Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Syrie James & Ryan M. James Author Interview

Photo Content from Syrie James and Ryan M. James

Syrie James is the bestselling author of thirteen critically acclaimed novels translated into eighteen languages, her latest being a popular historical romance series for Avon. A member of the WGA, RWA, and JASNA, her books have been Library Journal Editor’s Picks and won numerous awards including the Audie for Romance and Women’s National Book Association Great Group Read.

Ryan M. James has enjoyed co-writing Embolden, Forbidden, and two screenplays with his mother Syrie. A performance director, lead editor, and co-writer for the video game industry, he received a WGA award for his work on Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. He also conjures stories for print, screen, and web, including an independent feature, several short films, and the machinima webseries A Clone Apart.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
(Syrie) The greatest thing I learned at school is that writing and theater are my first loves. My favorite classes were English and drama. I actually enjoyed writing essays (I know that’s weird, right?), I wrote short stories and plays, and in my senior year in high school I volunteered to write an original musical (what was I thinking?) that our drama class performed to much acclaim for a local school.

I was lucky enough to be cast in a bunch of plays and musicals in both high school and college, which changed my life in so many ways. I loved the rehearsal process, the camaraderie of the cast, and the thrill of performing. But the most exciting aspect of theater for me was the storytelling—the idea that a writer can create imaginary characters and an inventive plot that can hold an audience enraptured for hours. (I still get the same kind of thrill with every novel I read.) In school, I knew with certainty that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

In college, I wrote and produced more plays, as well as my first novel. Since then, I’ve never stopped writing. I have twelve published novels so far and I’ve sold twenty screenplays to film and television—and I feel like I’ve barely begun to share all the stories inside me!

As for theater … it will always be in my blood. My husband and I have all kinds of season tickets. I still write plays and perform occasionally. And when my sons Ryan and Jeff were involved in school theater (they are fabulously talented) I volunteered to do all the costumes, partly because the school needed the help, and partly because it was a great excuse to be a part of the production. One year, Ryan and Jeff both performed in Camelot, an experience so memorable it inspired part of the plot of Embolden!

(Ryan) School was a font of inspiration for me, from all forms of fine art (theater/music/dance/film/studio art) to world history, science, and languages (English & foreign). I draw upon all of those wells of knowledge and experience every day, whether I’m writing, making video games, or just trying to entertain people over a meal.

But the most important thing I learned on top of all of that was to express my viewpoint on any issue clearly, and to be able to back up the Why of that. Especially because every creative endeavor means multiple people with multiple [potentially competing] opinions, so it’s important to be able to stand your ground on issues important to you and help people empathize with your point of view. At the same time, I also learned (well, started to learn—this last part is ongoing) that it’s important to pick your battles when it comes to illustrating your point of view. Sometimes it’s not worth the energy, and saving the goodwill/patience of your fellow co-creators for arguing the Big Stuff results in a greater payoff.

What was your favorite book as a child and why?
(Syrie) At age seven I fell in love with The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Children of Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren. I read those books over and over again. I also adored Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery, and read the entire series. I think these books started me on the journey to becoming an author.

(Ryan) As far back as I can remember, I was addicted to reading any sort of mystery books—The Boxcar Children, Encyclopedia Brown, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. And then Lord of the Rings had a major influence on my concepts of epic storytelling. But I think the biggest influence was D'aulaires Book of Greek Myths, which I all but memorized as a child. Not only was I addicted to the interwoven tales from a people across the sea, but I was fascinated by the structure of the tales. That book was my gateway to Campbell and the Hero’s Journey, which still informs my desired approach to storytelling.

