Author Interview featuring the debut war drama “Royal Beauty Bright” (A Novel of WWI) by Ryan Byrnes

Posted Friday, 8 November, 2019 by jorielov , , , 1 Comment

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Good afternoon, dear hearts!

I read a very stirring war drama set against the back-drop of WWI this week, wherein it hinges itself to the very real Christmas miracle those men experienced during the first Christmas season of the war. It has become a story etched through various outlets of how a story can be told – from novels to films, but Byrnes took a new approach – where he placed a man with special needs (he has Autism) on the front lines and showed how sometimes in the middle of a war, the people you grew up with in a small community might hold the keys to your survival.

Today, I am warmly welcoming this debut Historical Fiction novelist to my blog, as I had some questions to ask him about his writing craft and the story itself. I wanted to find out a few details ‘behind the debut’ which might also be of interest to my readers and those visitors who are following the blog tour route – to see what has inspired this story to be told in the way it was published. It was a rather unique read – you find yourself shifting points of view from the past when Luther was growing up with Rodney to the present, where they are in the height of the conflict in No Man’s Land.

It is gruelingly realistic from that perspective but Byrnes tempers what he visually shows you with the humanistic side of how brother to brother, those men helped each other through the worst of it. It is a character driven plot and you find yourself drawn into how their lives have remained interconnected despite the fact they each have grown up into their lives and careers.

To shift the perspective off the battlefield – Byrnes hugged us close to those who were living outside the battles but were closer still to the war than we were stateside. These were the families left behind in the ruts of what was left behind to be found in the townes, cities and harbours where supplies could be loaded and unloaded; where replacements could be housed or routed through – where everyday life was half stalled due to the war and progressively moving forward all the same. Byrnes gives out the smaller details – of how these communities had to harden themselves against the war itself and of making their children feel less fearful of the changes – as they constantly had to re-direct their focus and attention off what was happening round them into something resembling the normalcy their lives had lost. It was a humbling moment where a writer offset the front by showing what ordinary Mums and grandmothers were doing to do their bit in keeping the younger generations shielded as best they could be from the realities crowding into their childhoods.

The best moment I felt where Byrnes showed how Mums raising special needs children assert their power and strength to those in authority who do not respect them is how Mrs Baker (Luther and Jim’s Mum) gave that Doctor a bit of a run for his money! I would have hoped it would have affected his approach to his doctoring of others but something told me he was as closed minded as they come and given the era he lived, it might be expected but it is never easy to read.

The most gutting scene of course is what happened to Rodney in No Man’s Land and I was thankful for how Byrnes approached writing the scene itself. It could have become more visually graphic and more gruesome to read – but the way he depicted that incident – it was poetic in how it gave conscience thought to what your thinking about in those heightened moments of trauma and how if you were a person who felt obligated to protect someone – how in your own moment of crisis, your thoughts are not your own and there is something else protecting you from the pain which was surely buckling your resolve.

Rodney was raised in the same village as Luther – though the two were never quite close, their Mums were more distant themselves. Yet, here at war, Rodney had taken a kindness on Luther and had vowed to watch over the man – this is why this was difficult to read, as whenever you begin a war drama it is a bit like re-embarking through the Titanic exhibit – not knowing which ticket you’re holding in your hands – First Class or Third; what that foretells of your destiny had you been the person whose ticket is now yours for the day. You have to take it step by step and work through the story because that is what is pivotal – how everyone becomes connected to everyone else and how without understand the invisible lines which connect us, they are dearly important to respect.

The further you move into the context of Royal Beauty Bright the more you understand how this is a generational montage of persons who grew up in the same small community and found themselves at war at the same location of each other and all of them were inter-connected through Luther. They shared a similar history of knowledge of his character and in many ways, had interactions with him in a previous life before the war itself had overtaken their lives. In this regard, the novel is a time shift – where you move from the present moments at the front of the war itself and then you re-shift backwards by a few decades to reach into their past, to see how they first interacted with each other and how that laid down the foundation of how they would become reconnected in the future. To bridge into the theory that for every person you meet in life it is unknown whom of which might become the most important person you need to know lateron.

-quoted from my review of Royal Beauty Bright

As you can see, Byrnes has written a dramatic war drama which puts you close to the war but re-focuses your attention on the men and women who were directly afflicted by that war. It is also a partial Epistolary novel on the level that there are a healthy collection of letters and correspondences which are also important in the context of the story.

If you haven’t had the chance to read this novel, I am hopeful you might find interest in either what I’ve shared on my review and/or inside this insightful interview with the author. Be sure to brew yourself a cuppa and find a comfy chair to enjoy what we’ve conversed about in regards to “Royal Beauty Bright”!

