For Spirit Of The Wood (hardcover, Kindle), the latest installment of her epic fantasy saga, the Green Rider Series, writer Kristen Britain is taking a step back to give the backstory of one this ongoing tale’s most seasoned characters. In the following email interview, Britain discusses how she came to pen this character-driven short novel.
Photo Credit: Madeline Shayne
For people who haven’t read any of the Green Rider books, what is this series about, and in what kind of world do these stories take place?
The Green Rider Series is an epic fantasy adventure that follows the exploits of the protagonist, Karigan, a runaway schoolgirl who encounters a dying messenger (Green Rider) on the road and is coaxed into carrying on his mission of delivering a life or death message to the king. A slew of dangers follow in which her actions save the king’s throne. She becomes a Green Rider herself, and the series continues to follow her as she grows and gets into even more trouble while helping to prevent her world from being overtaken by great evil.
This is a secondary world fantasy that is neither medieval nor modern. For instance, paper-making and printing press technologies are present, but guns and gunpowder are not. Karigan’s homeland, Sacoridia, is rich in resources, which has made it ripe for past invasions. I used my home state of Maine as a model to inform the landscape, ecology, and economy. Forestry and shipping, for example, were important in Maine, just as they are in Sacoridia. One big difference, however, is that Sacoridia has magic.
And then what is Spirit Of The Wood about, and when does it take place in relation to the previous installment, 2021’s Winterlight?
Spirit Of The Wood is a short novel about a primary character in the Green Rider Series, Laren Mapstone, who we first meet as the captain of the Green Riders. This story takes us to 17 years before the events of Green Rider to when she was a young lieutenant deeply mentally and emotionally wounded after leading the fight against the vicious Darrow Raiders who sowed chaos and shed blood all across Sacoridia. I guess this means it takes place about 22 years before Winterlight, in which she finds herself once more face-to-face with one of her old malice-filled foes.
When in relation to writing Winterlight and the other books did you come up with the idea for Spirit Of The Wood, and what inspired this new book’s plot?
My agent, Russ Galen, was the one who suggested I try writing some novellas. For a handful of years I tried to write one about Laren Mapstone. She clearly had quite a backstory I wanted to explore but I couldn’t seem to find the right starting place. Then, while Winterlight was in production (as I recall), the right story came along.
Why did you decide to have Spirit Of The Wood tell the backstory for Laren Mapstone as opposed to one of the other characters?
I am pretty sure I could write a backstory for many of the characters, but Laren Mapstone, in the series, is a mature, middle-aged, experienced Green Rider whose past is interesting in a number of ways. She’s been a Green Rider longer than any other known Rider, so there is a lot of material there.
As you said, the previous books in the Green Rider Series were all epic fantasy stories. Is it safe to assume Spirit Of The Wood is as well?
Spirit Of The Wood is a short novel (or novella), so lengthwise, it doesn’t look like an epic story, but when you add it to the world created by the series, it just adds depth to the epic nature of the world.
One interesting thing about Spirit Of The Wood is that you did some original illustrations for it. Was this the first time you’ve done that?
The first time I drew illustrations for a book was The Dream Gatherer, my novella and story collection that was released in 2018, which is also set in the Green Rider world. My original concept for doing the illustrations was that these were stories written in the journal of one of the novella’s characters who is writing a history on the Green Riders. I wanted the stories to look like entries in her history, and to look like she had also done some natural history drawings to accompany them. After the publishing folk saw the initial illustrations, I was informed they wanted me to do more. I asked them how many more, and they said as many as I could do.
As for Spirit Of The Wood, I think I forgot how intense illustrating The Dream Gatherer became, and for some reason decided I could do more for the new book. That was very silly of me.
And is there a reason you do pen and ink drawings as opposed to full color or paintings or some other form?
I didn’t ask, but I suspect full-color renderings would be economically un-feasible for my publisher. Also, I’m an amateur at this, and no good at painting. So pen and ink it was.
As we’ve been discussing, Spirit Of The Wood is the ninth novel in the Green Rider Series. Is it safe to assume this is an ongoing series, or is Wood the third book of the third trilogy or something?
As novellas, The Dream Gatherer and Spirit Of The Wood stand alongside the series. The novels are sequential beneath one arc umbrella, and following the central character of Karigan, and I am currently at work on number 8.
Given that Spirit Of The Wood stands alongside the series, do you think Wood would be a good place to start exploring the Green Rider Series?
You could read Spirit Of The Wood as a stand-alone. I think it’s pretty easy to get clued into what the world is about, and the story has a definite beginning, middle, and end. However, I think it would have deeper impact on those who have read at least some of the main series.
Hollywood loves adapting fantasy novels into movies, TV shows, and games. Do you think Spirit Of The Wood — and, of course, the rest of Green Rider Series — could work as a series of movies, a TV show, or a game?
I could see them as all of the above. The Green Rider Series is character driven, often fast paced, and, in my humble opinion, has good stories and is visually interesting. The show runners for Wheel Of Time spoke about wanting to adapt the TV version as a female driven series. Why not adapt a book series that has a female lead written by a female? Just sayin’.
So, if someone wanted to adapt Green Rider Series into some movies or a TV show, who would you want them to cast as the main characters, and why them?
Hah! I think I’d leave casting to the professionals because I have no idea.
Finally, if someone enjoys Spirit Of The Wood, and they’ve already read the rest of the Green Rider Series, what epic fantasy series of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?
I think they’d enjoy Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books. Taken as a whole, they are definitely epic and a lot of fun. I loved Todd Lockwood’s The Summer Dragon, and look forward to the next book. Julie E. Czerneda is mostly known for her work in sci-fi, but is writing the Night’s Edge Series, which falls on the whimsical end of the fantasy spectrum. For very immersive series, Kate Elliot’s historical style fantasy, Crown Of Stars, and Tad Williams’ (sci-fi? sci-fantasy? fantasy?) Otherland series are both underrated and amazing.