Sunday, March 6, 2011

Here Be Dragons

Today my guest blogger is author Deborah Cooke.  Thank you so much Deb for taking the time  to guest blog for me.
 
It’s always interesting to be asked about the source of my ideas, mostly because ideas tend to sneak up on me. I’m not sure exactly where they come from, or what makes them spark, or what makes one idea more likely than another to turn into a published book – much less a linked series. I have a lot of ideas and I love them all.

But dragons have always held a tremendous appeal for me. I read THE LORD OF THE RINGS repeatedly as a teenager – “obsessively” might be a better choice of word – and one of the characters who most intrigued me was Smaug. I loved the Tolkien calendars illustrated by the Brothers Hildebrandt, but when Smaug was the illustration of the month, the page tended to not be turned on time. And Smaug started me on a journey, hunting dragon lore and reading stories about dragons wherever I could find them.

There are lots of stories about dragons and I’ve always liked that they had such extensive roots in mythology. I like how dragons look. I like how ferocious and protective they are. I like to imagine them fighting each other, maybe in a night sky filled with stars. I love that they are fond of solving riddles – dragons aren’t fools, usually – and that they are known to be particularly perceptive. Once I became a romance writer, it seemed to me that if the hero of my romantic dreams was going to be a shapeshifter, then he should shift to a dragon. Powerful. Loyal, Ferocious. Passionate. Mysterious. And gorgeous in both forms. What was not to love about that?

When I created the world of the Dragonfire novels, I needed to build a mythology and dragon society – so those yummy heroes would be a part of something bigger than just their personal concerns. Their mission needed to be timely and they needed to be confronting a crisis. I decided that my dragon shifters – the Pyr – would be an ancient species, one that had once mingled with humans and thus were the root of our stories about dragons. In Eastern mythology, dragons control rain. So, my dragons are the custodians of the earth and the guardians of the four elements. They have hoards, of course, but their most important treasure is the planet itself. Humans nearly hunted the Pyr to extinction in the Middle Ages in the Pyr world, and the Pyr had hidden themselves from us at that point, living secretly amongst us. This caused a division in their kind: subsequently there were true Pyr, who counted humans among the treasures of the earth to be defended, and Slayers, who believed that humans had to be eradicated in order to protect the earth. This argument about the fate of humans has pitted Pyr against Slayer, and the current astrological phase – called the Dragon’s Tail and a time of karmic balancing – is the time of the final battle between Pyr and Slayers for ascendancy.

The Dragonfire novels are romances, so I needed a role for humans in the dragon shifter world. The Pyr mate with human women, but each has one destined mate, the only woman who can conceive his son. His encounter with that woman is marked by “a firestorm”. Literally, sparks fly between the two, and the firestorm burns until their relationship is consummated. According to Pyr lore, the woman conceives the Pyr’s son the first time that they have sex. (The heroines in these books are justifiably skeptical of this claim. I like the juxtaposition of a Pyr explaining mythology to a very pragmatic modern woman. Those scenes are always fun to write.) The heat of the firestorm can be felt by all other Pyr and Slayers, so it generally attracts both attention and interference – Slayers see the human mate as a vulnerability to the Pyr and tend to attack. I also enjoy having each Pyr need to seduce the woman destined for him, persuade her of that destiny, explain his own reality, and kick butt against Slayers at the same time. There’s a lot of action in these books.

There is also dissent within the Pyr as to how a firestorm should be handled. There are those who believe that conceiving the son is the whole point, and others who are convinced that the firestorm offers each Pyr to make a partnership that will make him stronger. Each Pyr has an affinity to two of the four elements, and his destined mate has an affinity to the other two. When they form a permanent union, the whole is stronger than the sum of the parts. Many of the Pyr  heroes have to confront the notion of their own vulnerability – not an easy concept for a dragon shifter! – during the course of the firestorm. In this world, a Pyr loses a scale when he loves someone, and only that person can ensure that the point of weakness is repaired. Of course, that realization of love tends to come just as the fighting gets intense!

