Local Heroes: Casia and the Rose Princesses

I hate people like Casia Shreyer.  I started noticing her at conventions, this petite whirlwind of activity, organizing group tables for multiple authors, helping out people, keeping journals, going camping, raising children with her husband, running a household, yarn crafts, studying tae kwan do, and writing up a storm, blasting out twenty books so far (twenty!), all with inexhaustible energy, irrepressible good cheer. She’s one of these good people who can’t help trying to make the world better, and inadvertently making the rest of us look like lazy cynical gits in the process.

I’ll tell ya, lazy old monster that I am, my response to such cheerful brilliant souls is usually just to do something horrible, usually with a wood chipper, and bury the remains where it won’t annoy people.  But Casia, she’s probably reorganize the underworld, chug out another book series and bring pilates classes to hell.  We don’t really want pilates classes in hell, do we?.  So there’s no point, really. What can you do?

Casia’s Rose Garden is a five book series, a young adult adventure series for teen girls.  With allusions and similarities to everything from the Fisher King and Tibetan Buddhism, to Sailor Moon, they’re about young women growing as they struggle with a difficult and complex world and challenges of life that are not always cut and dried.  It’s an impressive body of work and I think it deserves to find a wider audience. 

Take it away, Casia….

The Rose Garden started with a dream. Literally. I was camping in Alberta and I had a vivid dream. We packed up camp the next morning and drove to Drumheller to explore the museum and since my husband was literally a captive audience for several hours I told him all about my dream and we bantered some world building and plot building ideas around. I made some notes in my journal and stored it away for later.

The next stage is what I like to call back-burner world building. While working on other projects, writing related or otherwise, this new world sat in the back of my mind, stewing away. When I had free time, I’d make notes about characters, the world, the plot, whatever. I spent an entire afternoon brainstorming about princesses, the themes, tropes, cliches, and archetypes. I spent another sitting working on names for the princesses.

One idea was to give them all rose related first names (Rose, Rosie, Roselynn, Roseanne, Rosemarie) but even I had trouble keeping them straight. Repetitive names like that would have driven the readers crazy. Instead I turned to my family for inspiration. My grandmother’s maiden name is Rooswinkel, which means Rose Shop or Rose Vendor. My grandmother had 2 sisters and 1 sister-in-law which gave me 4 of the 5 princess names I needed. Since the story revolved around a missing 5th princess (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler, you find that out in the first chapter of the first book) that’s all I needed at that point in the world building process.

And so, my princesses became Rheeya (for Maria, or Ria for short), Taeya (for Thea), Vonica (the pet name of Yvonne), and Betha (for Betty).

The princesses live on an island which exists out of synch with our world and is held safely tethered to our world by powerful magic, magic that relies on the princesses finding their soul mates. The whole detailed process/explanation is worked into the books, that’s just the short version.  The island is divided into 5 provinces, each associated with an aspect of culture/society: metal, stone, animals, plants, and religion/history/politics. Each aspect was assigned jobs and abilities.

The Metalkin were smiths (tools, weapons, armor), miners, and jewellers. They made metal dishes, metal fences, and they minted money. Their jobs overlapped with the Stone Clan at the mines where the Stone Clan dug the mine shafts and the Metalkin pulled the ore out and took it away for smelting. As well as mining, quarrying, pottery, and masonry, the Stone Clan dealt with gems and jewels pulled from the earth, cleaning and cutting them, then delivering them to the jewellers to be set. So too does the plant and animal provinces overlap a lot in farming areas. The more I built, the more it became a complex network of interdependency.

I’m not a huge fan of romance. I find older romance novels boring. The female leads are so bland. I wanted something different. I wanted strong female characters. At the same time, I didn’t want this to be an urban fantasy in a high fantasy setting with sword wielding heroines, or battlemages. And I didn’t want their strength to be rooted in “finding a husband and having kids”. Yes, they had to find their soul mate, but they needed their own source of strength too.

Book 1 is called Rose in the Dark and it follows Princess Rheeya Stone Rose of the Stone Clan. At the beginning of the book Rheeya feels small. She’s in a situation where the men in her life (advisors and priests) try to control her rather than help her and she doesn’t know who to turn to or how to make it better or even that the situation is wrong. Since she is the rebirth of the previous Stone Clan princess, she doesn’t have the previous princess there to help her find her footing. She’s pushed around and when she tries to push back, to establish her identity and her boundaries, she’s met with manipulation. On top of that, she’s dealing with inter-guild politics which lead to a disaster at an iron mine, a disaster compounded by the spring rains. So, while trying to find her soul mate, she must grow a backbone, assert herself, root out disloyal members of her court, root out corruption in the guilds, and save an iron mine and all the men trapped inside. It is a book of personal growth and emerging strong from a borderline abusive situation.

