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Monday, March 2, 2009

Giving Birth to Dragons

Where do dragons come from? Easy. From eggs. But where do ideas come from? Not so easy.
Last year, I wrote a series for Stone Arch called The Library of Doom, a dark, fantastical, monster-filled set where the hero is called The Librarian. The books were well-received, and I was encouraged to write another series for the same reader: a kid who struggled with vocabulary, most likely a boy, who was into pop culture, but was also probably embarrassed by not reading at-level.

So, I first thought about a sci-fi setting: two boys in the future who crash-land on an uncharted, unexplored, gigantic planet. This would give the boys lots of room to explore and encounter all kinds of aliens and adventure. I even wrote a few manuscripts along these lines, but they just sort of lay there on the page. Flat. There was no spark. I realized that a planet, no matter how huge, was still basically one setting. Just like the Library of Doom. Authors like to give themselves challenges, try out new tricks, and I wanted this series to be different from the Library: lots of heroes, lots of locations.

And that’s when it gets harder to explain. As I pictured that gigantic planet, I saw the image for the TV series Heroes, which is a view of the Earth from outer space. Heroes? Hmmm. What about a series where kids (rather than adults) all over the world discover that they are different from ordinary human beings? They don’t possess traditional super powers, they possess . . . what? And from some forgotten, rarely visited fissure of my brain, another image popped up: dragons. I’ve loved dragons ever since elementary school – the dragon Smaug from Tolkien’s The Hobbit; the legend of St. George; and, of course, the monstrous serpents of Greek mythology like the one killed by Apollo, or the Hydra with seven heads, or those terrible papier-mache creatures from the 60s sword-and-sandals flick The Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules (I was a mythology nut as a kid. In 5th grade, I even built an altar to Apollo!).

Somehow, both of those images collided and gave me the idea for Dragonblood. Six books came out last year, and I’m writing six more. And as I work on these new ones, something else has joined the mix. I can see how the young heroes coming to terms with their bizarre genetic gift of dragon blood (and wings and scales and talons), is not all that different from kids coming to terms with adolescence, becoming human, growing up. So these three ideas, brooding quietly in their neuron nest, decided to hatch and come twisting like a lizard’s tail from the corners of imagination and past history to become a book.

So where do ideas come from? Maybe the answer is eggs.

Michael Dahl
Editorial Director

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