With the popularity of the “Twilight” series and other dark fantasy series among young readers, many parents feel torn between their child’s love for imagination and not wanting to encourage the darker side of fantasy. How can they encourage reading and wonder, but without all the junk? Meeting that precise need, popular and trusted author Donita K. Paul brings us her newest tale of dragons, adventure and faith in Dragons of the Watch (WaterBrook Press).
With her Chronicles of Chiril, the author has created a fascinating and detailed world where dragons and humans “mindspeak,” tiny creatures are heroes, and gateways serve as doors to an entirely different place and experience. With a warm, accessible and humorous tone, lots of action, and avoidance of the heavy, dark elements found in much of today’s fantasy fiction, Dragons of the Watch is a great family read. On a deeper level, it also encourages discussion of how to interact with those who do not share one’s faith in a foreign culture or one’s own city. The book includes a map and a glossary of characters and terms, and fans can go even deeper at DonitaKPaul.com with puzzles, recipes, resources for aspiring writers and links for homeschooling families.
Q: How did you get started writing fantastical fiction in the Christian marketplace?
I started writing Christian romance and my mom challenged me to write something different. I was 52 at the time. You should always listen to your mother! The first novel flowed onto the monitor. The story just blossomed as I typed. None of the others have come so easily. But getting notes from readers makes the work worthwhile.
Q: What kind of books do you like to read?
I read a wide variety of books: cozy mystery, suspense, fantasy, young adult books, regency, prairie, contemporary, and historical romance. I give myself permission to put a book down if I am not engaged in the story. For years, I thought I had to finish anything I began. Life is too short to make myself read something that doesn’t appeal. I also don’t bother with books filled with coarse language, swearing or questionable morality.
Q: Why do you think readers, especially young adults, seem to so enjoy reading books with elements of fantasy in them?
By definition, high fantasy deals with good versus evil, and good wins. All readers are attracted to hope. Beauty, integrity, nobility—all are held out as desirable in high fantasy. A tale that inspires one to achieve difficult goals is bound to hit a chord within young adults. I believe that our children crave more wholesome literature. Our society has inundated the media with depravity. God has implanted within our hearts the desire for kindness, forgiveness and pure love. To those who are not hardhearted, goodness is attractive. Young adults’ lives are right at the cusp of exploration. Soon they will determine what type of adult they aspire to be. Reading good fantasy helps them establish an upright footing.
Q: Why should parents feel comfortable buying your books for their children?
I put effort into making sure my books are safe. If I take a young reader to a dark place, I also take the characters, and therefore the readers, back to a more comfortable position. I am careful not to reward misconduct. And a clear line is drawn between right and wrong.
I’ve had parents and grandparents write notes of appreciation for revealing God’s plan rather than preaching at young readers. In a good book, the reader experiences the problems of the main characters. We learn and remember more when we are shown a Christian walk rather than when we are told the rules, facts and ideology of Christianity.
Q: Tell us a little about your bestselling DragonKeeper Chronicles, and how the setting of Dragons of the Watch connects to that world.
Dragon Keeper Chronicles take place in a land called Amara on a fantasy planet. The Chronicles of Chiril happen on the same planet but at an earlier time and on a continent on the other side of the world. Basically, I had so much reader protest to the death of one of the characters in the first series I decided to bring him back in the second. The only way to do that was to record adventures that happened in a previous era.
Q: What do you hope your young readers take away from this book?
The recognition of flexibility as a Christian trait. Many times stubbornness is an outgrowth of pride, and willful behavior often leads one down a destructive path. Sometimes the inability to change is a sign of fear, not wisdom. In a nutshell, I’d like young readers to be able to discern between obstinate behavior and righteous adherence to God’s holy principles.
Q: Your website has lots of resources for young readers and families who want to explore deeper into the worlds of your books, correct? What type of resources do you have there?
We have discussion questions for each book. I always advise reading for pleasure first, before interrupting for analysis. However, some parents have told me their children dive into interpretation on their own as the story unfolds deeper, spiritual tidbits. There are places such as fan galleries and “Librettowit’s Library” for children and adults to share their creative reaction to the books. We have pages designed to introduce visitors to more Christian writers and their books, as well as a chatroom most Monday nights for readers’ questions and tips on writing.