Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rebecca Ryals Russell speaks out...

30 Years to Write a Book?

When asked why I wrote this book, the first of a five-book series, I always pause to think. The idea for the book began about thirty years ago while reading David Eddings’s series, one right after the other, and everything of Terry Brooks I could get my hands on. Originally, the story in my head resembled High Fantasy with a wizard, dragons and elves. But I knew I wanted to incorporate kids from around the world as heroes.

Since I was teaching Middle Grades at the time, which meant leaving the house at 6:30am to be at school in time, I got up for a while at 5am and plunked away at my manual typewriter. This lasted for about three chapters before I found I needed sleep. Principals frown on teachers falling asleep in class--although the kids thought it was funny.

But the ideas wouldn’t stop. The story continued to grow. Then my family began to grow, one child every three years or so, until I was teaching and mothering. And overwhelmed. Anyone who knows me will tell you I don’t do anything half-way. My students were as important to me as my own kids, just ask my kids, they’ll tell you.

So I put eighty to a hundred hours a week into my teaching and the rest went into my family. Even when I quit teaching to be a full-time mom, I then put all of that energy into them. I tried writing, but was too distracted, tired and busy. But the story continued to grow. I began to see a shift in the violence and news of evil deeds being told every night or displayed in the morning newspapers. Demons were gaining the upper hand in our world, with the tightest grip on our children. And every time I mentioned what I saw happening in music, or movies or video games, my kids got mad and ignored me, saying I was crazy. I had to find a way to open eyes.

After twelve years out of the classroom, with my kids all in high or middle school, I went back to the classroom. But things had changed too much for me to catch up. The pressure was immense and I was miserable. My husband said, “Quit and write that book you’ve always wanted to write.” So I did.
On our five acres, we have a log house that my father built to live in. After he passed away we didn’t know what to do with this beautiful empty house. So we decided to rent it out as a vacation home. But until it got busy, I used it as a writing office. Surrounded by my parents’ furniture and quilts, rustic log walls and flat Florida landscape out the windows, I began again. But I didn’t rehash what I’d started twenty-five years ago. I started over. The story had changed.

For six months I created the world of Dracwald, invented my characters, monsters, mythological creatures and a basic plot. I illustrated everything to get a clear picture of my creations. And I researched, researched, researched. A story of kids fighting an evil wizard had blossomed into a story of multicultural teens battling demons encroaching on Earth after destroying other civilizations across the Megaverse. As I continued thinking and researching, the focus became Myrna (after about twelve name changes), the lead demon-hunter-slayer, who is responsible for finding the rest of the Vigorios and getting them trained on the island of Majikals. And along the way she would encounter real, actual news-story violence and evil taken straight from the newspapers from around the world. It would be eye-opening for her and the reader.

Then I began to write. After another six months I ended the story at 215,000 words. That was enough to make two and a half books. So the rewriting began. I broke the original story into sections and wrote and tweaked and revised and edited. Two years later I had two complete novels and a novella: Odessa, Guardian and Harpies, the first three books of the series.

In addition, I had enough material to begin a Middle Grade series called Stardust Warriors, based on the same concept but downgraded in violence and with age appropriate characters. Hence was born Zarena, Jeremiah, Laman, Mercy, Magaelbash and the upcoming Long Tu, Phoebe and Liam.

After a couple of years of revising I finally found the true story—one that will hold a reader’s attention and keep them on the edge of the chair while showing some of the evil that is happening around us. But there’s a lot of fantasy, mythology and imagination mixed in there, too. Anyone who pays attention to language usage will recognize names of places, people and things and how they relate to history, mythology or Latin word meanings. I love language and had a ball creating many of my own words and names.

Now that Odessa, Guardian and Harpies are scheduled for release, I’ve begun thinking seriously about Majikals, the next book.
It will be the most fun to write as it will contain tons of High Fantasy elements, including a wizard, elves, faeries, dwarves and creatures I invented. I’m thinking about pirate ghosts, mermaids and of course dragons, as well. Oh, and there will be love. How could eight teens live together on an enchanted island for a year without someone falling in love? But will it be with the right person, or shall we say, being? Even I don’t know that, yet.

17-year-old Myrna is drawn into the middle of an epic battle between Seraphym and Demons. An average High School student from Florida, struggling with inner demons resulting from an attack when she was 15, she wakes one morning on the Steampunk planet of Dracwald, home of the demon-dragons responsible for her brother’s recent murder as well as many other atrocities in the news.

