Meet the Author – A Conversation with BL Ryan, author of “Greystone”

Meet the Author – A Conversation with BL Ryan, author of “Greystone” 636 724 Reader Views Kids

Greystone

B L Ryan
Tellwell Talent (2023)
ISBN: 978-0228846796

Born in Saskatchewan, BL Ryan has lived in several areas across Canada, from Ottawa to Vancouver Island while growing up. Her fondest memory as a child is of her father building a tent trailer and her mother sewing yards and yards of canvas for the tent. The family traveled across Canada and down the eastern seaboard of the United States for several summer vacations.

Betty worked as a drawing office assistant in Oxford, England, for almost two years before returning to Canada to work as a topographical clerk in Edmonton, Alberta. She pursued a BSc. in Agriculture with a major in Horticulture from the University of Alberta. While raising her children, Betty worked as an Office Manager for a non-profit society and took writing courses at night school and from the Institute of Children’s Literature, Connecticut.

The garden has always been a source of inspiration and joy for Betty, as are all the beloved cats and dogs who have walked into her life. Betty believes stories are the foundation of our life. The stories we enjoy, the stories we tell ourselves, our children and others reflect how we view the world around us. She enjoys writing fantasy for the youth genre because she feels there is still so much of the wonder of life, and the attitude that anything possible, with this age group.

About the Book:

All Mouse remembers about her father is sitting on his lap while he told her stories. She wished she could remember what he looked like. This wish becomes a key to a great adventure in another world when she hangs a white pendant that belonged to her father in her window. A gate appears with a dragon twirling in the air above a colorful garden on the other side. Zeeta, the royal dragon, greets Mouse and invites her into the garden. The garden is part of Sweet Water holding, home to Lady Jane who is the seer for Prince Ruler Jared, of Norlanda.

As Mouse and Zeeta struggle to complete a quest, Mouse searches for her father who she believes is on this side of the gate. Their journey takes them across the plains of Norlanda and south to the Border Mountains.

The seers have prophesied that a far traveler will appear and lead Norlanda against its enemies. This does not seem likely at this time as Norlanda is prosperous and peaceful. Dark forces gathered in the Border Mountains have recognized the sudden appearance of Mouse in the lines of destiny and have started to move toward her.

How will the presence of a child, a far traveler from another world, affect the destiny of this world? Exciting plot twists and suspenseful moments will have you hooked. Join me on this amazing journey.

Hi Betty, welcome to Reader Views! Tell us about your protagonist, Mouse. What motivates her and how did you ensure her development was compelling and relatable to readers?

Mouse was lovingly raised by her Aunt Livy and Uncle Robert after her mother passed away. She barely remembers the father who used to tell her stories while she sat on his lap, yet Mouse feels a connection to him and a yearning to see him again. Her Uncle Robert gives her a keepsake, a white pendant that he thought belonged to her father. This pendant creates a gate to another world. On the other side of the gate, Zeeta, the royal dragon, is playing in the garden of Sweet Water holding. Mouse realizes that she can speak to the dragon with her mind and quickly forms a bond with the lonely dragon. Her close connection with Zeeta and her memories and biological ties to her father anchor Mouse in this other world.

Mouse is comfortable in this world partly because she believes Zeeta will protect her. She sees Norlanda from the point of view of a twelve-year-old and wants to explore the palace and grounds of Greystone Fortress and is resentful of Lane who acts more like a child minder at first. Coming from a world that does not have such a structured society, Mouse makes friends easily regardless of their station in this world. She is impatient with the customs and rules around correct behavior that hardly seem necessary to her. She is fiercely loyal to Zeeta and the people who become her friends. Lady Jane and the Prince Ruler do their best to protect the young far traveler from the likes of Guild Master Paleo of the seers, who feels that a child who flies and speaks with a dragon should come under his supervision.

Mouse is captivated by the humming vibration she feels in her feet and hands and in the stones of the old fortress, a strange and magical place that few people want to visit. It is this humming vibration which Mouse comes to recognize as the guidance of the Etu guardians.

Can you talk about the development of the dragon Zeeta and her relationship with Mouse?

