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Lori Ryan on “Chosen” by K. F. Breene
Hello Bookworms! Welcome to the Best Book Ever, the podcast where we talk about your favorite books. I’m your host, Julie Strauss, and today I’m talking to my hilarious friend, best-selling romantic suspense author, Lori Ryan. Lori joins me today to talk about Chosen by K.F. Breene, an urban fantasy with a strong female lead and some surprisingly funny moments, and why it is the Best Book Ever.
Julie Strauss: Hi, Lori. Welcome to the Best Book Ever podcast.
Lori Ryan: Hi! I’m so excited to finally be here with you.
JS: Lori, I want to start with asking you about your reading life. What kind of things did you read when you were young? And, has that changed?
LR: it’s funny. I remember reading romance novels when I was young, but I don’t remember much about them. I think I stopped reading for a long period of time, I guess most likely in college. I guess when I started to having to read homework and things. But I started reading again when I was pregnant with my second son, and then I started writing romance. And then about halfway through, I was like, way more needs to happen here. And so, I tossed a mystery element, a suspense element into it. That’s kind of how the romantic suspense came along. And then I started reading romantic suspense. Then I went through a stage where I read a lot of historical romance, but I never really had the urge to write that, because I knew it would take a lot for me to go learn that specific period of history. I wasn’t super tempted by that. But then a few years ago I started reading urban fantasy and that’s when I got drawn into wanting to write an urban fantasy. And I started having that in my head for a long time. So, I’m kind of curious myself, to see, is there going to come a point where I get tired of listening to that? I listen to Audible books most of the time; I hardly ever sit down and read. But I wonder if there’s going to come a time when I’m moving on to another genre and will that make me want to write that genre or not?
JS: Yeah, that was my next question. I wonder too. Why are audio books your preferred method of consuming?
LR: Mostly because of my lifestyle. I used to read eBooks a lot. I used to read paper. I remember when I was younger, I would read paperback books. And I know this is going to make the majority of your readers cringe, but I would take my paperback novels into the bath. I would crack the spine. I would soak them, and I would float them in the tub. And then I would Peel each page carefully to turn it.
JS: Oh, my god. WHY??
LR: I don’t know! I just, I liked to soak in the tub and I would just do it for hours.
JS: I get in a lot of trouble for being rough on my books because I fold pages down and I write in them and I crack spines, but I gotta say, that’s a new one for me.
LR: Yeah. I know. So for a long time I read eBooks, a lot when my babies were little and I’d be nursing them in the middle of the night. I’d sit there and read an ebook, which is actually, I think where a lot of my sleep issues come from because. Instead of getting up and just nursing the baby and changing diaper and going back to bed, I would activate my brain a lot by reading. And I think that was a big problem, you know? But if I was doing laundry or the dishes or something like that, I would listen to it. And if, and if it’s not an Audible, then I just would have my phone play it to me. So it’s this monotone voice, and I put it on a really high speed. So my husband comes along and I’ll have my headphones in one ear and it’ll be like, [squeak squeak] and he’s like, what are you doing? I’m listening!
JS: I have heard that before about speeding them up. And every time I’ve tried it, it makes me nuts. How do you stand it?
LR: Now, if I listened to an Audible book, I have to listen to it on about 1.4 or 1.5 for it to just sound normal to me. If I listened to it at normal speed, it sounds to me like every reader/narrator is reading… like… this… and I’m like, oh my gosh! I rarely sit down anymore and read just because I just don’t have time for that. If I’m sitting, I’m doing something, on the computer or whatever. And if I’m doing laundry or dishes or whatever needs to be done, I’m listening to a book. But I have noticed that I have a hard time now just not having something in my head. If I take a walk and I don’t have something that I’m listening to, that’s hard for me. And there are some times where I’m working on a book and I have to work out a problem. I have to make myself go sit somewhere quiet or take a drive and not listen to something. And it always works, but it frustrates me. I’m very dependent on it now.
JS: Tell my listeners about all of the interesting genres that you write.
LR: My main stuff is under Lori Ryan, and that is, my Sutton Billionaire series, which I call contemporary romance with a twist of suspense. There’s a bunch of books in that series. And then there’s a couple of series that branch off from that. So if they start at the Sutton Billionaires, they’ll find them all. And then I have The Heroes of Evers, Texas, Series, which is one of my favorites. It’s a small Texas town, but it’s got a really heavy suspense element in that. And then I’ve got a couple other military romance things here under that name. And. I write contemporary romances with Kay Manis. I’m working on a new project that is the urban fantasy stuff, and that is with another friend whose name is Eli; she is a martial artist. She has two black belts in martial arts, and she used to teach authors how to write fight scenes. She writes all the fight stuff and I write the rest of the stuff and then we have to kind of mesh it together and stuff. We’re putting that up on Kindle Vella, which is a brand new Kindle platform of stories that come out as serials.
