Jul 21, 2011

Cantastic Guest Author: Yolanda Ridge

Today's guest is Yolanda Ridge, author of Trouble in the Trees and the forthcoming Road Block.  I have a weird suspicion that Yolanda and I were separated at birth - for starters, we both have BSc's and very nearly did our graduate studies in the same lab.  It's been delightful getting to know her while preparing today's interview.

LEC:  Please describe your typical working day.

YR: I wish I could but there is really no such thing as a typical working day for me!  Sometimes I’m awake at 5:00 in the morning, ideas running through my head, so I get up and write for a few hours before my kids wake up.  When I’m on a deadline, I work at night after they go to bed but it’s a slog – I’m usually pretty brain dead by then!  Mostly I work when my twin boys are in preschool, which was two hours a day, three days a week until summer started… and now it’s nothing at all!  It will be interesting to see what happens when they start full day kindergarten this fall.  I’m looking forward to having more writing time but I’m not sure I’ll be able to use it as productively as I do now… with so little time, I’ve really had to be focused!

LEC: Trouble in the Trees is your first novel. In your experience, what's the biggest challenge for a debut novelist in Canada?

YR: My biggest challenge has been promotion.  I’m not sure this is unique to being a debut author in Canada, with all publishers cutting back on marketing, but it is hard because the book buying population is small.  I feel fortunate that my publisher sells in the United States and does some marketing, but there is still a lot of responsibility left to the author in terms of social media and publicity.  Connecting with people, on the internet or in person, takes a lot of energy and it’s hard to know what is going to be productive.  I have done the lonely book signing….

(if you don’t know what I mean, check out this hilarious video on youtube)

… and I’ve wasted a lot of time on the web.  But I’ve also connected with a lot of supportive readers and writers in cyberspace and done some wonderful author visits.

LEC: That video is one of my favourites - so painfully true!  One thing that must help with promotion is that your book has received very positive reviews, especially for a first novel. Do you think your previous technical writing experience prepared you, or hindered you, in finding your middle grade voice?

YR: I have no doubt that my technical writing experience helped me in terms of organizing and structuring my novel.  It also prepared me for the process of editing and revision.  As for the voice, I really have no idea where that came from.  I may have been channeling my 11-year-old self (some of my family thinks the voice is mine) or stealing from the young friend who gave me the premise for Trouble in the Trees.  But I don’t think the voice is really true to anyone but Bree, my main character.  It wasn’t until I tried writing middle grade that I had a character come to life for me the way Bree did.  Her voice was so loud and clear in my head that I felt like I had no control over it at all.    

LEC: I love it when that happens! The theme of the novel is doing what you love, even if people tell you not to. Does this central idea come from the relatively unusual path you've taken towards becoming a children's writer?

YR: Good question!  I wish I could say yes… but really, I had no idea how much I would love writing fiction for children until I tried it.  And to be honest, I probably never would have pursued it if I’d known how hard it was going to be (that’s one big difference between me and Bree!).  It was a path I started following (blindly at first) as a stay at home mom who spent a lot of time at the library reading books to my boys.  I’d always dreamed about being a travel writer (and a chef, and a mail delivery person…) but as I started reading children’s literature and revisiting the books of my youth, I was flooded with ideas that I couldn’t ignore.  By the time I realized how bumpy the path to publication was going to be (when I first started collecting rejection letters for my picture book manuscripts) I was already hooked… so I guess at that point I did decide that I had to keep doing what I loved, even if I wasn’t getting the feedback I wanted.  Okay, so maybe the answer to your question is yes, even though I never thought of it like that before – thanks for asking!

LEC: Describe your best moment as a writer - a memory or experience that keeps you going on days you feel like giving it all up.

YR: My best moment was definitely the day Sarah Harvey, my editor at Orca, called to say that they were going to publish Trouble in the Trees.  Since then, there have been many great experiences (holding my book for the first time, seeing my picture in the paper, doing a joint book launch with authors that I’ve admired for a long time…) but none of them keep me going on the days that I feel like giving up.  What really keeps me going is how miserable I feel when I’m not writing.  It’s like I have all this creative energy that weighs me down if I’m not doing something with it.

LEC: What question have you always wanted to be asked about your work, but no one ever has? What is the answer?

YR: If you could pick any setting for a book, what would it be?  A sailboat, because I’d like to spend a year sailing around the world with my family doing research.  Writing books set in Canada is important to me (Trouble in the Trees takes place in Vancouver and in the follow up book, Road Block, Bree travels to Ontario) but I’d also like to learn about other cultures and places and know them well enough to write about them authentically.

LEC: Sounds like fun.  Thanks, Yolanda!

YR: Thank you for Cantastic Authorpalooza!  I've enjoyed reading your interviews with the other authors and it's been fun answering your questions.


To learn more about Yolanda and her books, check out her website.  And don't forget to comment - Orca has generously donated a copy of Trouble in the Trees for this week's giveaway!


  1. Great interview! I was also a technical writer before writing for children--small world! Thanks for the peek into the published writer life!

  2. Love this interview!! It has given me insights into how an author's journey into publishing can vary AND how one must continue to listen to the heart (even when receiving rejection letters!). Yolanda, I appreciate the honesty of your answers. It truly inspires me to seriously consider writing the book that I'm pretty sure is inside me waiting to be expressed. I look forward to your next novel!!

  3. Enjoyed the interview! Congratulations, Yolanda, on writing a wonderful debut! Looking forward to the next book!

  4. Hi, Yolanda! Good to see your interview here! I look forward to reading your book.

    I love that you want to know a place well enough to be able to write about it authentically. It says a lot about your character.

    Thanks for the interview, and for the giveaway!

  5. What a wonderful interview, one thing Yolanda fails to reveal is that she has been writing all her life. From the public school books she wrote for her school library to the poetry that represented her high school views of the world, Yolanda has always put pen to paper. I am so proud of you Yolanda, never stop believing in the power of your ability. Love Mom and John

  6. Great interview! I resonate strongly with "What really keeps me going is how miserable I feel when I’m not writing. It’s like I have all this creative energy that weighs me down if I’m not doing something with it." I know that feeling, but I don't think I've been able to articulate it until now. Thanks Yolanda!

  7. Good interview. Great book.
    Waiting for the next one.....

  8. Great interview! Reading about an author's journey is fascinating. Can't wait to read both books.

  9. Great interview! And...I am really looking forward to reading Bree's next story. Ontario here she comes!


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