Has reading a book ever changed your life? 
(Syrie) The book that’s had the greatest impact on my life is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice (along with the mini-series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle) inspired my novel The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, which is a love story for Jane. The book sold at auction in a bidding war to HarperCollins, became an international and USA TODAY bestseller, and launched my career as a novelist. Since then, I’ve researched Austen’s life and work intensely, have written two more books about her (Jane Austen’s First Love and The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen), and I’m a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, where I’ve made wonderful friends and have performed onstage as one of Jane’s characters or as Jane Austen herself numerous times in the U.S., Canada, and England. Jane Austen continues to be one of my obsessions—so yeah, you could definitely say that her work changed my life!

(Ryan) Building off my childhood fascination with mythic storytelling, I think Robert McKee’s Story was probably the most important thing in my formative approach to writing. Even though he’s focused on breaking down movies specifically, I feel all the points he makes apply across the narrative forms. The structure, pacing, and subtext that work in film aren’t limited to visual storytelling, and I prefer to bring them to bear in everything I do … while hopefully making their presence as invisible as possible. My favorite works, regardless of medium, pull the audience into—and aid their empathizing with—the author’s point of view, which to me makes for a more enjoyable narrative experience.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life in writing?
(Syrie) I advise aspiring writers to take classes and attend writing conferences. Like anything else, writing is a craft that takes time to learn. If you’re interested in writing fiction, I recommend taking a screenwriting class as well, because the elements of screenplay structure are a great guide to creating a well-structured novel. Another great resource for writers, even if you don’t intend to write romance, is the Romance Writers of America. The brilliant authors in RWA are devoted to sharing their writing tips. Attend their local meetings and annual conferences, and you’ll come away informed, inspired, and ready to write your novel!

Don’t forget to read, read, read in the genre you want to write–that will help you find your voice. Write every day if possible, even if you only have time to jot down half a page. When you think your work is done, don’t submit it to an editor or agent until you’ve gotten feedback from other writers and/or people you respect. Don’t be discouraged if you get suggestions to make changes. Writing is rewriting! Be willing to take the time to make your work as perfect as it can be! And most importantly: never give up. I always say that the secret to success is The Three P’s: passion, patience, and perseverance.

(Ryan) Besides everything my mom just said, I’d like to add: figure out what medium you’re writing for, and then don’t just stop at words on a page. If you’re writing a book, get it to publishers. If you’re writing a movie, learn about filmmaking and make it yourself if the “proper channels” fail you. If it’s a comic or game or short story or anything at all, do whatever it takes to get it in front of people who can say “yes, let’s put this out into the world.” Don’t linger back, hungry, waiting for other people to make the thing for you. It’s your baby, get it in front of the appropriate eyeballs!

In your newest book, EMBOLDEN (Forbidden Book 2); can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about the novel?
In book one (Forbidden) Claire Brennan learned that she had psychic powers because she was half angel, and that her existence was forbidden—as was her relationship with Alec MacKenzie, an angel-gone-AWOL, who was one of her only protectors in a newly scary and dangerous world.

In Embolden, Claire and Alec are trying to lead a normal life, attending high school at Emerson Academy and hanging out with their friends. But jealous teenagers, vengeful enemies, the city’s new Watcher, and even the school play threaten to break them apart. Claire is trying hard to find her father, who disappeared when she was a baby. She communes with her Grigori grandmother, Helena, who is also a powerful psychic, and their visions suggest that Claire’s father is still alive … somewhere.

Claire has a new power that’s just manifesting, which her grandmother and Alec warn her never to explore, making it even more tempting—and soon Claire is trying it out in secret. This new “gift” makes Claire particularly attractive to the Fallen, who will do anything to recruit her. Meanwhile, Alec, feeling somewhat guilty for leaving the Grigori, investigates a Fallen operation in his spare time (against Claire’s wishes), putting even more pressure on their relationship. And just when danger rears its ugly head, they finally get a lead on where Claire’s missing father might be. Is the love they share enough to keep them safe? If Claire and Alec want to stay together … can they learn to fight together?

