Melaine Bryant grew up immersed in The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, the stories of King Arthur, and many other fantasy books by authors such as John Christopher, Ursula K. Le Guin and Lloyd Alexander. Always an avid reader, Melaine has a background in English and classical literature and languages. She had intended to follow her father’s footsteps to a Ph.D. in English Literature, but found that writing The Prophecy Keepers series was much more fun. Melaine kindly spoke to Fantasy Book Review in February 2009.
When you were young you spent many happy hours composing stories, books and screenplays. Have you kept this work and did any of it make its way into The Prophecy Keepers?
Melaine Bryant: I think I’ve kept just about everything, including the very first story I ever wrote. I was five, and it was about a ghost cat named Craig Pickle Picklitis who lived in the walls of my house. I have several boxes full of notebooks, self-bound and illustrated stories, and every draft of every screenplay, story, book, poem—you get the idea—I’ve ever written. And yes, I’ve definitely plagiarized myself in The Prophecy Keepers.
The Prophecy Keepers is your debut novel. How have you found the experience of having your first book published?
Melaine Bryant: It’s kind of strange. I’ve been dreaming about this my whole life, and I always thought that getting published would be this huge thing that would change everything. I didn’t expect it to feel so normal, like it’s just a matter of course. I guess part of it is that it doesn’t feel quite real, even though I can go into a bookstore and look at the book on the shelf (and take pictures of it with my cell phone). That and the fact that, sadly, I haven’t suddenly become rich and famous, so my life really hasn’t changed all that much. The other thing I didn’t expect was that I’d be required to do so much publicity! I’m not good at speaking in front of groups—I’m extremely uncomfortable being the centre of attention, and I tend to become embarrassingly inarticulate. I’d much rather stay at home in my bubble and write. Now, that’s not to say that it’s not fantastic and amazing and just really friggin’ cool! Or that I’m not incredibly fortunate.
What emotions are you hoping to bring out in the readers of your book? What would you like to think they feel before, during and at the end of The Prophecy Keepers?
Melaine Bryant: Mostly, I’d like people to feel that they want to keep reading and, when they’re done, await book two with fervent anticipation! I want it to be a fun, enjoyable read. I suppose I want what any artist wants—to have my work move people on a variety of levels. And if it doesn’t, I can always find solace in the fact that I move myself. I find myself quite funny sometimes. And as I wrote the end of book three, I was crying like a baby.
Hollywood would like to make a film based on your book. If the casting decisions were yours to make, who would play Lisandra, Rædan, Arethus and Lucifæra?
Melaine Bryant: I really don’t have any ideas for Lisandra and Arethus, or most of the characters—they’re just voices in my head. I know what they feel like, and I have a sense of what they look like, just not anything definite. Oddly enough, however, I’ve always imagined Rædan as looking like Frohike (Tom Braidwood) from the X-files. Lucifæra looks a lot like Madeleine Stowe. And, incidentally, the fenmine bear a remarkable resemblance to Richard Armitage with really short hair. In their human form, of course.
Arethus reminded me strongly of Schmendrick from Peter S Beagle’s The Last Unicorn? Was The Last Unicorn an influence when writing this novel?
Melaine Bryant: Erm… I’ve never actually read The Last Unicorn, I’m ashamed to say. I’ll put it on my list.
Is there any of Melaine Bryant to be found in Lisandra?
Melaine Bryant: I think there’s probably some of me in all my characters, but nothing overt springs to mind.
There is a section in the book where Lisandra and Arethus enter Devon’s house and see him as he truly is. This is probably the most adult part of the entire book. Where do you think the line has to be drawn when writing a novel for young adults?
Melaine Bryant: Yes, that caused some difficulty. That’s the chapter in which we meet Argante, the first of the Seven Dæmons. I needed to make Devon/Argante represent lechery, which is a difficult thing to do in a book that’s to be read by children. I used a lot of imagery and symbolism from Spenser and Dante and other sources, but I had to include something more substantive, something to make it part of the story, not just a bunch of symbols. So I took the broader definition of the word concupiscence, not specifically lust, but desire (albeit sensuous) for anything worldly, and kind of skirted around the whole thing. I pushed it about as far as I was comfortable with. I’m not exactly sure where the line should be drawn. Definitely before anything overly explicit. Sometimes I think that should be true for many adult books, as well—too often, the explicit is simply gratuitous, which, in my opinion, is just lazy writing.
If you had to choose one fantasy book to take with you to a desert island, what would it be and why?
Melaine Bryant: Wow, that’s a hard one. Can I take two? The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, and William Blake’s prophetic books—although I’m not sure that any English Lit scholar would agree with my classification of those works as “fantasy.” But it’s my island, so I can call them what I want. They are such great sources of inspiration for me. I love symbolism. I love the connections of things on a grand scale. I can read these works over and over and each time discover something new and compelling.
What does the next 12 months hold for you?
Melaine Bryant: Well, I was hoping my publicist would send me off on a European book tour. But alas…. I’ve just started a four-month book tour of California middle schools. My publisher is located in Northern California (by San Francisco), and I live in Southern California, and California has one tenth of the population of the entire US, and middle school students are the youngest of the target audience, so it’s a natural place to start. I also need to have the manuscript for book two in fairly good shape by mid-May or June, because the galleys have to go out for review around then. There will be more publicity stuff over the summer and in the fall, and the new book comes out on November 1st. And somewhere in between all that, I have to find the time to finish books four and five. And to clean my house once in a while.
There is an ancient legend in the memories of the humans of Niwengeard, that a time will come when Darkness will fall upon the kingdoms of Earde and one will rise who threatens all species. It has been foretold that at this time, a Gifted human child possessing the powers of the magical races-the empyreals-will be born to lead a revolution against the Darkness. But this memory is hazy, like the memories of the beginning of time, of the Creators, of the First and Second Destructions, and even of the empyreal races who share the humans’ world. So when a fairy named Rædan appears b [...]
His Charm had been destroyed, and the Third Age had begun... He had been created for good. He had been created to stop the Darkness, the destruction, to bring order from chaos. But at the violent end of the Second Age, as dark flames scorched the landscape and the seas swelled, whipped up by icy winds, it became clear that he had failed. He had changed, and he had used his Charm to imprison the races and species of Earde, subjecting them to his laws and cruelty. Now, millennia later, the Darkness is once again spreading across Earde. As the gates by which the non-blinking magical races [...]