Wednesday, September 5, 2018

TBR: Dan Elish, The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons

TBR [to be read] is a new feature on my blog, a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe!

Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?

THE ROYAL ORDER OF FIGHTING DRAGONS is a comic adventure for kids that appeals to all ages. Ike Rupert Hollingsberry is an everyday 6th grade New York City kid. Except for one major thing: his dad was a famous actor who died on the set of a kids’ TV show called The Fighting Dragons. At least that’s what Ike thinks when the book begins. Turns out that The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons is a real organization and the TV show was just a cover. Now young Ike is next in line…to be their leader.

Which character did you most enjoy creating? Why? And, which character gave you the most trouble, and why?

The characters I enjoyed creating the most were, in a way, the most difficult, too. That’s because as the plot developed Ike needed to have five sidekicks, major kid characters to help him on his quest. They are: Elmira, a genius-blogger-dragon-expert nerd; Diego a goofy guy who claims to speak to animals; Kashvi, a mechanical whizz who can fix anything; Alexandro Lafcadio Cortesi, a handsome, confident boy from Rome; and finally, Lucinda O’Leary Smith, a swashbuckling girl from the outback of Australia. 

It can be difficult to do scenes with lots of different characters. Each voice must be distinct and recognizable to the reader even from unattributed dialogue. So it’s a challenge. That was the hard part. The fun part was creating these quirky kids.

I also had fun creating the villain, Theodore Opal, a New York City real estate developer who bears more than a passing resemblance to someone who may or may not occupy the White House. Just sayin’…

Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.

Suffice it to say, it took a long time – a period of a couple of years – to write a good draft of this book. I had help from friends, my wife, my kids, and my agent. Also, my cats.

Then – sad to say and I’m STILL NOT SURE WHY – the book was rejected at a few places. All with exceedingly polite, even enthusiastic, notes. Was it maddening? Yes. I fumed, I railed. But my agent believed in the book and so did I. Soon enough, it found a home at Vesuvian Media, a fantastic new press. I feel very well taken care of there and am thrilled. The book looks utterly fantastic. So sometimes the journey is rough but the landing is very happy.

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

To just keep on going. You will be surprised by how much you can produce if you write a little bit (or a lot) every day. Try not to get discouraged. Realize that whatever you’re working on is going to take lots of rewriting and polishing to get right. Don’t expect the first draft to be good. Just have faith and keep revising. If you’re serious about the work, the quality will get there.  

My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?

Working out the plot mechanics took a lot of thought on this one. Some of the plot has to do with an Order of Fighting Dragons which dates to the time of King Arthur. I was very surprised to discover how Merlin (who may or may not be a character in the story in a modern guise) figured into the tale.

Who is your ideal reader?

My ideal reader is any enthusiastic boy or girl who likes Roald Dahl, Harry Potter or the Lightning Thief, age 7 to 15. But honestly, I think this book has wide appeal for later teens and adults, too. I’ve had very positive reactions among all age groups. Hey, my mother-in-law LOVED it.

Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book?

Well, Thaddeus, the head dragon keeper, likes to drink a non-alcoholic concoction called Dragon Ale but I never do specify exactly what is in it except cinnamon and thirty other rare spices from England. [Editor’s note: Aha! Sounds like a secret recipe!]



DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.