Sweet Sixteener Lois Sephaban recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Laurie McKay about her debut MG fantasy novel, THE LAST DRAGON CHARMER #1: VILLAIN KEEPER (February 3, 2015 from HarperCollins).
Laurie McKay has taught biology in the community college system for seven years and lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her family and two dogs. When she’s not dodging students and prepping lab activities, she’s sitting at a local coffee shop and writing.
All his life, Prince Caden has dreamed of being sent on a quest to slay a dragon. But before he has the chance, he is ripped from his home in the Winterlands of Razzon and finds himself in Asheville, North Carolina–a land with no magic and no dragons. But a prince must always complete his quest. And the longer Caden is in Asheville, the more he realizes there is magic in this strange land after all. More important, there may just be dragons here, too. But what if Caden’s destiny isn’t to slay a dragon, like he’s always believed?
Lois: When and how did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Laurie: I remember writing a story in fifth or sixth-grade about an inter-dimensional tree. Every branch led to a different world. So I’ve always written stories. It wasn’t until about six years ago, however, that I really decided I wanted to work at becoming a published writer. I’d unexpectedly lost a loved one. Writing became an outlet. After a while, I realized how much I truly enjoyed it and decided I wanted to make writing more than a hobby. I worked on improving my skills. I read books and more books on craft. I went to conferences. I wrote most nights and weekends. And, now, I’m being published!
Lois: Are you part of a critique group? If so, how did working with your CPs benefit you?
Laurie: My sister is my CP and my mother is my beta reader. They see problems in my drafts that sometimes are invisible to me. They also are great sounding boards for plot and character ideas. Most of all, they support me. Honestly, I doubt I’d have gotten this far without them!
Lois: How did you find your agent/editor?
Laurie: I researched agents online, checked bewares and recommendations. I read blogs to see what types of stories agents were seeking. My agent signed me after I queried him via email and told him about my novel.
Lois: How did you come up with the idea for your novel? Did you know this was “The One?”
Laurie: VILLAIN KEEPER is the second book I’ve written since seriously pursuing writing. I admit, I felt like it was going to sell. There wasn’t any evidence behind that – it was just a gut feeling. Despite that, I still couldn’t believe it when it actually sold.
I was inspired by fairy tales and portal fantasies. Usually in portal fantasies, real kids are transported to a fantasy world. My favorite part, however, is when the characters are still in the real world. I decided to write a reverse portal fantasy. In my book, a prince and a sorceress are transported to Asheville, NC. The fantasy kids have to deal with the real world.
The main character, Caden, is loosely based on “Prince Charming.” He has the gift of speech which allows him to speak any language and also charm those around him. Brynne, the sorceress, is loosely based on the evil sorceress that the Prince Charming often defeats except she’s not-so-wicked, not-so-easy to defeat, and is Caden’s closest ally.
Lightning Round Questions:
Big brother, little sister, in the middle, or one and only? In the middle.
I have an older brother and a younger sister.
Robot revolution or zombie apocalypse?
I’d prefer the robot revolution. It sounds less messy.
Favorite Broadway musical?
Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat. (Actually, his musical inspired my novel some, too.)
A band you loved when you were 16 that you still listen to?
A fifteen-year-old cocker spaniel and a twelve-year-old Eskimo dog.
Do you write longhand or type?
I’m a keyboard girl. I always type.
About the Interviewer:
Lois Sepahban grew up in central California. She spent her childhood reading, climbing trees, and leading her brother and sister on hunts for buried treasures. She is married and has two children. Today, she lives on a small farm in Kentucky where she has a barn that she fills with animals who need homes: goats, dogs, cats, and chickens. In her MG historical debut, PAPER WISHES (Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG, Winter 2016), Manami stops speaking when her family is forced to move to a Japanese internment camp in 1942. To save her family, Manami must find her voice.