J.S. Burke is the author of The Dragon Dreamer (science fantasy/adventure) and other books. She has worked as an author, artist, chemist, certified teacher, and as a marine biologist, studying creatures of the dark abyss and diving on coral reefs. Jenny was manager of a marine research program for the Florida Department of Natural Resources. She lives in Georgia with her family.
Angela B. Chrysler: I want to take a moment to welcome Honored Guest J.S. Burke, author of The Dragon Series available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Thank you so much for speaking with me, Ms. Burke. Please take a moment to tell us about your book. How did you come up with the idea for your book?
J.S. Burke: I was minding my own business, admiring a roundish crystal rock in a ceramic bowl. Bam! I knew this was a dragon’s egg and the bowl was a nest that could be easily warmed with dragon-fire. Apparently, dragons made the first ceramics. Where was the dragon? Several entered my mind, all golden wings and scales. Naturally they could fly and play with lightning. I imagined colored lightning tossed in the clouds like a massive fireworks display. Green lightning was special, used only for courtship. I chose a young dragon as my star because I wanted to write a fast-paced young adult fantasy/adventure, a genre I still enjoy reading.
Arak is ridiculed by others as a worthless Dreamer. Reacting to a taunt, he heads out to sea on a dangerous quest and crashes. The hero must be rescued so the story can continue. A curious, shape-shifting, undersea Healer appeared in my mind and quickly became another important character. Scree, the fearless, was born. The truly fun part was making this all real.
ABC: Stories always require some form of research. What kind of research did you do for your book?
JSB: I read books, science research papers, and watched u-tube videos to learn more about the undersea world and my characters. I studied underwater volcanoes. And, most usefully, I joined a super writers group; their constructive criticism helped me write a better book. I also joined a writer society and read books about writing novels, particularly on how to develop different types of heroes and heroines.
ABC: Which scene or chapter was the hardest for you to write?
JSB: The first chapter was the hardest, introducing my main characters to capture their essence and start the story. Arak is determined to prove himself, but instead he’s badly injured and faces death. “Arak hung his head. Karoon was right, he was just a dreamer…He trembled, shaking like the last leaf on a winter tree.”
Scree watches Arak crash and she camouflages, tempted to flee from this frightening creature. “Scree stopped. It looked more dangerous than a shark, but it must have been injured in such an incredible fall. She felt the weight of her healer’s bag, and the responsibility. She struggled to look beyond the deadly claws, noticing instead the crimson splashes of blood that stained the snow.”
ABC: Please describe your favorite scene or chapter in your book and tell us why it’s your favorite?
JSB: Chapter 7: The Sea Boils has an impending disaster that defines Arak’s gift and shifts his perspective. “Arak awoke to the blackness before dawn and looked around uneasily…He closed his eyes and turned slowly in a circle, reaching out with magnetic sight…Fear ran up his spine like an icy claw…”
Tsunamis are unexpected and terrifying; the sea sucks back before the wall of water appears. “Long strands of seaweed lay flat, pointing toward the disappearing water like accusing fingers. Moments later the sea rushed back to the shore…It crested into a hungry wave…”
This chapter is filled with action above and below the waves as everyone deals with destruction and loss. It sets the stage for long-range consequences and draws the communities closer together.
ABC: Which of your characters do you relate to the most (and/or) who is your favorite character and why?
JSB: Arak is my favorite dragon because he has to overcome his fears and learn to embrace his gifts, a universal challenge. He grows into himself to become a true hero. Scree is my favorite undersea shape-shifter because she’ll always try to do what’s right, regardless of risk, and she never gives up. “What will be, will be. And then I’ll fix it.”
ABC: I once read that every author is simply a compilation of his/her favorite authors. Which authors have done the most to influence your writing and why?
JSB: Alan Dean Foster makes a new fantasy world for each book, with wonderful aliens and alien ecologies. His books made me want to create my own fantasy world. Numerous science writers filled me with an appreciation for the incredible complexities of life, and how interconnected our world is. These writers influenced my world-building. I’ve read dragon books most of my life, and now I’ve added a new take on dragon-lore.
Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin has a lyrical writing style that appeals to me; the characters are also memorable. I like a story that’s interesting and also has deeper meaning. Watership Down by Richard Adams is a famous novel with amazing rabbit characters. The rabbit sayings are phrased from their unique perspectives. It’s fun to do this with dragons and shape-shifters! The background lore in Lord of the Rings influenced me to add legends.
ABC: “Story” has always been the center of all human cultures. We need it. We seek it out. We invent it. What does “story” mean to you?
JSB: A story shares something vital, often about facing challenges and succeeding. Friendship is an important aspect of most stories that truly resonate with us. The original Star Trek series has an interesting setting and enduring friendships; I love the interplay between Spock, Captain Kirk, and Bones. I wanted an equally interesting setting for The Dragon Dreamer, strong friendships, and a quest.
ABC: Tells us about your next project.
JSB: I’m writing the sequel to The Dragon Dreamer, currently called Black Lightning. Arak sails north and finds the ice dragons, but they are not what he expected. There are new characters, adventures, and dangers. So far, Drakor is my favorite ice dragon.
ABC: Where can we find you and your book?
JSB: Please do come visit me! I have unusual science and art posts: dolphins and cat at sea, metal-coated snowflakes, deep-sea life, nearly frozen waves, shape-shifting, dragons, a web of ice, and more.
ABC: Thank you again, so much, for speaking with me and congratulations on your book release!
JSB: Thank you for this opportunity to share! Congratulations on your new book, Dolor and Shadow.