My indie book-of-the-month for April is the spellbinding fantasy The Dragon Dreamer, written by talented author and scientist Jenny S. Burke.
J. S. Burke has worked as an author, artist, chemist, teacher, and marine biologist, studying creatures of the dark abyss and diving on coral reefs. Her stories blend imagination with real science and author experiences. Living on a ship far from shore, she learned to walk with the sea. The deadly sea storm that threatens her characters is one that she survived. Burke lives in Georgia with her family and rescue pets.
The Dragon Dreamer series is a science fantasy adventure with dragons, an undersea world, and unexpected friendship. It’s layered for readers age 9 to 99. The Dragon Dreamer grew from Burke’s years at sea as a marine biologist, a fascination with the alien, intelligent octopuses, and a love of dragons.
Burke is the author/illustrator of five marine research papers in science journals. Crystal Geometry and Crystal Colors are math/science education books with crystal kits. They are used in school systems and sold in catalogs. Fantasy Snowflakes Activities is an art/science coloring book with her snowflake mandalas made from animals and plants.
1) I know that you have a background in marine biology, but what made you decide to combine dragons with the depths of the sea in The Dragon Dreamer?
This wasn’t planned. I started writing a dragon story. I imagined dragon lightning games, winter festivals, traditions and legends. My young misfit dragon hero, Arak, flew out to sea and crashed in a storm. But the hero can’t die in the first chapter.
As I wondered how he could be saved, an octopus Healer appeared in my mind. I’ve studied their extreme intelligence, color-changing, shape-shifting abilities, and the strong friendships they form. I thought, “This could work. And, it will be unique!” I love describing life beneath the waves. It’s immense fun to write fantasy using my knowledge and experiences with the sea. The fierce sea storm that threatens my characters is one I faced.
I now have 76 reviews for The Dragon Dreamer. Readers like both the dragon world and the undersea world equally. So, I have TWO fantasy worlds, and alien artwork.
2) Was it difficult to switch gears from a hard science background to writing fiction?
A novel is just another type of writing, with a different set of “rules” to learn. I’ve always dabbled in poetry and fiction. I’ve read countless sci-fi and fantasy books. I tried to sneak a little humor into one of my science research papers, in the acknowledgements, and it was promptly deleted.
Science research is fascinating, but the papers are often “dry”. My novels let me give my imagination free rein! The worlds of The Dragon Dreamer series are very real to me, and fun to describe.
3) What was the greatest challenge you faced while crafting your story?
Possibly the pacing. I wanted a fast read, but I didn’t want to sacrifice too much detail. It’s an interesting balance.
4) Which character was the most fun to write, and why?
All were fun to write. Arak and Scree are my main characters in The Dragon Dreamer, so I spent more time with them. Arak is fun, as a dragon with a special gift. He grows from an insecure misfit into the dragon he is meant to be. Scree is my first octopus. She’s a very strong character, a fearless Healer who challenges convention. I have two minor characters that were hard to let go of in The Dragon Dreamer. So, Karoon and Dorali have bigger roles in Book 2. Drakor, my main ice dragon, is new.
5) Will there be a sequel or any other projects associated with The Dragon Dreamer?
I’ve nearly finished Book 2, Black Lightning, with the ice dragons. They are not as expected. I researched this new environment and developed a new dragon society, with its own legends, customs, hierarchy, and art. A new dragon entered my mind, so I’ve begun writing the third book.
6) What did you learn about the writing or publishing process from your experience with The Dragon Dreamer.
I learned how to write a proper novel. I learned about point-of-view, character arc, character types, story arc, setting the scene, pacing, leaving a hook in chapters, and more. A novel has many more elements than a science research paper! And, more people read them.
7) Tell me something that readers might be surprised to learn about you.
Art is my first love. I decided to become a marine biologist when I was 8, and worked toward that goal from then on. But I still draw, paint, make scrimshaw designs and original jewelry.
8) If you could give aspiring novelists one piece of advice, what would it be?
Novels are art. “There can be craft without art, but not art without craft.” Be an artist, and learn how to write well. This is a learnable skill. Thank you, Nikki Bee, for inviting me to do this interview!
Thank you, Jenny, for allowing me to profile The Dragon Dreamer as my book-of-the-month and giving us a peek into your writing process and this wonderful fantasy series. I’d like to encourage everyone to support this talented author by downloading a copy of The Dragon Dreamer NOW by clicking on the cover:
Find and follow J.S. Burke through these links:
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If you’d like your novel to be featured in the Indie Book-of-the-Month author series, please contact me at email@example.com. Just give me a brief summary of your novel and the genre, point me to where it “lives” (Amazon, a personal website, brick-and-mortar bookseller) so I can pick up a copy, and include a short bio. Please DO NOT offer me a free copy (unless you are currently running a special on your novel). I like to support my fellow indies and I also prefer to be able to operate free of perceived bias!
Please give me two weeks to answer all queries — I don’t have “people” to help me out yet, so things can move slowly at times!
Thanks so much for you interest and for your support of other indie book authors!