Last month international bestselling author Frank P Ryan's epic fantasy series, The Three Powers, saw the publication of the third book in the quartet, The Sword of Feimhin. We thought it a great time to catch up with Frank and talk to him not only about the new release but also about all those authors and books that have influenced and inspired him throughout his life. This interview forms part of our “How Stories Connect Us” series.
Hi Frank, thank you for talking to us today, here are the questions! Which book do you own that puts a smile on your face and makes you happy just by holding it in your hand?
Mort, and its many companions, by Terry Pratchett – I have many of Terry's books in hardcover first editions. I've been a fan of Terry's since I picked up his first book. The book, like the man, is quintessentially, and lovably, human. Others I might include are The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien, Stardust by Neil Gaiman, The Commitments by Roddy Doyle, and a relative newcomer to me, the more savagely witty, Shovel Ready, by Adam Sternbergh.
Which book or series do you read that makes you feel nostalgic, remembering the period in your life you first read it?
Here it would have to be Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in fantasy, and that great series of science fiction novels by Iain M Banks, including Feersum Endjinn, Look to Windward, and Against a Dark Background. I read Tolkien while on holiday in the Algarve and I read many of the Banks books (who I was on writing terms with) while holidaying in the Canaries. So I now associate them with the best of reading pleasure, glorious beach views studded by Canarian pine trees, breaking surf… and the old vino. Hard to beat!
Which book or series do you read that make your blood pump and your palms sweaty?
Stephen King's It is far and away ahead of any other for me. It was the first of his books that I read. At the time I had the same UK publisher, Hodder, and the editor there would give me his latest first edition hardcover when it came out. I would put King ahead on many of his books, since they combine terror with reader-friendly characters – and don't underestimate his wicked sense of humour.
Which book or series do you think you could implant one of your own characters from The Three Powers trilogy into? And would you want them to thrive and integrate, or would you want them to burn it all down?
This is a difficult one. I doubt if my characters would easily fit into any of the books I have quoted above, but if any might allow it, though relatively awkwardly, it might be Lord of the Rings. I share the same love and fascination for youthful innocence and personality as Tolkien. Indeed I had my characters, at the teenage stage, joking about Gollum at the onset of Book One, so perhaps they might work better in LOTR rather than any other. But I should emphasize that my heroes, Alan, Kate, Mark and Mo are modern teenagers, with an Earth background, so there would have to be an important crossover element. The crossover element is a major narrative component in my series.
I suppose that if there were a series where my characters might challenge the flow, it might be George RR Martin's Game of Thrones. It isn't that I don't like the series – I love it. But it might provoke a conflict of interest if the Tyrant of the Wastelands, empowered by the Fáil, were to intrude into the power scheming. The schemers might encounter a being colder and even more ruthless than themselves. To be really tongue in cheek about it, the four friends, Alan, Kate, Mark and Mo, possessed by – they might see it as in possession of – major supernatural powers, might also proved to be awkwardly resistant to “hero execution”. As to the dragons, here the two series might fit in pretty well – dragons love company.
Is there a particular author that leaves you thinking: “One day I want to be able to write like that?”
A tricky one since I've been a professional writer now for something like 30 years. I don't really aspire to write like any other writer. It would probably be more a case of… It'd be nice to be able to use landscape to build up mood with the guile of Tolkien; or to make characters as engagingly next door as Stephen King; or to have the feather-light delicacy of touch you sometimes see with Neil Gaiman (though not in his poetry); or the razor-sharp irony of Margaret Atwood, or the sheer sonorous clarity of Ursula Le Guin…
Thank you for your time Frank. The Sword of Feimhin by Frank P Ryan Jo Fletcher Books, published 4 Sep 2014.
The Tyrant now threatens Earth as well as Tír…
In a violently dystopic London, where Mark and Nantosueta are searching for Padraig and the Sword of Feimhin, Penny Postlethwaite, a gifted but emotionally troubled teenager, is mapping two Londons, the tormented 'City Above' and an eerie and frightening 'City Below'.
On Tír, an army of a hundred thousand Shee has invaded the Wastelands, intent on attacking Ghork Mega, the Tyrant's capital city, but obstacles of malevolent cunning obstruct their path at every turn.
Meanwhile, in Dromenon, while exploring the labyrinthine roots of the Tree of Life in her attempts to save the Momu, Kate finds herself in the Land of the Dead. Her only recourse appears to lie with the serpent-dragon Nidhoggr, whose very soul is chaos…
Day by day and hour by hour the looming threat grows…
The enemy is a faceless presence, alien to the land of Tir, his forces are savage and vicious for the sake of it. Considering that our protagonists are children; such savagery is surprisingly brutal as some of them experience it first hand or are witness to it. The author on his website mentions Tolkien, Pullman, C.S. Lewis and Gaiman when he speaks about fantasy, here he has drawn elements that are reminiscent of all these authors and has produced a book that takes us on an fast-paced, action-packed and truly fantastical journey along the Snowmelt River. I would be willing to suspend my disbelief longer to continue the journey as there is more of this tale to be told. I have given this book 8.5 out 10.
The pace of the book is ferocious, our young heroes have a lot of endurance, and they need it as Ryan doesn’t give them much time to rest. Also you can feel Ryan’s influences, the inventive races he creates and the second branch of the story that he has written for Mark’s character at the end of this second book are reminiscent of Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials Trilogy, the epic scale and facelessness of evil is Tolkienesque, but I also caught an air of C. S. Lewis.
The Tyrant now threatens Earth as well as Tír... In a violently dystopic London, where Mark and Nantosueta are searching for Padraig and the Sword of Feimhin, Penny Postlethwaite, a gifted but emotionally troubled teenager, is mapping two Londons, the tormented ‘City Above’ and an eerie and frightening ‘City Below’. On Tír, an army of a hundred thousand Shee has invaded the Wastelands, intent on attacking Ghork Mega, the Tyrant’s capital city, but obstacles of malevolent cunning obstruct their path at every turn. Meanwhile, in Dromenon, while exploring the labyrinthine roots of the Tree of Life in her attempts to save the Momu, Kate finds herself in the Land of the Dead. Her only recourse appears to lie with the serpent-dragon Nidhoggr, whose very soul is chaos... Day by day and hour by hour the looming threat grows...
"I do enjoy the inventiveness of the author and the spirituality of the themes in the story, this is all counter balanced by the stark and often brutal violence in some of the scenes which might be a bit too much for some young adults, or maybe my imagination is too visual! However, some of the characters need to be having some great epiphanies about how to use their powers, and fast because Hell has broken loose on Earth and only some divine like powers are going to help."
As London falls under the hand of the Tyrant, war grips Earth as well as the magical land of Tir. The fate of both lies in the hands of five teenagers. As Mark and Nan attempt to save the life of one of their friends in London, Penny is lost in the eerie confines of the Black Rose, where her expanding imagination is being manipulated by dark forces. On Tir, Alan leads his Shee army towards the Tyrant's capital city, Ghork Mega, but his advance falters. As Kate flies in to help him, a heartbroken Mo fears that she is not brave enough to prevent the Tyrant from assuming full control of the Fail - the item that will allow him to cement his power forever.
"The type of story the author tells is a difficult one for this modern age, not because it deals with current day themes, (although it does do this), but that the idea of 4 kids from Earth having adventures in another, 'magical' and more spiritual world sounds a little old fashioned. But Tir is a long way from Narnia."