Q&A with Marie Brennan (& W*n A Natural History of Dragons)

A quick note: Head over to Michelle’s Paranormal Vault ofBooks today and to Between Dreams and Reality for reviews of Susannah Sandlin’s Omega as the tour continues—with more chances to win! 
Now…I’m thrilled today to welcome author Marie Brennan to the blog. Marie is the author of the new book A Natural History of Dragons, and I for one can’t wait to read it. What an awesome idea—as you’ll see from some of the illustrations on this post. It’s one of the most unusual ways to approach a fantasy I’ve seen, and (if you can’t tell) I’m excited about the concept. Read on for a chance to win a copy of the book!
Marie Brennan is a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, which she now puts to rather cockeyed use in writing fantasy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to many short stories and novellas, she is also the author of A Star Shall Fall and With Fate Conspire (both from Tor Books), as well as Warrior, Witch, Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, and Lies and Prophecy. You can find her online at SwanTower.com. 
ABOUT A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS: You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day….Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.
Welcome to Preternatura! Give us the “elevator pitch” for your book.
The book and series title pretty much are the elevator pitch! (Which is good, because I’m terrible at coming up with that sort of thing otherwise.)
Describe your favorite scene from the new book–and why is it your favorite?
I don’t want to give spoilers, so I’ll put it in general terms: the cavern scene with Jacob and Iljish. I really like it because it features one of the “shiny ideas” for the book — one of the things I thought up early on, and was looking forward to the whole way. It’s also a moment where Isabella gets to really settle into her element as a researcher, while discovering something awesome, which is satisfying for both her and me.
Favorite book when you were a child.
I’m going to cheat and name the complete works of Diana Wynne Jones. I can’t pick a single favorite — even my top tier of favorites has four or five titles in it — but I deeply loved her work then, and still do now.
Book you’ve faked reading (Moby Dick is leading the votes on this question!):
A collection of essays by Michel Foucault. I was supposed to read it for graduate school, and never even cracked it. (In my defense, the teacher put one person each week in charge of putting together notes on the reading, and the guy who handled the Foucault reader did a really thorough job.)
Book you’re an evangelist for:
Dorothy Dunnett’s historical novel The Game of Kings. It isn’t an easy read; she has a very dense, opaque style of writing, and along with that it takes a really long time to understand her hero. But once you get the hang of reading her style, she’s just bloody brilliant.
Book you’ve bought for the cover:
Joan Vinge’s Snow Queen and Summer Queen. (I actually have prints of both those covers on my walls.) Mind you, I didn’t realize until later that there was a book between them, which I hadn’t read . . . .
Book that changed your life:
Diana Wynne Jones’ Fire and Hemlock. It’s on my list of favorites, but gets a special place because it’s the one that made me decide to become a writer. The two main characters make up a story together, and when I put the book down, I realized that I wanted to tell stories, too.
Favorite book about books or writing:
It’s not your standard kind of advice book, but Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s a memoir as much as it is writing tips, but it’s a very honest look at his life and philosophy as an author, and that struck me a lot more than generic advice about stories. (Suzanne: This is definitely the most-listed favorite writing book…including mine!)

Thanks for being here! Isn’t this a cool way to approach a fantasy novel? Now, if you’d like to win a copy of A Natural History of Dragons, you know the routine…just leave a comment. Do you have a favorite dragon story? I’ll cheat a bit by leaving the pure fantasy realm and say Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire…for the dragon challenge.

28 thoughts on “Q&A with Marie Brennan (& W*n A Natural History of Dragons)

  1. I’m so looking forward to this book getting to the UK – I’m a card carrying dragon buff,from Anne McCaffreys Pern stories onwards to Enchanticas Dragon statues and beyond.. “A Natural History of Dragons” is shaping into a “must have” for my shelves the more I read of it 🙂 My favourite Dragon story is probably “The White Dragon”, by Anne McCaffrey but any world where dragons exist fires my imagination.

  2. I must say the Pern books are my favorites. Those were among the first fantasy books I read many,many years ago and I have been in love with dragons since. My husband has the nickname Dragon, and I have the nickname Unicorn. We even have a Real Musgrave painting of Dragon & Unicorn that my husband bought me for our first anniversary. I’d love to win this book as a gift for my Dragon.

  3. I have to agree with Suzanne – my favorite dragon books are the Harry Potter ones. That said, I’ve yet to read the Pern books. They’re on my to-read-one-day list.

  4. This looks like an awesome book! The illustrations are fantastic. Regarding favorite dragons – I loved the dragons in The Smoke Thief. I also like the dragons in Eileen Wilks’ World of the Lupi series. Oh, and Naomi Novak’s Temeraire.

  5. This looks great – I love stories about Dragons. My favourite dragon in books is Kitten from Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series…she’s only a baby dragon but she’s great – and can even open locks with a whistle! 🙂

  6. This looks so amazing!! The cover really captures the spirit of the book! It is so cool to see how a woman became a scientist in a society that didn’t foster that kind of study, and it’s doubly cool that it’s a fantasy with dragons!!

    I LOVE Jodi Meadows’ Incarnate, Firelight by Sophie Jordan, and Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. They’re awesome dragons:)

    I faked reading Moby Dick too!:)

    Thank you:)

    ccfioriole at gmail dot com

  7. I got started on my love of dragons early, but not with a book. I had an unholy love for the film, “The Reluctant Dragon.” I can’t tell you how many times I watched that cartoon as a kid 🙂 As I got older, a friend recommended Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books 🙂

  8. I don’t think I have a favorite dragon story. Of course I love nasty old Smaug from LoTR. Even his name fits perfectly. I’d really like a copy of this book too. The illustrations alone are mind-blowing. Thanks very much for offering a copy.

  9. Enjoyed the interview. My favorite dragon stories are the Pern series and the Dragon series by G. A. Aiken which are hilarious. The illustrations are beautiful. Thanks for the contest.

  10. I am going to recommend the Havemercy series to anybody who reads my comment. It’s similar in premise to Naomi Novik’s series, but these dragons are mechanical!

  11. I love dragons (have one tattooed on my back) but I don’t have any particular favorite dragon stories.

    the imagine tree at aol dot com

  12. My favorite dragon story is His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik. An absolutely fabulous alternate history set during the Napoleonic Wars with an air force made up of dragons ridden by crews of aviators.

    I also enjoyed Keri Arthur’s Myth and Magic Series, with Destiny Kills and Mercy Burns.

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com

  13. I really love dragons. Can I choose an essay instead of a novel? I would say “why americans are afraid of dragons?” by Ursula Le Guin. A terrific essay.

  14. I’ve read stories that had dragons in them but never really read a dragon story. From what I know of them, they are so fascinating.


  15. Ahh! I want this book. I love Fantasy books, and I love dragons. This one looks amazing! My favorite story is Seraphina 🙂 Perfect book. <3

    +1 comment
    +1 blog comment

    Love, Carina