Ryan and Essie, chronologically, was published between Victoria: A Tale of Spain and The Test of Devotion. And ordinarily I group the books in pairs based on when they were published. The two story collections; the first two Palladia Series books; and the two novels about American 20th-century life are all natural fits for each other and it also happens they were published in adjacent years.
But Ryan and Essie doesn’t match the feel of either Victoria or Devotion. In fact, it’s incompatible as a mystical fantasy story set in deep space. These two books, meanwhile, have much in common with each other and were published very close together. So I’ve paired them as a couple and moved Ryan and Essie farther down in the list towards more recent books in spite of its technical time of publication. This is because it’s now the only one that doesn’t have a partner. (You have 9 books and you’re working in pairs of two, this is bound to happen! 😊) A new book will probably have a lot of compatibility with Ryan and Essie, especially if it’s a fantasy story.
I’ve found it logical to work with the books in pairs because books written very close together usually have the same emotions from readers. It's certainly possible for characters to be part of little cross-connections throughout my books, but audiences tend to feel similarly about books written close in pairs. So usually I write two books that explore a set of related ideas and then move on to another pair of books. But over time I’ve noticed that Ryan and Essie has stood outside of any conversations about my other books. This makes sense if another book is needed to make a pairing--I've only explored half of the ideas around this story, so it's a bit out of context. So why was Ryan and Essie published when it was if it had nothing to do with stories published at that time?
Well, this is really one of my oldest books. I started working with the ideas when I was still a juvenile. And perhaps whatever book eventually pairs with it will also have been a hidden part of my writing world for a very long time.
And there will be more updates.
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Ryan and Essie have always been there. When I was a little kid, I first drafted part of a story about how these two children found a distant planet. As a teen the royalty of Caricanus and their intrigues started to show up, with Tarvelas and Viltan. The story was finished much later, as an adult, when I added the ending and stitched it all together.
But I didn’t realize until even more years had passed that what had always been there was a sense of humor. Behind the zany comedy and adventure of kid's books lie a good deal of accidental (or at times intentional) satire of the adult world. Many things are mentioned in comedy for children as a way of exploring them. Adults often take things too seriously. Life is a serious, serious business. People have to work hard, be attractive, get married, get good jobs, plan for retirement, bury their parents, pay for health insurance, and make sure Christmas-with-the-relatives goes off perfectly. But what about the fun people had as kids?
Ryan, a miniature grown-up in the making, is already no fun. He’s uncurious, plays it safe, and always thinks about the bottom line. And he is also a funny character. It also makes a good learning experience for kids, who are used to having the adult world made fun of in their stories. Essie is all child and has the exact personality that makes many adults wish children would sit still. But kids don’t do that. And when Ryan wishes Essie would do that, when he is himself a kid, they are thrown into outer space in the sort of way that children like.
Well, until they grow up to be like Ryan.
And there will be more updates.
One of the most memorable moments, I think for anyone who’s read Ryan and Essie, is when Tarvelas dies. She is connected to a mirror and when Ryan pulls it out, she dies by the end of the book. Everyone is very upset by this, especially since both Ryan and Essie have come to admire her. But in a place shrouded in secrecy, to which they have just come as visitors, there must have been a lot leading up to this.
Why her? Why not someone else? What does this relationship with the Mirror really mean?
Tarvelas explains it as essentially a power like God, who speaks to the people of Caricanus through the Mirrors and has chosen her as a voice because the Mirror is in danger. But she doesn’t seem at all surprised when she dies. In fact, at all times she has an odd smile on her face as if she accepts it. Amid all the underlying things buried in Ryan and Essie is the potential idea that Tarvelas isn’t actually good. Maybe she’s not completely bad, but we mostly see her through Ryan’s eyes and he makes no effort to know more about her.
It’s not even sure that she’s as young as she looks. What if she’s actually old and made some mistakes in her past that mean she has to die now? And if so, what mistakes would these have been? Maybe an interaction with one of the other characters? It doesn’t seem threatening to anyone else, but it is a tipoff that while Ryan and Essie is a simple story, its characters are anything but.
And there will be more updates.
Pleasant Fiction in an Age of Noise
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When I set about defining my books, I wanted them to be positive places where a gentleness emanated from the pages. A hopeful safety lies in gentleness and there's also an honesty to it. A whirlwind of pushy book blurbs and hot characters (or whatever type character the author wants you to admire) can conceal a reality underneath. A quiet--possibly even lurking--reality that's more visible if you dial down the volume. That lurking reality isn't necessarily bad, but like anything quiet, it gets drowned out by conflict and angst. Peaceful fiction can help explore the truth that noisy books ignore.
Bellevere House has been featured on Ezvid Wiki video "10 Wonderfully Inventive Retellings That Interpret Classic Stories in a New Way." Click to see the video.