Lucinda Hare was born in Edinburgh and spent her childhood in rural East Lothian, where she spent much of her time roaming the beaches and woods. When she was eleven she was introduced to The Lord of the Rings, which combined her own passions for history, legend and fantasy. The characters at the heart of her bestselling children's fantasy, The Dragon Whisperer, are dragons with their own language and character that owe the inspiration for their names to Native American culture. The Dragon Whisperer has been shortlisted for the 2010 Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children's Books (Young readers 8-11) and Fantasy Book Review spoke to Lucinda shortly after the announcement.
Note: The wonderful illustrations that accompany this interview are used by kind permission of Lucinda Hare.
Congratulations on being shortlisted for the 2010 Royal Mail Awards for Scottish Children's Books. Is this nomination just that extra bit special as the awards are decided entirely by children and young people in schools and libraries across Scotland?
Thanks! Yes, it is tremendously exciting that it is Scottish children who chose the shortlist and who will be voting. The world of the Dragonsdome Chronicles derives much of its inspiration from Scotland, and has a distinctive Scottish twist to the story, so yes, it is very special to have been shortlisted for the Royal Mail Awards.
In what ways did your own experiences with animals inform the writing of The Dragon Whisperer?
Animals are at the heart of my life and The Dragon Whisperer. I have loved animals all my life, from earwigs to elephants. Although I have chosen to write about fictional dragons, they are intended to represent all animals in our world, and to give those animals a voice. How we relate to animals - the unconditional love and companionship they give - is a central theme of The Dragon Whisperer. This theme and its darker side is continued in book two: Flight to Dragon Isle - animal lovers will need to get the tissues out! Our rescued animals also provide inspiration for specific dragons - stroppy Two Gulps is inspired by our huge temperamental cat Rufus, who has buckets of attitude and is only handled by me. Chasing the Stars reflects the temperament of my gentle little cat Chinook.
Two of the dragons in the book are 'Two Gulps' and 'Chasing the Stars'. Which of these would you fly with (and why)?
That is a difficult choice. Battledragons are the equivalent of modern fighter jets and helicopters, and I have always been passionate about Harrier jump jets and Apache Longbow helicopters. On the other hand, Chasing the Stars is such a loving gentle dragon, and has a wicked sense of humour... Do I really have to choose?
How did you come up with the character of Quenelda? Did she spring from your imagination or was she based on something/someone from real life?
Quenelda reflects much of my personality and many of my aspirations. Unfortunately being afflicted by short-sightedness and travel sickness, I can only dream of what it is to be a pilot. Quenelda lives that dream. She is also passionate about animals, unconventional, and challenges existing behaviour and attitudes.
Will The Sorcerers Glen, which is related to the Dragonsdome Chronicles but set in modern times, or Catastrophe, a story about a Scottish wildcat with buckets of attitude, ever find their way to publication?
I am hoping so. I wrote both stories as part of the process of teaching myself how to write for younger readers. I think it's an on-going learning process for me still, and so I would need to go back to both books; but I think fans of The Dragonsdome Chronicles would love The Fifth Dimension series, the first being The Sorcerers Glen. The Sorcerers Glen gave me many of the ideas for The Dragonsdome Chronicles, and Catastrophe, the feisty opinionated wild cat who narrates the story of the same name, led naturally to my talking dragons, although this story is aimed at younger readers.
Scotland has a history of providing fine children's authors: J. M. Barrie, Kenneth Grahame and the man who greatly influenced C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, to name but a few. Has being Scottish had a large bearing on your work as an author and have any of the above mentioned authors been a major influence?
Funnily enough the two Scottish authors who most influenced me as a young reader were Dorothy Dunnett with her rich vibrant historical novels, and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, and his battles against the dark underside of society. One of the first books I remember reading and wanting to own, was The Hound of the Baskervilles.
How many times have you now read The Lord of the Rings and does it still provide the same reading pleasure as it did the very first time?
I have read Lord of the Rings more times than I could count. It is one of my comfort books that I dip into frequently late at night before I go to sleep. I have numerous copies about the house, two of which have quite literally fallen apart through constant use. I can't ever imagine tiring of Middle Earth.
