Published by Matador
Genre: Children 9s-12s
What is your book about? It's about the dragons who live under Traprain Law in East Lothian in Scotland. They've become trapped by an ancient magic that has slowly grown up around the hill. Scordril and the dragons of Musselburgh, who used to live with them a hundred years ago, are suspicious about the request for help but decide to plan a rescue. They can only do this with the help of two children, Morris and Flick, who are camping near Traprain Law where an archeological dig is underway. The dragons only occasionally have connections with overgrounders nowadays and they have to learn to trust each other. The action builds to a showdown at dead of night between Scordril and his kin and some evil wingriders and their zombie nightdragons in the skies above and in the caves below Traprain Law. The children are key to some of the best action and we've added magic and a blue moon, ancient spells and healing herbs, the Beano and communication by mindspeech. To say nothing of a feral cat and a child going missing. I guess it's also about courage, loyalty, misunderstanding and reconciliation.
Why did you write this book? We love dragons. We wanted to share that love with all those who know that dragons are lovely honourable beings and not the kind of baddie dragons you often get in children's books. It's amazing how many young readers have told us that's just the sort of dragons they love. We've had brilliant dragon conversations with them and their parents in bookshops and schools. So we feel we achieved what we set out to do. All writers want readers to enjoy their work.
Where did you get your inspiration from? We heard some workmen opening up the pavement one day and went out to have a look. What we heard was watery noises and banging and clonking coming from deep below, and said to ourselves, "What if that's where dragons live?" It just grew from there. But the real inspiration came after we went to meet the East Lothian dragons and heard about their lore and customs, and saw how wonderful they were. There's nothing in overgrounder life that matches the atmosphere of a dragon get-together in their Great Hall underground.
How does your book differ from others that are similar? It's unique in that it has dragons and current-day overgrounder life mixed together - usually books are either one or the other. And many books about dragons are funny in the "ha ha" sense and depict them in a cartoony way, as if dragons didn't exist, or pseudo medieval as if we overgrounders didn't exist. Whereas the reality is that we and they co-exist if you know where to look. Besides, this is the only book we know where real dragons are nice, and humour stems from the story, as and when. Chris d'Lacey has nice dragons in his books, but they are clay ones who come to life when needed, so that's not really the same. Ours live underground all the time and fly behind mageclouds when they are out hunting so that overgrounders will not see them.
Why did you choose POD? The usual thing about too many publishers saying this book is excellent, the characters are great, but not for us. It's also possible they didn't know where to place it by genre. The second book, coming out in November, also POD, was written first, as it happens. This second story, Farlkris, was runner up for the Kelpies Prize 2005, so we had already proved the idea was great. So we weren't too worried about selling enough to cover our expenses. We decided to publish in chronological order when we settled on POD because Scordril pre-dates Farlkris by about 60 years, so this made sense.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of this method? It gives us choices about style, order of publication, how long to leave between the two publication dates and a real say in cover designs. Plus we can order again when we've sold the first batch, without too much hassle. We've done this several times already because in the year since publication Scordril has sold 700 copies pretty much in a small area and by our own hand, though Matador have shifted some stock via the distributors.
How do you market your book? We take a certain number and do book signings at local bookstores. We have a website and a related blog and also have copies available via Amazon marketplace. We don't choose to have Amazon stock it up front as they expect so much discount. We notified all local libraries and schools and have taken class sessions at both. We've given talks to local adult groups who are happy to buy Scordril as presents for young people in their families, and we notified alumni newspapers who might be interested in our success because we both have MAs in the subject. They were quite happy to report on Scordril. We did try relevant local newspapers but found them less responsive.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome? Make that present tense! It's ongoing. We've missed out on libraries and purchasers nationally as we don't pay anyone to sell it in the rest of the country and can't afford to travel too far ourselves. We're hoping to find a solution to this one when Farlkris is published.
What would you say to others considering POD? It's absolutely the right thing to do if you can afford the outlay and believe in the standard and content of your book. Stories need readers or something feels unfinished. Be realistic about how many you might sell and then go for it. There is far less stigma nowadays attached to going it alone. Everyone knows that many publishers are only interested in light, frothy books for children, or ones written by, or ghosted for, celebrities. We meet so many readers who want a seriously good read. It makes sense to provide it. But do get grammar and spelling checked. It has to be as professional as those published by mainstream publishers.
Where can I get a copy of your book? You can contact us for a signed copy via the contact form on our website or you can buy direct from our POD publisher, Matador