I write under the pseudonym Tori L. Ridgewood.
I’m 38 years old and forever young at heart.
Although I currently live in Northeastern Ontario, Canada, I was born in Barrie, Ontario and in my youth, I lived in various towns and cities throughout the province.
I have an Honours Bachelor of Arts, my B.Ed., and my Honours Specialist qualifications in Drama and History. I’ve been teaching since I graduated Teachers’ College in 2001. My husband and I were married in 1997, and we have two children, Jack (almost 15 years old) and Bridget (just turned 10). We have an old dog, Skittles, and a young bearded dragon, Elizabeth. Our house is small, crowded, often cluttered with creative filing and art projects on the go, but we couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I recently completed a self-imposed challenge to write a blog post a day for 365 days, which ended up being more difficult than I’d thought! I did a tally on the last day and discovered that I’d come up with 44 poems, 2 songs (lyrics only), 25 flash fiction pieces, 89 reflections on everything from what causes me stress and triggers bouts of depression to funny things about my kids, parenting conundrums and discoveries about teaching, and even observations of the weather in my part of the world. I did 6 posts on dreams, wrote about my pets 10 times, my kids 42 times, being sick 16 times, and teaching came up 57 times, plus 17 posts included knitting as a topic, 62 had discussions on pop culture, 10 were book reviews, and I wrote about writing 71 times. I learned a lot in the experience, about patterns in my own life, how to write when you don’t feel like it, what happens when you write too much, and about my own needs for balance and harmony.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
My mother has a copy of a short story I submitted to a local newspaper when I was five or six years old, in which I was summoned by Santa Claus to help one of his reindeer deliver a baby. I was always starting stories when I was young, and by the time I was 12 I knew I wanted to publish a book because I had so many ideas all the time. I loved grossing out my friends and classmates with horror tales and scary stories, and I enjoyed romantic plots and characters so much that I wanted to create my own. But it wasn’t until well after I’d had my second child that I was able to compose a story from exposition to denoument for the first time. That was the novella Mist and Midnight, the prequel to the Talbot Trilogy. The first book of the trilogy, Wind and Shadow, was in progress but stalled out, so I wrote the prequel to find answers to questions that had come up in W&S. Once I had that done, it helped me see that I could get past the initial plot idea and character developments, that I could get through the humps of plot twists and unknown directions to finish what I had started.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In all honesty, I sometimes still question whether I am a writer at all. But I think it was receiving my copy of that first work in the anthology Midnight Thirsts, seeing my words printed on the pages — it became easier in that moment to say, “Yes, I am a writer.”
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
After my husband and I had first moved up to Kirkland Lake for my job, I kept thinking about a nearby town called Cobalt that had had a road cave in about twenty years earlier. The sinkhole was the result of deteriorating silver mines under and around the community. I wondered, what if something else was really the cause? What if a supernatural creature had been trapped underground and found a way out? From there, it was an easy leap to vampires. I’m a fan of Stephen King, Anne Rice, Stephenie Meyers, and vampire films such as The Lost Boys, John Carpenter’s Vampires, Dracula, etc., so I wanted something that would be an homage or a love letter to my favourite horror fictions. I like the structure of Nora Roberts’ supernatural trilogies, and I’m also a witch and a Wiccan, with an affinity for movies and books about magick, such as Practical Magic and The Craft. I had always heard that you should write about what you know and what you love, so I figured the best approach to my first book was to combine all of these things. In the process, I also realized that as much as I adore the Twilight Saga, there are parts of it that I criticise as a feminist, so the Talbot Trilogy became a sort of answer or alternative to Meyers’ vampires and werewolves.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
That’s a good question. I’m always playing with style, trying first person and then third person, struggling against over-use of semi-colons (how I love them!) and dashes. I tend to favour descriptions leading into action, wanting to visually set up the scene for my readers before the juicy bits start, but even in the settings are key pieces of character background or situation that move the plot along. I also enjoy using parenthesis to insert thoughts and non-sequitor observations or connections, something I picked up from Stephen King at some point.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
With the Talbot Trilogy, I didn’t want to use the actual name of the inspiring town because I needed a little more creative license to move the landscape or identifying buildings. I thought a three-word title had balance and rhythm, so the novella became Mist and Midnight by virtue of the fact that two key scenes take place in the foggy nights of October. The first novel of the trilogy, Wind and Shadow, was titled with key moments in mind also. Also, I’d borrowed the idea of a formula from a writer friend, that you look for the first words on chapter pages and look for common threads, and when these words stood out, they made sense when I considered how the protagonists were affected by the wind of October and the darkness of that time of year. When it came to naming the second and third books, Blood and Fire and Crystal and Wand, I started making charts to match up elements and magickal objects, trying to find balances in the titles that would have the series align with the four directions of the supernatural compass. I asked opinions, too, before making the final decisions. It was tough!
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Much of the Talbot Trilogy is about loyalty, truth, and determination. The protagonists wrestle with their understandings of reality, have to open their minds to see what’s going on and search for solutions. Friends and lovers don’t give up on each other, fighting to the bitter end for a positive resolution.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
From my experience as a witch and a Wiccan, the spellcraft is realistic in depiction, from the rituals and amulets and potions I researched, to the physical sensations and experiences of casting and invoking. Sadly, the physical elements such as telekinesis and pyrokinesis are only the stuff of imagination. I would love to say that levitation and other psychic abilities are in my realm of expertise, or exist outside of MK2 Ultra projects, but . . . I want to believe!