Random House are arguably the biggest book publishers in the UK. How did your partnership begin – did you send in a manuscript to them or did they make first contact?
It's a rather unusual story. Due to the number of aspiring writers every publisher and agent has quite rigid submission guidelines and in the case of the former, very few these days accept unsolicited manuscripts. Convention says you have to get an agent who does that initial filtering and knows which publisher to target. I went through the list of agents from A to Z and no one wanted me. Then I was lucky enough to learn the name of a senior editor with Macmillans Children's books. Believe it or not, but given the number of submissions, you are often asked to sell your story in as little as a paragraph! That is a pretty tough call! Nothing venture nothing gain! I gave it my best shot, and I then got the phone call every aspiring author waits for - “Are world rights available?” and I said, yes, anything you want!! Before anything was signed my senior editor moved to Random House, and I moved with her. I still don't have an agent.
What does your pet count currently amount to?
Our current pet count is two dogs, four cats, six rabbits, two guinea pigs and five battery hens, and one free-range wood mouse with half a tail. They come from rescues and shelters far and wide, and sometimes are brought to the door. Because we take in old and ill animals we often lose them all too soon, and so numbers constantly vary. At the most we've had 24, including a house hen, Feisty who used to roost amongst the soft cuddly toys around the house. We are about to take a dog (or maybe two) from Romania, where sadly animals suffer appalling cruelty and have little protection under the law.
What does the remainder of 2010 hold for Lucinda Hare?
I'm working on book three: Dragon Lords Rising, along with quite a lot of illustrations. I love the contact with fans, and spend quite a lot of time in correspondence, the largest number living in Australia. Health permitting, I am hoping to be able to get out there and meet some of those Scottish school children, and of course my husband and four-legged family keep me busy!
Fans of Hare’s previous books in The Dragonsdome Chronicles will be delighted with The Sorcerer’s Glen. It bares all the trademarks of classic Hare – brave female characters, hilarious side-kicks and Hare’s characteristic wit (What’s a vegetarian and how do you cook them?). There is one big difference with this book – it is set in our world. Fear not, this doesn’t mean fantastical realms are long-gone… but Hare presents our world as a different kind of magical.In the opening pages we are introduced to the charming village of This [...]
Reading Lucinda Hare’s debut novel The Dragon Whisperer is like riding a dragon. You have to hold on tight during the twist and turns, take time to stop and enjoy the breathtaking view (in the form of David Wyatt’s wonderful illustrations), prepare yourself for the sudden lows, enjoy the soaring heights and make sure you’re not on the wrong end of that fiery breath!A tale hatched from Hare’s real-life experiences and devotion to all kinds of animals, The Dragon Whisperer follows Earl’s daughter (and dragon whisperer), eleven year old Quenelda. Her best f [...]
Like a dragon, Lucinda Hare’s second novel has some fire in its belly. In Flight to Dragon Isle, the heat has been turned up: more action, more adventure.If you’ve read the first book, The Dragon Whisperer, then the return of Quenelda and Root will be like revisiting old friends (if you haven’t read it, then go and read it...now!) You might think nothing’s changed. Quenelda is still the headstrong girl we met in book one and Root is still the nervous gnome, but this pair are slowly finding their feet. Root is growing in confidence (but still manages the odd mi [...]
A wave of panic washed over Quenelda as they failed to spy the mainland before darkness fell; freezing her to the marrow more than any sea wave could do. What had she been thinking of, hauling her friends and Storm out over the freezing ocean? What made her think that she could do the impossible? Find her father when the SDS had failed to… because of a dragon’s dream?Dragon Lords Rising is the third book in Lucinda Hare’s Dragonsdome Chronicles, and three is, (as they say) the magic number. Picking up where Flight to Dragon Isle left off, we once again join the won [...]
Frying pans at the ready - Quenelda and Root are back! Stealth Dragon Services, the fourth novel in Lucinda Hare's Dragonsdome Chronicles opens with a handy glossary of 'who's who' - so you'll be up to speed if this book is your first of the series. If you’re an avid fan – it’ll all sound very familiar!Before you open the book, prepare yourself for moments of reunion that will make you want to cry; monsters that will make you want to hide; a dark magic so consuming it will make you want to turn to the dark side; and a good magic so good... it' [...]