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Monday, May 18, 2009

Michelle Knudsen's The Dragon of Trelian!

     I must admit I'm a sucker for a book with a dragon on the cover. Fantasy is my brain candy - the first books that made me really love reading.
     So when my friend Michelle Knudsen came out with her first novel and it was a fantasy AND it had a dragon on the cover - well... I didn't know whether or not to tell her it took me less than 24 hours to read it. After all the hard work she put into it, and I couldn't put it down. Zoomed right through it, yup. And LOVED IT!!
     So, I'm thrilled to be able to ask Michelle a few questions about it...

Q.     This is your first novel, right? Tell us a bit about your publishing/writing history prior to "The Dragon of Trelian."

A.     It is my first novel, but it's actually my 40th book. Over the last 12 years or so I've written board books, beginning readers, picture books, and coloring and activity books. I started out on the editorial side of the desk, working at Random House Children's Books. While I was there I wrote the text for some "in-house" projects, including lift-the-flap books and mass market picture books. Over time I began writing and submitting my own manuscripts, and eventually left editing full-time in order to focus more on writing. I still do some freelance editing on the side, though. My best-known book so far is my picture book Library Lion, illustrated by the excellent Kevin Hawkes.

Note: Library Lion was a New York Times Best-selling and multiple award-winning picture book!
Q.     What inspired you to write a fantasy novel? Are you a fan of the genre as well?

A.     I've been a devoted fan of fantasy and science fiction since I was a child. In fact, before I knew I wanted to write for children, I knew I wanted to write fantasy novels. That had been my dream since around junior high school. It took me a long time to feel brave enough to start one, though. And a long time to finish it! But I loved working on it - fantasy novels are still my favorite books to read, and I was so excited to try and write one myself.

Q.     I love the strong characters, Calen and Meg (wowsa what a strong female!) - how did they come to you, are they like you at all, do they talk to you?

A.     I never know exactly where my characters come from. I knew at the start that the main characters in this book would be a girl and a boy, and eventually realized they were a princess and a mage's apprentice, but I didn't know very much about them until I started writing the first draft. The writing process was also a process of getting to know Meg and Calen, seeing what happened on the page and learning more about their personalities. I think there is a little bit of me in both of them. I can be nervous like Calen, and I definitely go on and on in my head like he does sometimes! And I can be impulsive like Meg, and stubborn, although I think she's a lot braver than I am. I don't think they've ever talked to me directly, but I do hear them talking to themselves or to each other in my head sometimes.

Q.     I loved the idea of the marked mages - where did you get the idea? Do you have any images/drawings of what you think they might look like?

A.     I'm not sure exactly when I realized the mages were marked - Calen wasn't originally marked in the first draft of the first chapter. I think it might have been a little later, when I was first trying to picture Mage Serek. I was thinking about how the magic was going to work in this book, and what kinds of restrictions would need to be placed on those who could use magic. Having the mages be marked so that they could not practice in secret started to seem important, and it tied in to my developing ideas about the more spiritual side of being a mage, the way they think about consequences and balance and responsibility. I don't have any drawings, although I do have images in my mind. I should probably make some sketches, especially if there's ever a chance an illustrator might need to draw Calen or Serek.

Q.     What events do you have planned to launch "The Dragon of Trelian"?

A.     I had a book launch party on the day it came out (April 14) at Books of Wonder in NYC. It was a wonderful event - a lot of people came, including many dear friends and some old friends I haven't seen since high school or summer camp! It was such a great way to send my book out into the world. Looking ahead, I'll be signing books at the Candlewick booth at BEA on May 30 from 3-4pm, and then over the next few months I'll be signing at various children's book festivals, including The Hudson Children's Book Festival (Hudson, NY) on May 16; The Princeton Children's Book Festival (Princeton, NJ) on September 12; and the Rochester Children's Book Festival (Rochester, NY) on November 7. Any additional events will be posted on my blog (http://michelleknudsen.blogspot.com/) under "Where I'll Be" in the right-hand column.

Q.     Will there be a sequel? (I hope so!)

A.     Yes! I'm working on it now... :)

     Yeah!! Thanks Michelle!

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