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Author Interview featuring the debut war drama “Royal Beauty Bright” (A Novel of WWI) by Ryan ByrnesRoyal Beauty Bright
Subtitle: A Novel of World War I
by Ryan Byrnes

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781943075607

Also by this author: Royal Beauty Bright

Genres: Historical Fiction, War Drama


Published by Blank Slate Press

on 5th November, 2019

Pages: 304

Published by: Blank Slate Press (@blankslatepress)
an imprint of Amphorae Publishing (@amphoraepub)

Read the story behind this women and veteran owned publishing company

Converse via: #HistoricalFiction, #HistFic or #HistNov
+ #WWI war drama and  #HFVBTBlogTours

Available Formats: Trade paperback and Ebook

About Ryan Byrnes

Ryan Byrnes

Ryan Byrnes is a St. Louis native. His first foray into writing was founding the publishing imprint, Avency Press, where he wrote one illustrated chapter book, The Adventures of Wheatail, and four young adult fantasy novels in the Son of Time series.

Since then, he has worked with a publishing company, a literary agency, and various aspiring writers seeking to self-publish. Ryan now lives in Iowa as a student in mechanical engineering and English. Between work hours, he builds Mars Rovers with his roommates, plays with cats, and watches Wes Anderson movies.

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The Christmas truce during WWI is quite a pivotal moment in history as it reflects upon the humanity of the soldiers but also of the peace which truly was attempting to shine through the strife of the war itself. How did you decide to use this as the moment which centred your entire novel and to give it the depth it deserved where all your characters could cross paths during such an incredibly spontaneous act of goodwill?

Byrnes responds: Well said, Jorie! At age 18, I wrote a novella with similar characters, but it was set in rural Illinois in 1927. Not very catchy. I mean, Illinois, really? At age 19, I read an article about the Christmas Truce; its message, its holiday appeal, and its application to modern times moved me so much that I rewrote my characters into this beautiful event. It sounds crazy that thousands of opposing soldiers would essentially go on strike and throw a Christmas party, halting the war for up to a month because they “don’t feel like fighting,” but it actually happened. It was real. I want to remind people that grassroots movements are powerful, that change can happen when people band together, and that sometimes sweetness survives.

Since I wanted to make the book applicable to our time, I touch on the refugee crisis. In the book, we meet three little French girls who have fled their home, and I really wanted to highlight their innocence. That’s why author proceeds of this book are going to the Immigrant & Refugee Women’s Program, a nonprofit that teaches English to newcomers. Consider donating!

What first drew you to writing Historical Fiction and what do you love most about being a writer of the genre?

Byrnes responds: At the time of writing this novel in high school, I was reading a lot of Steinbeck and Hemingway, so at that time I was interested in the early 1900s. I always start with the characters and their relationships, and I pick whatever setting best suits them.

Of all the eras which are currently being explored in Historical narratives – are there any which stand out to you the most as both a reader and as a writer?

Byrnes responds: Yes, I am very interested in the Packhorse Library, which was a network of scrappy horseback librarians roaming the Appalachian Mountains during the Great Depression. This is the topic of my next novel, which I started in 2018 and have recently completed. This year, several books were published on the topic, which shows lots of readers are interested.

The cast of characters you’ve chosen to thread into Royal Beauty Bright are a unique montage of generations and personalities – specifically I was keenly curious if Luther was a composite character based on someone who was sent to war or if his story was inspired by a different source? Also, how difficult was it to visually allow the reader to understand his autism through what you wrote about his character in the story? What clues did you want tip the reader towards knowing about what made Luther uniquely different from his comrades?

Byrnes responds: Thank you! The story never explicitly states that Luther is on the autism spectrum, because it was unknown to science back then. Autism is a spectrum with a wide range of symptoms. Luther’s character is consistent with what some refer to as level 3 autism, which includes a lack of verbal skills, trouble changing tasks, trouble coping to a change in routines, and more. After discovering his secret talent for making chocolate truffles, Luther changes socially and moves to level 2 autism. Presenting Luther accurately was very important to me, so I consulted with a psychologist and also a professional who works with mentally handicapped adults.

When I presented Luther’s autism in the book, the exposition was minimal, at least I hope. My strategy was just to show the realities of his life plainly, with no commentary attached, knowing that readers could figure it out.

How did you come to learn about the British Army Postal Service and what made the biggest impression on you to incorporate them into the novel’s scope of purpose?

Byrnes responds: The British Army Postal Service is a relatively unknown organization from World War I. They had the job of delivering all the mail from the soldiers. I have a book of collected letters from World War I, and they span the entire emotional spectrum—letters from lover to lover, from parent to child and vice versa, husband to wife, etc. I imagine that a character working for the postal service, sifting through all these letters, would be fertile ground for universal human stories. Also, the British Army Postal Service had the challenge of delivering 2 million+ Christmas gifts to the troops. During my research, I was lucky enough to obtain one of these Christmas gifts—a real historical artifact, a little 105-year old brass box sent to the troops on Christmas Day, 1914.

What surprised you during your research into this era and in the setting of where your novel takes place? Anything which might surprise a reader or fellow writers?

