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Saturday, 25 January 2014

Interview with Tori L. Ridgewood, author of Wind and Shadow

Displaying W&S cover image.jpg
Wind and Shadow (Talbot Trilogy #1)
Behind 230 Pages
Released: June 2013
Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Melange Books
Buy Me: Amazon
At the Other End:
After a series of misadventures including being accused of attempted murder in high school, Rayvin Woods, a photographer and natural witch, left her hometown of Talbot in Northeastern Ontario, hoping to start her life over and never return. Ten years later, circumstances force her back to face her past and her former crush Grant Michaels.
 
Malcolm de Sade, a cunning vampire, escapes from an underground prison looking for vengeance. His accidental release unleashes his hunger and ambition on a small, sleepy town. Rayvin’s power is all that stands between de Sade and his domination of Talbot, and beyond.
 
Grant Michaels, a police officer, thought Rayvin was a murderer. He will do whatever it takes to protect the community he loves from danger... but will he learn to trust his heart, and the word of a witch, before it's too late?

Rayvin didn't count on rekindling a lost love or battling a malevolent vampire and his coven for her life when she came home to Talbot. Facing the past can be a nightmare… It’s worse when a vampire is stalking you.

Shhh... Take a Sneak Peek
Rayvin’s teeth were grinding together. The pretty little waitress, her head cocked while she smacked her gum and smiled saucily, didn’t know with whom she was dealing. Rayvin’s hand itched to wipe those too-red lips off her freckly face; her magick boiled inside her, making the room spin slightly with its intensity. Maybe the little bitch wanted those braces to be permanently glued to her teeth? Or every freckle to spontaneously morph into ugly, enormous, oozing pimples?
Rayvin had had enough of being nice. She had held her tongue while Asshole Wilson had made his insinuations, in front of everyone. She had been good, waiting with utmost patience while Grant Michaels, of all people, had risen somewhat to her defense. He had impressed her, just when she didn’t want to feel or be impressed, which put her in even more of a bad mood. Everyone kept assuming they knew everything, just like this dumb bitch behind the counter, who had smiled blandly when Rayvin had tried explaining her relationship to Andrea.
“Sorry, I don’t know you, I wasn’t on shift last night.” She snapped her gum. That particular habit had always driven Rayvin crazy. “I could lose my job if I let you have the necklace.”
“Is the assistant manager here?”
Snap. Chew. “Nope. Sorry. She’s busy.”
“Look, maybe I haven’t made myself clear—” Rayvin checked her name tag. “Susan.”
“Suzie.” She smiled brightly, flipping a long brown pigtail over her shoulder and thrusting her shirt forward.
“Whatever. You don’t seem to understand—”
“Hey, there, Suzie-Q!” Michaels eased his way between Rayvin and the counter. Inwardly, she seethed at his interference and at herself for feeling relieved. She had already fought this battle with herself; she did not need his help. So why was her breast still tingling where his chest had brushed against it while moving her aside?
As he smoothly explained the situation, again, Rayvin crossed her arms and scowled at the patrons watching with interest. Once more, she was getting attention that she neither needed nor wanted. Tapping her foot to focus some of her negativity, she looked away as Michaels continued to flirt with the girl behind the counter.
Susie was now leaning against her arms to reveal her assets at their best angle, beaming up at the tall dark off-duty cop who had to be twice her age. Her giggles clawed up Rayvin’s back. She saw a dimple flicker within the light dusting of bristle on Michaels’ face as he grinned down on the little girl.
She couldn’t look away. She’d seen him grin like that before, for his friends, but not for her. Her heart ached, remembering a flash of a grin she’d thought was directed toward her in high school. And the crushing embarrassment when she’d realized he was looking at someone behind her. It was ridiculous, really, that the man had this ability to affect her in this way, after ten years. Stupid.
