In the Limelight: Ryan Byrnes balances career as a published author with being a student

As a senior in technical communication at Iowa State, Ryan Byrnes is also a self-published author. 

Lydia Wede

Many students wait until they finish their degree before starting their career, but one Iowa State student is well past that point. 

Ryan Byrnes, senior in technical communication, wrote his first book in elementary school.

“In first grade, we had to do a class project on aliens,” Byrnes said. “So I wrote a little story about a green alien. I wrote all the words wrong, spelled all the words wrong and I took it home and my mom typed it on the computer.”

Unfortunately, the alien story is still unpublished. However, Byrnes has published one children’s book, a four-part book series and a young adult novel with another book on the way, all while being a student.

Many authors write for creative expression, but Byrnes prefers to explore the craftsmanship necessary to assemble a scene.

“I write because I get a lot of joy out of the technical craft and nature of writing,” Byrnes said. “Like looking at different forms of narration and different writing styles. Some people are more sparse, other people are more lyrical. I think analyzing that stuff is really interesting.”

Byrnes described his process as several months of research and discussion with peers, outlining and then writing a rough version of the book. Writing a novel can be an intimidating and monumental goal, but creating a plan can guide the author through the ins and outs of characters and plot points.

“When you’re right in the middle of the first draft, you can get tunnel vision,” Byrnes said. “I try to stick to the outline because when you’re in the middle of writing a draft, it’s hard to remember the bigger picture. There are a million different ways you can write the story, so you have to stick to something.”

If everything goes to plan, Byrnes might have a product to submit to publishing companies. Many times, this is the longest part of the entire writing process. It is normal to send samples to hundreds of publishers and only hear back from a few. To circumvent that, Byrnes self-published his first five books.  

However, his last novel, “Royal Beauty Bright,” a book about an autistic soldier in World War I, was picked up by Blank Slate Press, which was later bought out by the Amphorae Publishing Group. Fortunately, the Amphorae Publishing Group decided to continue with the publishing process, and “Royal Beauty Bright” was published in November 2019.  

It can be strange to see finished work in stores, Byrnes said. 

“I almost don’t recognize it when I look at it,” Byrnes said. “The cover designer who I worked with at the publishing company did a really good job.” 

While Byrnes might not be a household name like John Steinbeck yet, he considered himself to have an amount of personal triumph.

“Success is meeting the goals that I set for myself, writing the best book I can and people can notice it if they want to,” Byrnes said. “If the publishers don’t take it, that’s fine. I only write a story when I’m really passionate about it and I think it’s something that people need to know about.” 

Byrnes is currently working on publishing his next book, “Lady Roosevelt’s Moonshine Library.” This novel will focus on the Pack Horse Librarians, a group of women who rode books through the Appalachian Mountains during the Great Depression. There is not a set date for publication as of when this article was written.

Byrnes recommended that aspiring authors get in touch with other writers or join a writers’ guild so they can share ideas and help others, while improving their own work. One possible group would be the Writers’ Guild at Iowa State.

Byrnes’s books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and many other places where books are sold.