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Alec?
One surprising thing we learned about Alec was not really in creating him, per say, but in the discovery that he was equally as important a character as Claire. In our first draft of Forbidden, we wrote far more chapters from Claire’s point of view than Alec’s. Our editor at HarperTeen loved Alec so much, she wanted the novel to be more evenly split between him and Claire—and we were thrilled to hear it. So we (read: Syrie) went back and re-jiggered a whole bunch of the book to put it into Alec’s head. We made sure, in Embolden, to keep things a little closer in weight from the get-go.

Because of this, we were surprised and disappointed that when the cover was created for Forbidden (although it’s an awesome cover!) it only featured Claire. We’re pleased that with Embolden we’ve had the opportunity to put both our heroine and hero onto the cover!

What do you feel is the most significant change since book one?
Book one focused on Claire and Alec’s romance, and Alec’s struggle to protect her from villains who wanted her dead. In Embolden, the most significant shift is that Claire and Alec, although still in love, are both pursing interests of their own and keeping secrets from each other. They ultimately need to come clean and join forces if they’re going to repair their disintegrating relationship and solve the mystery of Claire’s missing father.

Aside from Claire, which of your characters do you feel has grown the most since book 1 and in what way have they changed?
Without spoiling anything too heavily, it’s safe to say Helena is much more active this time around, now that she’s out of that coma. Not only is her help pivotal in protecting Claire (and Alec) from Grigori politics and in searching for Claire’s father, but she also has a lot more to say about what Claire does with her powers than last time.

Which character have you enjoyed getting to know the most over the course of writing FORBIDDEN and EMBOLDEN?
(Syrie) It’s a tie between Alec and Claire; I love them both too much to choose. I really enjoyed being in Alec’s point of view. He is such a great guy, always wanting to do the right thing, yet he fights a constant inner battle between duty and desire. He’s suffered so much, he just wanted to stop being an angelic watcher/assassin and become a normal human being, but it turned out to be more complicated that he’d expected. Falling in love with Claire was never part of his plan, but it taught Alec to experience human emotion and made him feel alive for the time in his life. It’s fun to write about a character who looks 16 or 17, but has the experience of someone over a hundred years older, and fun to torment him every now and then with situations that make him feel the lesser human emotions, like jealousy and anger, and cause him to act in ways that aren’t quite so angelic!

It was also such fun to dream up and write about the changes that Claire goes through in Embolden. Book one centered on Claire’s journey to discover who she was, the source of her powers and the psychic messages she was getting, the evolution of her romance with Alec, and her struggle to stay safe. In Embolden, in addition to all kinds of serious new threats from The Fallen, we explored other aspects of Claire’s personality. We wanted to make her feel and behave like a normal teenager caught up in extraordinary circumstances, instead of some picture perfect heroine. So when Claire discovers her second power, and her grandmother insists that it’s dangerous and forbids her from using it, Claire can’t resist the temptation to secretly test it out. Having kept one secret, it becomes easier to start keeping other secrets from her family and friends … … and pretty soon Claire finds all the most important relationships in her life disintegrating, and she isn’t sure how to fix it.

(Ryan) Rather than one specific favorite character, I’d actually say I’ve most enjoyed building the world of Forbidden and Embolden with all its many varied characters. Alec and Claire are of course our primary point of view in these stories, and they have specific experiences that our audience hopefully relates to that pulls them in. But the people around them—from their friends at school to Claire’s mom and grandmother, from the teachers they love (or hate) to the Fallen Trio and the Watchers (good and bad) who put them under tremendous pressure—I love getting to know them more and more with every beat of each novel.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
(Syrie) I’m currently writing Duke Darcy’s Castle, book 3 in my historical romance series for Avon. Set in Cornwall, England in the late Victorian era, the novels are love stories that feature smart, talented people who are driven to defy society’s rules and follow their dreams, no matter what the cost. I’m excited to say that the first two books in the series, Runaway Heiress and Summer of Scandal, are getting fantastic reviews. Although the novels are interconnected because the heroines are sisters, each book can be read as a stand alone.

