|Yolanda Ridge and her sons|
When my stepdad finished reading my debut novel, Trouble in the Trees (Orca Book Publishers, 2011), he told me he enjoyed learning about my childhood.
The main character is nothing like me, I protested, easily dismissing the idea because he’d met me in my thirties.
But when I started writing my new release, Inside Hudson Pickle (Kids Can Press, Sept. 5, 2017), I realized he was more right than I’d wanted to admit.
Telling a story from the perspective of a twelve-year-old girl (who may not be me, exactly, but definitely the person I wanted to be when I was that age) was so much easier than trying to get inside the head of a thirteen-year-old boy.
In the early drafts of Inside Hudson Pickle, I focused on plot, drawing on my previous career as a genetic counselor to portray a family dealing with Alpha-1, a genetic disorder that increases the risk of liver and lung disease.
But when it came to character development, web searches didn’t cut it. I didn’t grow up with brothers and though I do have two sons, they were too young to provide insight on puberty.
I turned to my male critique partners for help. He’d be angrier, one suggested. You haven’t captured his growing pains, said another.
Giving the manuscript some time to rest, I read middle grade adventure books – a few of my favorites are The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel (Simon & Schuster, 2014), the Rex Zero series by Tim Wynne-Jones (Farrar Straus Giroux) and Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt (Clarion, 2015).
I watched family sitcoms. I listened to music recommended by my friend’s sons. I eavesdropped on conversations in the library, on the bus, at the skateboard park.
Returning to the manuscript, I peppered it with “boyness.” But in the end I had to admit: Hudson was still a lot like me.
In talking to other writers I now understand that we all incorporate bits of ourselves into our characters.
I hope what I’ve captured in Inside Hudson Pickle is how one person might cope with the turmoil of health issues, family secrets, changing friendships and the simple desire to make a school basketball team.
Inside Hudson Pickle is a Junior Library Guild Selection and School Library Journal said, “fans of novels about sports and family drama, such as Kwame Alexander‘s The Crossover (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), will appreciate this realistic tale.”
She lives in the mountains of British Columbia in a log house brimming with boys, including one husband, two twin sons, one dog and one cat.