Saturday, May 30, 2009

Meet the Dragon Lady: Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

As an avid reader, it’s exciting to me when I discover a new author whose books I absolutely loved. That’s what happened not long ago when I read Dragon Flight and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow both by Utah author Jessica Day George. I had the opportunity to interview Jessica several weeks ago, but because I was a judge in her category for the Whitney Awards I had to wait to even read what I learned about her from the online interview. Since then, Jessica has released a new book in the Dragon series, Dragon Spear, and a retold fairy tale, Princess of the Midnight Ball, both books I’m excited to read.

I met Jessica at the Whitney Award Gala and I discovered, she’s not really a dragon lady, but she loves to write about them. Dragon Slippers was the first children's book she had ever written, and it ended up being the first book she had published. “My first six books are still languishing on my hard drive!” she says.

She says her publication story is a matter of being in the “right place at the right time. I went to BYU's Writing For Young Readers Conference, and during the Saturday morning pitch session I just happened to sit next to a girl who was setting up a small, by invitation only, workshop with Melanie Cecka of Bloomsbury as the guest of honor. I got to spend fifteen minutes talking to Melanie one-on-one, and she loved not only Dragon Slippers, but other ideas I threw at her as well.”

About her newest book, Dragon Spear, she says, it “will be the last adventure with Creel and Shardas, but I will definitely be going back to Feravel some day.”

Although Dragon Slippers, and the resulting series which included Dragon Flight, got her career off the ground, it’s her Norse folktale that makes her stand out from the crowd, ending up as a Whitney finalist in both Youth Fiction and for Novel of the Year. A longtime fan of Norse folk tales, regarding another book along those lines in the future, Jessica says, “I'm toying with several ideas, actually. I love writing about Norway! I might do a historical fiction with Vikings, I might take on another folk tale. We shall see. . . .”

Since I spend most of my time with seventh grade students, a perfect audience for her books, I asked Jessica why readers should pick up one of her books to read. “Because I try to write books that I would enjoy reading,” she says. “I like to have lots of humor, but also lots of fun characters and some good action thrown in as well.”

An avid reader herself as a teen, Jessica says her favorite books were “ANYTHING by Robin McKinley! With Diana Wynne Jones as a close second!” She has continued to write for this audience herself because “the ideas just kept coming! I've always been a huge fan of YA fantasy, and after writing six adult books, I suddenly (or should I say: finally) started getting idea after idea for YA and middle grade books.”

For those who might want to become writers themselves, Jessica says, “Never give up, never surrender! Just keep writing, and keep looking for opportunities to meet with editors, and it will happen.” But even once you’ve sold your book, the job of writing isn’t over. “No matter how much she says she loves your book,” Jessica adds, “your editor will find bajillions of things that need ‘work.’ Don't give up, and don't hyperventilate, just do it.”

Good advice for us all, but if you’ll excuse me now, I have two brand new books from one of my new favorite authors waiting for me on my bookshelf.

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