Monday, March 5, 2018

Happy Pub Day!

Tomorrow is the pub day for the next book in Erin Peabody's Behind the Legend series: DRAGONS!  This fun series looks at creatures and monsters throughout history and analyzes them through a scientific, myth-busting lens, debating whether or not the sightings and evidence provided are adequate proof of their existence.  There are five others books in the series and the first book received a starred Booklist review!  I'm excited to have Erin here to talk about DRAGONS today!

Tell us a bit about this book and how it has been writing this series, now that you have time to reflect on it as a whole.

In DRAGONS, young readers are whisked away to ancient, faraway lands to learn more about the fire-breathing beasts that have long enthralled people from around the world. Most of us are familiar with two of the most popular dragon legends. One is the dark and brooding medieval monster that was famously challenged with lance and shield; the other, his polar opposite, is the vibrant, wise and lucky creature that’s been revered for thousands of years in places like China and Japan. But there are numerous other thrilling dragon types and tales.

Have you heard of the brightly feathered dragon that supposedly blazed across the skies of ancient Mexico? What about other menacing dragonlike creatures, like wicked worms (or “orms”) and leeches, which allegedly terrorized the European countryside? And forget about those shining knights. Did you know that many of the bravest dragon slayers across history were women—including one who tamed her scaled attacker using a rather surprising wardrobe accessory?!

Digging up such lesser-known and silly details has been my favorite part of working on the BEHIND THE LEGEND series. And all the books, including BIGFOOT, THE LOCH NESS MONSTER, WEREWOLVES, ZOMBIES, UNICORNS and now DRAGONS, have revealed to me just how important our myths and monsters are to us. Fantastic creatures, especially dragons, unicorns and zombies, are incredibly powerful constructs of the human heart. They’re basically caricatures of our best—but also worst—selves. 

How did you research this book?

By obsessively reading as many books about dragons as I could! Over the last several months, I’ve checked out dozens upon dozens of books about Bigfoot, werewolves, zombies and dragons—probably much to the alarm of my local librarians! But perusing as much literature on a subject as possible enables a writer to find, hopefully, at least a few dazzling nuggets to include in her book.

Did you feel like you were involved in the various stages your book went through?  Tell us a bit about the editorial process for this series.

Absolutely. My primary editor, Charlie Ilgunas (Little Bee Books) was great to work with. He provided overarching support and guidance but was also clever enough, when reading through drafts, to point out any perceived historical discrepancies. I also worked with some incredible copyeditors who helped me pinpoint and/or confirm numerous hard-to-find historical details. Since this series encourages kids to honor facts and the scientific method, we owed it to them to get the details, even the most obscure, as accurate as possible.

What kind of marketing have you done to promote this book and this series?

Researching, writing and revising takes up the bulk of a writer’s time, but promotion is crucial and can also be lots of fun. I try to make it to as many local bookstores and schools as I can and participate in book fairs each year. Getting to know your local booksellers and their staff is one of the best bits of advice I’ve received, and can pass along!

What part of the publication process has been the most interesting/fun? What part has been the hardest? 

Researching and reading is my favorite part, as well as crafting a narrative arc in which to organize all the fascinating stories and bits of information. The absolute best part, though, is getting to meet fans and kids who enjoy the books and subject matter.

The most challenging part is the tedious work of hunting down details, many of which were first written about in ancient times. Take, for instance, St. George, the valiant soldier who, according to thirteenth century European legend, heroically slayed a dragon. While it would be optimal to include George’s last name and some other personal details about him, I simply couldn’t. Such information appears to be lost to history. (Of course, that could change as new historical documents are unearthed or old ones freshly interpreted.)

Do you have any quirks when it comes to your writing process (e.g. do you have to write at night or while wearing lucky socks)? 

Oh, many!! But I’m not sure how many directly affect my writing! I think most writers would agree that it’s great when you can be comfortable when you write…say, on a cozy sofa with a favorite beverage nearby. But I’d have to attribute some of my best creative inspiration to my 10-year-old daughter—a light-hearted unicorn aficionado and incessant doodler whose silly sketches fill the margins of my writing notebooks. Her wacky enthusiasm helps free my mind and recharge my curiosity. And curiosity is probably a writer’s most critical tool.