Nicole Izmaylov, author of the Dracian Dance

What is your book about?

It’s about some dragons and this girl who dies, only to forge a new peace between two warring civilizations. The Draçian Dance is set in the “exploration period,” around the 1700s. Sarah Lynn Loque, whose parents are presumed dead, goes with her bumbling Uncle Richard to explore the New World and find her missing father; however, when she learns that she will merely be helping the other women in cooking, cleaning, etc., she runs away into the jungle, expecting to perhaps meet some “savages,” as Uncle Richard likes to say. Oh, yes, Sarah Lynn does indeed meet some “savages”—but of a curiously Draçian sort: The Draçar are great feathered dragons, capable of flight and telepathy. Some of the Draçar wish to make peace with the explorers, yet others want to fight for their territory and eradicate the invaders from the face of the planet. As the “peaceful” Draçar pressure Sarah Lynn to be their translator, and the “warring” Draçar attempt to murder her, along with the other humans, she and Tag’ren, her Draçian friend, find themselves caught in a crossfire between two civilizations who never should have met.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Everyone in my stories is based off of someone I know—either in real life or as a fictional character. One would expect for Sarah Lynn to be my “hidden character,” but actually, she is based off of one of my best friends. In reality, my “hidden character” is the bumbling, fretting, uncoordinated Uncle Richard. I won’t lie: I like to pretend, but really, I’m not brave or adventurous. That’s why I read books—so that I can have an adventure without ever leaving my house.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite?

Hm. Well, my favorite character is Uncle Richard, because he’s the biggest worrier I’ve ever seen in addition to eating constantly, a combination of traits which, yes, describe me. My other favorite character is even more surprising. It’s . . . Kor’lir, leader of the warring Draçar, whose goal is to “destroy the Wingless! Muahahah!” I like him because he’s ruthless, power-hungry, and ambitious. He begins the story as a more or less “political villain,” but he swiftly descends into cold-blooded murder madness, to the point where he rips a poor man’s head off just because he, bent on stabbing the Draçar through the chest, was running with a sword straight at Kor’lir. Wait, maybe Kor’lir did have a right to that murder.

How long did it take you to write your book?

Let’s see. It’s 60,000 words, and I was writing some 3,000 words a day. That’s twenty days. In reality, it took me slightly longer (about a month), because I meticulously wrote about 30,000 words, deleted my entire plot summary, and tried again. That’s the thing about writing. You have to learn to toss months of work out a five story window, only to realize that you also just tossed out that autographed DVD of your favorite movie of all time. But that’s life.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

Usually, I’ll have a very vague, general idea. For example: What if, when the explorers came to the New World, there were dragons instead of Native Americans? Then, I’ll, in my mind, plan out, roughly, the “three parts” of my story. After that I just start writing. Ta-da, half a year, The Draçian Dance is published. Incidentally, the current book I’m working on is set around the question, What if a panther, thinking that is a deformed wolf, was brought up by wolves? Hello, next book. Pleased to meet you.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

Is “I don’t know” an answer? My characters always seem to develop themselves. I’ll write several “test tracks” (that’s what I call them) for each major character. What do I mean by test track? I’ll choose a character first. I have a list of one hundred different themes, such as “Dark,” “Through the Fire,” “Cat,” and “Puzzle.” I’ll use a random number generator to pick one of the themes, then use that as the name of a short story I write about that character. Sometimes, it’s easy, such as writing “Drive” for the character of Kor’lir. Usually, it’s difficult, like when I had to write “Seeking Solace” for Uncle Richard. However, that test track gave me an entirely new insight on Uncle Richard’s character. After I write the test tracks, the characters seen to come alive and guide me in the story.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

Good question (should’ve thought of it myself)! I split my book into three parts. In the case of The Draçian Dance, I unfortunately was not able to put the names of the three parts in my story, mostly due to changing the number of chapters from twenty-one to twenty. Originally, the three parts were going to be Humans, Draçar, and A Destiny Intertwined. Funnily enough, the phrase“Humans. Draçar. A Destiny Intertwined,” became the novel’s tagline. I force myself to stay on track, but I allow myself to add additional storylines into the book as I go, as long as the words in my plot summary are still true.

