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With ‘Lion of Fire,’ novelist Brittany Ranew opens a magic portal

Bill DeYoung

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Brittany Ranew is a realtor, a podcaster and the author of "Riley Jordan and the Fire Prophecies - Lion of Fire." She'll be at Book + Bottle Wednesday, Oct. 4. Photo provided.

The protagonists of Lion of Fire, the first novel in Brittany Ranew’s fantasy series Riley Jordan and the Fire Prophecies, are twenty-somethings who attend college in a place called Lestoria.

It’s kinda, sorta in Manhattan, but no GPS in the world will take you there. Lestoria is accessed through Central Park – through a magical portal only the “gifted” can open. “Kind of like an overlay of reality,” explains Riley, who easily goes back and forth between the (real) New York and the “parallel dimension” of Lestoria with his three besties Logan, Madeline and Caleb.

They’re wizards – or, in Riley’s case, half wizard and half human. In Lion of Fire (St. Petersburg Press), complications arise when he falls for Emma, who’s fully human.

Ranew, from Alabama, began working on the novel in 2009. “I had a dream about the two main characters; that’s how the idea was born,” she explains. “I dreamed about them liking each other but they’re from two different worlds. So how does that work together? There’s obviously a conflict there.”

A classically-trained vocalist, Ranew is also a passionate reader and a writer. “I have always been a fan of the fantasy and magic genre,” she says. “Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, those are my classics. I’ve always loved that world. So I sat down to brainstorm – what was a unique way to build their own world? That’s when I came up with the idea of Lestoria being connected with New York City as its lifeforce.”

The characters and the story for Book 1 – it was always intended to be a series – came fast and furious. Ranew knew she had to make Riley and the others as believable as possible – although each member of the Lestoria Four has his or her own magical “gift,” their interactions as young people had to have the ring of truth.

“I do love world-building, but I think character development is probably my favorite thing,” explains the author. “If I’m watching movies, or reading other books, I love character development. So that’s the most fun for me.”

Riley is insecure, while Logan is a blowhard. No-nonsense Madeline is also Logan’s long-suffering girlfriend. Caleb is pragmatic and funny.

As friends, they’re all true blue.

“Friendship,” observes Ranew, “is a really high value of mine, so I took that ideal and ran with it. I really wanted to build this incredible friendship between those characters, where it just inspired so much loyalty. Because whenever you go through adversity with people, it always makes those bonds stronger.

“When developing characters, it’s also important to figure out, what makes them their own person? And how to bring that across so they don’t just blend into the background. It takes thinking it through and building a backstory.”

The characters, including the school president, the campus security chief and several sympathetic professors, are fully formed inside the writer’s fertile brain. “There are backstories that someone who never know, because they’re not written into the book, but as the writer I have to know all that stuff,” Ranew says.

In Lion of Fire, the pals find themselves embroiled in a century-old (or is it?) plot to eliminate humans from the planet.

By 2013, Ranew had her first draft. Life got in the way, though; by then she had begun a busy real estate career, and with her husband Stephen left Mobile for St. Petersburg. Today, Ranew is a realtor with Premier Sotheby’s International.

Eventually, she picked Lion of Fire up again and looked at it with fresh eyes. Among other things, she re-worked the entire ending. She made changes in order to make it better.

“I needed to grow as a person to understand that. Back then, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I needed to do to make it the best version of itself. Everything happens for a reason.

“Riley goes on this character arc – and I had to do that myself.”

Brittany Ranew will celebrate the launch of Riley Jordan and the Fire Prophecies – Lion of Fire 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4 at Book + Bottle, 17 6th Street N., St. Petersburg.

 

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