Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dragon Defender

Dragon Defender by J.A. Blackburn 

About the Book

Title: Dragon Defender (Dragon Defense League, Book #1)
Author: J.A. Blackburn
Publication Date: October 19, 2013
Publisher: Pip & Grey
Number of pages: 242
Recommended age: 10+

Summary (Amazon):

For over a thousand years dragons have existed in secret . . . Peter Clark can build a robot from scratch and pick a lock in two minutes or less. But he can't figure out why his mother left or why his grandma refuses to talk about her. When Uncle Dominick shows up on Peter's twelfth birthday with a letter that hints at answers and an incredible story about dragons, Peter follows him, determined to find out the truth about his mother's disappearance. What he finds is a reality far different from what he ever could have imagined - where dragons live in hiding, hunted by poachers for their magical parts, and a small group of men and women work tirelessly to protect them. These are the Dragon Defenders. Peter's uncle is one. So was his mother. Now it's Peter's turn.
* Finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association 2013 Literary Contest *

About the Book: Interview

1.  As succinctly as possible, tell us why someone should read your book.

People, and kids especially, who are looking for an unapologetically rip-roaring, fast-paced adventure that’ll keep ‘em on the edge of their seat from the first to the last chapter. And to get a different take on dragons.

2.  Where did you draw your inspiration from for your characters? 

Peter, the main character and our unlikely hero, is an introverted but likeable guy who spends a lot of his time tinkering with electronics. When I was trying to get to know Peter, I kept thinking about my husband, Jason (who, by the way, did the cover and inside illustrations for my book!). They’re both passionate about their interests, self-reliant, and introverted. Peter’s not the kind of kid who makes friends right away and is just as likely to spend time alone, fiddling with something, than out being social. But when someone needs help, he’s the first person to stick his neck out. He absolutely won’t tolerate cruelty. And you won’t find a more loyal or brave friend.
Xana is the spunky rich girl that Peter meets in the jungle. She’s modeled after several girlfriends I’ve had over the years. She talks before she thinks, is honest to a fault, and frequently states the obvious. She’s also fun, happy to take charge, and completely up for a good adventure – the perfect person to pull Peter out of his shell.
Mario was inspired by some of the children that I met while visiting Mexico. They were very poor – selling gum on the sidewalks to tourists and living in shanties outside of town. But they had a genuine happiness that has always stuck with me. I tried to capture that with Mario – even though his circumstances were hard, he was positive. A great guy – loyal, genuine, maybe a bit wistful.

3.  When did you first start writing your book and when did you finish?

I started writing in earnest in March 2012 although the idea had been mulling around the back of my head for several years before that. Once I started I couldn’t stop and would wake up in the wee hours of the morning, long before the sun came up, pour a steaming cup of coffee and hunch over my laptop to type feverishly. I had a finished draft by October that year and started querying agents.

4.  What is YOUR favorite part of the book?

Perhaps ironically, my favorite scene was the most difficult to write. It’s the scene where Peter is lost in the cave and trying to find a way out. I wanted it to be a real nail-biter and full of suspense, the kind of scene where you just have to keep reading, to see what happens. I struggled to describe what was happening when Peter’s flashlight when out and he couldn’t see anything – to make it realistic but also let the reader know enough about what was going on that they could follow along and not feel lost. I had to rewrite that scene a lot of times and it just wasn’t working. Then we were on vacation in Maui and I signed us up to go on a self-guided cave tour. We shut off all of our flashlights and I pretended I was Peter. I actually acted out the whole scene, in the dark. People thought I was nuts. But it helped. Now it’s my favorite scene – when I read it, I’m totally there with Peter.

5.  What is the main message you want to convey to your readers in your books?

True bravery is standing up for people or animals that need help.
Just because something seems a certain way; just because a lot of people believe it is that way, doesn’t mean it’s true. There’s magic to be found when you look beyond appearances.
And also . . . dragons just might exist. How do you know they don’t? J

6.  Can we expect more books from you in the future? 

Yes! I’m halfway done writing a story about a girl named Violet who travels to a parallel fairy world to rescue her twin sister who was kidnapped by fairies. I’m having fun creating evil fairies. Next after that will be the second Dragon Defense League book – The Mountain of Ice & Fire, in which Peter goes to Iceland to help his uncle rescue the Nidhogg dragon from its mountainous lair, before the ICERA (Icelandic Road Administration) unknowingly blasts it to smithereens. The Knights get involved and everything goes south in a hurry. The third Dragon Defense League book will take place in Australia. Which reminds me, I’d better get writing!

More Buzz About the Book

"We read an advance copy of this book on kindle earlier this year and our 5th grade son read it twice and is anxiously awaiting the next book in the series. Great adventure, really kept our interest reading it together at night. This was one of the kids books I most enjoyed reading myself as well. The characters and the plot are well developed, and appealing to a wide range of kids (both genders). The writing is sophisticated but easy to understand, not 'dumbed down' like many kids books. The subject of dragons was so well crafted that it's easy believe that dragons just might exist, after all." ~ 5 Star Review, Leigh A., Amazon
"Reminiscent of the Fablehaven series (with just the right touch of Harry P.) this middle grade book is both an adventure and a pleasure...Fast-paced and full of wonder, this book takes middle grade readers on a vivid journey from the southwestern U.S. to Mexico; where jungles, ancient ruins and local folklore add to the enchantment that Peter finds when he discovers that dragons are in fact, real. As a former elementary school teacher, my strong feeling is that kids will eat this book whole, and then turn to searching for dragon eggs in their own backyards!" ~ 5 Star Review, Grace W., Amazon
"Dragon Defender was an absorbing action packed read! The author pulls you in from the first page and I'm not sorry to say I read it all in the first day. I'm 33 but still! This is a fun book for a chapter a night with your 5 year old (my son is loving it so far) or for yourself. The characters are well developed so you feel like you're really there, and the dragon is so believable. I'd venture so far as to say I had to remind myself that dragons don't really exist.... or do they?" ~ 5 Star Review, MGC, Amazon

Amazon (Print)

| Amazon (Kindle) 

About the Author: J.A. Blackburn

J.A. Blackburn, Author
    J. A. Blackburn lives in Seattle, Washington in a small white house overlooking the sea with her husband, Jason, her son, Camden, and their dog, Bella. Dragon Defender is her first novel.

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