Hugely excited to welcome the talented Liz Flanagan into My Book Corner today. I know that she is a super keen animal lover, and asked her to tell us how that influenced the way she wrote about the dragons in Dragon Daughter…
SPOILER ALERT: this post contains adorable kitten photos!
‘How did you imagine the dragons?’ is one of my favourite questions to answer when I’m doing school visits. I love animals and always have – as you can see in this photo! – and I borrowed certain details from certain pets of my own over many years.
In the years before I wrote Dragon Daughter, I had a small flock of chickens in our steep little garden that went up into the woods behind our house. I used to love taking my cup of tea and sitting with them, watching them peck and scratch around. Their scaly feet and intense eyes first made me think of dragons, but it was their mothering that really gave me ideas!
Our broody hens – especially this pretty white one called Candyfloss – were so fierce and protective of their nest. If I went near to check the eggs, she would growl and peck me. Who knew that hens could growl? She sat there defending her nest, hardly eating and drinking herself, for three whole weeks. And when the chicks hatched, they took a while to chip their way out of their eggs and seemed very damp and fragile and vulnerable. So, both the fierce mama and the newly-hatched chicks gave me very clear ideas for how the dragons would act in similar ways.
“Curled on the cushion lay a damp, exhausted baby dragon, mewing faintly, next to the shards of its shell.” (p120 of Dragon Daughter)
While I was editing the book, we’d just moved house and got a new kitten, Arya. She has a very strong character – independent, feisty and loving – and she greets me with a little chirruping sound and a nose-to-nose touch, which I love. I borrowed this when I was describing Iggie and the other hatchlings.
“He reached up and touched his nose to hers, light as a moth.” (p136)
When I was eight, I was really poorly for a few months and missed lots of school, and when I got better, my parents gave me a border collie puppy. (And she was mine, actually mine, not my brothers’ – this was a giddy and lovely thing!) Now I was allowed to wander the hills of Hebden Bridge on my own or with friends, as long as I had the dog with me. I still remember that feeling of freedom and independence. So, it’s not a coincidence then, that when Milla bonds with her dragon Iggie in the story, he brings her a new life, full of possibility. Looking back, I can see how my experience of my first dog coloured this description of having a constant companion, who might not be able to speak, but who brings all kinds of possibility to your life.
At the moment I am fostering a family of kittens, just as I’m editing the next dragon book, and I can’t help thinking that some of their playfulness has crept into that story, too.
A few readers have told me they love the dragons – I’ve even been lucky enough to get some fantastic artwork, like these two fierce dragons that were given to me at the Leeds Book Awards. I hope it’s because I put in lots of details from animals that I’ve loved. Though obviously I still wish for a dragon of my own: that would be the best pet of all.
Please do get in touch to tell me what you thought about the dragons, and what your dragon would be like! I can be reached via lizflanagan.co.uk or on Twitter: @lizziebooks.
Thank you so much for hosting this blog post!
Thanks Liz!! Dragon Daughter is published by David Fickling Books
Cover art by Angelo Rinaldi
Interior art by Paul Duffield