Olympia author Gabrielle Byrne brings her multi-faceted interests and areas of study to the fantasy worlds and characters she creates in her books for young readers. She shares her creativity and weaves a diverse knowledge base into novels, writing workshops and even into nighttime marine biology exploration.
Byrne has traveled far and wide, studying abroad, pursuing her creative and literary interests. From Scotland to the opera stage, to the Boston Harbor Marina, her resume is a rich, eclectic path. Originally from upstate New York, Byrne eventually made her way to the Pacific Northwest, by way of the world. The weather was much like Scotland, so she was already used to the climate type. Before that, she studied opera in Philadelphia at Temple University’s Esther Boyer College of Music, singing Italian, French, German and Latin arias. To study literature, she traveled to Scotland. There she worked with old story archetypes of mythology, lore and folktale. Byrne explained that she was always a fan of old tales, the Narnia books, Madeleine L’Engle’s writing and that of Ursula K. Le Guin. Back across the Atlantic, Byrne studied medieval history in her native New York. Her studies next brought her to Washington and The Evergreen State College where she studied marine biology.
Being an avid reader prior to writing, infused with a hearty education in historical literature types, creative processes and marine sciences, Byrne was ready to implement her knowledge and write. She says the notion clicked for her one year at a Seattle writer’s conference of the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association. She had already been writing, having completed a couple of books, when she knew she was ready to move forward. Her writing incorporates her diverse knowledge base and energizes her fictional world building and character development. From the fantasy world and through brave characters, Byrne’s stories deliver empowering messages for young readers.
“I want all my readers to walk away from my stories knowing they are important in the world,” says Byrne, “regardless of any flaws or mistakes. I want kids to see that when things are hard, they should keep going and not give up.”
Byrne’s efforts in educating young people also reach into the science realm. Holding a degree from The Evergreen State College in marine biology, she was driven to share her inquisitive interest in the living world. During her near decade of work in conservation, she started a program with the Puget Sound Estuarium called Pier Peer. Byrne began the program originally with People for Puget Sound and continued it with the estuarium. She hosted educational evenings at Boston Harbor Marina. People attended the event after dark to view sea creatures while Byrne lowered a lamp to attract and illuminate the teaming marine life below.
How does marine biology intersect with fiction and the fantasy literature world? Byrne’s background in environmental science is an important part of building worlds from scratch. In order for her to build a fantasy world, she uses her understanding of the interrelationships and habits of real living things and applies it to those that will be fictional. The same principles of coexisting and symbiosis must exist logically in the plot.
“As a fantasy author, whether I’m building a single creature, or an entire fantasy world, I always consider the relationships within the natural world,” writes Byrne in her blog posting “Fantasy World-Building through the Lens of Environmental Science.” “Whether it’s an ancient land of dinosaurs, a fairytale wood or an exo-planet in outer space, humans and animals alike are impacted by many things: climate, habitat, food sources and availability, and the presence or absence of predators, just to name a few. Creatures then adapt to meet basic survival needs.”
These practices are the subject of world building writing workshops that she has taught at conferences and in a few local classrooms. The workshops tie science and creativity, allowing participants to ask questions about the natural world around themselves. Her workshops range from junior and senior high school level to adults and a book creation workshop for writers seeking start to finish guidance.
Though set in fantasy worlds, Byrne’s characters’ traits translate into the real, modern world for her readers. In her novel “Rise of the Dragon Moon,” she has created strong, fierce female characters. They are brave and face danger. They are devoted, and they are the leaders. As a young reader, she too responded to this type of fierce female character. The matriarchal aspect in her book “Rise of the Dragon Moon” was organic and developed on its own, leading to all of the characters being women, and even the dragons in the story became matriarchal.
“I especially love to write fierce girl characters,” shares Byrne, “because I want girls to feel empowered by my stories, to know that they can want anything and pursue anything. They might not always get what they want…but as Mick Jagger says, ‘they can get what they need.’”
The richness and complexity of Gabrielle Byrne’s education and environmental program involvement adds layers to the fantasy worlds she creates and to the depth of her characters. Readers can look for her books, including “Rise of the Dragon Moon,” “Strange Hollow” and “The Edge of Strange Hollow,” from McMillan. Fans can learn more about Byrne through her website.