Enter the lands of Leland Province, where dragon and human societies have long dwelled side by side. Superstitions rise sharply, as a severe drought strips the land of its bounty, providing fertile ground for the darker ambitions of Fordon Blackclaw, Dragon Council Leader, who seeks to subdue humans or wipe them off the face of the land.
As the shadow of danger creeps across Leland Province, a young dragon named Kallon Redheart, who has turned his back on dragons and humans alike, comes into an unexpected friendship. Riza Diantus is a young woman whose dreams can no longer be contained by the narrow confines of her village, and when she finds herself in peril, Kallon is the only one with the power to save her. Yet to do so means he must confront his past, and embrace a future he stopped believing in.
A tale of friendship, courage, and ultimate destiny, Redheart invites readers to a wondrous journey through the Leland Dragon Series.
How did you go about building the world of Leland?
I started with the characters. As I envisioned Kallon and the challenges he needed to face, I began to see his environment as a direct impact on his emotional development. Why has he chosen to isolate himself? Why would a human need his help? And the world grew from there.
What was the first scene you wrote for this novel? How has it changed over the course of the publishing process?
Wow, let’s see. I believe one of the first scenes I wrote is the scene where Kallon must find the Gold dragon, and risk his own safety to do it. It’s a pivotal scene, and one way I challenged myself to “write toward” it, with a Kallon that wouldn’t even consider such a risk in the beginning, but becoming someone who does. I think most of the changes came throughout the writing process itself, as I tweaked and re-tweaked – but the scene is still there after publishing as I envisioned it beforehand. Which is very cool.
Could you describe the Leland dragons for us? Why did you envision them this way? What inspired your interest in this mythical creature?
I’ve always seen the Leland dragons as fully developed, emoting creatures, with all the complications of the human experience. It’s certainly easier to identify with a character who shares one’s own qualities, but more than that, I wanted to explore motivation. As sentient, speaking animals, couldn’t there be more to them than hoarding gold and eating maidens?
Pondering the stereotypes drew me to dragons as fascinating characters to interpret. The mythology is the inspiration. I wanted to shatter it.
Tensions are high between the dragons and the humans in Redheart, and it seems that humans are often scorned by supernatural creatures in fantasy novels more generally. Why do you think humans are so often envisioned as lesser beings in fantasy works?
In Leland, there was a time when humans and dragons worked together. Mutual respect was key. But generations of emotional erosion have created the tense atmosphere when the story takes place. Blackclaw, the leader of the Dragon Council, certainly sees humans as inferior.
But I imagine the theme of humans as lesser beings in fantasy works is in relation to the nature of fantasy itself. In a world of supernatural powers, magic, and otherwise extraordinary talents, a plain ol’ human being can seem pretty disadvantaged. But some of my favorite fantasy stories are those involving plain ol’ humans doing some awfully impressive stuff, strictly from determination and smarts.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing Redheart?
I’d say it was keeping the dragons real. I mean, yes, I want them human-esque, but they are still fierce creatures of enormous power. They don’t process, think or react the way humans do, instinctively. They need their own reasons for their choices, and I wanted to make that believable.
The illustrations by Matthew Perry are a unique addition to your novel. What was the process like for that collaboration? What do you think the illustrations add to the novel?
Was that ever exciting! I loved the process of talking with Matthew, hearing his perspective and vision, sharing my own, and then seeing the characters drawn to life.
The illustrations add a very sensory layer to Redheart. As an artist who uses words as her medium, it’s my job to make the story world real, but my work is all done behind the eyes. With Matthew’s talent and medium, the reader is given another chance to see a part of the world with their eyes.
What do you think are the key components of a compelling epic fantasy?
For me, it’s about overcoming difficulties in a world of fantastical proportion. The fantasy elements are what make a world unique, but shouldn’t make it effortless. When a character meets challenges to his capabilities, however magical or other-worldly they may be, that’s compelling to me.
What book have you re-read the most? How many times have you read it? What is it about this story that keeps bringing you back for more?
Oh, that’s a tough one! I treasure several, and make my kids read them, too. Shelley, Bradbury, Donaldson…let’s see. If I had to choose the most re-read it would very likely be Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve re-read it, but at least once a year for the last several years. And not just at Christmas! I’m an utterly hopeless romantic for redemption stories, and in the hands of a master writer like Dickens, I’m enamored.
What is a random fact that readers probably don’t know about you?
Readers probably don’t know my Native American heritage has passed on to me a couple of toes on each foot that are webbed. I missed out completely on the toe-sock fashion craze of the 80’s. And have you seen those Vibram “barefoot” shoes with the five toes? I’d love to try them, but, alas. I can’t.
What can you tell us about upcoming installments in the Redheart series?
Fun stuff! More unique challenges for my troubled characters. Book Two will see a new generation of dragon dangers, and more of my wizards, Orman Thistleby and Layce Phelcher (possibly a little romance for the old coot?). Book Three brings the reader into the mysterious and feared Murk Forest, with an entirely new culture we haven’t met yet, and finds our dragon hunter, Jastin Armitage, hunted himself.
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Also, Seventh Star Press is currently having an ongoing sale where you can purchase the Redheart eBook for only $1.99! Check it out!
As an award winning author, Jackie writes stories ranging from ultra-short to novel-length, varieties of which have appeared in anthologies such as Tales of Fantasy and Dragons Composed, as well as numerous periodical publications, including Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, The Binnacle, Mindflights Magazine, Necrotic Tissue, and Shroud. She is the author of the fantasy novel Redheart, and writing an alternate history time travel novel. She blogs professionally for English Tea Store.com, where she reviews classic science fiction and fantasy novels and pairs them with the ideal tea-sipping companion. Jackie is a member of the professional organizations Science Fiction Writers of America and Horror Writers Association. She was named honorable mention in L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Award, and received a 2008 Darrell Award for best short story by a Mid-South author. She is the winner of the 2009 Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award for Imaginative Fiction for her story The Freak Museum, a post-apocalyptic tale that looks closely at perceptions and outward appearances and how they affect the way we see ourselves.
Jackie Gamber is co-founder and Executive Editor of Meadowhawk Press, a speculative fiction publisher based in Memphis. One of their novels, Terminal Mind by David Walton, won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award in 2009. Jackie also edited the award winning benefit anthology, Touched By Wonder. She has been a guest lecturer at Memphis Options High Schools, and is a speaker at writers’ conferences from Michigan to Florida. Jackie is also the visionary behind the MidSouthCon Writers’ Conference, now in it’s third year.
Thanks to C.C. at Seventh Star Press, TWO lucky winners will receive a copy of Redheart by Jackie Gamber, a set of 4 5X7 glossy prints with cover art and illustrations from Redheart, a Redheart magnet, and Redheart bookmarks!
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Thanks so much to Jackie for taking the time to answer my questions, and to C.C. for arranging the interview and giveaway!