Zeeta is a young dragon who was sent to the royal palace of Greystone by the queen dragon so she could learn the ways of the people and fulfill her destiny. She became Jared’s companion when the gift of dragonspeak was bestowed on him by the Etu after his father submitted him to the terrifying rite-of-fire when he was twelve turns of age. Zeeta and Jared spent much time together, flying over Norlanda visiting the towns and villages, becoming much loved by the common people of the guilds. Now that Jared is the Prince Ruler, his duties do not permit him to spend much time with Zeeta. The dragon is lonely and visits Lady Jane and Mistress Susan at Sweet Water holding. They do not have dragonspeak.

From the moment the dragon realizes she can speak to Mouse, a bond is formed. Zeeta and Mouse are roughly the same age in many ways. Zeeta protects Mouse in her dreams and from the mind magics of powerful sorcerers, but the two find themselves in many predicaments because of their youth and lack of experience.

Lady Jane and the role of seers introduce a mystical element to the story. How did you conceptualize these characters and their powers?

The role of the seers is to provide guidance to the Prince Ruler and his court. The seers train for many years to learn how to enter a trance and visit the hall of destinies, a circular room surrounded by mirrors. The images on the mirrors will display the meaning of a question or show possible futures. The mirrors are not easy to read even by experienced seers. In this world there is quite a lot of superstition and fear associated with the seers and their ability to see the future in the mirrors. They come under the strict authority of the Seers Guild so their abilities are only used for the good of the kingdom and they are not allowed to drift into areas that might be deemed sorcery.

How did you approach building the world of Norlanda and its contrasting landscapes and societies?

I started with a story and a picture of a young dragon that I wrote for my girls and pinned to the bulletin board before I went to work in the mornings. I felt as if I had opened a window into the dragon’s world. I have been writing about this world on and off for many years. I had a sense of the outline of the story and I had to establish a timeline to organize the scenes to form a coherent story with multiple plot lines. I am always drawn to the characters and how their stories play into the main plot line.

Norlanda is not a democracy, it is a hierarchy with the Light King at the top, the nobles who run large estates or territories for the king and the guilds which collect the tithes that help provide the infrastructure for the kingdom. Of course, there are certain nobles who are ever ambitious and want a Light King on the throne that will serve their interests.

What research or resources did you draw upon to depict the magical systems and fantastical elements within Greystone.

I asked my daughter of 4-H and Pony Club fame about horseshoes. Lane accused Mouse of witchcraft or dark magics when she suggested to Cowley that he put horseshoes on the enu’s feet. This had never been done before therefore he thought she must be a witch.

People are drawn to magic or the appearance of magic. There is always fear against people with unusual talents as if they might use their power to influence or change a situation for the benefit of themselves or someone else, hence the fear and superstitions surrounding the seers’ guild in this story.

In this world the use of magic eventually comes with a price.  A spell may suddenly reverse itself causing unintended effects and sometimes injury.

The pendant plays a crucial role in the story. What is its symbolic significance?

The white pendant is a firestone surrounded by a silver dragon and worn by the Light Prince or Light King as a symbol of his office. The grey pendants are worn by the inner circle of advisors to the ruler. The white and grey pendants were given to the ruling clan of Dammir by the Etu – guardians of this world, to be worn by the ruler and the inner circle of people who serve him.

The white pendant symbolizes the gifts that the Etu bestow on the individual who undergoes the rite of fire to serve their people first as the Light Prince and then as the Light King. The white pendant is also a device that can create a gate to another world.

How does the prophecy in Greystone enrich the narrative and reflect the broader use of prophecy in fantasy storytelling?

Many prophecies are not taken seriously till there is a critical number of people who believe and help to manifest the prophecy.

The Seers had foretold the arrival of a far traveler that would lead Norlanda in battle against its enemies. Not all the details were revealed. Prince Jared did not believe Mouse was the far traveler of the prophecy at first. As Mouse and Zeeta became the center around which the Etu guided him and his army through many challenges, he does come to believe that the Etu are working through Mouse and Zeeta to affect the outcome of events.

