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  • Writer's pictureAndy Shepherd

Some books are more difficult to grow than others

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

Some books are definitely harder to write than others.

I jokingly tell children at school visits that the first book in the series ‘The Boy Who Grew Dragons’, took me eight years to write. Of course I did pop out in that time to get some milk or walk the dog!

But over the years it grew and changed, continually being rewritten, starting out as a picture book and then at various times finding itself at 1000 words, 3000 words, 10,000 words, back to 1000 words and then expanding to 33,000 words.

I was asked by one publisher to write it much shorter for a much younger audience, and I tried, but it just didn’t feel right.

So when I finally got my deal with Piccadilly Press and we agreed to three books, the first one arrived very quickly. Not because I’m a particularly fast writer ­- I’m really not - but because I had spent 6 years before that working on it.

Piccadilly gave me the green light, and were excited for me to do it the way I’d always hoped and imagined I could - they also gave me the wondrous talent of Tilda Johnson, closely followed by Georgia Murray as my editors - so the book raced into the world.

And with Tilda and Georgia’s help, having outlined the second book, ‘The Boy Who Lived With Dragons’, that also rushed out of my head onto the page. I think that was the quickest draft I’ve ever written.

I moved swiftly onto drafting ‘The Boy Who Flew With Dragons’ and then found as you often do that endings are hard. Making sure all those loose ends get satisfyingly resolved, not just at the end of that book, but at the end of the series too. But what helped was knowing my over riding arc right from the start in those three books. It was the same arc I‘d imagined from the time it was a picture book.

Editing the third book took way longer, but I did love writing it and I think it was my favourite. Not least because it was the end of a very long journey. Or so I thought…

Because then Piccadilly asked for more.

And that’s the dream, right? I have to admit when they asked, and I had just finished editing Book 3, I felt a bit broken. I should have been jumping for joy that they even wanted more and I felt embarrassed admitting to friends that I was having reservations. That just felt wrong and ungrateful. Thankfully Piccadilly Press have been patient with me, and I really value that. Even though I knew they were keen to get more books out they never demanded or pressured me. And because of that I soon found myself renewed, and discovered that my thoughts were going back to Tomas and Flicker.

It was when I was listening to the audio book of Book 3 – I love audiobooks and it’s a massive thrill to listen to my own books, brilliantly read by Ewan Goddard – that I got to the end of the book and thought: ‘Well I know what I’d want if I was a kid listening to this.’ And I knew that I had to write the rest of the story.

It was then I really discovered how different writing each new book can be. Book 4 ‘The Boy Who Dreamed of Dragons’ was HARD. Really, really hard. And it’s been round the houses and back again. And again.

I think it was because the first three books were always a complete package. I had that arc with me from the very beginning. And I was keenly aware that I didn’t want any further books to feel tacked on.

Luckily, I found that during the writing of the previous books, I had actually sown lots of seeds, either intentionally or unintentionally. And when I started playing with the story I realised just how much more there was to tell. And I started getting excited.

I can’t wait for everyone to meet Aura, the new girl who declares herself to be ‘Queen of the Dragons’ and ruffles Tomas’ feathers, as well as two new dragons who hatch in Grandad’s garden and cause a whole lot more havoc. And to see how Tomas deals with all the change happening in his life.

Now when I read through ‘The Boy Who Dreamed of Dragons’ – and indeed Book 5 ‘The Boy Who Sang With Dragons’ which comes out next year, I feel like the story was always there and that the new characters have always been a part of that story, just patiently waiting for their turn.

I think this is what I am most proud of and I really hope readers will get that sense of continuity and satisfaction when they re-enter the story and hopefully follow it to its conclusion in Book 5.

Happy dragon growing and happy reading!

Thanks as always to Sara Ogilvie for all the incredible artwork in these books. The illustrations are just beautiful.

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