Impatiently pacing to the door and back, she couldn’t decide what irritated her more; the entirely age-inappropriate crushing going on, or her reaction to it. Her hackles had gone up in a decidedly defensive manner. It shouldn’t matter that he wasn’t interested. He’d made the boundaries in their relationship painfully clear. She shouldn’t even use the word, ‘relationship.’ She was essentially a subject in an investigation, and the enemy of his best friend. And yet she needed him to get what Andrea needed. Michaels could talk to people in a way that she could not, and it was clearly working. She grudgingly appreciated the effort, on Andrea’s behalf, but still . . . did he have to be so obvious?
As long as he was able to get the necklace, then they could go their separate ways, and she wouldn’t have to watch him smiling at a pretty girl. She wouldn’t have to pretend that he might, in some small way, want to move forward. His offer of coffee had felt like a truce of sorts, and for a moment she had nearly believed that they were just two ordinary individuals, catching up after years of separation. But as much as she wanted to believe in the possibility and enjoy something of a reunion, or something more, because she had to admit that the man made her weak in the knees and always had, she knew it could never happen. There was too much history between them. Now, there was too much at stake. Whatever heartache and loneliness she might feel, she would have to bury it, for Andrea’s sake.
Rayvin swallowed her feelings, and resumed her post behind Grant, glowering at her former high school crush and the flirtatious waitress.
The door opened again, this time admitting an icy wind as well as an individual in dirty jeans and a torn and grimy black jacket. He pulled the door shut firmly against the breeze. Rayvin couldn’t see his face for the curtain of greasy black hair under his dismal grey trucker’s cap.
The patrons closest to the entrance reacted to the unexpected gust of cold air, grabbing for their coats and scarves. The newcomer stood by the door, rubbing his grubby hands vigorously. It was a hint of the winter to come, Rayvin reflected, shivering through her own thick woollen sweater. If it was as cold as that wind suggested, she was going to have an uncomfortable journey home, whether it was walking or riding with Officer Michaels. Constable Michaels. Whatever he was called now. She rubbed her arms, waiting for the brief burst of chill to dissipate with the warmth of the restaurant.
It didn’t.
In fact, as waitress Suzie twirled her hair around her finger and dipped below the counter to retrieve the necklace for Michaels, Rayvin noticed a distinct odour pervading the room. A couple behind her left off eating their soup, noses wrinkled wrinkling in distaste.
“Does it seem darker in here to you?” Michaels asked.
Before Rayvin could respond, Suzie called out, “Do you have a penlight or something? I can’t see down here.”
Obligingly, Michaels removed the tool from an inner coat pocket, and turned around.
Rayvin had noticed that the lights seemed dim, and the small votive candles on each table were giving off faint blue hues. Not that any of the diners picked up on their supernatural glow; they were putting on coats or sweaters against the chill that continued to spread, or using menus and napkins to try wafting away the stink that ruined their appetites.
She stepped toward the stranger who had walked in, sensing the source of the problem. For a brief instant, as he lifted his chin, her eyes met his in the shadow under the brim of his filthy hat.
Suddenly, it felt like the walls were closing in; the world tilted around her, her head pounded, and her vision exploded. Sickening lights and horrifying, demonic faces leered at her as the floor slanted under her feet. The breath left her lungs in a whoosh, as though she’d been punched in the stomach. Rayvin reached out, blindly, hands grasping for something solid, and found Michaels’ arm.
“We have to get out of here, now,” she whispered, clutching his wrist.
