Today we have an interview with Lea Ryan, author of the recently released middle-grade fantasy, Desmond Winters in the Realms of the Caged Sun.
You usually write adult books. What made you want to write for kids?
My son actually asked me to write a kids’ book, but I think by the end of it, I was writing more for childhood me. I read a lot when I was a kid, and this is something that I would’ve loved to read.
Kids have great imaginations, too. A lot of adults lose that as they get older, not all, of course, but we get so wrapped up in the far more mundane things like jobs and mortgages, and it becomes too easy to sideline the magic.
What inspired you to write Desmond Winters in the Realms of the Caged Sun?
Fantasy was always my favorite genre for movies and books. Movies like The Neverending Story, The Labyrinth, and The Dark Crystal showed me how beautiful, scary, and strange imaginary worlds could be. The same with the Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland. There’s a sense of wonder that comes with stories like those. Those places were always far more exciting than the real world, especially if I was stuck inside or somewhere I didn’t really want to be.
What other books did you read as a kid?
I read a little of everything. Harriet the Spy sticks out in my mind. The Boxcar Children books. Adventures in Babysitting. The Secret Garden.
My grandmother had a pretty big collection of Golden Books, so I read a lot of those when I was smaller.
I also had a fascination with older books. In my elementary school brain, anything old had this kind of magic that the newer stuff didn’t. I had a set of classics that were condensed for kids. I loved those books. War of the Worlds was in that set, Ben Hur, Treasure Island, Robinson Caruso.
I also loved this book of ancient Myths and Legends that I actually still have.
I can’t even tell you how many times I read that book.
Edgar Allan Poe has always been huge for me. And Alfred Hitchcock’s short story collections, which weren’t actually written by him.
What do you think makes a good story?
Magic, of course! Good stories are the ones that are able to plant the reader squarely in another reality, not necessarily just the fantasy genre. What I mean is, I like to feel immersed in the story. I want to float along with it and feel its heartbeat. I also want to see how characters can grow and overcome their challenges.
Is Desmond’s character based on anyone?
He’s probably a mix of my son and me. My son is 13, so I’m sure a lot of what I heard coming through Desmond’s voice sounds like him.
Desmond is bookish. He’s observant, too, and he has this way of analyzing what’s going on around him, behaviors and such. I didn’t write him that way on purpose. It’s just what he became as I was writing. Characters take on a mind of their own sometimes.
What was the creative process for coming up with the realms and that world?
One of the first ideas I had for the realms was inspired by an article I read about Alien 3. I know those aren’t kids’ movies, but that’s where it came from!
Anyway, so Vincent Ward wrote a script for Alien 3 that involved a wooden space station manned by monks. I had this image in my head of a wooden planet with these rafters everywhere. That eventually became the aqueduct that Desmond and his friends have to pass through in order to get to Nola Junction and the realms. Of course, now it looks nothing like a space station, and there are no monks.
From there, I’m not sure how the rest of it came about. I keep a binder of random ideas and stories. If I read something interesting or I have a strange dream I like, I make a note in the binder. Sometimes they blend together to become new ideas. It’s not like some divine spark hits, and I have a fully-formed story. It’s much more gradual than that.
There are stories in my binder that have been simmering in there literally for years. I sometimes add a note or two, and then I put the binder back where it goes until it’s time to start writing something new.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I can work almost anywhere as long as the noise isn’t too crazy. I write on my phone during lunch breaks at work and whenever I’m too lazy to get on a real computer. I write when I’m lying in bed or waiting somewhere.
I also write on my laptop or my tablet at home. I have written in libraries once or twice, but I found that to be kind of uncomfortable. I’d rather be somewhere I don’t have to wear shoes.
Will there be a sequel?
Yes! The rough draft of the sequel is almost finished. I hope to have it out by the end of the year. I have at least one more Desmond book planned after that one is finished.
Desmond Winters in the Realms of the Caged Sun
is available at Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes and Noble.