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There are friendships modeled on individuals with whom I’ve been friends for decades, and a hero is based on my husband to the point that when I questioned what the character would say in a given situation, I simply thought about how my man would react, and usually it fit. I also like compiling my characters from other fictional people I enjoy, like Charlotte on Sex and the City and Bo on Lost Girl.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
It’s a long list. The first long books I remember reading were the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the first chapter book for adults that I read was The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. I liked the instructiveness and straightforward tale-telling by Wilder, and the imagination of McKinley. From there it was a mix of young adult novels, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, and horror. Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot left me sleeping with the light on for a week when I was an adolescent. Every good book made me want to be a writer like that author.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m in between novels. There are several stacked on my nightstand, waiting for me to choose. Last week, I was a chapter into a non-fiction book about the 10 Commandments of Witchcraft. Tonight, I’m looking at Mysti Parker’s novel about the Civil War, A Time for Everything.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I have a concept for a novel, or a collection of fictional documents following a narrative (something between World War Z and The Red Violin), about a haunted, creepy dollhouse constructed from used coffin wood. My son tells me that my current plot outline is too busy, though, so I am reconsidering my approach before I dive in.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
At the moment, teaching is my career. I do a lot of creative writing within that, when I develop an original play for drama students, write youth fiction for struggling readers, or try to find ways to teach the elements of fiction in an English class. Any career must be a full-time endeavour, and I’ve learned in doing both teaching and writing that the latter is no exception: putting aside time for composition, an author also has to be ready to spend hours and days in promotion, connecting with media and reviewers and other writers, as well as communicating with publishers and editors. It’s very easy to burn out very quickly because writing can turn into a second full-time job with all of that added on, and it must be done because if nobody knows your work is out there, it won’t get enjoyed!
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
In the Talbot Trilogy final novel, Crystal and Wand, I struggled over whether to let certain Big Bads bite the proverbial dust or to let them be redeemed, who to allow to survive (and was surprised when some refused to be consigned to the bone yard!). There were some cuts made to a character’s back story, and now and then I wish I’d left them in. But ultimately, the concluding book makes me happy. I’m very satisfied with it.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I try to map out what’s going to happen, giving myself a road to follow, and to my intense frustration, the characters take over and go off-roading when I least expect it. Knowing this, I’ll try writing by the seat of my pants, to see where the story takes me, and that leaves me stalled out. For example, with my creepy haunted dollhouse work, I can’t decide whether the opening of the narrative will be first-person accounting or second, present-tense or past, or any of those details. It’s really very frustrating.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My covers were designed by the amazing in-house artist and designer at Melange Books, Caroline Andrus.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Finding the time to follow and resolove plot twists, and finish conversations. I did a lot of the writing in the middle of the night after my kidlings were in bed, and much was completed during National Novel Writing Month stints of the last few years. I had to do it when I was least likely to be interrupted, but I fear I can’t pull late-night writing binges as much anymore.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned the importance of the phrase, “Don’t give up!” It’s completely true. And to write what I personally enjoy, because if I stop to worry about whether readers will like it, I become paralyzed. If I like it, or love it, someone else out there will too.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh over great irony, oddball moments, novelties and the strange and unusual. I enjoy snarky comments and sarcastic captions, memes and over-the-top comedies. I cry over poignant moments and situations, characters in books and film who feel lost, alone, or out of place, and reunions caught on film.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
I took up knitting a year or two ago and am now thoroughly addicted. I also enjoy cross-stitching, quilting when I have a clear space on the dining table in order to lay out the fabric pieces, and making costumes and props for plays and cosplay. I occasionally bake bread, make jewelry, and build miniature furniture.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
In no particular order, here are some of my favourite shows: Lost Girl, Supernatural, How I Met Your Mother, Road to Avonlea, Sherlock, Doctor Who, The Office, Parks and Recreation, Once Upon a Time, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Call the Midwife, Outlander, Orange is the New Black, MASH, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Scrubs
As for movies — if it’s Jane Austen, Marvel, DC, comedy, horror, romantic comedy, I love it and will watch it over and over until I’ve got the lines memorized. “As you wish!”
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I enjoy whatever I don’t have to make for myself, usually. I prefer red, black, and purple, with occasional blue or green for variety. I like showtunes, movie soundtracks, alternative and classic rock, and 80s pop.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would have liked to put more effort into playing the French Horn, instead of letting my skills rust. I have also rediscovered that I enjoy painting. But above all, I would have liked to have been a world traveller for the last few years, maybe as an airline attendant or an itinerant teacher.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My blog is called Romance and Other Dangers, and the url is www.torilridgewood.wordpress.com.
Mist and Midnight:
From the publisher: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/torilridgewood/mistandmidnight.html
Wind and Shadow:
From the publisher: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/torilridgewood/windandshadow.html
Blood and Fire:
From the publisher: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/torilridgewood/bloodandfire.html
Crystal and Wand:
From the publisher: http://www.melange-books.com/authors/torilridgewood/crystalwand.html