She turned her head away from the shadows and that elongated and loomed over her to gesture at the door, where the decorative lights shimmered and stretched into a matrix of fantastic threads snaking through the air to bind and trap her. They blinded her against the dark figure, but she could hear his malevolent laughter. It echoed all around her, drowning out the words she knew Grant was speaking; she could feel his chest against her back, an island of stability in the chaos, rumbling gently as he spoke. Her knees trembled, nearly giving way under the onslaught. The arm encircling her waist took her off-guard, and she fought against it at first, until touch revealed it to be Michaels’ muscle, sinew, and bone holding her steady.
As one, they moved toward the entrance. His grip tightened as Rayvin staggered under the weight of the malevolence bearing down on her. Black, dark, evil energy sank down along her shoulders and spine, cloaking her with icy tendrils and muffling her senses even as her feet shuffled toward the threshold, until she felt the contours of the door under her palms. The vile blanket lifted from her with the first brushes of crisp, fresh air against her face; she tilted her chin up, letting the calming breeze wash over her eyelids, her nose, and her lips. Exhaling, she let him steer her down the sidewalk a few paces. She felt like a swimmer who’d barely escaped drowning. Stopping at a low stone wall, Rayvin leaned her elbows against its frosty, pitted rough surface, and immediately missed the warmth of Michaels’ touch when his hand let go of her body.
“What the hell happened in there?” Michaels was standing a step away, his hands fisted on his hips.
She looked up, rubbing the back of her hand against her forehead. The pain banding her skull from temple to temple was starting to ease, but when she opened her eyes, halos of energy stood in bright relief around the living entities and made her head ache anew. Michaels moved into her field of vision. She flinched, but instead of the burst of agony she was expecting, his aura flooded her with calm. He stepped closer, and with relief, she felt herself opening to his vibration, warm and healing. She felt his concern, his confusion and frustration, and more.
“I . . .” Rayvin hesitated, unable to hold his gaze. She looked back the way they had come, down the sidewalk at the seemingly ordinary restaurant. Another couple was just coming through the doors, holding hands and laughing, oblivious to whatever had attacked her.
“It’s hard to explain. I felt something . . . wrong, really wrong. Something powerful, that came at me, like it was attacking me, or about to. It wasn’t safe to stay. I couldn’t see, couldn’t breathe . . .” She shuddered, bowing her head, and felt him move a step closer.
“Well, I thought you were going to faint,” Michaels noted. “And you’re still pale. Are you on anything? Any medications, herbs, or . . .” He cut off when she glared at him blearily. “What you experienced could logically be the result of a hallucinogen of some kind.”
Cradling her chin, he pulled out the penlight again to check her pupils. She jerked her head, trying to get away, but he refused to let go. The touch of his hand made her breath come more quickly. The sensation of his fingers brushing against the sensitive skin, just below her jawline, weakened her defences. Or was it his nearness, the way his eyes met hers, his lips so close to her own that hers trembled in response? Rayvin’s stomach was still clenching in reaction to fear, and her fingers were numb with shock; her instinct was tearing her in three directions. She wanted to run back in and fight the creature. She wanted to run for her own life. And she wanted to stay right here in the safety of this man’s arms.
She would never know who moved first.
Her eyes closed as his mouth covered hers, yielding to the hand that cupped her face and tilted it back. Her fingers touched his chest, exploring the contours of the warm muscle hidden under the soft flannel work shirt. Heat blossomed between her thighs as she felt his heartbeat quicken. He moved closer, settling into the space between her legs as their kiss deepened.
________________________________________________________________________
Displaying Tori Headshot 3.jpgAuthor Bio:
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. 

