This week I am delighted to welcome my Guest Blogger, Tori L. Ridgewood. Tori shares the life issues which surge forth when she is writing!
Where do I begin?
Let’s talk first about food.
I have a love affair with pastries. Chocolate truffles make me swoon. I am married to a chef, and he spoils me terribly with delicious plates of stir fry, home-made meatballs, spring rolls, salads, pieces of cake made from scratch, scrambled eggs so light and fluffy they practically float on the fork, waffles loaded with his patented stewed apple mix (the recipe is a secret, but involves cinnamon, orange juice, and vanilla)… The only thing he’s yet to make for me from scratch is spaghetti, fettuccine, or any similar dish with the pasta maker I bought for him.
There is a reason for my passion for food.
I was never without while growing up. My parents always had food in the house, I learned at an early age to help my mother with supper, and I took it for granted that if my stomach growled, all I needed to do was go to the fridge or the cupboard and snack away. Grocery shopping with my mother was torturous as an adolescent. I didn’t care how the food got into my house, as long as it was there.
And then I moved out in my final year of high school, to share a bachelor apartment with my soon-to-be husband, and learned just how valuable food really is.
I learned that you can survive on a diet of high protein, high-msg processed foods, like peanut butter sandwiches, balogna fried or plain, ground beef mixed with whatever pasta was handy. I also learned to hate most of those things.
I learned how good a fresh apple can taste after a week of stale cereal and breads.
I learned how painful walking through a grocery aisle could be, when every penny counts and your stomach is so empty it feels sick.
I learned that you can live on love, but it’s hungry.
We got through the lean years as students, and had our babies. I had the inexplicable cravings and aversions for the foods we were just beginning to afford again. I nursed our babies, always making sure to buy food before paying bills so that none of us would go hungry. I felt a great deal of empathy for Scarlett O’Hara, standing in her barren field, searching for at least one more veggie that would keep her family fed just a little longer.
It’s better now, but having been through times of need awakened me to the privilege it is to be able to go into a store and fill your cart with nutritious foods. It’s something I don’t want my own children to experience, nor take for granted. And being hungry goes hand in hand with poverty.
Our poverty was deliberate at first: two adults barely out of high school, choosing to live together because we couldn’t stand being apart; it was no wonder we were flat broke. Being penniless also seems to be part and parcel of the college experience. At times, we were so broke that we did our laundry in the bathtub. I hoarded sandwich cards like gold, coveting the free submarine that I’d earn every few weeks. We lived without cable for a while, courted disaster with overdue utilities, even faced being evicted twice. We endured it and came out with many of our goals fulfilled, though we’re still more in debt than we had expected to be at this point.
So, in my writing, I find my characters struggling through the same uphill battles that I experienced over the last decade and a half. My heroines — Charlotte in “Mist and Midnight” (Midnight Thirsts), Kate in “Telltale Signs” (Spellbound 2011), Trisha in “A Living Specimen” (Midnight Thirsts 2) — all are students, recent graduates, or struggling professionals aiming to move past their time of hunger and poverty to be self-sufficient and comfortable. My protagonists are familiar with the sick feeling of a stomach left too long without food, have experienced the backache of scrubbing dirty jeans in a bathtub, have scrimped to buy the basic necessities, and have their sights set on a better life. They’re not wealthy by virtue of inheritance, lottery, or employment. My characters are real to me because they struggle, like me. Through writing them, I understand my own progress and inner self in new ways.
Including my strength as a woman.
I don’t like labels, as a rule, because I believe there are so many facets to your personality that it seems unfair to partition a human or constraint him or her to a single impression. We are glittering gems of life. I am a woman, but I also have strongly masculine qualities. I am Wiccan, and I am a witch, but I was raised Anglican and I have strong affinities for Hinduism, Buddhism, Egyptian mythologies, and Celtic traditions. I am a feminist, but that doesn’t mean I won’t let a man open a door for me — I’m just as likely to open the door for him as well. I believe in a woman’s right to her own body and its functions. Yes, that’s contentious. I believe in the right of others to disagree with me.
I believe that we are only given as much as we can handle by The Universe. What if each of us has chosen the path we are on, to learn about life through the choices we make and take our knowledge back to the Cosmos? Therefore, whatever we undertake, endure, survive, has the capacity to make us stronger. It’s how we choose to interpret and move forward that determines the worth or impact of the things that happen to or by us, positive or negative.
For example, I have two children, but I have also lost two pregnancies. The experiences of loss, the invasive, painful, and at times lengthy procedures involved to make sure I would remain healthy, the subsequent battles with deep and chronic depression — all have built me as a person and helped me realize how strong I am. How strong women can be, and need to be in order to survive everything life can throw at them. So in my writing, I challenge my heroines not only with the supernatural, but with life’s more mundane journeys as well. They face the daily risks of driving in poor weather, inadequate housing, stalkers, loss of family, sexism, and their own fears of both failure and success. Charlotte, Kate, Trisha, and those to come — Rayvin, and Tabitha — are not confident women. They question their own strength and their decisions, being human enough to feel the impact of society’s judgement of their individuality. They have to learn to believe in themselves and their potential, before they can grow. And yet they remain vulnerable and sensitive enough to appreciate the support of a mate. In my life, I have learned enough to understand that solitude has its place and its benefits, but so does partnership. It’s achieving the balance that can be the real problem.
So when you have an opportunity to read my work — and I dearly hope you do — my wish is that you will see something of me in those strong women, and something of yourself. That you will recognize the power inherent in a cup of welcoming tea, a plate of food, the handful of coins that will help you to wash your clothes. Life isn’t easy for my characters, as it’s not easy for most of us. But the challenges make the achievements that much more beautiful and meaningful.
Tori L. Ridgewood is a full-time secondary school teacher, a mother, a partner, and a writer and reader of all things fiction and non-fiction. Tori enjoys writing vampire / paranormal romances, sweet and humourous looks at pregnancy and childbirth, and horror fiction. Tori enjoys writing plays for her students, watching thunderstorms, walking her dog, needlework (quilting, cross-stitching, and embroidery), collecting miniature furniture, traveling, and watching movies. Currently working on a trilogy of adult vampire novels to follow “Mist and Midnight”, Tori also plans to write young adult fiction in the near future.
Ridgewood’s published works include:
“Mist and Midnight” (Midnight Thirsts, Melange Books, 2011)
“Telltale Signs” (Spellbound 2011, Melange Books, 2011)
“A Living Specimen” (Midnight Thirsts 2, Melange Books, 2012)
“Tabitha’s Solution” (Having My Baby, Melange Books, coming fall of 2012),
“Brain Games” and “Bio Zombie” (A Quick Bite of Flesh, Hazardous Press, coming in 2012).
“Thy Will Be Done” (Dark Moon Books, date tbd)
Facebook: Tori L. Ridgewood
Goodreads: Tori Ridgewood