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What Makes Dragons Interesting? {Guest Post + Giveaway}

Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard

Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard Guest Post

Anne Leonard, author of Moth and Spark, is on the blog today to discuss my favorite topic: dragons! When I heard that Moth and Spark had dragons in it, I knew that I had to find out more about Anne’s dragon inspiration!

Anne Leonard: Anya asked for something about dragons for this guest post, so I’ve decided to write about what makes dragons so interesting to me in general, and then to talk about writing my own dragons.

Kind of obviously, the big lure about dragons is that they both fly and breathe fire. Flying is something that people want to do. I think it’s pretty primal. It seems liberating to be able to move in three dimensions, plus it gives you the opportunity to see – almost the opposite experience of hiding in a cave from things that might eat you. Fire is similarly primal – it brings heat, and light, and safety, but at the same time it can be wildly destructive. So it’s not very surprising that human imagination would conceive of a creature with both flight and flame, nor that the creature would lodge itself so firmly in stories. The dragon seems all-powerful in a way that other mythical beasts don’t, because it controls air and fire.

The dragon also has significance as a horder of treasure and a destroyer of cities.  It’s a great metaphor; one of my favorite scenes in fantasy literature is in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when Eustace gets transformed into a dragon because he was having dragonish thoughts. It works as a metaphor because the dragonish thoughts of greed and revenge and the lust for power are so human. I think the dragon that embodies the worst traits of human beings is probably essential to the human psyche; stories of dragonslaying give hope.

But dragons that are really humans with scales and claws are not as intriguing to me as dragons that are different from humans, so my dragons don’t horde treasure. I like observing animals, and I think that part of it is because animal consciousness is so unknown to me. Mostly I anthropomorphize my cats, but once in a while I get a glimpse of them doing something that is purely animal and instinctive, and I become very aware that these creatures, these beasts, are not like me at all. It’s always a rather humbling experience, because I realize how much mystery there is about life. Dragons, because they are mythical, distant, and imaginary encapsulate the unknown really well.

When I started creating my dragons, I needed to find a way to make them strange, and I thought about their nature as reptiles. A lot of people are freaked out by snakes. I, on the other hand, like them.  I don’t want to encounter any cobras or cottonmouths or large anacondas in the wild, but a five foot long ball python is a really amazing creature to hold. The skin doesn’t feel rough at all – it’s almost silky. And watching and feeling the snake’s muscles moving is fascinating. But it’s also nothing like petting a furry mammal. So when I was writing about dragons, I remembered holding snakes and tried to apply those physical sensations to touching the dragons.

Communication was another issue. Snakes are a lot more alien to us than cats are. When my cat rubs me, purring, I am almost 100% sure he’s hungry. I’ve never been able to fathom a reptile’s desires or motives or emotions. I tried to impart that sense of strangeness to interactions with dragons. The plot required the dragons to be able to communicate effectively with humans, but if they could actually talk, some of their alien nature was lost. I settled on a language of images, communicated telepathically. There are times in the book when the dragons’ language is expressed in words, but that’s essentially because the characters’ minds are translating the images into words. (The dragons also have sounds which they use when talking to each other.) Speech itself takes place on a deep, non-verbal level. On the one hand, the dragons are animal-like; on the other, their thoughts are too complex for humans to understand. Even though my dragons are able to communicate with people, there is something inherently unknowable about them.

One final aspect of dragon-creation that I considered was magic. Going back to The Hobbit, one sees that there is not much magic in the book (aside from the Ring); the fantasy lies mostly in the creatures of Middle-earth, not in Gandalf doing his wizard-thing. Smaug is mortal and is killed with an arrow. I could have made my dragons purely non-magical beasts, like Smaug, but I wanted to add another layer of mysteriousness, so I gave them their own world, a realm beyond human perception, where time and space don’t function as they do in our earthly experience. There are only hints of this in Moth and Spark, partly because this was one of the places where I ran into my own limitations as an author (how does one describe the indescribable?), but it’s underneath. The dragons you see aren’t the dragons there are.

