My guest today is Dina Von Lowenkraft, author of the tantalizing new YA romantic fantasy, DRAGON FIRE, just released by Twilight Times Books!
Born in the US, Dina has lived on 4 continents, worked as a graphic artist for television and as a consultant in the fashion industry. Somewhere between New York and Paris she picked up an MBA and a black belt. Dina is currently the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium, where she lives with her husband, two children and three horses.
Dina loves to create intricate worlds filled with conflict and passion. She builds her own myths while exploring issues of belonging, racism and the search for truth… after all, how can you find true love if you don’t know who you are and what you believe in? Dina’s key to developing characters is to figure out what they would be willing to die for. And then pushing them to that limit.
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ABOUT THE BOOK
Some choices are hard to live with.
But some choices will kill you.
When seventeen-year-old Anna first meets Rakan in her hometown north of the Arctic Circle, she is attracted to his pulsing energy. Unaware that he is a shapeshifting dragon, Anna is drawn into a murderous cycle of revenge that pits Rakan and his clan against her best friend June.
Torn between his forbidden relationship with Anna, punishable by death, and restoring his family’s honor by killing June, Rakan must decide what is right. And what is worth living – or dying – for.
PURCHASE ON AMAZON.
Q: It's a pleasure to have you here, Dina! Tell us, what’s inside the mind of a YA Fantasy author?
A: Multiple worlds, exploding planets, lots of characters, passionate conflicts and True Love.
Q: Tell us about your debut novel, Dragon Fire. What was your inspiration for it?
A: That’s a bit complicated since Dragon Fire is the second book in that particular world since the first never got published. Originally, I wanted to write a book about two lovers who couldn’t be together because of their families, which then turned into two separate communities. From the desire to push the two groups far enough apart, and raise the stakes for the characters, I began developing two species, one became the Draak, a group of shapeshifting dragons who can manipulate matter and are very emotional, the other became the Elythia, angle-like beings who have gone the other way and can turn into light and are highly intellectual. Being a lover of series, I had imagined this story over the course of 4 books. When my first manuscript garnered no interest, even after several re-writes, I knew there was no point in writing the second book. Yet I wanted to stay in the world that I had come to love. So I pulled out a subplot from my vision of the second book and wrote that – and that subplot, the story of the shapeshifting dragon Rakan and the human Anna, became Dragon Fire.
Q: You obviously have a fascination for dragon mythology. Can you tell us when your love for these creatures began and why you chose to write about them?
A: I first came into contact with dragons when I received a miniature statue as a kid. It was a green dragon and sat on my dresser watching over me as I grew up. During college, I studied for a few years in Nepal and it was there that I first became conscious of the wide range of dragon types that exist between various cultures. So I have had an ongoing interest in dragons for some time now. But the funny thing is, I never set out to write about dragons. When I first began developing the world of the Draak (shapeshifting dragons) and the Elythia (angel-like creatures) it wasn’t in terms of dragons vs angels. Rather, I was interested in how a civilization could split in two and each side would develop in such a way that they would eventually forget they had been part of the same group. So I pushed half of the group towards the ideal of seeking truth through a deep understanding of matter, and they became Beings of Matter. At the same time, I pushed the other half of the group towards the opposite ideal of letting go of the material world, and they become Beings of Light, aka Elythia. The group I thought of as Beings of Matter felt like they should be emotional, passionate and able to manipulate matter with their minds. As I worked with them, it became clear to me that with their ability to manipulate matter, they would eventually evolve to be able to manipulate the molecules of their own bodies and morph into another creature. And that creature was a dragon. It fit without hesitation and I have never questioned that the Draak were, indeed, shapeshifting dragons.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about the three forms of dragons that exist in your world? And how did you come up with that idea?
A: As I developed the world of the Draak, I needed to come to terms with the wide range of dragon lore that we have developed as humans - and from that came the idea for my three dragon form structure. All forms are actually equal, even if at the time of DRAGON FIRE many Draak mistakenly consider the air dragon to be superior. The three forms are: water dragon (essentially an Imperial Chinese dragon); air dragon (our Western fire-breathing dragon with wings) and fire dragon (a variation of several Eastern dragon forms with short wings and stocky bodies). I felt that each form was distinct and a Draak would have one ‘true’ form that they would morph into when they reached puberty. In addition to the form that each dragon could take, I developed a system of 5 color-coded markings for their crests that correspond to the ‘gift’ that they have (tracking, exploding things, shielding etc) thus making the form a dragon had irrelevant to the role they could play in their community.
And to bring the wheel full circle, in the world of DRAGON FIRE, our human dragon lore comes from the occasional spotting of one or another of the three forms of Draak that exist.
Q: Why do you write?
A: Because I need a creative outlet and I am miserable when I don’t have it. And I make everyone else around me miserable too, so my family quickly learned to support my habit.
Q: How picky are you with language?
A: Very. Which means I always think I could improve everything I have ever written. But once it’s in print, it’s too late. And that’s hard.
Q: Do you get the feeling you’re playing God when you write fiction?
A: No, not at all. The characters very quickly take on their own personality and I can’t just force them to do something. I’ve tried but it doesn’t work, so I give in and listen to what my characters are telling me.
Q: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
A: Manipulated? No. It’s more like being a conduit for something else, or listening to my own subconsciousness. But I never feel manipulated.
Q: What is your worst time as a writer?
A: When I am in the middle of a manuscript and I have a dozen threads that are all hopelessly interwoven and I have absolutely no idea how to unravel it all.
Q: Your best?
A: When I am creating a new world or deepening one I already have. I love world building.
Q: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
A: To be honest, not that I can think of.
Q: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
A: When I was in 8th grade and I wrote my first novel. I felt the world come alive and I knew what should happen - or rather I knew what had happened, I saw the whole thing. That feeling has never left me - and I still love creating worlds and feeling characters come alive.
Q: Is writing an obsession to you?
A: Hmm. Does thinking about something day and night qualify as an obsession? If it does, then yes.
Q: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
A: All stories are always connected to the author. I never write about people I know, or events that I have experienced, but I do use all the feelings I have ever had - the same ones that we have all had: love, hate, desire to protect, to harm, fear, joy, jealousy etc. What is unique to me, and to my writing, is my view of the themes I always return to: prejudice, nature vs nurture, true love, duty vs. self-determination... I write YA because it’s one of those periods in life when anything can happen. As you figure out who you are, you question everything you have known - your parents, the society you are living in, the way the world is, etc. When you are a teenager, you are constantly re-making the world, destroying one and creating another. I loved that feeling of power, of endless possibility, of freedom. And still do.
Q: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?
A: No. I am very lucky to be happy in my life. I grew up with supportive parents, have a loving husband and kids, great friends and a roof over my head. I am free to do what I want to do. I don’t write to escape reality, I write because I love the creative process and I enjoy depicting reality through a different lens.