Kristen Britain grew up in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, where she started her first novel - an undersea fantasy featuring herself and her friends - at the age of nine. She published her first book, a cartoon collection called Horses and Horsepeople, at the age of thirteen. After completing her degree in film production at Ithaca College in 1987 she made the logical (?!) leap from cinema to the National Park Service. Her many years as a park ranger enabled her to work in a variety of natural and historical settings, from 300 feet below the surface of the Earth to 13,000 feet above sea level on the Continental Divide; and from the textile mills of the American Industrial Revolution to the homes of Americans who changed the course of history.
Currently she lives in a log cabin in Maine where she writes full time and pursues interests reading, guitar playing, and cartoon illustration. She enjoys exploring the magical places around her and can often be found paddling a canoe in stillwater, ambling through the woods to mountain summits, or sitting along the rocky shore listening, watching, and daydreaming. This is her fantasy, at least.
Contact Kristen Britain care of :
DAW Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street
New York, New York
Into the WoodsEdit
An interview with Kristen Britain.Kristen Britain's first novel Green Rider was well received by fantasy fans. It sits squarely in the popular mainstream of fantasyland adventures but has a pleasant freshness of its own that surely owes something to the author's unusual job. David Langford talked to Britain about the way her ranger work helped her to write her debut.
Amazon.co.uk: Were you happy with readers' reactions to the novel?
Kristen Britain: I am enormously pleased with the response to Green Rider --astonished in fact. I'm grateful that so many people have been willing to give a first novel a chance. What truly delighted me about the response was the broad appeal. I've heard from school teachers and students, a retired police sergeant, booksellers, a professional pet sitter, and a US Marine, among others. Often the book is passed around in families, which I think is really terrific.
Amazon.co.uk: Any specially interesting feedback or comments?
Britain: My favourite kind of feedback is when readers tell me they were totally swept away by the book and lost sleep over it because they couldn't put it down. While I'm sorry it causes some readers to go to work or school in a groggy state, it makes me feel as if I did my job.
Amazon.co.uk: They tell me you're a park ranger--did this help with the authentic feel of forests and landscape?
Britain: I've been a national park ranger for nearly 12 years and have worked at a variety of national parks, each with its own unique setting and story. I do love nature, especially the north woods, and certainly this worked its way into the fabric of Green Rider . If you were to visit me at my current park, I would welcome you to the land of Sacoridia and lead you down a path or rustic roadway that my protagonist, Karigan, has travelled. Much of Green Rider was developed in my head as I hiked and walked through the park (but not on government time!!).
Amazon.co.uk: Are Amazon.co.uk readers allowed to know the park where you're working at present?
Britain: I work at Acadia National Park, in the state of Maine.
Britain: Does the riding experience that shows in Green Rider --and the relationship between Karigan and the Horse--come from your ranger work?
Britain: Currently we don't have horse patrols in the park but in the early 90s my primary duty was to patrol, via mountain bike, a system of historic carriage roads. These roads wind through the forests I love. Did riding bike patrol through the forests influence the creation of Green Riders ? I will let readers draw their own conclusions ... A mountain bike is no replacement for a horse, however. Horses were an important facet of my growing-up process and I think it's safe to say that a good part of my childhood was spent hanging out at a stable. Sadly, after I went off to college and then began working for the National Park Service, horses became far removed from my life. Just recently I took some riding lessons to refresh my memory of what it was like. It certainly reintroduced me to some muscle groups I had not been in touch with for a while--ouch! With age and experience, I can now appreciate just how huge and powerful horses are. More than once my instructor marvelled that I kept my seat when Bella the gray quarterhorse mare decided she did not approve of our direction of travel and swerved on her haunches in a one-eighty.... She was a bit more lively than some of the old schoolies I remember from my youth.
Amazon.co.uk: In the book, I liked Karigan's tough character; do you feel there's a touch of yourself in there?
Britain: I believe there is a touch of me in all the characters, including the villains. They emerge organically from me, so they can't help but retain bits of authorial plasma. Still, these characters are also vastly different from me, including Karigan. For instance, Karigan would not have the patience to sit alone in a room writing about someone else's adventures. She can't sit still--she has to be the "doer"; the one having those adventures. Likewise, I would not be very happy about riding through the countryside, rain or shine, while being pursued by dangerous villains and having to sleep on the ground. (I'm the kind of ranger who prefers hotels ... )
Amazon.co.uk: Definitely my kind of ranger. It was also good that your most prominent villain, the black archer, isn't just randomly evil but is working as one part of a larger political plot.