I want to end with a short quotation from the book: “It did not know compassion, nor did it know evil or selfishness. It had neither loyalty nor blame. She stood in its shadow and watched the sparks flicker along its body. It was terrifying and beautiful, and she could speak to it.” For me it’s this, the terror and the beauty side by side, that makes dragons compelling creatures of myth and story. They’re an intersection point between human experience and human imagination. Through their strangeness, they show us what it is to be powerful, and they remind us what it is to be human.

Thank you so much to Anne and Viking Penguin for this awesome insight into the dragons of Moth and Spark! Since I recently finished the book, I can vouch for the awesome strangeness and beauty of these dragons; they have my dragon-y stamp of approval ;-).

Moth and Spark will be published on February 20th. Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, IndieBound, and The Book Depository.

Book Giveaway

Now it’s time for a giveaway for a finished copy of Moth and Spark! This giveaway is US only, no PO boxes as per Viking’s requirements. This is a sponsored giveaway from Viking Penguin, thank you so much to them! The winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email and I can’t be responsible for books lost in the mail.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Anya from On Starships and DragonwingsGood luck!
-Anya

© 2014, Anya. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. Excellent guest post!

  2. She’s totally right – we do have an obsession with flying. And hey I never thought about how they are masters of both Air and Fire. Sometimes I always seem to zero in on one or the other at any given time. The interactions with the dragons definitely were odd feeling but cool too.
    Pabkins recently posted…Blog Tour – Review & Giveaway: The Book of ApexMy Profile

    • Right? I really loved that perspective :D Except that then I realized that I am terrified of fire and heights so my love of dragons is amusing ;-)

  3. My favorite dragon book is probably Seraphina. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel that comes out later this year.

    This book sounds really intriguing, though. I can’t wait to pick up a copy.

    • So agreed, though I have bad news: it was delayed until 2015 :(

      • I saw that on her blog. I had a bad feeling when Goodreads said February of this year and then it got changed to March. I waited for Republic of Thieves through YEARS of delays, so I guess I do it again if I have to.

  4. I keep seeing this around and it sounds fabulous. Looking forward to it.

    Also, just noticed that I quit receiving your email. I see that you made some changes, should I just sign up again do you think?

    • Oh darn, I thought that I had transferred all the email subscribers when I switched over to mailchimp. It was recently that you stopped getting emails correct? Definitely resubscribe if you don’t mind!

  5. They’re gorgeous! The powers they can have. I love that they aren’t all the same. And I find they’re quite intelligent.

  6. sherry butcher says:

    I love dragons flying, wow would that be neat.

  7. Vanessa Vazquez-Moreno says:

    they are beautiful creatures. and totally awesome, how can you not love dragons ?

  8. I love the magic that comes with dragons.

  9. Sounds awesome! I love a dragon book and these dragons sound brilliant :) Added to my list!

  10. My favorite dragon book is Dragon Rider or Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

  11. Dragons are amazing creatures. I always have been drawn to them and my first encounter beyond The Hobbit was The Dragonlance Series. I loved their size, scales, fire breathing and flying. All super cool. I also loved the movie, Flight of Dragons as a kid. You ever see that one? I guess the thing that attracted me the most was the fact that they are magical. Great post :-)

    • Yey Dragonlance :D That’s a whole other ball of wax: dragons that can shapeshift into elves/humans/etc Oo, I don’t think I’ve seen Flight of Dragons, I’ll have to investigate :D

  12. Yes. Get this nice book into peoples hands, spread the word. It was very good.

    And that is a well detailed response to what makes Dragons interesting. I agree with it all. But mostly, I just think they are friggin awesome.
    Nathan (@reviewbarn) recently posted…Sci-fi Review: ‘Honor Among Thieves’ by James S.A. CoreyMy Profile

    • Haha, so agreed! I really liked the opportunity to evaluate why I liked them as well, since I think Anne makes some great points, they are so alien and yet usually intelligent (the ones I like at least ;-) )

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