“During a period of writer’s block on Wind and Shadow, I wrote a prequel novella titled Mist and Midnight to help myself find answers to questions about how my vampire was trapped, and why he had come to the small town of Talbot in the first place. Mist and Midnight was released in 2011 as part of the Midnight Thirsts anthology, published by Melange Books. It’s a stand-alone piece, but it’s a terrific companion to The Talbot Trilogy,” said Ridgewood.

Find Tori:
Website   |  Twitter

Interview:
1. Where have we seen you before? (previous projects/works)
“Mist and Midnight”, the prequel to Wind and Shadow, appeared first in the anthology Midnight Thirsts (Melange Books, 2011), and that year I also published a short Hallowe’en-themed romantic ghost story in Spellbound 2011 (Melange Books). The following year, my short horror story “A Living Specimen” about vampire hunters and their off-duty hours appeared in Midnight Thirsts II (Melange Books, 2012), and two of my zombie flash fictions -- “Brain Games” and “Bio-Zombie” -- were in A Quick Bite of Flesh: An Anthology of Zombie Flash Fiction (Hazardous Press, 2012). I also published a creative retelling of the Salem Witch Trials, titled “Thy Will Be Done” for Dark Eclipse Issue #16 (Dark Moon Books, 2012), and a romantic pregnancy story called “Tabitha’s Solution” for the anthology Having My Baby (Melange Books, 2012). Finally, I wrote a piece in character as my vampire Malcolm de Sade for the anthology “My dearest Father Christmas” (May December Publications) in 2012.
2. What goes through your mind after your novel has been on sale for the first week?
It seems to be a two-part process for me.
It’s nerve-wracking, of course. I’ve put a piece of myself into the world for others to see and either take apart or enjoy, or do a little of both, and since it’s in my nature to be super-sensitive, it’s very hard to let it go -- to accept that it will have critics as well as friends. And I’m my own worst critic, seeing so many flaws in it despite the reassurances of beta readers, editors, publishers, and friends that I expect negative reviews more than positive ones. I try to lower my expectations so I won’t be terribly disappointed if the book isn’t liked by others, but at the same time, I feel like a child on Christmas morning, wanting to be delighted and surprised. But I don’t want my ego to run away with me, so I brace myself for the worst and hope for the best.
After the initial rush of fear and trepidation, it’s incredibly satisfying and relaxing as well. I’ve put something out there, a story that I made, words that I chose and characters that I created, that is now a part of the human tapestry and hopefully a permanent part of our literary landscape. I’ve contributed something that will last longer than myself, fulfilled a dream I’ve had ever since I was old enough to write my own stories. It’s surreal, but very happy-making. That feeling encourages me to keep going and tackle the next work in progress.

3. What inspired you to write this novel?

It was a combination of experiences, imagination, and my love for the paranormal.
I spent three years of my adolescence in a small northeastern Ontario town, near a once-thriving mining town named Cobalt. In the early part of the 20th century, Cobalt had been known as the Silver Capital of Canada, and miners had tunnelled throughout the bush surrounding the community and under the town itself. Eventually, the price of silver dropped and the mines shut down, but the tunnels remained. By the time I moved to the area, many of the pilings and other tunnel supports had degraded to the point of collapse, and indeed, shortly before my family’s arrival, one of the mines fell in, causing a sinkhole in the middle of a main street of Cobalt -- a huge gap that could have swallowed a car. Engineers and inspectors were immediately dispatched to check the rest of the underground maze and determine what areas needed reinforcing, while entrepreneurs of the area billed the sinkhole as the world’s largest pothole, at least until it was fixed. I didn’t get to see it myself, but I remembered the story and was always fascinated by it.
Fast forward twenty-odd years, and I’m a married adult, with children of my own, starting my teaching career only an hour and a half away from Cobalt. The story of the sinkhole remained in the back of my mind, teasing me. When I went on maternity leave with our second baby, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to start exploring that story more fully. I wondered, what else could have caused the road to collapse? What if something had been trapped down in the mine, a creature of the dark, and it wanted out? How did it get there? Who trapped it? I started drafting ideas and developing characters, revising drafts numerous times until I had the shape that seemed to work the best.
While I was finding the elements of the story, and developing the narrative, I also knew that I wanted to say something about the paranormal fiction that I love. Much of the book is a response to Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight Saga, and some of it is a love letter to Stephen King and an homage to other vampire books and films that I enjoy, like “The Lost Boys”, “30 Days of Night”, “Dracula”, and “Interview With A Vampire”. At the same time, I wanted to write about witches in a positive light, feeling that there aren’t enough works like “Practical Magic” or “The Craft” with powerful women of magick in them. I’m Wiccan myself, and a practicing witch, and I wanted to write something that reflected my interest in and respect for paganism. My vampire, Malcom de Sade, was somewhat inspired by the antagonist in “Practical Magic”, who was played by Goran Visjnic, and some of my protagonist Rayvin’s characteristics resemble those of the witch Sally Owens (Sandra Bullock). What started as an imaginative retelling of a real event in recent history became an homage to my favourite paranormal writers and performers, and it was incredibly satisfying to put all of those elements together into a cohesive work.