Beyond that, there are traditional roles in the Pyr which I explore in individual books. For example, Quinn, the hero of KISS OF FIRE (http://www.deborahcooke.com/fire.html) was the Smith, who can repair the armor of his fellow dragons. He’d decided that he was done with his fellow dragons and had become a loner – bringing him back into the Pyr fold was an important mission at the beginning of the Dragon’s Tail wars, and one that Sara helped to accomplish. Rafferty, the hero of DARKFIRE KISS (http://www.deborahcooke.com/dark.html), is the grandson of the Cantor. While Rafferty can sing to the earth – because of his affinity with it – and provoke its response, he never wanted to learn about his grandfather’s ability to enchant. His firestorm – and Melissa’s influence – compels him to come to terms with his abandoned legacy. Each book focuses on a specific niche of Pyr and dragon lore – I love having the chance to dig into a whole new area of dragon stories in each book.

And then there are those sons. The dragon shifter ability passes through the male line, and the Pyr generally have sons with their mates. There is, however, one female dragon shifter in this world at any given time. Called the Wyvern, she tends to be reclusive, a prophetess, and has additional powers beyond those of the guys. She’s regarded with a kind of awe – for centuries, the Pyr never even saw a Wyvern.

Spoiler alert here for those who haven’t read the series! 

 
In KISS OF FATE, the third Dragonfire book, Sophie, the current Wyvern dies. The child conceived in that firestorm turns out to be a girl, Zoë. So, there’s a new Wyvern in the Pyr world, but she’s only a little girl. The male Pyr come into their powers at puberty, so I thought it would be fun to explore Zoë’s coming of age. That led to my new spin-off YA series, called The Dragon Diaries. (http://www.thedragondiaries.com) In this trilogy, beginning with FLYING BLIND in June, Zoë starts to come into her powers, but has no one to ask about how to use them or what to expect.  At the same time, the Pyr are faced with a new threat, one that the old guard don’t take seriously – and one that targets the next generation of dragon shifters. 


Dragonfire is evolving into a long linked series, which is a huge amount of fun for me. I’ve no shortage of dragon stories to explore. Currently there are eight Dragonfire books contracted – DARKFIRE KISS, coming in May, is #6 -  and one short story has been published digitally, as well. Then there are the three YA books, that series launching in June with FLYING BLIND. The Dragon Diaries continues in December with WINGING IT, then book three will be out in June 2012. You can read more about both series on my websites.

So, tell me, do you love dragons? If so, why?


Deborah Cooke (http://www.deborahcooke.com) has always been fascinated with dragons, although she has never understood why they have to be the bad guys. She has an honours degree in history, with a focus on medieval studies. She is an avid reader of medieval vernacular literature, fairy tales and fantasy novels, and has written over forty romance novels and novellas. In October and November 2009, Deborah was the writer in residence for the Toronto Public Library, the first time that the library has hosted a residency focused on the romance genre. Deborah has also been published under the names Claire Cross (http://www.clairecross.com ) and Claire Delacroix (http://www.delacroix.net).

Deborah makes her home in Canada with her husband. When she isn't writing, she can be found knitting, sewing or hunting for vintage patterns.

Make sure you stop by Wednesday when Katie MacAlister tells us how she conceived her dragons.

4 comments:

debbie h said...

Thanks for the guest Blog Deb, as you know I love all your work wether it be paranormal, urban fantasy or mainstream romance. You're just an awesome storyteller.
I do love dragons and I think for me it's the mysticism that surrounds them plus they just have that sensuality about them.
Deb

Pat said...

I have to get your books, I love dragons. I hope you have them on kindle, I also love this blog, best I have read online in a while. Evyln keep this wonderful people coming!!

Sara said...

LOVE dragons! :) I did a pen and ink drawing of Smaug on my grey math duotang in grade 8. Your dragon stories sound like something I would want to read, I'll have to check them out.

Deborah Cooke said...

Hi Deb - Great to see you here, too! Thanks for your kind words. :-)

Hi Pat - The Dragonfire books are all available in digital editions. I think they're released at the same time as the print editions. Hope you enjoy them!

LOL Sara - I drew dragons when I was a teenager too. That's one of the things Zoë got from me. (I won't tell you the others.) Hope you enjoy the books!

d