Interview with The Witch, Ryen Lesli
Why do you write?
Because humans tend to get pissy when you maim and murder people in real life.
Tell us a bit about your book River. What was the inspiration for it?
RIVER is a YA/NA dark fantasy and the first book in The Beginning of the End series…wait…did you want like, the wordy blurb?
Oh, ok, well…ever since 17-year-old River can remember, she’s always has the real sense that she’s in the wrong place. Because of this, River battles a constant restlessness that consumes her. Running is the only thing that helps. Oh, and that’s not all either, River can do this other thing, not really that big of a deal but…she can see the light around a person. (The Witch has also been cursed with a rather muted version of this gift as well, believe it or not.) Everyone gives off energy and River can somehow see it. She knows when someone’s good or bad…she just doesn’t know what a blurry light means, like the one around the creepy new kid, Wicked. (My beautifully sadistic lost boy.) Upon seeing him, something inside River breaks open; a crack along some forgotten wall that frees a painful wave of raw emotion and faint visions. (she starts to lose it) And an emerald-eyed boy that she doesn’t remember but knows she should. (Wolf, the hot but cranky-ass Warrior.)
After Wicked reveals his violent, supernatural side, (total drama) River’s world explodes and everything she thought was real, fades away. (River was shook) Taken from her human life in Georgia, River is forced into a dangerous but beautiful self-sustaining-power-filled-live-in-the-trees-Fair world that has been impatiently awaiting her return. (No phone, no makeup, and with her real eyebrows. Jeffree Star would be mortified!)
Damn, that’s…a lot to take in and I wish I could say I was inspired to write this because I wanted to give teenagers a book to escape too. You know, create a world of rainbows and unicorns and shit, but it was all nobly romantic like that. No, it was more like, fate brought River to me one night in my dreams, leaving me no choice but to write this story. See, back in 2009, I woke to find myself standing in front of this huge book standing on its side. It was as big as a 20-story building! As I crept closer, the pages started to turn. Each page was an actual world, each one completely different from the last. They stopped on this lush, emerald-green world called the ebb. There was an aqua-eyed girl standing there. She held out her hand to me. Without hesitation, I took it and she dragged me into her world. The book slammed shut and I’ve been in the ebb ever since. So, you see, I had no choice but to write her story. Little did I know that it would turn into a massive ten-book, 13-movie series that’ll hold the Witch prisoner till the day I’m allowed to leave this cursed Earth for the next.
You have a 10 book series planned. Do you already have an idea for where the series is going?
I do have a plan but it’s carefully vague. Though I am a panster by nature, I have to have a rough outline/plot thingy to keep things straight. I know the very last line in the 10th book, and I know the 13-15 major events that have to take place to get there but, what happens in between is pure fucking chaos. River likes to throw random shit at me, tripping me up just for the hell of it. She’s on this kick where she wants to kill important characters. Characters we actually need. But this is her story, not mine and I’m simply her memoirist.
What has been the hardest part of the writing journey for you?
The hardest part for me is getting the ones around me to respect my time. When I sit down to write, I need to drown myself in the ebb in order to bleed these emotions like I do. I go into my pretty office, shut the door, put my music on (for FATE, book two, it’s mainly Peter Gundry) and just…disappear. It’s hard when someone comes marching in demanding my attention when I’m right in the middle of an intense scene. I always get: why’s the door shut? Wait—why are you crying? Did you wash my shirt for tomorrow? Can we order pizza? You know, normal bullshit. It totally throws me off and I get cranky as fuck. I had to sit my family down and have a come-to-the Witch-meeting where I explained that if the office door is closed—no one, and I mean, no one—had better open that door unless the house is on fire or someone’s bleeding, and if they’re bleeding, they better be dying ‘cause I’m going to be pissed if it’s just a bloody nose or something. However, if the door is open, one may enter.
What has been the most rewarding part of the writing journey for you?
The rewarding part came when I held RIVER in my shaking hands for the first time. The euphoria I felt was blinding but…for some reason, it melted into some deep, inexplicable emotion that I had no name for. This was my moment and I suddenly couldn’t breathe. All the sacrifices I had made for River, the daily battles with Imposter-Syndrome and my needy family, the hundreds upon hundreds of rejection letters, the countless bags of candy that I devoured, the tears I shed, the blood I gave. Do you know that I wrote every single day without fail? Normal days, important days, holidays, depressing days, I wrote through it all. It was always me and River against the world. Nothing could stop us! So, after everything that I had done, why was I feeling like I had just lost my best friend? It was a terrible moment when I realized that RIVER didn’t belong to me anymore. She belonged to everyone else. See, nobody told me that I’d crash so hard after her debut. Very bittersweet.
You've done many interviews and are active on social media. What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Hmmm…well, I get bored really, really easily. And if the Witch is bored, the Witch will start fucking things up just to watch the world burn. My favorite thing to do is start shit with my brother, Hanson Oak. Did you know that he absolutely abhors the word panty? Oh yea, go ask him, tell him his sister sent you. So, you know, it’s best that the Witch stays busy. Idle hands and all that bullshit.
What is one of your biggest pet peeves?
Bullies and Brats. As you know, on Twitter, we have an excellent Writing Community. Everyone is always so beautiful and encouraging but then you get these assholes who try to bully the innocent newbies, yelling about rules on hashtag prompts and shit. Drives me crazy because there are no such rules. And then, we have our brats. When someone gets @ on a follow train or in a game and they throw a fit about their notifications. There’s this one writer whose notorious for this in the Community. She will throw a fit every single time someone tags her, so people do it on purpose now. And then, we all sit back and wait…she never fails to stomp her feet like a bratty little girl and then, she’ll block everyone on the tweet. #notsorry.
What do you hope readers say, think, or feel when they finish reading one of your books?
I want to make them laugh and fall in love with my characters just so I can break their hearts. There’s an ethereal beauty to being a sadist. I love hurting my readers but see, I want them to live the agony, the pleasure, the confusion of my characters. If someone were to read my book and I didn’t make them feel, I’d burn my words.
You recently wrote a short story for an anthology. Can you tell us a bit about that? Was it harder to write a short story or a novel?
I was invited by one of my favorite writers, Mikki Noble, to write a short for her anthology, From Ashes to Magic, the 1st Vol of the Supernatural beings Anthology. Now, to be honest, I was quite flattered, and my witchy head swelled with arrogance…until…I had to actually write the fucking thing. I was surprised by how hard it was to write such a tiny story. See, my word counts are always high…like…obscenely high, so to create a story that could only be 5-7k when I’m used to bleeding a 100k novel? Yea, the Witch was quickly humbled, reduced to anger and I might have eaten an entire bag of ate a bag of heath bars. One of those big, community bags.
My story, Havenless, is a part of The Beginning of the End series and RIVER.
Bitter regret creates beautiful betrayal in Havenless. The tragic love-story of Torrington and his lost Witch, Nahlia, and the terrible choice that was made back in 1498, in the ebb. A choice that echoes all the way down to River in 2017, leaving her dealing with the unforgiving consequences.
From Ashes to Magic comes out at the beginning of December and you can pre-order her now on Amazon!
The most important question of all...what is your favorite candy at the moment?
Heath Bars. I love the caramelly crunchy texture and the way it sits on my tongue long after I swallow. #purefuckingbliss.
FATE, the second book in The Beginning of The End series, is coming in NOVEMBER 2019!