So you get maybe two or three chapters a week, and you’re reading the book as it’s coming out, as it’s being put out bit by bit, instead of getting the whole book in one day.
JS: I’m so interested to see where this goes, because whenever there is some sort of change in reading availability or book formatting, my immediate gut reaction is always, absolutely not! That’s blasphemy. Books should be leather-bound, paper copies. That’s it. Once I get over it for that initial resistance, it’s always so interesting to see. And I wonder if that is the future of books. I can’t really imagine it, but also, it has all changed.
LR: Yeah. I don’t know that it’s going to be the future. I kind of hope not. Cause I don’t like waiting. I mean, I have no ability to wait whatsoever. I’m one of those horrible people who won’t even read a series until – if I see a series that looks perfect for me, but there’s not four or five books out in the series. I’m just like, Nope, not ready yet. I’ll read it all when it’s done, you know?
JS: The book that we’re talking about today, Chosen, I thought was a really neat twist on a very typical hyper-masculine trope that we see in the movies a lot, sort of the lone warrior. Except this one was a woman. And knowing you, as I know you, it kind of didn’t surprise me that you liked it. Will you tell us, first of all, how did you come across this?
LR: Well, so what I normally listen to is female protagonist or a female lead urban fantasy. Right? It’s almost always either a woman who knows she’s special and has special powers, or sometimes somebody who doesn’t know that they had special powers and then they discover it early in the first book. It always is the woman having to save the world, the woman against this Big Bad, and they have to save the world over and over again. And usually it’s across a series. So it’s usually six or more books where they’re trying to defeat this Big Bad Thing. And they’re chipping away at it in little ways. Most of the urban fantasy I read takes place in current day. Modern. Somewhere in the world that we know, right? So it’ll take place in London or New York or Chicago or whatever. So this one is different for me. It’s not the usual one that I listened to. It’s the same in that it’s the female taking on the world and being the one who’s going to save them all in the end. And usually what they do is throughout the series of the book, they’re gathering together the group of people that are going to help them save everything in the end. But this one is different for me because it’s not in a world that we know. It’s not set in New York or Austin or London or wherever. It’s in this fantasy realm that’s very similar in a lot of ways to our world, but it’s got all these different magic rules. When I started it, I was almost like, oh, I don’t know if this is going to be my thing. And then I absolutely just fell in love. Earlier you said you might ask me about what I’m reading now. And because I was doing this talk with you, I went back and I listened to Chosen again, and now I’m going through the whole series again, which I hardly ever do. Actually, I don’t do that a lot. There’s a couple of series that I really listened to again, but this is one of them that I’m going through right now. And I’m on probably I think book four.
JS: Why don’t you tell my listeners what this book is about?
LR: This is about, a woman named Shanti, who is a, I don’t even know they’re called, the mind warriors, I guess? They call it mind magic or later on in the series, it’s called Therma by one of the people that they meet. There’s a man named Xandre and he is going around and conquering people and conquering all these villages and towns and cities and taking over. And he tried to conquer her village when she was little and she actually has so much of this thing they call mind power or Therma, and she’s so strong with it that she was actually able to fight off the soldiers that he sent early on to kill her people, or to capture most of them. And so, she grew up being told she was the chosen, the one who has to defeat this guy. And, when the book picks up, she’s now a grown woman, and Xandre has come back to her village again and has killed off many of her people. They fought back and some of them are in hiding and she is crossing the world basically to try to go find people that she knows are connected to her, through her ancestors, to try to convince them to fight alongside her.
JS: Tell me why you like this one so much.
