Interview with Rod Marsden, Author of DRAGON QUEEN

What is your book about?

Dragon Queen is science fiction set in a future where the major cities of the world have become uninhabitable thanks to a Third World War. Minor cities have taken over.

There are mutant humans with scales and tails known as dragons. There is the belief that only male dragons can exist. Elanora, a female dragon, has been placed on an island out of harm’s way. If she stays there she can live a productive if rather dull existence. If she leaves she will be in danger from the high priestess that put her there.

The society that, in the beginning, Elanora is not a part of is made up of dragons, knights, mavericks, maidens and priestesses.  High priestesses rule the cities and large towns. The highest of the high governs the world. Dragons are at the bottom of the social ladder and are meant to stay there. Elanora could change that if she can but think fast and get the right people on side.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I was picked on in kindergarten for being left-handed.

I was not good at mathematics in  primary and in high school. It didn’t seem to matter I was good at natural science, English and history. I thus had my own gutful of prejudice from those who should have known better because they were teachers. I wanted to write about this.

In Dragon Queen, boys are selected by priestesses to be trained as either knights or mavericks. Knights live shorter lives and die in combat against dragons. Mavericks have longer lives and are allowed to wed maidens. Nothing is fair in the selection process similar to the one in kindergarten that decided left-handed people were less than right-handed people.

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

Elanora is my favourite character. She is intelligent with an inner strength. She reminds me of my eldest sister who has those qualities. She gets things done. She is a black-scaled dragon with a spiked tail.

Ronald is like me on a good day. He is inquisitive and enjoys the outdoors. He is a silvery dragon with a smooth tail.  He was all for Elanora joining a group of renegade dragons led by Eric whose leadership abilities Elanora found questionable.

 Gregory is a knight who did not want to continue to face death two months out of twelve in the arena. After backing out, he formed his own group of knightly outlaws.

Toff is a younger knight than Gregory and an excellent thief. Toff lost his stomach for carnage the very first time he had to fight dragons. Gregory is like a father to Toff and tries to keep him out of trouble.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

An Australian playwright once said writing is easy. It’s the bloody re-writing that’s hard. I tend to agree. I had two editors help me out on Dragon Queen.

How does your environment/upbringing colour your writing?

I am an Australian and Dragon Queen is mainly set around where I live but in a futuristic Wollongong. I am a birder, also known as a twitcher. Flight fascinates me as does the search for Shangrila. What is it and can it ever be reached? What would you want it to be like? If it is a place where people, including dragons, only die of old age that would suit Elanora nicely. There are tiny islands off the coast of New South Wales that, for me, approach being Shangrila. 

Do you have any rituals that you follow before sitting down to write?

I make coffee unless, of course, I am on a train. I have done some of my best writing while travelling on a train.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

When I was younger I was inspired by George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I remain a big Star Trek fan. It is my hope that I can reach the next generation of readers that appreciate the novels I have just mentioned. Also those television shows and the paperbacks that grew out of them.  

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes. I have always wanted to be a writer.

What writer influenced you the most?

No one writer. First there was H.G.Wells then Ray Bradbury, Robert E. Howard, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Lyn McConchie.

How have you marketed and promoted your work?

My publisher Barbara Custer, through Goddess Fish, is promoting Dragon Queen.

What words would you like to leave the world when you are gone?

Shoot with a camera and not a gun. The wildlife I have loved and have filmed remains there, in various wilderness locations, for others to enjoy. The photos are enough for me. I don’t want something dead in my lounge room. I would like to be remembered as the bird man of the south coast of New South Wales, Australia since locals are beginning to see me that way. The words I would leave? Go out, look around and, with a camera, make the invisible, visible.    

What are your future plans? What will you bring to the literary world besides more stories?

I have articles in various issues of the Illawarra Birder’s newsletters. With each article I include a selection of my photographs. That will continue. I have over 200 of my street art photographs in Wollongong Library. Then there is my website that includes blurbs and photographs. I comment on the writing of others. 

What one word describes how you feel when you write?

The word is elated.

What is something you never leave home without (apart from keys, money and phone)?

I rarely leave home without my camera.

Who designed your cover?

Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr designed my cover. They are top Australian artists with over twenty year’s experience. I was very lucky to get them. 

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