Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Interview with paranormal romance author Tori Ridgewood

Today’s guest is paranormal romance author Tori L. Ridgewood who is sharing a little about herself and her new novel Wind and Shadow: Book One of the Talbot Trilogy.

After her first heartbreak, Tori found solace in two things: reading romance novels and listening to an after-dark radio program called Lovers and Other Strangers. Throughout the summer and fall of 1990, the new kid in town found reading fiction and writing her own short stories gave her a much needed creative outlet. Determined to become a published author, Tori amassed stacks of notebooks and boxes of filed-away stories, most only half-finished before another idea would overtake her and demand to be written down. Then, while on parental leave with her second baby, one story formed and refused to be packed away. Between teaching full-time, parenting, and life in general, it would take almost seven years before the first novel in her first trilogy would be completed. In the process, Tori finally found her stride as a writer.

At present, on her off-time, Tori not only enjoys reading, but also listening to an eclectic mix of music as she walks the family dog (Skittles), attempts to turn her thumb green, or makes needlework gifts for her friends and family members. She loves to travel, collect, and make miniature furniture, and a good cup of tea during a thunderstorm or a blizzard. Under it all, she is always intrigued by history, the supernatural, vampire, and shapeshifter mythology, romance, and other dangers.

Tori is currently working on Crystal and Wand: Book Three of The Talbot Trilogy. She lives in Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada with her husband and two children. She is a full-time teacher at a local high school.

Welcome, Tori. Please tell us about your current release.
Wind and Shadow is a paranormal romance about a good witch and a malevolent vampire. Petite and red-headed Rayvin Woods, a photographer by trade, has always been able to do magick but has hidden her abilities from the world, trying to live a normal life. After a series of misadventures, she is forced to return to her hometown in northeastern Ontario, arriving at the same time that the bloodthirsty and evil Malcolm de Sade breaks free of his prison in a collapsed mine under the main street. His plan, after a year of being trapped underground, is to create a trap for another witch he obsesses over, a married artist named Charlotte Fanning Mahonen who is away on her honeymoon when he escapes. De Sade wants to use the people of the town to create his coven in order to capture Charlotte and kill her husband when she returns. Soon, Rayvin finds herself also a target of de Sade’s plans, but at least she is able to fight back. She looks to policeman Grant Michaels for help, though it’s difficult to convince him and to ignore her growing attraction to the tall, dark, and handsome man, her former high school crush.

Wind and Shadow: Book One of the Talbot Trilogyfollows the novella, “Mist and Midnight”, which was published as part of the Midnight Thirsts anthology in 2011 by Melange Books and is now available as a single. The trilogy as a whole is set in the fictional town of Talbot, Ontario, located near the non-fiction body of water called Lake Temiskaming, close to the Ontario-Quebec border. The protagonists of “Mist and Midnight”, Charlotte and Pike Mahonen, appear briefly in Wind and Shadow but will have a stronger presence and role in Book Two: Blood and Fire (due for release in February 2014) and Book Three: Crystal and Wand (due for release in June 2014).

What inspired you to write this book?
Much of Wind and Shadow came from a combination of my movie-buff tendencies, my love for the paranormal, and a place where I lived as an adolescent.

Firstly, part of my impetus for writing this trilogy is as a response to Twilight.  I’m a big fan of the Twilight Saga, both books and films, but at the same time, I can pick it apart and talk about problems I see in it.  So as Wind and Shadow developed, I began to see it as my answer to Stephenie Meyers.  A kind of argument, if you will. I’m also a huge admirer of the film “Practical Magic” and the book on which is was based, written by Alice Hoffman. My witches are rather reflective of Sally and Gillian Owens and their abilities. There’s a terrific Showcase series that I follow as well, called “Lost Girl”, which involves a host of supernatural characters, and a lot of my work in Wind and Shadow and the rest of the trilogy was inspired by that show.

The paranormal has always fascinated me, but I remember a turning point when I first read Stephen King’s vampire horror novel Salem’s Lot, around the time I was 10 or 11 years old. After reading that one and sleeping with the lights on for a few nights, I devoured any vampire fiction or film I could get my hands on, as well as ghost stories, sightings of creatures like the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot, and alien encounters. If I had been better at math, I might have gone into paranormal investigations rather than becoming a teacher! But the fiction had my heart -- books like the original Dracula by Bram Stoker, Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice, and movies such as “John Carpenter’s Vampires”, “The Lost Boys”, “Thirty Days of Night”, “Blade”, “Underworld”, “Daybreakers” -- I can’t get enough of them. In a lot of ways, I feel that Wind and Shadow and the subsequent novels are my homage to my favourite vampire writers.

Finally, the story in Wind and Shadow came about sometime between moving back up to northeastern Ontario with my husband, and the birth of our second child. Coming back to one of the regions I loved as a child, living relatively close to my favourite towns, Haileybury and Cobalt, reminded me of an incident back then when an old abandoned mine under Cobalt had collapsed and left a massive hole in the street, right downtown.  It prompted a thorough investigation and survey of all the abandoned mines threading underneath the town and around it, and for the brief interval between the collapse and the fix, it was a tourist attraction as the world’s largest pothole!  So, twenty-five-odd years after that event, I kept thinking: what if there was more to it than that? What if the collapse wasn’t (just) due to water seepage in an old mine? What if there was some kind of creature down there, like a vampire? If so, how did it get down there? What is the history?  Who was affected by it?  I began writing notes on the idea after my daughter was born, slowly building the story. I’m very happy with how it’s turning out, too.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am working on the third book in the trilogy, Crystal and Wand, as well as wrapping up edits on the second book, Blood and Fire.

