Today I am interviewing E.E. Knight, author of the new fantasy novel, Novice Dragoneer.
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DJ: Hi E.E.! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
E.E. Knight: I’m a born-and-raised Upper Midwesterner, if you don’t count some brief stints in San Diego, the Pacific Northwest, and Canada as a child. I’m married and we have three kids of elementary school age, currently living one block from the Chicago city limits. I’ve been a novelist since Way of the Wolf was published in 2001.
DJ: What is Novice Dragoneer about?
E.E.: It’s about a 14-year-old dragon-loving girl who has been fascinated by dragons since first meeting one as a child. She runs away from her orphanage and tries to win an apprenticeship with an order of dragonriders famous throughout her little mountain republic.
DJ: What were some of your influences Novice Dragoneer and the series?
E.E.: Anne McCaffrey was the original touchstone for so many of us, the Dragonlance books. There are some early-aviation influences as well, like the Blue Max and Biggles books and the air warfare pulps.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
E.E.: Ileth is a girl mixing with the upper crust. Rich and powerful families in her land like to have a connection to the Dragoneers and they’ll send off sons, and once in a while, daughters, to make connections, much as you used to sort your children into lawmaking, army and naval service, or the priesthood. On paper her republic is egalitarian, but there’s a lot of institutional memory from when the dragoneers were limited to the aristocrats. She has speech processing issues (a challenge I faced and my eldest son as well), and while the dragoneers admit both men and women – because that’s the way the dragons like it – she’s a poor minority in a wealthy man’s world.
DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role in the story? Why?
E.E.: I really like the Master of Novices. Originally he was supposed to be yet another challenge for Ileth as he’s keen to separate the wheat from the chaff in the novices to determine who is worthy of an apprenticeship, she just had so many other hurdles in the story he turned into more of a coach and ally. The fans seem to really love the Lodger, the first dragon she attends.
DJ: What is the setting of the Dragoneer Academy series like?
E.E.: I went meta with the title because it’s misleading in a way. What Ileth and the rest are going through is an apprenticeship in practice, but these leading families of the Vale Republic aren’t about to send their sons off to be apprenticed like they were a bricklayer or ropemaker, so they call it an academy on paper. That way when your neighbor who runs a shipping line asks “what’s young Rapoto up to these days?” you can say “He’s at the Dragoneer Academy” rather than “he’s shoveling dragon shit.”
That being said, the Vale Republic is, for its time, a fairly radical political experiment. It’s surrounded by more traditional kingdoms, all of which would like to see the Vale King back on his family throne because republicanism is a dangerous, destabilizing idea. It’s a land made up of outcasts and refugees and people fleeing pogroms and persecution. It has a very lively art scene, much like the Dutch Republic of Rembrandt’s time. It’s also interesting because the dragons have full political rights. They can own land, vote, take action in the court system such as it is, they even have a special body in the government. Ileth isn’t very well educated, though, so at this point in her career she ignores the politics as she’s just trying to fit in and secure an apprenticeship and be around her beloved dragons.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Novice Dragoneer?
E.E.: I had a lot of fun laying out the Serpentine in my imagination. I wanted it to feel as real as Hogwart’s or Tatooine or Hobbiton, so that if a reader sees a painting of the Beehive they’ll feel a thrill of recognition, like they’d been there. I also enjoyed the bits where Ileth is interacting with her various father figures. She went from being an orphan to having five personalities acting in a fatherly manner to her.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
E.E.: That’s hard to predict. Hopefully it’ll be “I can’t wait to see what’ll happen to her in the next volume?”
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the Dragoneer Academy series? Novice Dragoneer is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
E.E.: I wanted to get the relationship between humans and dragons right. In my world, dragons are long-lived. They have agency. They’re few and very valuable, so it seemed to me the relationship would be like sailors serving on a quirky ship. There are good ships and not-so-good, but once on board you come to know the ship’s strengths and weaknesses as you work it, and someday your watch will be over and another will take your place. It hasn’t come up yet but in battle dragonriders are lost all the time, but the loss of a dragon is a disaster. A dragoneer would have to develop a samurai mindset about their service with their dragon, though again, Ileth is only on her first steps of the path, so these issues aren’t front and center for her yet.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Novice Dragoneer that you can share with us?
E.E.: Yeah, they made some social media of them. I’ll send them along.
DJ: Now that Novice Dragoneer is released, what is next for you?
E.E.: I’m editing the second in the series and wondering if it would be possible to get another Vampire Earth volume out there.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/E-E-Knight/e/B001IGSW6Y/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Novice Dragoneer and the Dragoneer Academy series that we haven’t talked about yet?
E.E.: I took some time off from writing to get some kids launched into their school life and take care of my health. It’s exciting to be back in the game. I think this is some of my best work, whatever the verdict of critics or the marketplace. I love it.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like to add?
E.E.: Thank you for being interested in my work.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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***Novice Dragoneer is published by ACE Books and is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
In the first book in an exciting and charming new coming-of-age fantasy series from the author of the Age of Fire series, an impoverished girl enters into a military order of dragonriders, but her path won’t be as easy or as straightforward as she expected.
Fourteen-year-old Ileth grew up in an orphanage, and thanks to her stutter was never thought to be destined for much beyond kitchen work and cleaning. But she’s dreamed of serving with the dragons ever since a childhood meeting with a glittering silver dragon and its female dragoneer. For years she waits, and as soon as she is old enough to join, Ileth runs away to become a novice dragoneer at the ancient human-dragon fortress of the Serpentine.
While most of her fellow apprentices are from rich and influential families, Ileth must fight for her place in the world, even if it includes a duel with her boss at the fish-gutting table. She’s then sent off to the dragon-dancers after a foolish kiss with a famously named boy and given charge of a sickly old dragon with a mysterious past. But she finds those trials were nothing when she has to take the place of a dead dragoneer and care for his imprisoned dragon in enemy lands. . . .
About the Author:
I’m a fantasy/sf writer. Grew up in the Upper Midwest. I call Chicago home now. I enjoy tabletop and video games, movies, music, and history.