I feel so lucky to have read this incredible adventure and even luckier to have been given the opportunity to ask Lindsay Galvin some questions. Please read on for her brilliant answers!
What made you want to delve into the world of Darwin and his explorations?
It wasn’t my intention to write a book about Darwin at all. Darwin’s Dragons started its life set in modern times and was a story about a teenager and a dragon sanctuary. But I added a thread about the discovery of dragons, and Darwin sort of slipped in because his travels and theories have always fascinated me. When I found out about the cabin boy and fiddler on The Beagle a whole new story grew, and the rest is …history!
What type of research did you do to get the settings and characters just right?
Firstly, I read both Darwin’s and Syms Covington’s journals from The Beagle. I visited Downe House — Darwin’s home — and spent time in his study, plus spoke at length with the Darwin experts who worked there. I also visited the Natural History Museum and went behind the scenes to see Darwin’s actual specimens in their original storage bottles. I wasn’t able to the visit the Galapagos but luckily the brilliant David Attenborough had made a documentary and I often played this in the background while I wrote. To get the London cave setting right I visited Chislehurst Caves in Kent which was spooky and atmospheric.
Farthing is a brilliant addition to the story- how did you imagine her looking when you were writing?
Farthing felt real to me right from the beginning. A couple of friends of mine have bearded dragons and I watched the way they move and interact. I also researched dinosaur behaviour. I felt like Farthing’s copper eyes were watching me as I worked.
This is a daring adventure for Syms and he learns so much alongside Darwin, and while trying to survive. Did it all just flow quite easily?
It flowed easily once I had Syms’ character but it took further drafts to get the balance right with Farthing and their interaction. But it was a joy to write and I feel really lucky to have been able to put Darwin and Dragons together – almost as if they were destined for each other!
The cover design is incredible- what were your thoughts when you first saw it?
I was blown away. The artwork by Gordy Wright, design by Steve Wells, and input from the whole Chicken House team created something both classic and exciting. I particularly love all the little details and animals, and the maps and photos inside the flaps make me swoon!
In a previous interview, you mentioned how much you like the first lines in books- do you have a favourite first line?
It’s a tough one, there are so many. But I love the one in the book I’m currently reading The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethell: ‘I stand on the edge of the moonflower coral and take a cormorant dive into the blue.’
Beautiful! The character is in action and the words are like music. It really sets the tone for a stunning book.
Do you think you would have been able to survive on this adventure?
If I had Farthing by my side I might. But I wouldn’t enjoy all that hardship, I’m more of a desk chair traveller these days. I need my tea!
DARWIN’S DRAGONS by Lindsay Galvin is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)