She meets sweet and sensitive Michael, who explains that according to prophecy, Myrna must gather the remaining six Vigorios (teen warriors with special talents) then train with the Majikals on an enchanted island. 
He accompanies her on the quest, but harbors a secret past that ironically would destroy all the faith she has placed in him. 
A handsomely roguish Scientist with suspect motives haunts her dreams and makes sudden appearances in unlikely places, while a sensual dragon warrior defends her against her will. 

Will love and lust, jealousy, greed, deceit and distrust break the delicate tie that binds these teen warriors called The Vigorios? Can a troupe of teens help the Seraphym finally defeat the massive empire of evil dominated for eons by the demon-dragons of Dracwald? 

Rebecca Ryals Russell writes MG and YA Dark Fantasy and Horror while living with her family in a Victorian house on five acres of North Florida countryside. She also runs a Vacation Rental Log House on the property: Florida Black Bear Cabin. ( http://flablackbearcabin.com )

She is a fourth generation Floridian. She was born in Gainesville, grew up in Sunrise, lived in Orlando and Jacksonville before moving outside Lake City to care for ailing parents. The family now wishes to return to Jacksonville, which is why the house is for sale. (http://mcleranhouse.com )

The daughter of an Elementary-school principal and secretary, for fourteen years she taught Middle Grades, preferring English and Creative Writing. She had several students’ works published in anthologies as well as her own poetry, photography and stories. Her main interests are her four children ages 22, 19, 16, 11 and Irish hubby of 35 years. She enjoys spending her time writing, drawing, going to movies, reading, discussing philosophy with her 16-year-old son.
Over the course of the next few years she has several books being published.


Author Website: http://rryalsrussell.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/vigorio
Goodreads http://goodreads.com/user/show/1941846-rebecca-ryals-russell
Series Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/vigorio
Personal Facebook Page http://facebook.com/rebeccaryalsrussell


Unknown said...

What a mesmerizing tale your life is Ma'Lady. The driving need in doing something for what's going on today in evil vs good strikes a strong cord and I am grateful of your efforts and talent. Thank you for sharing. I thougth I'd appreciated you and your style before. This certainly kicked up the perception. Thanks again.

Rebecca Ryals Russell said...

Why thank you Ms Karen. I do my best efforts at protecting our young from yon evil beasts.

Rosalie, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share on your blog. (I still LOVE your covers--I'm so jealous)

Rosalie Skinner said...

Jealous? Rebecca, I love your cover. hehe. The image is stunning. Your cover for 'Odessa' is one of my favourites.
The work coming from Muse's new cover artist, Tiger, is impressive too. I love the cover he created for Wendy Laharnar's novel 'The Unhewn Stone'.
Thanks for being my guest today... and Karen, great to see you too. Thanks for dropping by.

Wendy said...

Wow, Rebecca when an idea grips you there's nothing that will tear it away and what a good thing that is. So much thought and effort has gone into your novels, that's for sure.
You took on a huge challenge combining all of those elements and I like the idea of including children from all over the world. Your series has to be a big hit because young readers from all over the world will associate with your characters and love them and theit story. Congratulations. I love your cover too. What a beautiful girl your heroine is.

Anonymous said...

Rebecca you are an amazing person...what an interesting life you've led (and are still living). I'm impressed with your stamina and drive for creating such a magical world and you never stopped creating it even when you were too busy to write.
Congratulations on your books - I'm so glad I came to read your story.
Thanks Rosalie for the invite to come and visit with Rebacca.

Pat McDermott said...

What wonderful persistence your ideas have, Rebecca, as do you to bring them to life in your books. Good luck in your ongoing fight against evil!

Rhobin said...

Some ideas just take that long. Glad yours came to fruition.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Hi Wendy, Kay Dee Pat and Rhobin,
Thanks for dropping by. Rebecca, I was thinking about how long you have spent on writing your book and will now admit that I began writing the Chronicles back in 1988. I was living in the country and had read all the books in the library that interested me, so my friend and I decided we should write our own!

I don't want to count how many years that is. Not quite 30, but a lot. :)

The orginal story has been rewritten a hundred times. The same characters kept returning to each and every rewrite.
Funnily enough the names Caleath, Nasith, Gwilt and Lachlan never changed.