At the Hot Gates


~Reader’s Corner~
Behind the Page

I speak frequently to school groups about the process of writing, and at the end of my talk, I open the session up to questions.  Certain questions come up over and over again, and so I will include them here, just in case the same question occurred to you.
I am also including questions that I have received through the mail.  If you have a question, send it to me at and I will post the most recent ones at the top of this section.

Where did you get the idea for this story?
I taught for years in a Waldorf School.  Every morning we tell our students a story that relates to the curriculum at hand.  I wanted to tell my students a story about a dragon, but I was not satisfied by any of the stories I had read.  That night, as I was falling asleep, I heard a voice in my head say, “I want to tell them a story I’ve never heard before.”  I laughed at myself, and replied to that voice, “Silly, you can’t tell them a story you’ve never heard before.  You’re the storyteller!”  The next morning, I awoke with the first idea of the nature of a dragon that is central to my trilogy: a dragon is influenced by how others respond to it.  I had been given a story I had never heard before!  I began telling the story that morning, and I continued the story every day for the next three weeks

How long did it take you to write the first book?
I did not begin by intending to write a book, so it is a little misleading if I said it took eight years from the first idea until the book was published.  After telling the story to my students, I did not think of it any longer.  I owe it to those students that I ever wrote it down.  The following year, the students of that class came to me and asked to have a copy of the story because they had enjoyed it so much and now wanted to read it.  I told them that I had never written the story down, but only had it in the form of notes.  They said, “Well, it’s time to write it down, because we want to read it.”  I took this as a compliment and was flattered, but my life was busy and I did not give it further thought.  Six months later, the students came to me again.  “Well, is it finished yet?” they asked.   I was touched at how insistent they were.  I decided to see what it would be like if I tried writing it down.  Writing was not new to me, but I had never attempted anything so challenging as a full length novel.  So I began with the first chapter.  That was when I knew the story had a life of its own and I took writing it seriously.

How do you pronounce Galifalia?
The accent, or emphasis, is on the last syllable: Galifal-ia.  Most readers I speak with place the accent on the third syllable: Gali-fal-ia.  She doesn’t mind.  She knows that she has an unusual name and that it was meant to be spoken, not read.

Is the prequel about Galifalia?
I'm also wondering, will there be a story about the adventures of Michael? Since there was a 15 year time span between the books, there must have been many adventures that he went through.

Yes, the prequel will be about Galifalia and her adventure chasing after a wild dragon. We will meet up again with Aga, as you might expect, and there will be many new characters for us to get to know, not least of which is the mysterious Mellifor who appeared (and disappeared) at the end of Book Two.
I am attracted to your suggestion of writing about Michael's adventures during the years before he answered the call to go battle Scorch. It could be quite a story. However, I'm not sure how much it would appeal to readers, since his relationship to a dragon would be missing. But who knows, maybe something as compelling could replace that...

If your illustrator had not thought of making the pictures as a shadow drawing with noe details, what would you picture when you imagine the royal family (Michael, Aina, Corin and Elinor)? I know the shadow drawing was meant so readers can imagine them, but whenever I try to picture something, my image keeps on changing.
I am in a similar situation to you. The reason I am not the illustrator is because I write much better than I can draw. I also experience that my inner image keeps changing whenever I think about the characters. That must be a universal experience for those of us who are not gifted or trained to draw from our inner pictures.

Will Aina and Michael ever be blessed with more children?
As Aina explains to Elinor in the third book, she was grievously wounded by Flek. She felt she was fortunate to have had at least one child. Corin will remain her only offspring.

Does Elinor end up being adopted into the family, or does she always stay as the cousin?
Aina clearly embraces Elinor as the daughter she never had. Then there is the capacity that Elinor develops by the end of the bnok that places her in a very close connnection with Star. Elinor status in the family becomes very high. She is next in line afer Corin to inherit the crown.

How long do Michael and Aina live and rule the kingdom? Will they outlive Corin?
Michael and Aina still have a long life ahead of them. However, your question about Corin is interesting. After Corin left with Aga, years passed and they did not hear a word from him. Rumors reached Gladur that he may have died. This places Elinor in a particualrly delicate situation. The longer she lives in Gladur caring for Star, the more responsibility she takes on as a member of the royal house. What would happen if one day she chooses to marry? And as Michael and Aina age and wish to solidify the crown, with Corin missing for years, they may have no choice but to place the crown on Elinor's head. Not a bad choice, by any means, but complications can arise if Corin one day reappears, out of touch with his family and with the needs of the kingdom.


Do you have a question?  Send it to me at and I will answer it here.  Do you have a question for Star?  I will pass it on and perhaps you may even get a reply…

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