Thank you so much for participating in Fast Forward Friday, Loriel. It’s a pleasure to have you here today!
Hi Kathie. It’s a pleasure to be able to participate in this interview series. Thank you for having me.
I’m grateful that I had a chance to read an ARC of INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS, and I thought it was SO well done. I wonder if you could give our readers a description of what it’s about?
INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS is a coming of age story about twelve-year-old STEM-loving, semi-cranky protagonist Yolanda who must embark on a magical journey through the desert to save her grandmother’s life. Set in the New Mexico desert, it has elements of fabulism and explores topics on grief and loss, sister relationships, family connections, misunderstandings and growing up.
Can you tell us about your experience writing this book?
This book started with a memory from my childhood. I was very young, maybe 4 years old, and we would leave town for the summer and stay with my grandparents in south Texas while my dad was serving in the military. I remember when we came home after being gone and opening the blinds of the sliding glass door and seeing the grass had grown as tall the house. I stood there in awe, wondering how it was possible, and that image has always stuck with me. I remember my grandad saying “Don’t go out there, there’s snakes out there!” and him going to cut it down by hand. That was the first snippet of what I had to start writing this book. I also have a love of genetics and wanted to write about a magical familial trait where one sister has the trait and it appears the other sister doesn’t. After that, the story just kept flowing and I had no idea where it was going to take me.
What role has your Las Hermanas mentorship played in it?
My mentor, Angela Cervantes, has been so wonderful during this debut year. I was looking for a mentor to help me navigate my debut year and ask all those questions, and the Las Hermanas mentorship through Las Musasa has proved to be so helpful. Some pairings in the mentorship are working on manuscripts, but I was looking more for someone who could help me navigate the debut year. How do I talk to bookstore owners? How do I design a school visit? When should I make bookmarks? What should I put on them? Becoming an author is like nothing I’ve ever done, and she has been a vital resource and person that I can turn to.
Yolanda was one of my favorite characters, and I loved watching her bloom over the course of the novel as she discovers more about herself and her family. Where did the inspiration for your characters come from?
All of my characters have a little bit of me in them (it would be impossible if they didn’t!), and my family will definitely say I was a bit cranky as a kid…so that part of Yolanda is me, 100%. As for my other characters, they are a mix of relationships I’ve had with people in my life. Yolanda’s relationship with Welo is much like the relationships I had with both of my grandfathers.
Yolanda learns many new things on her journey to the pecan tree. Can you share one thing with us that you’ve learned from your publishing experience?
Publishing has been a whirlwind of an experience, fast then slow, no news then tons of news. I have learned to try not to stress too much over the small things and be patient. I was never a patient kid, but as I’ve become a mother and my other job as a nurse has taught me more patience. Those roles have laid the foundation for the unpredictability of publishing. In publishing you never really know where things are going to go. But I love it and I’m enjoying the ride.
This is a story about family, friendship, relationships, misunderstandings, growing up…there are so many wonderful topics to discuss. What do you hope young readers will take away from your book?
I hope that readers enjoy the magical nature of the book and come away with an understanding about grief and loss and how someone can change, including themselves. For this age group, kids on the cusp of adolescence, they are just starting to figure out who they are and what defines them. I hope through Yolanda, they can see that there is always a capacity to be open and change from who you thought you were.
Where can readers go to find out more about you and your writing, and do you have another project on which you’re working at the moment?
You can find me on twitter and instagram. My handle is @Lorielryon. I am also on facebook at that handle, though not as active. My website is Lorielryon.com
I am always working on something, I have a few projects in the works, but nothing I get to talk about right now.
I really appreciate you joining us today. I wish you many magical moments in your debut year.
Thank you so much for having me, it was a pleasure.
Loriel Ryon is an author of middle grade fiction. She spent her childhood with her nose in a book, reading in restaurants, on the school bus, and during every family vacation. Her upbringing in a mixed-heritage military family inspires much of her writing about that wonderfully complicated time between childhood and adulthood. Also a nurse, she lives in the magical New Mexico desert with her husband and two daughters.