LR: I’ve been trying to think of that. I think there’s a couple things. I like that the characters are all so big. You know what I mean? There’s the guy who is right now just sort of, I don’t even know what you would consider him in this book, but he’s going to eventually be her love interest. Cayan. He’s going to be her love interest down the road, but it takes a long time, which is another kind of hallmark of these types of urban fantasy that I read. Some of them you occasionally will get this sort of insta-love, but a lot of them are this very slow burn romance throughout the whole series. That isn’t really the main focus of the book, it’s just there as part of it. Cayan is just this huge figure. I mean, he’s so important to his people and he’s so big and powerful, and Shanti is so big and powerful. I love that she’s a strong as she is, even though in some ways, as thinking about it, there are some times where she is, a little bit like she almost verging or balancing right there on the edge of being a little too unsure of herself at times. You know what I mean? In book one, she’s kind of a little too woe is me and why do I have to be the chosen one and blah, blah, blah. Instead of just being like, no, I’m going to go get the job done, you know? But for the most part, she’s this very powerful, she knows how strong she is, she doesn’t take shit from anybody. She’s in this village, they’ve taken her in because she was on death’s doorstep and they try to put her in dresses and frilly things and she’s having none of it, which is funny in and of itself. I mean, the scenes there with the women trying to dress her and she can’t stand wearing a nightgown, she doesn’t understand why you would want to tangle your legs up at night. And they’re all aghast that this woman would go nude. I mean, it’s hysterical. But the other thing that I like about this: every character in this book has a character arc in and of themselves. And so, you see some of it in the beginning, in the first book, you don’t see all of it, but as you go along, so she has her honor guard, these young guys that are in the military, but they’re untrained. Some of them are not sure they really want to be there. But Cayan charges them with monitoring her and watching her and making sure she’s safe. Which is the last thing that Shanti needs from them. She’s a warrior, she doesn’t need little boys keeping her safe. And so, she starts training them, because that’s what she does. She teaches the guys and she doesn’t take any shit from them, and treats them as though they can do it. Then they start to live up to that expectation. Each one of those boys has a character arc of their own that goes through the whole series, nd you get to see this development.
JS: Oh, I love that.
LR: Yeah. Later on, there’s even a horse who has a character arc of his own.
JS: Nope! You lost me there.
LR: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no! It’s not like, the speaking cat or whatever! It’s not like that at all. No, not at all. Initially, he was a little hard to handle. I really hate any book that has animals being hit or anything like that. I can’t stand that. In the second book she meets this horse and it’s clear that it’s a battle horse that has escaped from Xandre’s armies. And so they’ve trained it. And it’s crazy. It’s this psycho horse, they’ve trained it through what’s very clearly harsh means. And this horse is having none of it. I mean, he bites, he kicks, he won’t listen. He just goes anywhere and Shaunti is afraid of riding horrses. And this is the horse that she ends up with. And so, when he bites and kicks her, she punches him in the face. And so for me, I had a hard time with that at first, because I just don’t believe in that. And I don’t like to see it. But because this is fantasy, you see, I was like, okay, it’s fantasy. I’m gonna keep going. And what happens is you realize this horse has its own personality. It’s got its own backstory and you get little pieces of its backstory as the series goes on. And she and the horse get to this real bonding time and they become this real team. I’m still not in love with that part of it. I would have rather not had that part of it, but I don’t think they could have, you know what I mean? You couldn’t have had that development without that in a sense. And I don’t feel like it’s endorsed in the book. There are parts of it that I don’t love, but I love that by the end of this, the fourth book or so you’re like, this horse has a character.
JS: I like that she doesn’t introduce that until later. Because that’s the type of thing, in the first book, that would have made me go, oh, come on. And set it down. I would guess that by the time you get two books, two, three, four, you trust her enough to go, okay, what? This is odd, but whatever she does with his horse’s backstory, you already trust her as a writer.
LR: Yeah. You’re like, I’m going to see where this goes. And definitely, with these types of series, it’s not like you’re going to pick up one – well, you might, because you don’t read this kind of thing, you probably won’t go read the rest of them – but, most people who read these, you’re not going to just pick up one book and be like, okay, I’m done. It’s the kind of book where you’re going to read it in order. And you’re gobbling them up to see what happens in the end. They just build and build and build, and the relationships become tighter. I think usually you’re seeing, a lot of people just kind of sacrificing throughout the book and, everybody kind of pulling together and sacrificing to be whoever this Big, Bad is.
JS: Well, that’s one of the things that really surprised me and charmed me about it. I didn’t know, as I went into it, that it was a series. A first book in a series usually does not have a really super satisfying ending. It has a pause in the action, but here, all of the characters were interesting. And so I love hearing that they continue. Cause I do want to know what happens to everyone. Even the minor characters are very well-drawn.
LR: Yes, they really are. and. And as you go through, I mean, there’s more than one POV in this. Everybody has a POV in this. There’s one guy, Sanders, who’s a military guy who she’s kind of always at odds with, and then she has to go save him. And they have this relationship that builds throughout the whole book and you see him, but you also see his relationship with his wife and then you see his wife developing and there’s all kinds of stuff. And there’s a lot of stuff in the land that she’s brought into. In Cayan’s city, women in their world all dress up and they don’t wear pants. It’s this sort of very old-fashioned view of women. And it’s fun because, as the thing goes on, you see that, well, the women are not powerless in this world. I think in books three or so, you find out that the women are poison experts, because they need a way to defend themselves against the men in that land. They’re experts at poison and they know how to poison in a little way. You’re just going to be in the bathroom for the next few days, because don’t ever hit me again. And they also know how to poison where, you’re not waking up tomorrow because, dammit, you’ve hit me 500 times, and I’m done with it. And that becomes a big part of it. They take this young orphan girl who has been studying this stuff, and she becomes a really big player in book three or four, where she’s got to use that knowledge to help them defeat the enemy. And so, it’s just really cool. You’re seeing all the men in the world realizing, oh, everything we’ve thought is not really the way things are. I think I’m at the beginning of book four right now, and they’re racing home because they know that their city has been overtaken by the enemy and then all their people there are captives and they’re going to get home just in time to basically see the uprising by the women. And it’s, it’s pretty cool. so there’s some fun themes like that going on in here.