Rose from the Ash starts around the same time as Rose in the Dark and happens in the Sun Temple Province, focusing on Princess Vonica Bright Rose. The epilogue of book 1 (Rheeya’s wedding) happens about 2/3rds of the way through book 2. Vonica suffered a childhood accident which left her neck and face badly scarred. Because of this she is timid and self-conscious. She hates any situation where she feels people are staring at her (court, meeting suitors, church functions). Because her castle is attached to the Sun Temple, the heart of worship for the island, she is under direct and constant pressure not only from her stewards/advisors but from the High Priest as well. Like Rheeya, she is faced with finding her soul mate (a prospect that terrifies her) while rooting out corruption at the Royal Bank, solving a murder, playing matchmaker for a new friend, and finding her self-confidence.

Rose Without Thorns picks up the day after Rose from the Ash ends. The girls are all at the Sun Temple for Vonica’s wedding and a meeting with the High Priest. Princess Betha is called home to Evergrowth early because of a Dark Spirit attack and Princess Taeya decides to go with her since the victim was from the Animal People Province (yes, it’s a ‘dumb’ name, it’s what everyone else calls them. At the end of book 3 you find out they have a cool name for themselves and why they don’t often share it). Betha was one of my favourite characters to write (my all-time favourite was James, whom you meet in book 1 and who comes back in every book) because she’s abrasive and blunt and loud and unapologetic. She laughs loudly and whenever she wants. Taeya starts out as a quiet, mild-mannered girl but her own “big” personality comes out over the course of the book. I can’t say much about the plot because there’s a HUGE twist at the end of book 3 that turns the whole series on its head, but the girls are working together to find some Metalkin “scholars” who might be causing trouble and figure out why the Dark Spirit attacks are becoming more frequent instead of less. Book 3 was fun to write because of the twist, but emotional as well because there are 2 couples in this book, based on my 2 sets of grandparents. It was written around the time that my grandfather (my dad’s father) died. I wrote a scene where the four of them have lunch together and realized that I would never see them all around the same table again.

Rose Alone was emotional for other reasons. The plot thickens and little things from previous books begin piling up and pointing towards something BIG, something that spans the entire island, something that started many years before Rose in the Dark. In Rose Alone, Betha does quite a bit of travelling, visiting all 5 provinces in a single book. This time on the road leads to tension between her and her stewards/advisors who are left to run her province without her. The plot twist that started in book 3 continues to get twistier into book 4 and the ending will leave you wondering what in Aeron’s name is going on (he’s their primary god). Rose Alone also includes a short prequel story about the first princesses of the five provinces, how the soul mate magic came to pass, and where the Dark Spirits came from.

Go back to the beginning to see how it all ends. Rose at the End begins several months before Rose in the Dark with the arrival of the missing princess. Her “rebirth” name was Ashlynn Jewel Rose, but she refuses to give up her Earth name – Mallory Brock. Unlike her counterparts in the other provinces she was brought to the Isle of Light as an adult, not as an infant. She has a lot to learn. Her education is interrupted when she has travel to the other provinces for the other weddings, and various meetings (the tie-in points to the other books which are happening in the background of her story). She uncovers corruption among the guilds and the highest reaches of Metalkin nobility and must fight tooth and nail to be taken seriously, and to find the proof she needs. Though she is essentially a stranger, an outsider, it falls to her to take all the pieces the other girls have dug up, lay them out with what she’s discovered, and solve the whole puzzle before the Summer Solstice. The safety of the entire island depends on her. The final third of the book unwinds all the twists of the previous books, bringing the series to its conclusion.

The covers of the books were created by my sister. She hand drew the girls then digitally coloured them, using real fabric and hair textures to create realistic looking figures and faces. The backgrounds are all original photography. Rose in the Dark features a composite of two images which she took in Italy. The forest on the cover of book 5 is in her local park and the shadowy figure was placed there to hide her daughter who was playing while she was taking photos.

I didn’t mention the dream again, did I? Ah, well, the original sequence of events and scenes that started this whole project don’t appear until half-way through book 5. I had to create an entire world and write four and a half novels just to build a place to put that dream. But it was worth it.

Sales Pitch Time because I can!

All five books are available as paperbacks on Amazon or by contacting me directly. I offer a bundle discount on the paperbacks if you get them from me but if you don’t live close enough for a meet up it’s probably cheaper to order online.

All five are available as ebooks for Kindle, Kobo, and PC through Amazon, Kobo Books, and Smashwords.

You can find me at www.casiaschreyer.wordpress.com

or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/schreyerauthor.