborah Goodrich Royce has always been intrigued by people who are not necessarily what they seem.

Daytime drama fans will remember her as the actress who convincingly played Erica Kane’s mysterious sister Silver on “All My Children.”

And now book lovers can help solve the “puzzle of identity” in her second novel, “Ruby Falls,” a twisty, quickly paced story set to hit bookstores on Tuesday.

“I play with a lot of Gothic themes in my books,” Royce said recently while relaxing in her Riverside home. “Sometimes it changes as you’re writing. The characters surprise you.”

“Ruby Falls” centers on Eleanor, a young actress with a past, her dashing new husband and her sinking feeling that his secrets may eclipse her own. A literary thriller in the tradition of Daphne du Maurier, the new book provides “just the right amount of eerie,” according to New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown.

“’Ruby Falls’ is what a reader wants a psychological thriller to be,” Brown wrote.

Early reviews laud Royce’s skillful plotting, and the author from Greenwich says she’s come to see her own life as a series of chapters, some of which have overlapped.

Raised in the Detroit area, she earned a bachelor’s degree in modern foreign languages at Lake Erie College before appearing as a dancer in “Those Lips, Those Eyes,” a 1980 film starring Frank Langella and Tom Hulce. Soon after, she packed a couple of suitcases and headed to New York City to break into Broadway.

“Ah, youth!” Royce laughed of that time in her liefe.

Author event

Royce will discuss the book and its beginnings in a live author talk and signing at Dogwood Books at Christ Church in Greenwich at 6 p.m. May 6.

She will also take part in a virtual author talk at 6 p.m. May 19 with the Greenwich Library, hosted by Laura Matthews, Cos Cob Library Branch Manager. To register, visit www.greenwichlibrary.org/.

Details of the appearance and other live and online author events are listed on her website at deborahgoodrichroyce.com.

She “got close” to several plum roles and, with the help of an agent, spent a decade performing in commercials and on “All My Children,” as well as in films such as “April Fool’s Day” and “Remote Control and TV’s “St. Elsewhere,” “Beverly Hills 90210” and “21 Jump Street.”

“I had a good run with acting,” she said.

A mother of two daughters, Royce moved to Los Angeles, then Paris, where she read manuscripts for a French film studio, before moving back to New York, where she was hired as a story editor for the film company Miramax.

All along the way, she was dabbling in writing, joining writing groups and producing short stories and a screenplay.

Once her younger child was grown and left the house, she made a promise to herself.

“I said, ‘I’m going to tell people I’m writing a novel,” Royce said.

The not-so-secret pact helped spur her on and led to her first novel, “Finding Mrs. Ford,” which she started in earnest in 2014. The plot centers on a young woman who heads East after growing up in Detroit — and finds her past has caught up to her.

The initial plot to “Ruby Falls” came to Royce as she was putting the finishing touches on “Finding Mrs. Ford.” Sensing a full novel in the making, she immediately sat down and typed out the first two pivotal chapters.

Though she has a home office, Royce said she prefers to write in the sun-dappled conservatory at one end of the home she has shared with her husband, investment pioneer Chuck Royce, since they married in 2002. In a life chapter the two share, they co-own Stamford’s Avon Theatre Film Center, one of the few local cinemas that has managed to stay open during most of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Strict adherence to safety protocol has allowed small audiences to enjoy the theater’s blend of classic and indie movies that appeal to film buffs.

“It’s one of the most gratifying things I have ever done,” she said of reviving the Stamford gem that first opened in 1939.

Now working on a third novel, Royce said she’s also pleased to have found personal and professional success with her writing career, something she wishes she could have shared with her late father. “Ruby Falls” begins with a young girl’s trip to a scary Tennessee cave with her father, a fateful journey that becomes a pivotal part of the story.

Last November, the author was rummaging through some boxes in a storage unit she rents, when she spied a photo of her and her father on their own trip to the underground waterfalls near Chattanooga. Royce took it as a positive sign.

“I thought it was a little wink from the universe,” she said.

Royce will discuss the book and its beginnings in a live author talk and signing at Dogwood Books at Christ Church in Greenwich at 6 p.m. May 6. Details of the appearance and other live and online author events are available on her website at deborahgoodrichroyce.com.