Interview with Yvonne Collins
When I'm not writing books with Sandy, I can usually be found on a film set, where life is anything but dull. I've hung off the side of Toronto's CN tower, faced down a Grizzly bear, danced with Gregory Hines, and shared a beer with Ireland's Lord Guinness. And to think I almost became a cop.
What are you reading right now?
I've just started BEL CANTO by Ann Pachett, and (feeling guilty after all of my holiday spending), I’m also reading THE WEALTHY BARBER RETURNS by fellow Canadian, Dave Chilton.
What first sparked your interest in writing?
When my niece was a young teen, she kept asking me for advice about how to deal with friends, and boys, and the challenges of a blended family. I thought it would be great to get her a book that would offer some solutions, and was surprised to find there was nothing on the shelves that addressed her concerns in an easy-going and fun way. Sandy and I were roommates at the time, and we decided to rise to the challenge of filling that bookshelf void. The result was TOTALLY ME: THE TEENAGE GIRL’S SURVIVAL GUIDE and a long co-authorship!
What do you love the most about writing? The least?
I love it when a scene comes together so easily that it almost writes itself. That doesn’t happen often, enough, unfortunately. It can be very discouraging to spend long hours at the keyboard only to produce pages I wouldn't subject my worst enemy to, let alone my co-author!
Tell us a little about your writing process.
I like to plough through and write a scene completely, even if it's super rough, so that the overall action is locked in. Then I will go back (again and again), to improve the description and dialogue.
What are your passions?
Friends, family, visuals arts, exploring new cities, watching Coronation Street, and going for long walks with my dog and husband. I'd like to add working out to the list, but that's more of a necessity than a passion, since one of my other passions is eating! (Especially eating any treat that Sandy whips up!)
What inspires you?
Friends, co-workers, stories in the news, life experiences.
Why young adult?
I think because Sandy and I met as teenagers, we share a lot of memories from that time. We bonded over a similar sense of humor, and that humor got us through a lot of teenage drama and angst.
What is it like collaborating on a book?
It can be challenging sometimes, but since I have only ever written books with Sandy, I think the challenges that we face in collaborating are a lot less than some other authors might face. Over the years, we've developed a style that has to accommodate two people's ideas. If I had written books on my own first, I think collaborating would be far more difficult because I'd be such a control freak! But Sandy and I have learned together how to put egos and feelings aside, and appreciate what the other person can bring to the party.
One of my favorite aspects of LOVE INC is Zahra’s voice, especially impressive since the book has two authors. How do you create such a strong, unique voice? Is it more challenging to write a young adult voice than an adult one?
I remember when we first started writing TOTALLY ME, Sandy and I used to say that we could never write fiction. But then we started to write a few fictional scenarios for our non-fiction book, and they were so much fun to do, they gave us the courage we needed to tackle SPEECHLESS, our first novel. As I mentioned, we have always shared a sense of humor and I think in a way, we both have a similar “voice” in our own lives. So giving a single voice to our joint characters has come quite naturally to us.
Writing a young adult voice is more fun than writing an adult voice, because I think we both enjoy the freedom that young people have to challenge ideas, or blurt out exactly what they are thinking, without the kind of filter that we all develop as adults. That said, we do constantly worry that the voice is current and “young” enough and often ask the young adults in our own lives to weigh in on certain topics and expressions.
Of all your published books, do you have a personal favorite?
Although that’s like asking me to choose my favorite child, I do have a soft spot for TRADE SECRETS, the sequel to LOVE INC. I really identified with the character of Kali and wanted her to have a chance to spread her wings in book two. I can’t deny there’s more than a little of teen-Yvonne in this girl who truly believes in the power of love and friendship. And Kali proves you can be fun and flirty, and still smart and loyal and ambitious.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Only that the hardest part of writing is actually sitting down to do it. And if you get as far as finishing that first chapter, keep going, even if that chapter isn't as great as you want it to be. I know too many people that just keep chipping away at the first scene of their book/script and get so frustrated that it isn't perfect, they never finish their work. But if you keep moving ahead, you can always polish up the beginning when you've written the end. Besides, stories tend to take on a life of their own once you start writing, you may well find the beginning has to change anyway.