In Crystal and Wand, the allies of the Light (Rayvin, Grant, Charlotte, Pike, and a few new characters I introduce in B&F, professional vampire hunters Marcy and Siobhan) are preparing for the final showdown with the vampire coven as it spreads its poison and threatens the entire community of Talbot, and beyond. I would love for the third book to be epic, but at the same time, I worry about disappointing my original vision and my readers. Hopefully, it will be as enjoyable and satisfactory as the first two books have been.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Only very recently, when Wind and Shadow was actually released. I was writing very short stories as soon as I was able to print. My mother has a clipping of a Christmas story I wrote, printed in a local newspaper, when I was in kindergarten. And I contributed stories to school anthologies as a youth and a teen, as well as writing regularly for the community newspaper’s school page while I was in high school. But even while I was getting short stories and my novella published in 2011 and 2012, I didn’t yet consider myself a writer. That may be due to my own issues with anxiety, low self-esteem and depression. Having my first full novel come out was the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had since I was eleven or twelve years old, so I think that has made the difference, but there are still many days when I have to say it aloud in order to believe it. I am a writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am a full-time high school teacher, so I work writing into my vacation time for the most part, as well as intensive writing periods in the fall and the spring (when I’m not doing all the things that a mom does). I joined NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2011, and that made a huge difference in my ability to complete projects relatively quickly.

My work day typically starts around 8:30, when I arrive at the school. (Note: I used to get there at 7:30, about ten years ago when my first child was a toddler and my husband stayed home with him during the day, and worked as a chef in the evenings. As soon as my second child is able to get herself to school, I will likely start my days earlier again.) When I get to the building and have de-snowed (most of the school year is pretty cold and/or wet), I often have a first-period class to get ready immediately. Sometimes this involves last-minute photocopying, but during good weeks, I’ve gotten my lesson plans ready the day before. I’ll check my work email, set up instructions on the board, and often pull up on the projector a few interesting headlines from or another news / media site to share with the students and discuss. My classes run 72 minutes in length. This year, I have two in the morning, and after lunch, one in the afternoon.

During classes, my strategies run the gamut from straight lecture of 20-30 minutes to all-student-centred research or writing, depending on the group of students, the material, and the schedule. In general, though, I explain concepts, go over instructions, engage them in determining the learning goals and success criteria (with the overall objective being the students taking ownership of their learning), and then I circulate to help, give feedback, and keep kids on task.

At lunch, I’m either playing Candycrush or reading while I’m eating. A few lunch hours involve student meetings for extracurricular activities, like Anime Club, the Gay-Straight Alliance, or play rehearsals (I’m supervising this year rather than directing -- a bit of a relief). I do some prep as well, once I’ve had some down time. I find I have to decompress a little during my spare period as well, unless I’m covering someone else’s class or doing hall monitoring. My prep period also helps me to keep up on planning, marking, and phone calls. The days generally pass very quickly.

When I get home, in past years I’ve tended to crash, though my health is improving this year and it’s getting easier to keep going. That’s when I get to my writing, though the most is done after the children are in bed and the house is quiet. I’m a night owl -- I love it when there are no distractions, when the house is cocooned and there is nothing to watch on TV, as it forces me to redirect my focus. I will write until midnight, or later if I don’t have school the next day. However, these intensive periods take their toll. It’s partway through November now, and I know that once NaNoWriMo is over, I will hit a wall. These past 20 days, I’ve averaged about 2,000 words a day in my off-time.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I love my ellipses! To me, that little sequence of periods is like a breath in a piece of music, a pause in the train of thought, an extra space of time in which one considers an idea or slows down to rephrase the words about to be spoken. Some writers and readers supremely dislike them . . . but I find them to be an essential part of conversation, thought, and character-narrative.

I also love including parentheses in my writing, because that’s how I think. I have what I like to call “Squirrel!” moments (thank you, “Up!”), in which I have a side thought that, if it were written, would be in brackets.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
In the summer, when I was trying to declutter my house, I found some journals from when I was thirteen in which I wrote that I wanted to be a published author. But I also wanted to be a professional actor (still do!), a paranormal investigator (still lots of time), and a meteorologist -- I had a childhood fascination with tornadoes, hurricanes, clouds, and weather phenomenon in general.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I’m hoping in the near future, once the Talbot Trilogy is done, to work on an anthology of stories or a few novels that take place in a fictional town based on where I live. I’m interested in doing more erotica, as well as writing completely non-erotic YA novels. With that in mind, I don’t mind sharing that I write under a pseudonym, and will likely adopt a different name for YA fiction, eventually. My nom-de-plume actually helps me to be more creative, and it feels like an alternate expression of my self. For example, at home I am Mom and Mommy; at work I am Mrs., to my parents I am my childhood nickname, and to my husband and various friends I am another variation of that name. My pen-name is simply a different facet of my personality, and I have found that it frees me in a way that writing just as myself hasn’t been able to do.

Thanks so much for having me on Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews!

My pleasure. Thank you for joining my blog!

1 comment:

Kelsey McBride said...

Thanks for posting this great interview! I loved reading it.