Duke Darcy’s Castle is a love story about the newly minted Duke of D’Arcy, who hires an architect to redesign his Cornish castle. He is stunned when the firm sends American heiress Kathryn Atherton—a woman working in a man’s world. Kathryn is devoted to her career and has no intention of marrying anyone. D’Arcy, a Royal Navy captain who was forced to give up his commission when he inherited his dukedom, soon finds himself embroiled in the biggest and most important battle of his life: wooing and winning the woman who has captured his heart—a woman he has traveled the entire world to find. Duke Darcy’s Castle is due out in 2019.

(Ryan) I don’t have anything print-wise coming, though there are some side projects I’m [very] slowly developing. For the moment most of my energy is focused on material for the video game The Last of Us: Part II at my day job at Naughty Dog. These epic AAA games take a lot of work, and I’m very fortunate to be a part of the storytelling team that tries to push the boundaries of the interactive industry.

What is your most treasured memory?
(Syrie) My most treasured memory is the day, or should I say night, that I met my husband Bill. I was in my junior year of college at U.C. Davis, and had been invited to a party by one of my colleagues on the campus newspaper. When I arrived, the host, Tom said, “Hey, my cousin Bill drove up from U.C. Berkeley and doesn’t know anybody, would you talk to him?” Tom led me out to his apartment balcony and introduced me to a really handsome guy who had the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. We talked for 3 hours straight, and spent the entire next day together before he had to go back to Berkeley. Three weeks later, we were madly in love and knew we were destined to spend the rest of our lives together. The past four decades have only increased our admiration and love for each other. I feel so lucky to have met such a wonderful man at such a young age, and to have grown up with him at my side.

(Ryan) Can’t pick just one!

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?(Ryan) 
I already was a teenager in the 90s, so I don’t think I can answer this question. I will say that I’m damn grateful to have been a teenager just as the internet was forming, so that I’m comfortable with it but didn’t have social media to deal with along with all the other usual teenage drama.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
(Syrie) How grateful I am to be alive. 
(Ryan) “Okay, better feed my corgi so she’ll stop howling.”

By Syrie James and Ryan M. James
  • The romance. You can’t wait to find out what happens next for Claire and Alec. (You’ll be riveted, we promise.) 
  • The revelations. Claire’s second power is totally awesome—but also dangerous, and she’s been forbidden to use it. (Good luck with that.) 
  • The mystery. You’ll finally find out where Claire’s father is … and why … and (just maybe) if he needs to be rescued…. 
  • The humor. Claire’s Grigori grandmother, Helena, is a major character and she’s snarky, powerful, and fabulous. 
  • The drama. Jealousies between various people in the school play (including Claire’s longtime crush Neil) threaten to tear Alec and Claire—and their friends—apart. 
  • The action. Alec struggles (in secret) to stop the bad guys … and is totally badass. 
  • The new Claire. She’s stronger. Bolder. And becomes pretty badass herself. 
  • The new villains. They will intimidate you … and maybe charm your socks off at the same time. 
  • The new threat. With Vincent imprisoned, a new Watcher is here to find Alec and keep tabs on Claire (as if things weren’t difficult enough). 
  • The advance reviews! Ms. Martin Teaches Media called EMBOLDEN “Entertaining. Filled with teenage drama, scary but charming villains, friendships tested, paranormal powers, and romance. 5 out of 5 stars." 

    Bloom Magic enthused: “I read Forbidden and Embolden in three days. Absolutely loved them both! I love Syrie James so as soon as I saw her name I had to read it. Thank you for a great story. 4 stars!”

    Nightly Reading gave EMBOLDEN 5 stars: “Like the first time, I devoured it again in one sitting and cherished the tandem of Alec and Claire … I felt like I was watching a movie with superb scriptwriting … I was so invested and just kept turning the page. Now I am biting my nails in anticipation on what comes next.”
Internationally bestselling author Syrie James and her son Ryan M. James bring their trademark drama, humor, action, romance, and suspense to Embolden, the second book in this critically acclaimed series.

