Q & A with YVONNE BLACKWOOD
What is your writing process?
First, I am inspired by a brilliant idea (I feel). I quickly jot it down. This idea can appear at any time—in my car, while watching TV, while I’m in bed, even while I’m visiting a friend. After I mull over the idea, I write an outline to give me a sense of where it can go. I then determine what the first and last chapters will be about. The middle tends to flow from this. Of course, in the case of my non-fiction books, I sketch out most or all of the chapters and fill in the details based on my personal knowledge coupled with research and interviews.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read novels--books that have a story with a good plot that I can get absorbed in, and it must have a surprise along the way. That is why I like John Grisham so much. I like books with a bit of a lesson also.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Notwithstanding the popularity of e-readers etc., I still prefer the traditional book that I can hold, turn the pages, mark the pages, and curl up in bed with it.
Describe your desk
My desk is a Staples job. It faces a wall with a beautiful Caribbean painting. The desk has a fair size surface on which I ‘ve place my computer monitor (I work with a desktop computer and use a notebook when I’m in the living room or travelling). I also have a reading lamp, a Lazy Susan with numerous pens, pencils and highlighters in various compartments, and a tray with files that I am working on. My keyboard sits on a pull-out tray, and my printer is beneath the desk.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in rural Manchester, a parish in Jamaica. Raised by grandparents, I spent the earlier part of my life on a farm. I am therefore no stranger to dogs, cows, pigs, and fresh citrus fruits. It is interesting that this particular question is in the arsenal, because the novel I have just completed and am about to seek a publisher for, is set on a farm in Manchester and incorporates the real country living, culture, politics, romance and more.
When did you first start writing?
I commenced writing in early 1998. It was by sheer coincidence, or was it divine intervention? I had just returned from my first journey to West Africa in February. Excited to share the details with friends about my amazing experience, I invited several people over for dinner. The overwhelming response was, “You have to share your story with the world, not just us.” I took the suggestion to heart, joined the Canadian Authors Association, and began to attend writing seminars and workshops. I read extensively--books about writing novels, short stories, and articles. While I worked on my first book, Into Africa; a Personal Journey, I wrote columns for three different newspapers. It was hectic but a fabulous experience, and by the way, I was working full-time as a bank manager at the time. The book was published in 2000.
Your most recent book is a children’s book. How did that come about?
Remember I said that ideas can appear at any time? Well, this is a classic example. When my bank promoted me in the fall of 2005, I moved to a new office downtown. One crisp autumn morning as I walked up University Avenue to get to work I noticed there was a tiny park next door to a large courthouse. A gang of squirrels were frolicking and having a good time there. The crab apple trees in the park had lost all their leaves. It was a beauty to see the slender branches covered with thousands of little ripe crab apples. Some were strewn on the ground and the squirrels were feasting on them. Suddenly, an idea came to me; write a children’s book about squirrels living in a city. I had already published one adult book and had been working on a second, but I knew nothing about writing children’s books. The next day I travelled with my camera and took pictures of the crab apple trees and the squirrels—they were still there feasting! The pictures were supposed to give me inspiration to concoct some delightful squirrel stories. It has taken a while to publish the first story, but there it is!
AN INTERVIEW WITH GOODREADS 2017:
GR: Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?
Yvonne Blackwood: This answer is a tad long, but you will find it interesting. I worked as a career banker all my working life. In 2005 I received a promotion and was informed that my new office would be downtown. I had always worked in the suburbs where I drove leisurely to and from work everyday. Now I would have to take the sardine-packed subway during the rush hours. But what was there to complain about? I had gotten a promotion; it was all good. One crisp autumn morning after exiting the train as I walked briskly up University Avenue to my office I noticed a tiny park next door to a large courthouse, and a gang of squirrels were frolicking and having a good time there. The crab apple trees in the park had lost all their leaves. It was a beauty to see the slender branches covered with thousands of little ripe crab apples. Some were strewn on the ground and the squirrels were feasting on them. Suddenly, an idea came to me. Write a children’s book about squirrels living in a city! It has taken this long to publish the story, but I'm delighted to finally do it.
GR: How do you get inspired to write?
Yvonne Blackwood: Similar to book ideas, inspiration can come from anywhere at anytime. If you have an idea that you feel passionate about, it will inspire you to explore it and write about it. I must say that receiving great feedback from readers is also good inspiration; you want to write more and share more.
GR: What are you currently working on?
Yvonne Blackwood: I am working on a third book in the Nosey Charlie Adventure series. In addition, I wrote an adult novel which was edited, but I need to make some changes (some suggestions by the editor) before seeking a publisher.
GR: What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
Yvonne Blackwood: The mantra that I live by is: ““Perseverance is a great element of success. It you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.” To aspiring writers, I say, keep plugging away; do not give up.
GR: What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Yvonne Blackwood: There are several good things about being a writer. I believe being able to connect directly with people through your writing and readers wanting to meet you are two great things.
GR: How do you deal with writer’s block?
Yvonne Blackwood: So far, I have not experienced this. I guess my day will come!
My Writing Roots
I was always good at writing essays in high school but I never thought of becoming an author. I was interested in commerce. I worked as a banker for almost all of my working life. Something changed in 1998 after I returned from my first journey to Africa (West). Upon my return, I invited friends over to share the wonderful experience I had on my trip. The overwhelming response was, "You must write about your journey; share your story with not just us, but with the world. Write a book!" A seed was planted, it germinated, and I ventured on my writing journey. Since that time I have published books, and written numerous articles for newspapers and magazines, and won a short story writing competition. I have not stopped writing since! So far, I've written seven books.
SIX OF MY FAVOURITES BOOKS
The Heart of a Woman ~ Maya Angelou
The Great Gatsby ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Constant Gardener ~ John Le Carre
In The Skin Of A Lion ~ Michael Ondaatje
Three Day Road ~ Joseph Boyden
The Broker (and most of his books) ~ John Grisham