The Child of Fire and Earth is a fantasy story that follows a young boy as he accidentally becomes a magician and joins up with a dragon, a cheeky hobgoblin, and an elven warrior-princess on their quest to stop magic disappearing from the world.
It was written for my son. He was eight years old and had read children’s fantasy books. I love fantasy, and I love books, so I was keen to keep his interest stirred. However, he found the ones he was reading became very formulaic, and he soon grew bored of them.
It was about this time that my health took a turn. I went from being a Head of Department, running eight different music courses from pre-GCSE to Degree level, to, well, having to stay at home and rest. Permanently. And even that was exhausting, at first. I needed something to keep myself occupied, something I could chip away at, and also something that could help rekindle my son’s interest in fantasy books.
As I lay in bed one morning, my mind wandered and stumbled across an idea. What if climate change wasn’t just down to humans, but to dragons? This became the core focus of what I then called Zelina and the Ice Dragon.
I sketched out a plot. I wrote a chapter or two. Critically, I read those chapters to my boy, who quickly told me in no uncertain terms that he didn’t have a clue what was going on. You see, I’d been used to reading high fantasy, lofty epic tales full of… well, you know the sort. A story for an eight-year-old needed something different.
So, he explained to me what he understood, and what he didn’t. This gave me the shape of what to add and what to cut away. I would go away, write more chapters, and he would help me edit them. His enthusiasm for the project kept me going long after I thought I would give up on it. Even the title needed changing, as I realised the hero wasn’t Zelina the dragon, but Hew, the young boy. Hew and the Ice Dragon, however, didn’t really have the right ring to it; but, in the course of him becoming a magician, he becomes a Child of Fire and Earth. Over the next few years, I altered, grew, adapted, and forged the book in its current form. My wife, who is the only artistic one in the family, designed and painted the cover for the book.
One thing that was important to me was to make it feel real. A pet hate of mine is reading a fantasy story that relates to the real world on so many levels, but then has names like Xn’narpghgag or has characters with world-bending power. For me, names should be readable, and power should be something difficult to attain.
To create that in this book, I leaned heavily on historical research. All the names of characters in it are real names from the 15th century. Clothing, buildings, locations, food, are all based on historical research (with the occasional bit of artistic licence). This meant the creatures Hew faced had to be, too, and there was only one place to go to for that: folklore.
This led me into a vicious circle for a while. One creature I wanted to use was a boggart, but as you already know, that creature has been popularised in a very famous series already. Could I use it in mine?
If I did, would I get Cease and Desist letters from Hogwarts?
If I didn’t, could I not use any other folklore creature?
In the end, I realised that folklore creatures have been in the public domain for literally hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The boggart (in its original form) could stay.
Another aspect of keeping things real lay in the fighting. There are sword fights, hand-to-hand fighting, magic fighting, and dragons fighting in this book. It was essential, for me, to keep this as real as possible, so I leant on things I already knew about.
Before becoming disabled, I used to be a martial artist. I also used to fly aeroplanes. Both of these disparate skills became invaluable in making fight scenes that felt real (whilst still being entertaining – it is, after all, a children’s book) and flying scenes that could feasibly work.
Whilst I wrote this book with younger readers at heart, I’ve found through beta readers and reviews that adults have enjoyed it, too.
I hope readers enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope they get a sense of wonder, of the thrill of adventure, and that maybe, just maybe, magic is real after all. And, all being well, they can join Hew and Zelina in the sequel, Dragonstone.
The Child of Fire and Earth is available on Amazon for Kindle, paperback, and audiobook through Audible.
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Read more about Barry Ryerson and his writing projects: https://bazthehat.wixsite.com/barryryerson