About the Book
Title: Dragon Defender (Dragon Defense League, Book #1)
Author: J.A. Blackburn
Publication Date: October 19, 2013
Publisher: Pip & Grey
Number of pages: 242
Recommended age: 10+
Summary (Amazon):For over a thousand years dragons have existed in secret . . . Peter Clark can build a robot from scratch and pick a lock in two minutes or less. But he can't figure out why his mother left or why his grandma refuses to talk about her. When Uncle Dominick shows up on Peter's twelfth birthday with a letter that hints at answers and an incredible story about dragons, Peter follows him, determined to find out the truth about his mother's disappearance. What he finds is a reality far different from what he ever could have imagined - where dragons live in hiding, hunted by poachers for their magical parts, and a small group of men and women work tirelessly to protect them. These are the Dragon Defenders. Peter's uncle is one. So was his mother. Now it's Peter's turn.
* Finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association 2013 Literary Contest *
Let's start with learning a bit about J.A.:
I live in Seattle, Washington with my husband, 10-year old son, and our dog Bella. I work full time and squeeze writing in on the side. Some day I hope it’ll be my full-time job.
Why did you pick to write books for MG?
As a middle-grader, I was a voracious reader. I’d read everything I could get my hands on, usually between two and twelve times, unless it was really horrible. I think there’s nothing quite like the way a kid consumes a book. I loved the idea of creating that kind of fantastically absorbing stay-up-all-night experience with a book of my own. Plus my son was nine when I started and not that into reading. I took that as my challenge – to write something that he’d love to read.
What types of books do you like to read?
I’m a big fan of fiction of all sorts. I’ve read a ton of middle grade and young adult books over the last couple of years. I adored The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens – it’s like a modern day Narnia. Is there anything like Narnia? I don’t think so! One of my very favorite YA authors is Maggie Stiefvater. Her book, The Scorpio Races, is amazing – inventive and full of sensory detail and emotion.
When you are not writing, what do you like to do?
I have a full-time job that keeps me hopping. Between that, writing, and my family, it’s hard to find time for all the other things I love to do. Like, first and foremost, READING. Followed closely by, TV! I’m a sucker for TV dramas like Vampire Diaries, Nashville, and The Amazing Race. I also love to snow ski, walk on the beach, travel, cook, and host dinner parties. I’ve been known to bemoan the fact that our bodies need sleep. Just think what we could get done if we didn’t!
Tell us about Dragon Defender and how the story came to be.
Dragon Defender is a coming-of-age adventure story in which dragons are not beasts to be battled or trophies to be hunted, but misunderstood creatures that live in hiding. One family knows of their existence, the secret passed down from generation to generation. On Peter’s 12th birthday, he learns of his destiny as a Dragon Defender and goes with his uncle to Mexico. Their mission is supposed to be simple: to remove a dragon egg from a sinkhole. But the unexpected arrival of dragon poachers throws their plan into a tailspin, and before he knows what happened, Peter is alone in the heart of the jungle with a dragon egg that’s about to hatch and ruthless poachers hot on his tail.
Dragon Defender was an idea bouncing around in the back of my head for years before I ever sat down to write. I’ve always been intrigued by dragons. They routinely appear in artifacts left by civilizations across the world who had no contact with one another. Yet they’re widely believed to be completely mythological. A simple ‘what if’ question inspired the series for me. What if dragons were, in fact, real? What if they still exist?
Have you written other books?
Dragon Defender is my first published book. I look forward to writing the next two books in the series!
What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?
I’m halfway done writing a story about a girl named Violet who travels to a parallel fairy world to rescue her twin sister who was kidnapped by fairies. I’m having fun creating the evil fairies. Next will be the second Dragon Defense League book – The Mountain of Ice & Fire, in which Peter goes to Iceland to help his uncle rescue the Nidhogg dragon from its mountainous lair, before the ICERA (Icelandic Road Administration) unknowingly blasts it to smithereens.
What advice do you have for other authors?
Read a lot. Write a lot. Editing is your best friend. The first draft I did… ok, the first three drafts, were truly terrible. Have people who will read your work and be honest about what you need to change. If they say ‘nothing,’ they’re not being honest. I love Neil Gaiman’s quote, “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
And finally, don’t give up. Even when it’s hard. Even when you don’t think you’ll ever succeed. The people who succeed are the ones who keep going. It’s what everyone says because it’s TRUE.
From Carpinello's Writing Pages: I received Dragon Defender, started reading, and never stopped! I loved this book. The story grabbed me right from the beginning. What a fabulous destiny: To guard a dragon! I give this 5 stars (*****).
More Buzz About the Book
"We read an advance copy of this book on kindle earlier this year and our 5th grade son read it twice and is anxiously awaiting the next book in the series. Great adventure, really kept our interest reading it together at night. This was one of the kids books I most enjoyed reading myself as well. The characters and the plot are well developed, and appealing to a wide range of kids (both genders). The writing is sophisticated but easy to understand, not 'dumbed down' like many kids books. The subject of dragons was so well crafted that it's easy believe that dragons just might exist, after all." ~ 5 Star Review, Leigh A., Amazon
"Reminiscent of the Fablehaven series (with just the right touch of Harry P.) this middle grade book is both an adventure and a pleasure...Fast-paced and full of wonder, this book takes middle grade readers on a vivid journey from the southwestern U.S. to Mexico; where jungles, ancient ruins and local folklore add to the enchantment that Peter finds when he discovers that dragons are in fact, real. As a former elementary school teacher, my strong feeling is that kids will eat this book whole, and then turn to searching for dragon eggs in their own backyards!" ~ 5 Star Review, Grace W., Amazon
"Dragon Defender was an absorbing action packed read! The author pulls you in from the first page and I'm not sorry to say I read it all in the first day. I'm 33 but still! This is a fun book for a chapter a night with your 5 year old (my son is loving it so far) or for yourself. The characters are well developed so you feel like you're really there, and the dragon is so believable. I'd venture so far as to say I had to remind myself that dragons don't really exist.... or do they?" ~ 5 Star Review, MGC, Amazon