Yay! Author interview:
I was fortunate enough to interview Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout about their writing process, their books, and what they plan next for us.
To refresh your memory, I reviewed GIRL V BOY here, as well as THE BLACK SHEEP here. (loved them!)
I’m curious about what it’s like to write together. I’m sure you have a system now after having written so many together. After you generate your ideas, what do you do next?
With our first book, Yvonne wanted to sit side by side and write every word together (probably because she knew Sandy would try to take over and hog the whole thing!). But that plan didn’t survive long. Our schedules are just too different. Sandy works in corporate communications, a day job, whereas Yvonne works as a camera assistant, which often means spending 18 hours a day on a film set. So we had to develop a way of working on projects independently that gives us equal input.
We get together in person during the brainstorming stage and hammer out a high level outline together. Then Yvonne takes a crack at the first draft of each chapter and passes it on to Sandy for the next draft. Sandy sends the full manuscript back to Yvonne for revision and Sandy gives it a final polish.
We seldom get together when we we’re actually writing, and rely on e-mail and occasional desperate voicemail messages to resolve unforeseen glitches.
Do you ever disagree about what a character should do next? And how do you decide who’s right?
We do have to agree on an outline in advance. During that discussion, there’s generally a lot of “OR, she could do this…” The idea is to distract the other person from her (bad) idea with an intriguing alternative. Eventually we reach a solution that’s better than the original idea.
To keep the work interesting, we do leave room in the outline for surprises. That way, when we’re reading, there are moments when we think, “Hey, I wasn’t expecting that,” or “Cleverly done, partner.” (Not to mention, “She’d better not leave me to figure out a way out of this trap.”)
Was it difficult to get your first book published? How long did it take? Any advice for aspiring writers out there?
Actually, our road to publication was deceptively smooth with TOTALLY ME: THE TEENAGE GIRL’S SURVIVIAL GUIDE—probably because it was non-fiction. We sent out a query that got some interest from agents. Then we moved on to write a proposal and sample chapter. All told, it took about four months to find an agent and then a publisher.
The hard part came later, when we learned we only had three months to write the book, and we didn’t really know what we were doing! It was such a blur that sometimes we flip though it and wonder, “Did we really write that?”
We ran into more roadblocks when we started writing fiction. For example, our first agent didn’t like SPEECHLESS, so we found a publisher on our own. Then we went through the agent hunt all over with our first teen novel, INTRODUCING VIVIEN LEIGH REID: DAUGHTER OF THE DIVA. In each case, we wrote the entire book without knowing whether we’d find a publisher.
The best advice we can give any aspiring writer is just to persist. We’ve been discouraged many times. It does help to have a coauthor to commiserate!
I loved THE BLACK SHEEP. I thought the idea of a reality show was very trendy, yet the story was still very fresh & original. How did you come up with that idea?
It started with an episode of Wife Swap. We realized a show like that would give a teenage girl a chance to trade in her family and try someone else’s on for size. Plus, we know from Yvonne’s experience that “show business” is a never-ending source of comic relief!
I also loved GIRL v BOY. I read that you two grew up in suburban Toronto, but the school depicted in the novel seems more inner-city, in fact it’s Chicago, right? How did you get such an accurate feel for that environment?
We attended the same small, suburban high school and it was nothing like Colonel Dunfield. So we had to rely on research and imagination.
We usually try to visit the city where our story is set before we start writing. For our Vivien Leigh Reid series, we spent time in Los Angeles. For THE BLACK SHEEP, we drove up the coast to Monterey and hung out at the aquarium.
But we couldn’t make it to Chicago before writing Girl v. Boy so we interviewed friends who’d been there.
Yvonne finally went to Chicago last fall and was relieved to find we’d done okay.
The characters in Girl v Boy are quirky and fun. I love Lu and her friends. But, Mariah cracked me up. Did you base her on anyone you know? I mean, really, if I saw a girl dancing at school, I would laugh hysterically.
Yvonne has met a lot of really interesting (read: crazy) people on film sets. A few of them, like Mariah, would perform anytime, anywhere, for anyone. These were adults, so we just imagined what they might have been like in high school.
Pitting the girls against the boys seems like a marvelous way to ratchet up the competition in a school (I may have to employ this technique at my school). Did something inspire that idea?
We started out with the idea of dueling columnists and then had to work backwards to figure out what kind of conflict would make that work. It actually took a fair bit of shooting down each other’s ideas (through the distraction technique described above) to come up with the battle of the sexes.
What do you have planned next? More YA fiction, more adult fiction?
We’ve just started work on a new teen series for Hyperion, details still under wraps. We’re also tossing around ideas for a screenplay, just to keep things interesting.
A screenplay. Sounds exciting!
Thank you so much! My readers & I really appreciate your time.
To check out all the books by the team of Collins & Rideout, check out their website here.
And for some fun, watch the awesome book trailers below
Here's GIRL v BOY
And the funny one for THE BLACK SHEEP