At the Hot Gates


An Interview with Donald Samson




What relevance is there writing fantasy today?

Fantasy writing gives us the tickle of the fantastical.  We begin with our own world and give it a little twist.  Sometimes, we give it a big twist!  Thatís when adventure begins  Then we settle back and join in the journey.  The reader, however, receives more than a fun story.  Every reader embarks on his or her own inner journey.  Just as the hero emerges transformed as the result of his experiences, the readerís soul meets the same challenges, experiences the same failures and successes, and undergoes similar, though far more subtle transformations.  And all of this in the safety of your easy chair.

Donít you think that J.K. Rowling has cornered the fantasy market?  Doesnít her immense popularity edge out others who want to write in a similar genre?

Rowling has certainly raised the bar of what is expected in a fantasy book.  She has a compelling story line, distinct characterizations, and the sequencing of events moves quickly.  It is hard to compete with what sheís created.  So why try?   She has definitely connected with modern adolescent readers who are weaned on movies and television.  On the whole, young readers have a shorter attention span than children of forty or fifty years ago and need a lot of action to hold their interest.  Harry Potter delivers and holds their interest in anticipation of the next adventure or turn of the plot.  But that is not the only way to spin a yarn.  If we had only one formula for telling a successful story, what a boring landscape literature would become!  Thank goodness for the diversity of story tellers.

Your book centers on a dragon.  Isnít the market already over-saturated with dragon stories?

People have been telling stories about dragons since the beginning of time.  Why stop now?  Before there were archeologists, people were already inadvertently digging up dinosaur bones.  This only confirmed for them the existence of dragons.  They live in our psyche as much as elves and gnomes do, even if we canít produce one on command to prove they exist.  Dragons reflect back to us certain truths that lie hidden in our psyche.  They fascinate and delight the imaginations of both children and adults.  Another story means one more opportunity to indulge in one of our raceís oldest obsessions.

Your book tells the story of a Luck Dragon.  Isnít it going out on a limb to make a friendly dragon?

Well, I donít know if I ever claim that Star, the dragon of the story, is friendly.  Heís certainly benevolent, but I donít think Star would see himself as either sociable or pleasant.  Heís rather aloof, actually.  But I think you want to point to the fact that dragons are generally considered dangerous, ruthless, greedy and bloodthirsty.  That is, after all, the picture of dragons we have in the west.  This is not so for Asian cultures.  The oriental dragon has the reputation of bringing blessings and good fortune.  Star comes out of this tradition.  Of course, no matter from what angle we view them, dragons remain unpredictable and potentially dangerous, owing to their size and nature as dragons.  At the same time, there is an important aspect to Star, and dragon lore, that this story illustrates.  It is a little known fact, yet essential to anyone who is going to have intimate dealings with dragons. 

Now youíve got me interested.  What sort of little known fact are you referring to?  Can you give us a clue without giving away the story?

Itís simple enough.  Dragons have a very similar character to humans.  If we treat another human being with kindness, we are much more likely to have kindness returned to us.  On the other hand, if we treat another human being with deceit, manipulation and cruelty, then although we may not receive this exact behavior returned in kind, we will be met with a negative response.  This rule of thumb also holds when dealing with dragons.  Yet due to their immense size and potential for devastation, the consequences of the behavior they mirror back to us can end up of monumental proportion.  If youíre interested how this works out with Star, then I can assure you the book will be a good read.


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