JS: And you mentioned how funny it is. I have to say that that’s where all the humor was. When Shanti, who is the lone warrior, who I mentioned, shows up at the beginning, has absolutely no familiarity with all of those gender norms and pretty much loses her mind trying to get away from them. Those parts were so funny and watching that interplay, because she was a better warrior than everybody there. She should be in charge. And yet she has to wear corsets. And the funniest parts were when she learned cuss words and she mispronounces them. And somehow, they’re worse. And she’s charmingly entertained by these words.
LR: That keeps up throughout the series. She’s collecting them from every land she goes to and really just loves them toward the end of it. A lot of her people end up coming into the series and they come into to Cayan’s land and then it gets even funnier because the men were injured and they realized that the corset is great at binding injured ribs. And so, they’re walking around town with nothing on except a pink corset that they bought from Mrs. So-and-so, and somebody’s skirt that they took off the line. Isn’t a skirt great? Cause it’s all free flowing and I get so much air up under there. I mean, it’s the coolest thing. So then of course, Sanders and Cayan are running around the town trying to get control of the men and all of this is going on while you’re still having a battle with Xandre and his army, who is really quite terrifying. You know what I mean? There’s this really serious side to it, and then there’s this really humorous side to it.
JS: When you tell people to read this, what kind of readers do you recommend?
LR: I mean, usually if they’re an urban fantasy reader, then I’ll be like, oh, you need to go try this one, this is my favorite. And it’s not, it’s maybe not 100% what you think of when you think of an urban fantasy, because it’s happening in this other realm. If there are other readers out there who like Ilona Andrews, they will love this. If they like Faith Hunter or, Jeaniene Frost, Patricia Briggs, all of those type of people, I think they would love this series. So it’s really if you’re a fantasy reader. If people aren’t into fantasy, I think it’s harder for them to like this book. But if somebody says to me, like you said, I want a funny book, that’s got intrigue and mystery to it and characters that are really great and in-depth, that kind of thing, then I might say, well, try this. It’s funny, I feel like a lot of times the response to saying I write urban fantasy, or I write fantasy, or I write vampires and witches and werewolves, [the response] is like, okay, so you write kids’ books. They’re really not kids books. I think it’s just a matter of if people are into these genres.
JS: Yeah. That’s why I think this one would be such a great entry point, because you would really see that yes, there is that subset of it that is that hyper-masculine and women and gold bikinis and that bullshit. I’m sure some of that is very good, I don’t actually know. But this one’s good because it’s got a lot of the tropes, but flipped upside down and, with my limited knowledge of urban fantasy, this feels like a really good entry into it that. You can see that there’s an incredible array of the way this type of book is done.
LR: Yeah, I do think so. And the other thing too, though, is that as much as there are sometimes on these covers, you’ll see them and they’ll the sexualized, gold bikini type of thing. Right? Some of them, not all of them, but some of them. And, but when you get into the books, they very rarely are. It’s usually that the woman is really kicking ass. I think it’s a great genre for young girls. I think even though this one is a little too mature, and a lot of them are a little too mature for young girls, but there are some young adult versions of this genre that are great for girls.
JS: Lori, why don’t you tell my listeners where they can find you?
LR: Sure. So if you want my romance stuff, you can find me at Lori Ryan Romance. I’m on Facebook too. And if you want to try the new fantasy stuff, which is really cool, it’s, it’s a series about a woman named Roxie who was raised by her mother to believe that her brother, who is an egg-born dragon, that her brother was going to have to save the world someday and she needs to keep him alive long enough so he can do that. And it turns out the mother was wrong and there’s gonna be a lot that happens. And it’s fun. I liked that series a whole lot. So if you would like to read that that’s, on Kindle Vella right now, under the name of Lori Collier.
JS: Thank you for introducing me to this book and this author. I’m looking forward to reading more. And thank you for joining me today. It’s always so fun to talk to you!
LR:Thank you for having me. So glad that I finally came on.
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Thanks for joining me today. And I will see you at the library.