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Travels inspire Kennie in writing novels

Her depression-era novel was inspired by real-life events
Ryshia Kennie
Ryshia Kennie

SASKATOON — Inspiration comes anywhere and at any time for accomplished Saskatchewan author Ryshia Kennie. Especially when she travels to other countries where the romantic suspense novels that she has written were set in cities that she had visited.

“The romantic suspense novels I write are almost always inspired by a location. Although, when I travel, I’m not looking for inspiration. Instead, it seems to find me. I’ve found that inspiration can come from anywhere and at any time. Sometimes it is a feeling I get from a place, sometimes it’s the people – just one tiny incident can inspire me,” said Kennie.

Exploring and research also helped her to get to know more of the location just like when she visited Cambodia and Hong Kong, the setting of two of her latest novels — Intent to Kill and Legacy of Fear.

“In Hong Kong, a city I’d loved and knew I wanted to use it as a setting. It was the research that inspired the story when I stumbled across the women’s language of Nushu. So, I suppose in that case setting inspired the story but in a different way,” said Kennie.

Nushu, according to the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization, is the world’s only writing system created and used exclusively by women that originated in Jiangyong County in 19th Century China. Nushu, which means women’s writing, is considered endangered and Chinese officials are trying to revive the traditional female culture.

Malaysia and Borneo were also the settings of two of her previously published books, Suspect Witness and Fatal Intent. She said she was spelunking in Malaysia when she got the idea to write Suspect Witness.

“In Malaysia, it was negotiating bat caves in the flashlight-lit darkness that inspired the idea of a book — that idea began with the heroine fleeing, [but] fleeing what? I remembered the damp darkness, the deep silence and those elements alone had suspense written all over them,” said Kennie.

“In Borneo, it was a hike into the rainforest that inspired romantic suspense. In that book, the environment — the rain forest, acted much like another antagonist.”

But Kennie had a different motivation when she wrote her first book, the historical romance From the Dust that is set in Saskatchewan during the Great Depression and inspired by a real-life person and other stories.

“There are a couple of real-life events that acted as inspiration for the story. The overall inspiration was a real-life heroine, Georgina Binnie-Clark who came to Saskatchewan from Britain to farm alone in a time when women’s rights were less than a man’s, and a woman farming alone was unheard of,” said Kennie.

“The opening was inspired by another real-life event, a depression-era story that involved an uncle who had died tragically on the farm while working in the field. It was a hot day and he’d grabbed a jug of what he thought was water and was instead poison. He died days later leaving a young wife and infant daughter. One story was inspiring, the other tragic but they both found a place in this depression-era romance.”


Kennie said she wanted to write for as long as she can remember but, when she was a high school senior, was advised to take on a different career.

“I loved to read everything and thus my writing too was undeterred by genre. All I knew was that I wanted to write fiction. Unfortunately, the school guidance counselor wasn’t very modern thinking and suggested nursing or teaching. So, in a last-minute decision, I signed up for the [registered nursing] program but quit with my graduation flowers in a vase and a job pending,” Kennie said.

“It just wasn’t for me. I switched to a university where they tried to direct me to the English department, but it was all electronic communication, and no one sat me down and explained how this might benefit me. So, right or wrong, I again didn’t foresee any jobs available to wannabe fiction writers with an English degree.”

She even worked in an office as a government administrator with the hopes of writing on the side where she dabbled into poetry and children’s fiction. But that wasn’t enough and finally she had to decide.

“It was in numerous visits to the library that I started reading romance and decided that romance was what I wanted to write. My first publication was a historic romance and was followed by a paranormal romance as I fumbled for my niche within the subgenres of romance,” said Kennie.

“Then I signed on for an online university fiction writing course where I found not only my first critique group but the genres I now write, romantic suspense and women’s fiction,” she added.


Kennie was determined and eager when she began writing her first novel. She attacked it with enough enthusiasm that she did not even bother to write a synopsis to guide her. And like every other writer, she hit a wall.

“The inevitable happened, I hit the middle and had no idea how my characters would ever overcome the obstacles to have a HEA (happy ever after) ending. Or, for that matter, what would happen next. I remember standing at the bus stop on my way to work mulling the story over and over in my mind with no solution in sight. I admit that to this day, I don’t outline but I do create a synopsis that at the least shows me a beginning, middle and ending,” said Kennie.

She eventually found her groove and completed her first novel, but her new problem was finding a publishing house. Her solution was the library.

“When I finally got back on track and eventually wrote ‘the end’, I ran into a new problem — where to send it.  So, I went to the library and found publishers to submit to. I started sending the project out, at the time by mail with [self-addressed stamped envelopes] — the return stamps had the word love on them as if that would be some sort of good luck,” said Kennie.

She got a reply from one of the publishers but asked to revise the first chapter but eventually rejected the novel. Kennie, being new to the industry, was frustrated after the setback. Still, she persisted.

“I went back to the library and collated another list of potential publishers and began the process all over again until I succeeded.”


Kennie’s first novel was published in the mid-2000s and at first, she can’t believe that a publishing house took the chance on her. She said that she still feels the same excitement as when her first book came out more than a decade ago, and now she's had close to two dozen of her stories published.

“When my first book was published it was rather a time of disbelief and then of course excitement. I’d taken the first major step after suffering through, what I think in hindsight might be the requisite number of rejections. The excitement then was different, not so much for me but in the reaction of those around me,” said Kennie.

“Then, it was — you did what? And everyone came to the book signing. Now, it’s more — this is what I do.  Although I’m still excited each time, thrilled at every yes. And I celebrate them all, even if it’s just a glass of wine and a toast,” she added.

She added that once she had the idea for her depression-era romantic novel, she had no doubts about starting to write. She also expected that the excitement and inspiration that she had at that time were enough for her to complete the book, but hit a temporary wall and had a few people to thank for that get her over the hump.

“I was wrong but lucky that when I did get stuck in the middle, I had some real-life inspiration to give me some ideas on how to move forward. The story was set in the depression, and I knew of a few people who had lived through the era,” said Kennie.

“I spoke to them, and their stories gave me a new direction in my story and the motivation to keep going. Now, I use a synopsis as a guide and that is enough to take me through the story without becoming ‘too’ stuck.


Kennie said talent alone is not enough when writing fiction but you can learn, and it takes practice to develop your skill.

“Writing may lead you immediately into a career like journalism or, it may be a side dish to your main career. Either way, you must make room for it, consistently practice and know that you’ll stumble — even fail, but eventually you’ll get better. Take writing courses. Study other authors. Find a local author group and join. I can’t stress that enough.”

She added that it also helps to ask other authors for advice.

“I’ve found so many other authors who have generously given me their time and help. If there’s no such group in your area, find one online. Find your clique, people like you that can support your journey.”

Her final words: just keep on writing and don’t let rejection discourage you. “Most importantly, write – short stories, poems, a diary of your thoughts and feelings – just get in the habit of putting words on paper every day.”

Once you start submitting to publishers, don’t let rejections stop you. You’ll need a thick skin because rejection is often more common than acceptance. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your writing is bad, only wrong for them. Think of rejection as being in the field and the game. Learn from those rejections and move on. Don’t quit.”