Q&A with Liz Flanagan

Dragon Daughter and Rise of the Shadow Dragons are incredibly well written, imaginative and thrilling tales featuring brave characters and mythical dragons! I was so excited to be able to ask author Liz Flanagan a few questions about her books!

Hi Liz, Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about your writing and your books.  I have read both Dragon Daughter and Rise of the Shadow Dragons and loved the storytelling, the fiercely brave characters and the myths of the dragons. 

Dear Erin, thanks so much for these kind words – that means the world to me! I’m delighted and honoured to be hosted on the blog, so here goes with the questions.

Why did you choose to write books involving dragons? Have you always been fascinated by them?

I think I have always been fascinated by them – one of the first ever picture books I remember featured a dragon, so I think they’ve always been there in my reading and in my imagination. I love that so many cultures have dragon myths, but also that dragons are so open to re-interpretation, and, as I say in my school workshops, no one can tell you that your dragons are wrong, can they? We can each imagine them as our heart desires… I love the way they change from fragile hatchling to powerful beast. Also, with fire and flight, they are perfect for making things happen in a story. One of my favourite results of writing the books is hearing from children who’ve imagined their own dragon – who wouldn’t want a dragon of their own? 

How much world building took place before you could delve into the story?

For Rise of the Shadow Dragons, because it was the second in a series, the world already existed with the limits and rules I’d set in Dragon Daughter, and I hadn’t written that one expecting to write another! But then I saw a documentary about the amazing network of tunnels beneath the Italian city of Naples, and it gave me a lightbulb moment: what if Arcosi also had tunnels beneath the city? That was what set the whole story in motion this time. It led to ideas of exile and ‘what lives beneath’ and things rising up: literal and metaphorical, and then I was off and running with it… 

Did you spend a long time on research?

 I researched in bursts at first, and then in person, which was a new thing for me and which I absolutely loved doing. Once I’d had the idea about tunnels, I researched more, and discovered that many European cities have them, from Edinburgh to Paris, Berlin to Rome. I even took my family with me to Naples and we walked in the tunnels I’d learned about, so that was a wonderful reason to visit that beautiful city. I’m so grateful to have been able to do that kind of research back when travel was still possible and easier than now. I also read quite a lot about the history of the city, which didn’t make it into the story exactly, but which gave me a flavour for acts of resistance led by young people – I think there are often real-world examples which are more astonishing and colourful than fiction. 

Did you find it more challenging to write Dragon Daughter or the subsequent books in the series?

I found Dragon Daughter incredibly challenging – so much so that I put it aside and wrote Eden Summer, which then became my debut. I went back to Dragon Daughter years later and, with the help of my editor Rosie Fickling, finally managed to untangle all the plot threads and see my way to finishing it. Rise of the Shadow Dragons was much easier! I wrote the (very rough) first draft when I took the #100DaysOfWriting challenge in 2018, and even though there were another few drafts, it probably took less than two years in total, compared to six years for the first! For more info on that, here’s a blog post I wrote just as I began the challenge: https://lizflanagan.co.uk/blog/2018/4/14/shut-up-show-up-and-write-100daysofwriting 

 Are you working on anything at the moment that you can share with us?  Can we hope for more from this series? 

Yes, I really hope so! I wrote book 3 in the series during the first lockdown of the pandemic, using another hundred-day challenge to get the first draft out, and that was really fascinating because it has two narrators this time. I really enjoyed making that work, and switching between the two voices, because the characters couldn’t be more different from each other, and that was huge fun to write. This book has pirates and dragons in it, and hopefully ties up all the loose ends from the previous books in a satisfying and exciting way. I’m waiting to hear if my publisher wants the final part – please keep fingers crossed for me! 

Where do you do your best writing?  

In my bed! There’s something about sitting up in bed early in the morning and writing longhand that tricks my brain into thinking it’s not ‘proper work’ and staying in that playful dreamlike state. I think my inner critic is a bit of a lazy bones, so if I write first thing I can get some words down before she wakes up. It gets typed up at my desk later in the day, but there’s something special about that dawn writing stint. 

Some quick choice questions for a bit of fun…

Would you rather write or read? Read. I read every day and have several books on the go at once.  

Which would you prefer- dragon riding or sailing a ship? Dragon riding any day! 

Are you a morning person or night owl? Morning, but there must be coffee 😉 

Music or Movie? Music for running to, movie for slumping to. 

City or Country? Country (with short sharp bursts of city, please)

Thanks so much, Erin! That was fantastic. I can’t wait to see them on the blog.

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