What’s your earliest memory of encountering a dragon in literature or media, and what kind of impression did it leave on you?
My memories of dragons go all the way back to seeing them on things like lucky money envelopes at New Year’s and other decorations, but the first time I really ran into a dragon in literature was with Lawrence Yep’s phenomenal YA book, Dragon of the Lost Sea. I loved the novel, and what I remember most strongly is the place the dragons in the book had in the world, how they were one more strange and wonderful part of it.
Dragons are found in mythology from all over the world, in many different guises. Was yours inspired by any particular tradition?
This dragon is very firmly based on my impression of European dragons, especially with the idea of the hoard. Now that I think about it (and I can’t believe I never realized this before), this story owes a lot to C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Eustace also sleeps on a dragon’s hoard. I really wanted to figure out why a dragon might be drawn to gold, and where human ideas and the ideas of an enormous, fire-breathing, six-limbed, nearly immortal reptile might diverge.
There seems to be an entire mythology of your own in the shadows of your story—why the dragons take their brides, and whether or not they are truly “brides” in the common sense. Was the jade dragon truly your protagonist’s captor, or did it think of itself as her mentor?
None of this makes it into the story, but I have always had the idea that the dragon was looking for a successor. This is not something that the dragon ever mentioned to the main character, and it is likely nothing that the main character will ever figure out until her joints ache and more of her memory lies in gold than it does in her mind or her heart. The dragon changed her, but it had very little control over what that change did. She could have become a lot of things after she returned, and she spends decades exploring her options. It means something that she decides, after all this time, that she wants to understand the dragon better.
There are themes of memory and living many lives in your story, represented by the dragon’s hoard, which bookends the adult life of your protagonist. Is there a parallel between our own hoards of memories from our own lives and the others that have been related to us, and your protagonist’s transformation?
At the very base of it, memories are stories that we tell ourselves, and it is stories that shape who we are, who we want to be, and how we truly see ourselves. They nourish us, and they explain us. The protagonist tells us who she was, and in doing so, she gives herself a little bit of immortality as long as we remember her. The dragon put itself into its hoard, and now she remembers it. Our memories are a flimsy insurance against a rush of time that we can never, ever stop, or indeed see to the end.
Can we hope to read more about your dragons in the future? What’s next for you?
I’m sure I’ll return to dragons some time in the future. When I search for the word in my embarrassingly enormous snippets folders, I get no less than twelve separate instances of it. I know that there’s at least one story waiting for me featuring Vietnamese dragons and rivers, but that one needs a lot of unearthing yet.
As to the future, there’s always more writing to be done! There’s a lot on the burner right now, including another story about memory that takes place in a steampunk Vietnam, a story about necromancy in a place that seems to be not-really-seventeenth-century-Poland, and something that’s been knocking around my head for years about hungry ghosts.
Thank you for giving me the chance to talk about a story that I like very much! I’ve really enjoyed it.
Spread the word!