The world is trying to tear them apart.
Will they stand together and fight back?

After a season of psychic visions and super-powered drama, Claire Brennan and her angel-gone-AWOL boyfriend Alec MacKenzie can finally be together. Under the protection of Claire’s grandmother, they are trying to lead a normal life, going to high school at Emerson Academy and hanging out with their friends.

But jealous teenagers, vengeful enemies, the city’s new Watcher, and even the school play threaten to break them apart. Not to mention Claire’s surprising second power, which could sabotage the trust of everyone she holds dear. And just when they need to stick together, they finally get a lead on where Claire’s missing father might be.

The threats, which come not only from without but also from within, will test the strength of Alec and Claire’s relationship. Is the love they share enough to keep them safe? If they want to stay together … can they learn to fight together?

Embolden picks up right where book one ended and advances the story through Claire’s newly found power and her mission to find her long lost father. On the other hand, Alec finds himself occupied with fighting the Fallens and keeping out of sight from the Watchers. The waters are rougher this time around as trust, friendships, and relationships are put to the test.

Claire has really grown this time around. She begins to question her life and her gifts. She discovers a new gift in which her grandmother warns her of the dangers. However, this only leads to temptations and which lead to the attentions of the Fallen who desperately want to recruit her. She and Alec’s relationship didn’t particularly go smooth as dishonesty and deceits really placed major hurdles in their path as a couple. At the same time, Alec is having feelings of guilt for leaving the Guardians to be with Claire. The two find themselves in a rough patch and seeing it all unfold through the writings of Syrie James and Ryan M. James was truly a spectacle to read.

The character development and the introductions of new characters really help gave the story a sense of bigger and better things to come. And it sure did. The school musical provided a different aspect through the characters’ interactions, which in return gave each one more depth. Reading through the pages was smooth. Each turn was met with anticipation and excitement. The writing was systematically done to keep readers on the edge of their seats.

The tag team of Syrie and Ryan continues to give readers their exciting brand of romance, humor, action, and drama. They are masters of mixing these attributes together without drowning out an attribute with the other. Readers will find themselves in the front row of this roller-coaster ride of emotions and get a first-hand feel of this unique take on Angels. The story will grab readers by the wrist and lead them to a plot of mystery, adventure, and magic.

You can purchase Embolden (Forbidden Series #2) at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you SYRIE JAMES AND RYAN JAMES for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a $20 Amazon Gift Card.. 


  1. I don't know what my greatest fear is. I'm pretty even-keeled. I suppose that something bad might happen to my kids.

  2. My biggest fear is abandonment.

  3. My biggest fear is earthworms. I can tolerate snakes but earthworms are so scary.

  4. My biggest fear is losing loved ones.

  5. I have a terrible fear of heights.

    abfantom at yahoo dot com

  6. My biggest fear is dying alone and never finding true love.

  7. Not being able to care for myself.

  8. My biggest fear has always been losing my eyesight because then I wouldn't be able to read. Thank goodness for audio books these days I guess, so maybe the fear isn't as great any more.

  9. My biggest fear is heights.

  10. My greatest fear is losing people I love to sudden deaths that I can't say goodbye to them. I have had that happen before, and I never want to walk through it again.

  11. My biggest fear is flying ever since having a shaky experience.
    thank you

  12. I have several things that I don't really like, but don't think I have a real fear of any of them.

  13. My biggest fear is fire ants. Yuk.
    Thanks for the contest.

  14. I don't like heights, and I greatly fear the doorbell ringing in the middle of the night. It's never a good thing!

  15. My biggest fear would be heights

  16. My biggest fear is being alone. Not like for an evening, but ...ending up alone somehow.

  17. I have a fear of heights especially on a tall bridge.

  18. My biggest fear is something really bad happening to my children.