A long time ago, about 1995, I decided to write a fantasy series of novels. I wanted to start with my characters as teenagers, because that's a very interesting and important age, when personalities are being laid down. I started out with six characters and ended up, in The Snowmelt River, with four, Alan (American), Kate (Irish), Mark (Londoner) and Mo (adopted Australian half aborigine).
I was already a successful novelist, with three thrillers published, Goodbye Baby Blue, Sweet Summer and Tiger Tiger, which eventually found a readership of hundreds of thousands. Should have been no problem extending to fantasy... Don't you believe it!
One of the most pernicious things about being a writer is the fact that the establishment tries to peg you into a hole. One hole - one pigeonhole if youi like. And there you are supposed to stay.
Well I wasn't for staying.
Maybe I was a little crazy to try to do this. But recently two very experienced editors agreed with me - that writing is a folie-a-deux - with both writers and editors/publishers needing to be slightly mad, and with the two creative madnesses entwined, rather like we grow into one another as married couples.
I spent two or three years allowing the teenage characters to come alive inside my head. Meanwhile I sketched out four books in a series, each a story in itself, but the whole moving on as what my German friends would call a gestalt - a whole.
But now the pigeonholing came into effect. My fiction publisher baulked at what I was writing and my agent was also concerned. I agreed, against my better judgement, to rewrite the first book, already substantially written, as an adult fantasy thriller - so it would "fit better with my profile". I have to admit that it was successful, in sales terms, and also reader response, but not for me. When it came to the second book, I had to write a complex, subtle, humorous relationship between Kate and a dragon. Wouldn't work in any way other than Kate as teenager.
And the truth was I missed my teenage friends. I had allowed them to be entombed in the terrible limbo of characters locked away within the writer's imagination, never to be allowed the freedom to develop.
I dumped the series. I recalled my copyright. And I probably sulked. Not very grown up of me, I regret to confess.
But I never gave up on my original plan. Now, with the help of friends, such as Brendan Murphy and agent Leslie Gardner, the children are emerging. And boy is it better! Those personalities, locked away for years, are relishing their release. They're rewarding me by doing things that surprise me. They're really making it work.
The Snowmelt River is gathering some wonderful reviews - and slowly the e-mails from readers are starting to come my way. The readers really love the book. They find they get to escape into a differernt world while they're reading it. And that was what I wanted. But most of all, they identify, really strongly, with the teenage characters, who have such passionate and intense interactions, and who are maturing to adulthood during the series.
For me that's the most important thing - it's what the link between writer and reader is all about.
The Snowmelt River, first published by small press Swift, proved such a success that the series has now been taken by the renowned Jo Fletcher for her fantasy imprint at Quercus Editions. The Jo Fletcher edition, which looks magnificent, is published on August 2 2012. A signed and dedicated first edition copy can be ordered right now at www.frankpryan.com. Book Two, The Tower of Bones, is also available for pre-order at the same website and will be published in November 2012. Books Three and Four are currently being written. Each book is intended to read as an adventure in itself so people don't need to wait for the entire series to be published to enjoy them.
You wouldn't believe how satisfying it is to have my original creative inspiration come to fruition.
The picture is a poster by artist Mark Salwowski, illustrating some of the big themes from The Snowmelt River. Posters are for sale from Mark's own website.www.salwowski.com.
30th October 2012: This is an additional happy note. Last week The Snowmelt River went to no 8 in the epic fantasy bestseller list on amazon.co.uk. How's that for a reward for sticking to my guns.