Author Interview – Ryan Uytdewilligen
It’s always exciting to find a new author for The Naked Reviewers. We love meeting new people and introducing them to you.
Ryan Uytdewilligen was born and raised outside the small Canadian prairie city of Lethbridge, Alberta. He gained an obsession for film in his teen years, taking in all the classics while developing the ability to name you every Oscar Winner from memory. His favorites are Forest Gump, The Graduate, Almost Famous, The Apartment, and Rain Man. He studied Communication Arts at Lethbridge College and earned a degree in Broadcast Journalism; leading to work in radio anchoring, reporting, and media coordinating for the prestigious Vancouver International Film Festival. He later followed his passion for creative writing by studying Writing for Film and Television at the Vancouver Film School. After writing—producing his first short film Tea Time (2014), he optioned three feature film scripts and has since worked as a script doctor/ writer for hire.
In 2016, he published his first non-fiction work; a film history examination called 101 Most Influential Coming of Age Movies. That same year he released his first fiction book—Tractor, a YA novel with Sartoris Literary. His next fiction work, Akela, has been released by BHC Press along with his first novella, a western titled The Last Cattle Drive. Kids Can Press will release his first children’s picture book in the coming future. Ryan’s article and blogging work have appeared in a variety of different sites and publications including Quirk Magazine, Thoughts on Lots, Kitsilano Connect, Sessions X, The Babe Report, Taste of Cinema, Camera in the Sun, and InFocus Film School. He has served as a judge for the NYC Midnight Writing Festival for the past three years. How the heck do you pronounce Uytdewilligen anyway?
It’s Dutch, half the alphabet, and is pronounced You-da-will-a-gen!
Interview Conducted by Sherry Terry
TNR: Tell us about your writing process, and the way you brainstorm Historical Fiction story ideas.
Ryan: The fun part about writing is thinking up characters and drama and relationships. For me though, the best part is capturing the location. Many writers love to capture wild imaginative places that come from only their own heads. I always start with a real place. Not usually anything extravagant – more like coffee shops and diners and intimate spaces like that. I am drawn to the fifties and sixties because there was so much color and excitement and style in the way businesses ran and presented themselves. It’s those places – small-town greasy spoons that really kick start everything for me. From there I can fill the locations with characters and situations. But for Akela and all of my other fiction, it starts with a place. Everything else builds from there.
TNR: Do you write in more than one genre? If so, what are they?
Ryan: I don’t really think of myself as a historical fiction writer, but it would seem all of my works are set in a specific era. My first novel, Tractor takes place in the early sixties while Akela primarily takes place in the forties through the seventies. In a sense, both are about growing up and expanding your worlds – but the former is more coming-of-age down to earth while the latter certainly has fantastical elements included such as the animals being able to talk. I also wrote a western novella set in 1908 Texas which is very different than anything else I’ve done – but still historical. My next novel, however, is a contemporary fantasy comedy. Then there’s all the non-fiction I do… so I’m all over the map.
TNR: Very interesting. I’m a Texan and would love to read your novella. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Ryan: Write as much as you can and expect nothing from it but your own personal satisfaction. Money will not come to you if you seek it. Nor with fame or praise. Most of the stuff you wright might actually never see the light of day. You have to be patient. Patient enough to see your work come into fruition, but also to see it through and get rejected a thousand times over to actually get somewhere and to shape writing that is actually great.
TNR: Good advice. How often do you write, and do you have a special time during the day to write?
Ryan: I absolutely cannot write in the evening. I will never go to sleep that way. But I won’t write either – I’ll just be tired and grumpy if I do. So that whole romantic notion of being strung out typing pages into the wee hours of next morning is completely lost on me. I am the opposite. I love waking up and writing in bursts in the morning. I’ll need a walk to clear my head in the afternoon, but I try and treat it like a full-time job. At the very least, six hours a day.
TNR: For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hardback books?
