Twenty-eight years as a teacher in Kamloops taught Perry Kilby everything he needed to know about the audience for his first novel.
The Bridge Beyond the Boundary is a fantasy book for young readers recently published by Kilby, who retired from teaching in 2005.
“It’s kind of payback. It’s something that is a legacy for my own two children and something I want to give back to my former students and all the young people who might read it because of all the things that I was taught by them,” he said.
The story follows Annie and her younger brother Davis, a mute, on a Narnia-like adventure that begins in a city in the B.C. Interior not unlike Kamloops.
After a schoolyard fight reveals Davis’ supernatural powers, he and his sister are expelled from school and federal authorities are alerted, leading them to try to track the boy down.
But before they can capture Davis, he and Annie discover a bearded dwarf and an inviting cave, through which they find the medieval world of Elden, where Davis’ powers are even more prominent and a prophecy lies before them.
“I’ve always been fascinated with fantasy storytelling,” Kilby told KTW, recalling his time reading the Dune series at age 15 and Lord of the Rings in University. “It just grabbed me.”
Kilby said he’s always had a hankering to write, but endured a “long dry spell” during his teaching career.
Retirement brought it out of him, however. He penned — and then shelved — another novel in 2009 before putting his first released book on the page in 2011.
“I wrote this one after I worked out how to actually write a story,” he said. “It went in a drawer in 2011 and it came out last year.”
When Kilby revisited the book, he had editing help from his editor and wife, Elizabeth.
“We’ve done everything backwards. You’re never supposed to have your spouse edit your work. But we hung in there and it worked out marvellously,” he said.
The book deals with several themes, including feelings of being an outsider — something Kilby said he saw several kids go through, including his own.
“It’s kind of like lost and found when you’re in your teens, where you lose yourself and you want to learn who you are, what you can do, what makes a good person and how to live a good life. Kids really want to know those things,” he said.
Kilby said he also wanted to tackle the often crude portrayal of male characters in popular culture.
When the two main characters end up in a village in Elden, they encounter men who are not “like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando or Tim Allen in Home Improvement,” he said, but instead are nurturing.
“These men are kind, wise and sensitive and nurturing and look after the kids — as well as the women, who are very strong in the story, as well,” he said.
The book comes in at 308 pages and Kilby said it would be ideal for strong readers between the ages of 10 and 14, but also for anyone who “can be captivated by something that’s a good yarn.”
The book, self-published by Kilby, is available on Amazon. More information can be found on Kilby’s website at perryjkilby.com.