Byrnes responds: We are coming up on the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI. To cash in on the buzz, a lot of books and movies are coming out about the destruction of WWI. However, people forget the stunning nonviolence of WWI. It was a war where a German soldier sprinted into an enemy trench just to give them some leftover chocolate cake. It was a war where Brits and Germans would idly chat about sports and politics in between fighting. It was a war where thousands of soldiers from both sides essentially went on strike because they “didn’t feel like fighting.” Massive propaganda machines were invented simply to convince people to fight, because most of them just wanted to live in peace. I think these are the stories we should be telling, to teach people that human decency is much more enduring than we think.

Of all your supporting characters, whom was your favourite to develop and see come alive in the story?

Byrnes responds: None of my characters are particularly nice people; they are in morally ambiguous situations trying to do good, and aren’t we all? My favorite character to write was Constance, who was Luther’s single mother who persisted in raising him despite all the social stigma revolving around mental conditions in the Edwardian era. She handles his fits with all the grace she can muster, but she isn’t an entirely good person by any means. Constance does a number of morally questionable things to keep her son out of the asylum. Psychology has come a long way since then, and this is something we should be aware of.

What do you love most about writing stories set at Christmas and overlaying a historic event inside them?

Byrnes responds: I think the canon of Christmas stories is a useful genre because it has an assumed fairy-tale aesthetic, an assumed sense of childlike innocence. Think A Christmas Carol.  So many tropes already exist about the magical nature of the holidays, and I wanted to use these in a new way, to contrast the violence of WWI with the childlike wonder that survived despite all the destruction.

Which Historical Fiction authors draw your eye into their worlds and which eras do they focus on which inspires you most as a reader?

Byrnes responds: My bookshelf is filled with Karen Russell, Kent Haruf, Arundhati Roy, Anthony Doerr, and John Steinbeck. Very broadly, I like stories about characters who manage to preserve a sense of wonder toward life despite institutional injustice. I favor lyrical writing over sparse writing and would consider myself a maximalist, although Kent Haruf breaks that mold.

What was harder as a writer – setting the story against the known timeline of events in history or sorting out a compelling story to wrap along beside it? What do you think challenged you the most as you wrote the novel?

Byrnes responds: The character web came first; the setting came second. I think coming up with the character web and their relationships with each other was the hardest part. I wanted a variety of ages and lifestyles that contrasted against each other.

After making the character web, research was very fun. I visited the WWI National Research Library in Kansas City to view some first-hand documents and artifacts. Figuring out what regiment Luther was in and what cities he travelled through was a fun puzzle.

Why do you believe war dramas set during the World Wars are still popular for today’s reader and would you re-visit this era again in a different story or sequel?

Byrnes responds: My theory is that as the witnesses of the World Wars become older, the time period enters the realm of mythology. I think the World Wars are to my generation what the Trojan War was to the ancient Greeks. They’re used to teach lessons like why nationalism is bad, why international cooperation is important, why we should respect our elders, etc. Many, many, many novels have been written about the World Wars, and they become increasingly romanticized as time goes on.

As you’ve been an Indie Author and are now published with a publishing company – which method of publishing has become your favourite and in future, will you continue to go traditional or mix things up a bit by publishing through both routes? What were you best takeaways from both experiences?

Byrnes responds: In high school, I made a little job for myself as a self-published author. It was very fun, and there are a lot of authors who make a living self-publishing, but that’s not the direction I want to go in. I’m not a professional marketer, so I definitely appreciate the help of a publishing company in selling the book. My current book is with a wonderful publishing company, and I greatly enjoy working with them. I am currently looking for a literary agent. So far, six literary agents have requested to read my next book. In the future, I think getting a literary agent and trying to go for a traditional publisher will be the best way to get my stories into people’s hearts.

What uplifts your spirit the most when you are not researching or writing your novels?

Brynes responds: The best treat is to spend time with loved ones! I think Marcus Aurelius said that.

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I would like to thank Mr Brynes for his candor and his willingness to share a lot of keen insights into how he approached writing “Royal Beauty Bright”. He does give his readers a heap to contemplate throughout the novel – from the choices his characters are making and to the overview larger picture of how life was affected by the war itself. It another fitting narrative for those who are seeking realistic war dramas yet centred round characters who have a hearty message to share with you as you’re reading.

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This blog tour is courtesy of:

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBTFollow the Virtual Road Map

as you visit others participating:

As this particular one has a bookaway along the route:

Royal Beauty Bright blog tour via HFVBTsFun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Royal Beauty Bright”, book synopsis, author biography, author photograph of Ryan Byrnes, the tour host badge and HFVBTs badge were all provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. 2019 New Release Challenge badge provided by unconventionalbookworms.com and is used with permission. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Conversations with the Bookish banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2019.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Friday, 8 November, 2019 by jorielov in 20th Century, Blog Tour Host, During WWI, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, History, Mary Todd Lincoln, Military Families of the Deployed, Military Fiction, The World Wars, War Drama




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