How has your background influenced your writing?

I come from a family that is very centered in novels and writing. My grandfather, for example, wrote several books around World War II. When I write, I tend to incorporate elements of the Russian and Ukrainian fairy tales and stories I grew up with, often without realizing it. While rereading The Draçian Dance, I had several “A-ha!” moments as I came upon a passage or plot twist that sounded like something right out of the Russian version of a tall tale.

What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?

Oh, yes. If I didn’t, I’d never write anything. When I was young and foolish (and I still am), I would try for a certain amount of pages each day. This turned into a long list of dialogue that looked like this:
“Sara!”
“What, Jonnie?”
“What rhymes with spot?”
“Um . . . hot? Jot? My lovely-special tater tot?”
“What’s a tater tot?”

Then I wised up a teensy bit and started writing a certain amount of words. Now, I usually don’t do my hardcore writing during school; I prefer to write over winter vacation, spring break, summer vacation, or turkey break—I mean, Thanksgiving. For test tracks, I’ll write one or two a day. For my actual novels, I’ll write a certain amount, say 3,000 words a day, in 1,000 word increments.

I find that, unless a chapter is exceptionally long (such as major fight or rescue scenes) or exceptionally short (usually the ones following said fight scenes), 3,000 words is the perfect chapter length. I break that up into three 1,000 segments. When I write, I don’t think of it as chapters in a book, but rather episodes in a television show. Most serial television shows split their twenty-two minute long episode into three segments of about seven minutes. Similarly, I break each chapter into said 1,000 word segments. Just like television shows, which usually end with the problem solved and sometimes with a cliffhanger (although there is always the overarching plot), my chapters end either with the chapter-problem solved or with a cliffhanger. Also, like one-hour specials, I pair together a 4,000 (or some variation thereof) word chapter and a 2,000 word chapter into a big mega-chapter, where the long one is the problem and the short one is the aftermath.

Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write? Do you prefer to write at a particular time of day?

Actually, yes. Before I sit down to write, I check my favorite forum, reply to any messages, read one article from my favorite news site, and make a random line of text (ajdf;aqkdfakqdjffaifuei;thekfna;3) before actually sitting down to write. Then I write 1,000 words in thirty minutes. I tend to write very early in the morning (before the sun rises) or very late at night (after the sun sets), leading me to believe I may or may not be turning into a vampire.

Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received and what was it?

“Who?” The trouble is, I have no idea who he was. It was after a book signing or workshop or something, and this kid came up to me to said, “Miss, you really inspired me today. Thank you. Please keep writing. My mom says you should never give up. Miss, please don’t ever give up.” Then he vanished. Reader, please don’t ever give up.

Have you ever had difficulty “killing off” a character in your story because she or he was so intriguing and full of possibility for you, his or her creator?

Yes, yes, yes! I can’t reveal who it is, but there is one character in The Draçian Dance that dies towards the very end. I could simply not kill him. I really couldn’t. So, I closed my eyes (no, really) and typed up his death. Then I opened them and fixed the seplling mitsaeks spelling mistakes.

However, even more than killing off a character, I find having a character leave the story is much harder. If they die, they are still in the story, spiritually, but not if the character him/herself actually leaves the group forever. We’re talking the end of Lord of the Rings where (spoiler alert!) Frodo and company up and leave their homeland. Forever. Unfortunately, in several of my next books, that sort of thing will happen. Especially where a certain Rin Darkwolf is concerned. But let’s not get into him quite yet. The Songs of the Stars is still a long way off from becoming much more than a hazy plan in my mind and a plot summary on my computer.

Where can readers learn more about your books?

You can buy The Draçian Dance or my award-winning children’s book Ronnie and BB on Amazon.com.

2 Responses to “Nicole Izmaylov, author of the Dracian Dance”

  1. Kritine M Smith Says:

    Fabulous interview. I’m in awe of you!

  2. Gwyneth Fullerton Says:

    Nicole is very talanted in her writings. I’m very impressed.
    World Castle Publishing


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