Ryan: I have never read an ebook. I just act. I’d combust! After spending the whole day writing on the computer – your eyes need a break. Reading on a device seems to give me headaches at the best of times. I think it’s important to take a break and dive into something tangible and even historical if you get the right old dusty novel in your mitts. Hardcover is perfect for non-fiction but too bulky for a good fiction story. It’s got to be a slender paperback for me to really enjoy. Something about a smooth cover and soft bendable pages is as good as it gets.
TNR: What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
Ryan: I have gotten both! Great reviews by people I know! Bad reviews by people I know! Both from strangers! I’ll admit, I enjoy knowing what people think. After all, isn’t that partially why we do this? To evoke a response. The key is not to judge your own writing based on those reviews – especially if an opinion is mixed. If it’s mixed, that means you hit the sweet spot. Everyone is lying if they say it’s good and, well, maybe they’re brutally on to something if they all say it’s bad… but it just comes down to the consistency of what is said. You can’t please everyone, but you can take the frequency of what is noted and use that to improve or movie on.
TNR: I agree 100%. What are your views on social media for marketing, and which of them have worked best for you?
Ryan: I’m not a big social media person – but it seems to make a difference. For Akela, I started early and put pictures of a sea turtle up in different historical moments every week on Instagram. People responded! Other’s now follow me on my author’s Facebook page. Some people have connected with me on Twitter. I don’t share much, mostly because I don’t know what to put and also because I’m a tad shy when it comes to the notion/ fear of oversharing… so I tend to keep things quiet. But the results are there! It’s a great way to share links so people know about upcoming events and where to buy your book!
TNR: I love your idea of posting pictures of the sea turtle for a week. I might just steal that from you. What do you think of “trailers” for books, and will you create one for your work?
Ryan: I’ve never paid attention to book trailers before. Never watched them. Never knew they existed really. But Akela had so much potential to have fun and build on the historical events that happen in the book. I ended up creating three trailers and a mini-documentary.
Here’s the first!
Akela Teaser Trailer #1
Windows Movie Maker and an old voice recorder helped me bring it all together. It was almost as fun to come up with as the novel! Did it do anything to promote the book? Not really… but was it fun to do? Absolutely!
TNR: If you ain’t havin’ fun, what’s the point, right. What is your favorite quote?
Ryan: “When you’re in a bowl of cheerios, be a froot loop.”
TNR: Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? What was it about?
Ryan: I was obsessed with Friends as a kid. SO much, I would write episodes about the show. I particularly liked the episodes where they travelled, so I remember writing a short story where the characters go somewhere in the Caribbean. All I remember is at one point, Phoebe jumps out of an airplane when she sees Rachel in a passing plane, opens the window, and climbs into the other plane. I also started with a lot of Star Wars fiction. It was my goal at age 8 to novelize the original trilogy.
What an awesome story. Thank you so much for dropping in and giving us a peek into your life and writing. I had a blast!
Take a look at Ryan’s catalog:
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Tea Time (2014) (Short Film) – Written and Produced by
Even the Devil Swiped Right (2015) (Short Film) – Written by
Motel Sangre (2019) (Short Film) – Written by
Cornelius (Feature Film) (In Development) – Written by
Wes and the Demon (Feature Film (In Development) – Written by
Tractor (2016) – Young Adult, published by Sartoris Literary
The Cattle Driver (2018) – Western, published by Red Dashboard Publishing
Akela (2019) – Historical Fiction, published by BHC Press
101 Most Influential Coming of Age Movies (2016) – Film History, published by Algora
The History of Lethbridge – A Canadian History about Ryan’s surprisingly wild homeland
Killing John Wayne – Film History detailing the lore surrounding cinema’s worst movie and production disaster, The Conqueror
This is Not My Story – Children’s Picture Book about story genres through Kids Can Press
If you have any questions about writing, movies, speaking engagements, new projects, and if it’s still keeping you up at night, how to properly pronounce Ryan’s last name… please get in touch!
Ryan resides in Langley, British Columbia.