A few months ago I reviewed Carole Wilkinson’s new Dragonkeeper novel, Blood Brothers (see: “New Dragonkeeper”). Now I get to follow that up by throwing a few questions at Carole. Here’s the interview…
It has been a few years between Dragonkeeper books. Why did you wait so long?
Actually, I had no intentions of writing another Dragonkeeper book. I was determined to leave Ping in peace living a quiet happy life. But after a couple of years, I missed the dragons. Then it occurred to me that my dragons can live for 3000 years and I could jump forward in Kai’s life and have a whole new set of human characters.
What was it like returning to the Dragonkeeper world?
Great! I really enjoyed imagining what had happened to the dragons since I was with them last.
Why did you choose to set Blood Brothers 500 years after the original trilogy?
464 years actually! I wanted Kai to be a teenage dragon. I calculated that he’d need to be about 465 years old. That meant that I didn’t choose which era I set Blood Brothers in. It was just whatever era that happened to be. I was expecting a different dynasty, but was surprised to find it was a time of complete chaos and anarchy (which I used in the story, of course!).
I love the use of Buddhism in the story. Did you set out to include this or did it come out of the story?
It wasn’t so much that I chose to use it in this story, as I chose not to use it in the original Dragonkeeper. One of the reasons I set Dragonkeeper in the Han Dynasty was because I wanted to avoid Buddhism. I wanted there to be the indigenous beliefs of earlier China — ie Daoism, ancestor worship, that sort of thing.
At the time Blood Brothers was set, Buddhism had arrived from India, so I decided to embrace it this time and make it a key part of the story.
One of my favourite elements of the new book is the relationship between Tao and his disabled brother, Wei, who has broken bone disease (cerebral palsy). There is such a strong and loving bond between them, that feels very real. Was it difficult to convincingly write a character with cerebral palsy? Did you do much research into the disease?
When I was thinking who would be Kai’s next companion, I had a few ideas. First I thought of having twins, where neither of them could do the job alone, it had to be both of them. Then I thought, perhaps it could be someone who had a disability, not your usual hero type. Then I decided to merge the two ideas.
Writing about Wei was a very peaceful and calming experience. Every time he was involved in the story, the pace had to slow right down, which was pleasant. But he was never impatient with his limitations, because that’s all he had ever known. It was like meditation or tai chi, something that required me to be in quite a different state of mind, much more tranquil than my usual more anxious state when I write a first draft.
No, I didn’t do any research. I have a nephew who has cerebral palsy. He is now in his 30s, so I have seen him grow from a baby to adulthood. He has quite severe physical disabilities, but he is very sociable and loves to communicate. I wanted Wei to have an even greater difference between his mental and physical capabilities.
It certainly seems like there are more adventures ahead for Tao and Kai. Will there be more books?
I have ideas for more books, but as always it will depend on my publishers.
Blood Brothers has a rather stunning cover. And the original trilogy has been rejacketed to match. What do you think of the new covers?
I just love Sonia Kretschmar’s cover illustration. And the fact that Walker Books decided to rejacket the original trilogy to match was a bonus.
The trilogy has had three sets of covers here in Australia now. It’s interesting when I do school visits etc, I come across readers who are very loyal to one of the earlier sets of covers and want Blood Brothers to match!
I’ve loved them all, but I do think that these new covers are my favourites.
What are you working on at the moment? (assuming it isn’t a huge secret)
No secret. I am waiting for the copy edit of Stagefright, which you might remember was the very first book I wrote. Maryann Ballantyne edited that book back in 1995, I think. And recently she reread it and asked me if I wanted to update it. I reread it too, and it didn’t make me cringe too much (apart from some very strange point of view decisions!). But it was outdated. So I have updated it and rejigged the story a bit. It has been an enjoyable experience. I’m sure lots of authors would love a chance to fix their first effort!
While I am waiting to get the copy edits back, I am starting to plot the next Dragonkeeper book.
Thanks Carole for stopping by for a chat. I remember reading and loving Stagefright when it first came out, so I’m very much looking forward to the new version. And I’m definitely hoping for more Dragonkeeper books.
Catch ya later, George
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