How did you navigate the complexities of Mouse’s quest to find her father while ensuring it resonated universally.

There is an element of the impossible in Mouse’s search to find her father in a vast country like Norlanda, yet Zeeta believes Mouse when she says she saw her father in one of the mirrors in the Hall of Destinies and believes it is possible to find him. As Zeeta and Mouse looked for the woman of their quest they search for her father. Mouse has a deep yearning to see her father and also a deep hurt. Why did he not come back to visit her especially after her mother died?

The prophecy indicates that the far traveler will return to their own world. Prince Jared must decide whether it is in Mouse’s best interests to allow her to see her father before she must return to her own world.

The story is rich with unlikely alliances. What interests you about these dynamics?

The differences between such characters create tension with opportunities for snappy and insightful dialogue that reveals details about the structure of this society.

How do you see Mouse’s journey reflecting broader themes of identity and destiny?

This is an interesting question as Mouse’s destiny seems to evolve out of a yearning to connect with the father who left when she was young. This inner recognition of a connection to her father and by extension to Norlanda sets the stage for her journey and her role as the far traveler of the prophecy.

How did you craft the dark forces in the Border Mountains to serve as both a formidable threat and a catalyst for character development in Greystone?

After Jared survived the rite-of-fire at the tender age of twelve turns, he was granted the rare gift of dragonspeak, the ability to speak to the dragons and other creatures by the Etu guardians. It also made him acutely aware of the plotting and schemes of the nobles and the lies that people told each other and themselves, a two-edged sword. He preferred the company of Zeeta and the guard or the common people of the guilds who were much more direct and open. Pressure was put on him to select a consort from the ladies of the court and submit to the rite-of-fire a second time to earn the King’s Crown of Light. In this world the people follow the man who holds the two crowns. Jared did not want to undergo the rite-of-fire a second time and he did not want to be the King.

When he discovered the threat to Norlanda, he had to make decisions quickly to save Greystone which was the seat of power for his kingdom. He also had to create a cohesive army from all stations: nobles, clansmen, guildsmen, mostly volunteers, to fight the well-armed and formidable army of Princess DeCata.

He despaired of the success of their poorly trained, poorly equipped army yet forced himself to risk everything in a bold plan to save his country’s freedom.

Talk about the moral complexities of your characters, especially how you balance shades of grey within both heroes and villains.

Totally evil or totally good characters tend to be one-dimensional. It is the contrast between positive and negative aspects within a character and their background stories that make the characters imperfect but vastly more interesting and relatable. An example would be Prince Jared himself who was loved by the common people but also known for his impatience and fiery temper, especially with the nobles.

How do you balance fantastical elements with believability in Greystone’s story arc?

The fantastical elements such as the ships of the Water People and other creatures have to contribute to the story in a meaningful way. The ships have a place in the history of the Water People.

What’s your secret for crafting authentic conversations for your characters within the world of Greystone?

The words from each character must reflect the emotions and desires of their particular viewpoint, whether it is the point of view of a twelve-year-old girl who detests the stuffy court etiquette and wants to explore on her own, or a growing dragon whose thoughts are never far from her next meal, or a powerful summoner who craves the rite-of-fire for himself.

What do you hope readers take away from Greystone and what kind of feedback have you received?

Greystone is a satisfying read with many of the plot lines resolved at the end and many different types of love interests which I feel most people can relate to and are searching for in one form or another.

What’s next for you? Are there any future projects or sequels to Greystone that you are currently working on?

I am currently working on Greystone, A New Beginning which is a sequel to Greystone. It is four turns later. The queen dragon tells Lane that Mouse is in danger. Would he and Zeeta go to her place to help her? Lane jumps into the abyss with Zeeta. They arrive beside the pool in the garden at Gracen Farm.  

Is there anything else you would like to add today?

Catching a creative stream into another world is only the beginning. The scenes may appear at any time while I am gardening, watching TV, etc… not usually in order. The work is writing the scenes using the best possible language and connecting the scenes to form a coherent story, usually with many plotlines because I find the back stories of the characters so interesting. And of course: edit, edit, edit.

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