Britain: I'm glad you found the archer not to be a random evil. It's more interesting if the villain has a sense of purpose, a motive. Each villain in the book wants something and has a reason for wanting it. They are conspirators but they all have their own self-interests in mind. Villains can be compelling characters and tons of fun to write. They can stretch the limits of a story in ways that the good guys can't. It's almost as if they possess more freedom to act because they aren't necessarily restricted by morals, rules or laws.
Amazon.co.uk: They said the same about Milton's Satan--the best character in his book! You broke one tiresome rule or law of fantasy, though, by giving Green Rider a satisfying ending rather than a mere "continued in Book Two".
Britain: It was important to me to conclude the story in a definitive way. When I was working on the book, I had no idea if it would ever see print, so I did not wish to presume so early on that it would be the first book of a series. Also, speaking as a reader, hitting a cliffhanger ending in someone else's book gets me gnashing my teeth. It's frustrating! I hope to keep each instalment of the series self-contained, while also making it part of a larger framework.
Amazon.co.uk: Do you plan a direct sequel or a brand-new adventure for Karigan?
Britain: The sequel is semi-direct. That probably doesn't make sense! The sequel picks up two years after the events of Green Rider and rejoins Karigan and the Green Riders for further adventures related to some of the outcomes of the first book. There are certainly threads that need to be followed up on. Beyond that, I'm hesitant to say more about the sequel, for stories in progress have a way of changing midstream and again during the editing and revising phases.
Amazon.co.uk: Are you now writing full-time?
Britain: In addition to my full-time career with the National Park Service, I write as much as I can. Having two careers is not easy on the stressometer. However, even when a first book has been successful, writing income is much too iffy to sever ties with a dependable, livable wage and benefits. I keep hoping my cats will offer to take jobs to support me but so far they seem reluctant to make a change in their eating and napping habits.
Amazon.co.uk: Were you stimulated by any particular existing fantasies, good or bad? I know you mention The Lord of the Rings but Tolkien is a universal experience--the very air we breathe.
Britain: Tolkien is indeed the very air we breathe ... I have read The Lord of the Rings countless times, and still it remains as fresh and magical to me as the first time I read it. Other early fantasy inspirations include Lloyd Alexander and Anne McCaffrey. These days, any book I read, whether fantasy or not, stimulates me one way or another. I have become a very critical reader--you can't help it after having written a novel of your own. You begin picking out the mechanics, no matter how well written the novel is, and asking yourself how you might have done this or that. Sometimes I am just so amazed by an author's skill that I am humbled. In other cases, someone's work will challenge me to do better. Just such a thing helped motivate me to write Green Rider .
Amazon.co.uk: You've expressed enthusiasm about the cover art, which authors rarely do--so presumably that's just how Karigan should look?
Britain: Let me first answer by saying that I'm a fan of Keith Parkinson's art. When I was told he would be doing the cover for Green Rider I was so ecstatic the cats had to peel me off the ceiling! I was also relieved because I knew he would treat the story and characters with dignity. In the process of preparing the art, Keith asked me for details about Karigan's appearance. Keith had read the manuscript but there are, in fact, only minimal descriptions of her. "Long brown hair" and "bright eyes" were about all he had to go on. I told Keith that Karigan was an "everywoman" (although in better shape than some of us, ahem ...), and asked him to interpret her as he would. I had no wish to impose my vision of Karigan's appearance on the reader, since she is an "everywoman" and the reader sees much through her eyes.
Amazon.co.uk: And they didn't change the cover for the British editions, as so often happens?
Britain: All editions have used the same artwork, but both the British and German editions are on the blue side. The original artwork is more consistent with the natural colours of a forest. The change in tint is a marketing thing, I guess.
Amazon.co.uk: One last, slightly cruel question, inspired by the first British review of Green Rider that I saw. How many reviewers have quietly "corrected" your name to Kirsten?
Britain: Oh, I'm used to variations on Kristen. Better to ask how many people call me Kristen Britane.... I have no doubt that readers in Great Britain know the correct pronunciation of my last name. In fact, I've considered changing my middle name to "Great", but if I did so, my initials would be KGB and I'd be forced to abandon fantasy for spy novels.
Amazon.co.uk: Thank you very much, Kristen Britain.
Britain: Thank you for having me--I enjoyed it.