Today on the blog I have a special guest post from Andy Shepherd to celebrate the publication of the final book in her gorgeous series, ‘The Boy Who Flew With Dragons.’ At the end of ‘The Boy Who Lived with Dragons,’ we saw Tomas make a promise to his Grandad but it is a promise that he is struggling to fulfil. He can’t bring himself to share with his friends the truth and so he finds himself trapped in a web of deceit as he tries to keep everyone around him happy. Andy has created an equally charming and heart-warming story filled with humour and mayhem but we now feel that time is running out for Flicker and his friends despite Tomas’s reluctance. But how do you come to terms to saying goodbye to those you love even when you know there is no other option? Sara Ogilvie’s illustrations once again capture all the chaos and carnage perfectly as we watch the dragons spiral out of control. Filled with humour, heart and not to mention a stack of mayhem this is a charming but poignant ending to this fabulous series.
Where did the idea come from? – Andy Shepherd
In her book ‘Big Magic’, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about ideas that roam around the ether looking for the perfect storyteller. And Julia Cameron uses the term ‘serendipity’ – the notion of staying open and alert and the world rewarding you with little treasures. I find the whole ‘where do your ideas come from’ fascinating and like Elizabeth Gilbert just a bit magical.
The ‘Boy Who Grew Dragons’ has had many lives. It’s grown over the years.
Starting off as a tiny seed – the simple idea of a dragon my son and I found living on our shed roof. When my second son was born he had all sorts of questions about our dragon. And so with that curiosity, the story grew.
But the biggest question was: ‘Where did our dragon come from?’
And for the answer to that one, I had to wait.
Until one day, I was walking our dog down past the allotments. As I pottered along that question started buzzing around my head again. Looking in at all the plots, I wondered if perhaps there had been an egg buried under the soil. But that quickly turned to ‘What if he grew on a plant?’ It would have to be a very special kind of plant to grow a dragon. And so I started picturing what that might look like.
It was only on the way home that a little thought fluttered down and settled on my shoulder, like a butterfly.
And that thought was, ‘Isn’t there actually something called a dragon fruit?’
And of course there is. I had heard of dragon fruit, but I had never seen a dragon-fruit tree. So just like Tomas in the story I rushed home and looked it up on the computer. And I couldn’t believe my eyes. Because it was better than anything I could have made up. The tree has long tendrils that burst out like a shot of flames. And huge moon-white flowers that only bloom for one night. (You can find some amazing photos of the dragon-fruit tree on my website)
This strange, amazing tree looked like it had magic in it already. It deserved to be in a story.
So just like that I finally had the idea I needed to grow our dragon story seedling into a fully-grown story.
Sometimes a story just needs that one little idea to turn it into something more. You may not always know when or where you’ll find it, but I think the key may to be as much like Tomas as possible. He keeps his eyes wide, wide open – you have to when you live with dragons! But more than that, he has his eyes wide open to the wonder of the world. Someone else might have ignored the dragon fruit tree, or worse pulled it out because it looked strange and covered in brambles. But he stayed curious. And open to that strangeness. And that’s when the magic happened.
I love this quote from Neil Gaiman.
‘You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.’
So keep curious and keep your eyes open and with any luck the ideas will flutter down and settle : )
Thank you to Andy for this really insightful guest post and for sending me a copy of your wonderful book. ‘The Boy Who Flew With Dragons,’ is available to buy now online or from any good bookshop.