Today we drop-in on a recent QA sesh between Author-illustrator Troy Howell and JRW Board member, Gigi Amateau, about Troy’s new book, The Dragon of Cripple Creek. Troy will join us for #JRWC11 this October at the Library of Virginia.
In a recent post ( Mollie, me, & Ye) on his blog, Penchant, Troy describes how Cripple Creek began with this idea: Put a dragon at the bottom of a gold mine in Twenty-first Century America.
KidLit fans, I hear you cheering. Fans of the Wild West, listen up! And Dragon fans? Oh my gracious goodness, dragon fans come out come out wherever you are.
I’ve edited my interview with Troy to remove all spoiler alerts [the big ones anyway], but I’m jonesin for everyone to read Troy’s book, so we can talk about the new mythology of dragons that is The Dragon of Cripple Creek. Trust me, if you love dragons and dragon stories, once you discover the reason that Troy’s dragon, Ye, lives at the bottom of a gold mine in Colorado you will feel that his is the only and most natural explanation.
Go read the book and let Troy’s revelation wash over you. You may feel a momentary emptiness as you recognize the space within you that has been longing for this precise answer. You might put the book down for a minute, as I did, and just hold it to your heart and whisper to yourself, ‘of course, yes, of course, that explains everything.’ Troy’s intimately perfect explanation of why dragons love gold made me certain that Troy must know some dragons personally.
So when we met recently at Hyperion Espresso in downtown Fredericksburg near where Troy lives, I asked him.
Me: Troy, have you ever met a dragon?
Troy: Only this one. Ye kind of grew on me. I’m not a dragon person, but once an idea comes to you, you gotta let it take you where it needs to go. There are no stories of dragons in North America; I wanted to put a good name on dragons. Now, I’d like to ask the same question of you.
Me: I have never met a dragon in person. A few years ago, on a foggy August night in Vermont, I heard one out in the mountains surrounding the inn where I was staying. I waited for it to come out and when I got tired of waiting, and not having anything to lure her into the moonlight, I went into the tavern on the grounds and had a beer. So, that’s the closest I’ve ever come.
Troy: I love your foggy Vermont night encounter. Perhaps she generated the fog so you wouldn’t see her.
Me: Now that you mention it, the fog in Vermont was eerily gold in hue. [Here Troy and I talked for a long time about why dragons love gold, but I’ve cut that out so that readers may enjoy the unfolding just exactly how it should occur… in the story itself. Oh all right, I’ll give you a little whiff. We spoke of greed; we spoke of sacrificial love.]
Troy: [This response has been removed for spoiler alerts. Please see pages 61-68 of The Dragon of Cripple Creek.]
Me: So, how did you do that?
Troy: In the early draft, I had a climax that was just so big that I didn’t know how to end.
[At this point in our interview, I sipped a mocha made with chocolate milk while Troy, who is an artiste, after all, drew a picture of his so-big climax for me, which I now share with you.]
Me: Wow. A plot mountain, that’s awesome. But then what happened? How did you know to [:-) sorry 🙂 this portion of the question has been removed due to spoiler alerts. Please see pages 368 -385 of Cripple Creek.]
Troy: I saw how everything just sort of dropped and you know that just can’t happen. It took me a long time, but then I kind of mapped it out like this:
Me: I love how you answered my writing questions by drawing. Which was your first love writing or drawing?
Troy: Yes! Both! Really. I wrote and illustrated my first book when I was seven years old. Adventures in Coodietown…bugs in ten gallon hats.
At the 2011 JRW Conference, Troy will speak on panels related to the challenges and rewards of writing for children, writing believable dialogue, and developing characters who leap off the page and into your heart. #JRWC11