4. What do you think about when getting/seeing negative reviews?

Again, it’s a mixed bag of reactions.
My immediate knee-jerk is to feel disappointed and a little hurt. After all, the book is very close to my heart. But I take a deep breath and remember that it’s not a perfect book, by any means. I’m fully aware that there are things I need to improve in my writing, in terms of style and structuring of the story. It may sound kind of funny, but I feel as though I sculpt with words, and it’s always a process, there is always something that I will be able to do better. Artists have to be critiqued, it’s how we learn, and I’m really my own competition. I’ve had reviewers identify the areas I know I want to work on, very precisely, and in a way that’s also gratifying because it confirms my own reflections and instincts.
The other part of a negative review is that writing, as a form of art, is highly subjective. What I write is not going to work for everyone, no matter how much I would love for that to be so. Remembering that and looking at a negative review objectively / logically is important, I think.

5. How long was the writing/planning process?

Wind and Shadow took seven years to put together, little by little.
When I first started writing it, I was making notes and drafting in spiral-bound notebooks, usually while my baby girl was sleeping. We were homeless at the time, staying in an uninsulated cabin at a summer camp for two months in the spring until our house was available for us to take possession. Whatever designs I had to write the whole novel before I went back to work, life got in the way and I had to keep putting the work aside, coming back to it whenever I could. About halfway through, I also experienced severe writer’s block -- it seemed like I’d lost the thread and I didn’t know where to go with it. Writing the prequel novella was extremely helpful in working my way through the block and finding the answers I needed for the story. Once I was back into the flow of it, I finished the first draft over the summer and fall of 2011, in time to begin the second book of the trilogy, Blood and Fire, during National Novel Writing Month in November.

6. What was your reaction to the cover art when you saw it for the first time? Did you have any ideas from the days of writing/inspiration?

The cover art was beautifully designed by Caroline Andrus at Melange Books. Initially, the thought was to use a glorious mane of flowing red hair as background to a pentacle, but in the second rendering, the image of the model next to the pentacle absolutely blew me away. I was thrilled with the layout, colour choices, and the model herself.
Part of the process of cover design with my publisher is to provide key details about the novel to the artist, including suggested faces and poses from various stock photo websites, so that the artist can make informed decisions based on the writer’s expectations. It’s a back-and-forth process requiring clear communication and open-mindedness. It was incredibly gratifying that Caroline was able to capture the book so perfectly in the images she chose.

7. Any plans for future writing projects? Any being worked on now?

I’m in the midst of completing edits on Book Two of the Talbot Trilogy: Blood and Fire, in which Rayvin finds allies to help her fight the growing vampire coven in Talbot. I’m also halfway through writing Book Three: Crystal and Wand, hoping it will be an epic finale to the series. I have some ideas for short stories about some of the other characters in the trilogy, and for an anthology of ghost stories based on my short, “Telltale Signs”, but I’d also like to write a young adult novel over the next year or two. There doesn’t seem to be enough time to work on all of the projects that continue to crop up in my head!

8. Top 5 books

  • Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
  • Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King
  • Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley
  • The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper

9. What book/s from other authors do you wish you had written?

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell. When I first read it, I was completely blown away by his visions of the past, present, and future, and his fantastic use of style and structure. And incredibly jealous that I hadn’t tried something similar!
10. Why read your novel?
 It’s not your typical paranormal romance.
The vampires are more traditional in form and intention -- ugly and frightening when they feed, malevolent and deceptive.
The witch is a good person facing her worst possible enemies, doing the best that she can against incredible odds. It’s an escape from the ordinary, an emotional journey that is more than magick and good versus evil -- it’s also about a woman who has been hurt and must confront her own demons in order to fully realize her potential. So many of us have felt like an outcast at some point, and have dreamed of starting our lives over. What if you did that, but your new start ended badly, and you had to go back to the beginning? It’s Rayvin’s journey, (re)discovering her strengths and understanding her choices, that make this novel so compelling. Fair warning: it ends on a cliffhanger, but the answers are coming in Book Two and Book Three.

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