Friday, November 4, 2011

St. George got it all wrong about dragons: An interview with fantasy author B.J. Whittington

Today, I'm interviewing fantasy author B.J. Whittington.


1) Please tell us about your book.
Thanks so much for the opportunity! Well, to be fair, there are three books in progress, the first, Dragon Soul, is available on and . The second book will be released in early 2012. Dragon Soul begins in a small village of the Palmir people. They are a quiet, productive and peaceful clan with an almost forgotten violent history. The Plague from the North—an attack of powerful, evil creatures—virtually annihilated them generations ago. They defeated the Plague, with the help of mystics and dragons - but at great cost. Dragons no longer survive as separate entities; their souls must reside in the flesh of human hosts.

To be a Dragon Host is at once a tremendous honor and a life sentence. A sentence of many lifetimes, as the Dragon Host’s life span becomes longer than normal humans; they usually outlive their human families by many years. Dragon Hosts have magnified senses and abilities. To host a dragon is to the see the world in entirely different ways - forever.

Hosting of Dragon Souls is not the only special calling of the Palmir people. Some are called to be Healers, a blending of practical and mystical powers. A rare few are Prophets. One Prophet has a vision that takes shape in a physical form and warns the Palmir people of an ominous event. Was it a just a reminder of the hellish past, or a harbinger of things to come?

What if the Plague returns? There are so few Dragon Souls. Could they defeat the monsters again?

And what of real dragons? Will they ever again exist in their own form?

From a peaceful and uncomplicated world, with only the little frustrations that human characters inflict on one another, events thrust the reader into epic battles between dragons and the creatures seeking to destroy human and dragon alike. Proceedings propel humans into the middle of dragon-sized events. The world of the people is so rich, yet simple and comfortable, it's heart-breaking to leave it for the battlefront. Nevertheless, the Palmir people, like the dragons, go willingly in defense of their families. And in these stories, the families of humans and dragons, are one. 

2. What was your inspiration for this book?
Honestly, the dragon/human bond is something that comes from my real life. No, I don't have aDragon Soul (that I know of yet!) and I've never seen a real dragon, but I have ridden horses all my life. You can form a bond with a horse that defies conventional description. Horse and rider begin to read one another's mind, almost as if we were in each other’s consciousness. To expand that into a rich fantasy world of other beings and, of course, people from other villages that didn't experience that bond, seemed like a great launching pad, so to speak.

3. Who is your favorite character in the book?
It changes from page to page. These characters have tricks up their sleeves that even I don't know about yet! Right now, it's Rasdor. Because of the opportunity to see the growth in this young dragon as he changed and matured... but you never know, later it could be Mona, or heck, even Vera. No telling what she could come up with. And who couldn’t emphasize with poor, poor Trella...

4. Dragons have been a staple of fantasy fiction for quite some time and even longer in myth. It can be hard to provide a fresh take on them. How does your book take on this venerable creature?
The book Dragon Soul can be read on two levels, on one we take it deeper into human experience and the human/dragon bond. They are in this fight for survival together and each must make sacrifices. The dragon isn't just a big, flying lizard -- it's a metaphor for the larger-than-life desires we all have, and the larger-than-life fears that go with them. In Dragon Soul, we see how these can meld to work together for the benefit of not only humans and dragons, but others in their environment.
The other level is an epic about Thol, a goat herder at Vedicville, who never imagined he would start his day as a human and end up as a dragon. Who would? Granted, he lived in a village of the Palmir People that mentored Dragon Hosts, but there are usually indications that a person is Host to a Dragon Soul. The first indication for Thol, was when his hands began to elongate and turn into talons.
At Thol's Scholla they taught that Dragon Souls are intelligent and giving. Not so, with hisDragon Soul—Rasdor—he is almost simple in his thoughts. Food, play and sleep are all that cross his mind, avaricious to please only himself... Unless he is dwelling on his wrath at his perceived ill treatment when he first Transformed, then he is full of a destructive rage verging on madness.
Rasdor is prone to what Thol's dama called a temper tantrum. However, the temper tantrum thrown by a child is laughable in comparison to those thrown by a dragon. Thol finds Rasdor completely unpredictable. He can see Rasdor's access to skills of his kind coming forth much faster than his maturity level. Soon an all-powerful dragon would be loose on the countryside with the behavior of a spoiled child...

Vedicville serves as a place to mentor Dragon Souls and Hosts, humans who transform into dragons. When Rasdor emerges unexpectedly and fly's off in a panic, the villagers commence a journey to find him.

The search uncovers more than the lost dragon, the key to saving their entire civilization. If they realize it in time.

5. Dragons used to be, at minimum, a symbol of danger and destruction in the West. Over the decades, particularly in the last fifty, they've had a bit of a reputation rehabilitation. In the West, they even had a long-standing association with the Devil. Although many fantasy books and movies such as Reign of Fire show that old-school dangerous dragons are still around, there are increasingly many works where dragons are either depicted as neutral/good (How to Train Your Dragon) or outright good. What do you think is responsible for dragons going from symbols of ultimate evil to their more mixed and often good modern reputation?
The problem, honestly, is inherent in the question. When you say "dragons used to be," it seems you're referring to contemporary stories, or maybe as far back as Medieval mythology, but that is far from the origin of the dragon in human experience. Stories about dragons begin in the early (pre-Mesopotamian) Sumerian culture, and continue into Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and of course, Chinese traditions. The earliest stories don't portray dragons as a universal enemy of mankind, or as flatly evil, but often as a guardian of treasure, or,prophetic for these times, of water. Dragons were also guardians of secrets. Yes, they battled the gods now and then, and even heroes, but it was not a universal theme, at first. Therefore, my hope is that the evolution of the dragon in contemporary story-telling is due to an expanded understanding of the place dragons have always had in our collective imagination. A second reason for the change in portrayal reminds me of the ideas people used to have about wildness and wilderness in general. When humans first settled the wild places, the first order of business was to subdue and conquer. I think a fear-based part of the human psyche says, "if it is bigger than us, or more powerful, we must conquer it or destroy it". What better way to conquer a fear than to turn it around so that it serves us! So, we bend them to our whims in new ways, and that frankly, brings me to the last part of my answer. Dragons doing the same old (nasty, evil) things are boring. Every character arc, in every form of storytelling, demands change. Dragons are changing because we want them to. 

6. What is the worse presentation of a dragon you've ever seen (book, television show, or movie)?
You know what, not going there. There are of course, some authors, and/or illustrators who fail to capture my own personal image of what a dragon should be or stand for, but in their mind, they may have nailed it. So, as an author with a vision myself, it would be pretty old-style draconian of me to slam someone else's vision.

7. What is the best presentation of a dragon you've ever seen (book, television show, or movie)?
Ha! Dragon Soul, of course! If the Dragon Souls of the world had been completely satisfied with the other dragon portrayals out there, would they have induced me to create new ones? Other dragons are the visions of their creators; mine were directly explained to me from the dragons themselves, via Mindspeak. You buy that, right?


B.J.'s book is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and B.J.'s Author's site

You can also visit B.J. at

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