eSpec Books interviews Ty Drago, author of the YA science fiction novel Dragons, which is currently funding on Kickstarter.
eSB: Dragons has a very unique premise. Would you mind sharing a bit about it with us?
TD: I’ve always felt an admittedly goofy affinity with dragons. After all, my last name is simply Italian for “dragon.” But the giant scaly lizard thing’s been thoroughly explored, and often brilliantly, by authors from Tolkien to McCaffrey. So, when I decided to set out to write my own “dragon” story, I started by looking for a wholly different approach. I settled on the idea that dragons aren’t giant monsters. Instead, they’re people, homo sapien draconus, whose existence has been embellished and twisted over the millennia due to humanity’s fear and awe. Dragons, you see, have power.
In Dragons, the titular characters don’t “breathe fire.” Instead, they’re able to generate incredible amounts of thermal energy, so much so that, if one of them is killed by violence, often this energy escapes in a cataclysmic eruption that can wipe out an entire city. It’s a terrible responsibility that these gentle people live with every day, and they deal with it by hiding themselves away amidst the mass of unknowing humanity, living quiet lives in quiet communities, never drawing attention, and never revealing what they are and what they can do.
Similarly, over the centuries, the governments of the world have (mostly) resolved to leave this tiny, scattered, subspecies in peace. They’re simply too dangerous to be used. That is, until they aren’t. Throughout human history, there have always been those who believe they can control that which would better be left alone. And its from this hubris Dragons and its hero, Andy Draco, were born.
eSB: Is this meant to be a stand-alone novel, or do you envision more books in this universe in the future (no pun intended)?
TD: It’s a stand-alone, but with the hooks for a sequel should that opportunity present itself. As a working writer, I don’t like to “close doors” from a storytelling standpoint. You can never know for certain what’s going to really resonate with your readers, and so I see no reason why Andy’s story can’t continue.
eSB: You are a veteran novelist of both science fiction and horror, how does this book differ from the others you have written?
TD: Dragons is an adventure tale, one filled with twists and turns. But, at its heart, it’s about the loss of innocence, and how one young Dragon must reinvent himself when everything he loves is ripped away. It’s also the first YA I’ve written in which – well – sex happens, just “fade-to-black” moments, of course. But still, you won’t find that in Torq or The Undertakers!
eSB: What challenges do you face as an author straddling not only genres, but demographics?
TD: It’s all about voice. It took me years, literally, to find the correct voice when writing for middle grade versus young adult versus adult. All three offer their own unique challenges and nailing down your narrative style for each is really the key to connecting with your readership. That’s the most valuable advice I could offer to any novice writer. The voice is ALL!
eSB: If there is one thing you would do differently in your writing career, what would that be and why?
TD: If I had it over again, I’ve have started sending out simultaneous submissions far sooner than I did. For years, I submitted to one editor at a time and, with the response times running into months, you can grow old and die waiting to make your first sale. Yes, I know some editors/agents frown on simultaneous submissions – but folks, you’re trying to sell a book here, and you don’t have all day. So, in this instance and this instance only (at least in the publishing business), I find it better to ask forgiveness than permission. If you have a finished story, polished to a mirror’s shine, then determine the right markets for it and then hit them all at once. Then, while you’re waiting, go write something else. That’s the job.
eSB: You’re not just a novelist, but a publisher in your own right. Can you tell us something about Allegory Magazine?
TD: I started Allegory as “Peridot Books” back in 1998. Since then, it’s grown to be one of the “grand old ladies of the internet.” Over the past two decades, we’ve published hundreds of short stories by new and established authors from around the world and I’m fiercely proud of the work we’ve done and continue to do. We accept no commercial advertising and are an entirely volunteer organization. Our donations-based business model covers our expenses (IP and domain fees, author payments, etc), but that’s it. With us, it isn’t about profit, it’s about the writing. So, if you write solid SF, fantasy, or horror, check us out at http://www.allegoryezine.com.
eSB: If there was one dream project you could work on what would it be?
TD: I just finished it. It’s called The New Americans and it’s a collaboration with my father, who passed away from cancer in 1992. Before he died, he left behind a series of cassette tapes on which he’d outlined a novel based on my grandfather’s experiences as a Sicilian immigrant who came to America as a boy in 1915. It took me almost thirty years to work up the will and the courage to tackle this story and it’s been the most challenging project of my life. But it’s done now and being marketed around. Incredible, really. If anyone wants to know more, they can check out my podcast “Legacy: The Novel Writing Experience.” It’s kind of a novel-writing tutorial, told through the lens of my father’s tapes and my efforts to turn them into a book. It’s available wherever podcasts can be found.
eSB: Could you tell us about one of your most amusing or joyous experiences promoting your books?
TD: Back when The Undertakers series was in full swing, I used to visit a lot of middle schools. I mean, a lot. To date, I’ve been to more than seventy of them in six states from Maine to Kentucky, and I’ve spoken in front of something over 60,000 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. At one of these events, just before being invited to begin my talk, they sat me down in the front row of their auditorium and performed for me a play based on the first Undertakers book. I sat there watching these kids in humble astonishment and I’d be lying if I said there weren’t tears in my eyes. To this day, it’s the single most gratifying experience I’ve had as a writer.
eSB: What is one thing you would share that would surprise your readers?
TD: Three of the four main characters in Dragons are named for my children!
eSB: What are some of your other works readers can look for?
TD: Check out Torq. It’s a dystopian YA superhero novel that came out in 2018. Torq was published through Swallow’s End Press and you can find it on Amazon. I’m also in the process of turning it into an audiobook podcast! Then, of course, there’s the five-book Undertakers series, which has been optioned for the big screen!
eSB: How can readers find out more about you?
TD: I blog, though not as often as I should. But feel free to visit me at tydrago.com. And please, if you do, leave a comment and say hello. It’s nice when people do that.
Ty Drago is a full-time writer and the author of eight published novels, including his five-book Undertakers series, the first of which has been optioned for a feature film. Torq, a dystopian YA superhero adventure, was released by Swallow’s End Publishing in 2018. Add to these one novelette, myriad short stories and articles, and appearances in two anthologies. He’s also the founder, publisher, and managing editor of ALLEGORY, a highly successful online magazine that, for more than twenty years, has features speculative fiction by new and established authors worldwide.
Ty’s currently just completed The New Americans, a work of historical fiction and a collaborative effort with his father, who passed away in 1992. If that last sentence leaves you with questions, check out his podcast, “Legacy: The Novel Writing Experience,” to get the whole story.
He lives in New Jersey with his wife Helene, plus one cat and one dog.