Welcome to Books By My Friends, Katharine! Let’s get started on chatting about your story in the anthology Dragons of a Different Tail: 17 Unusual Dragon Tales.
JH: What’s the blurb for your story in the book?
KD: Eighteen award-winning, veteran, and emerging authors bring you seventeen unique dragon tales that defy tradition. Winged serpents as large as continents, as well as those tiny enough to perch on the fingertip of a young girl. Dragons who inhabit the Wild West, Victorian London, Brooklyn, and a post-apocalyptic Earth. Scaly beasts who fight in the boxing ring, celebrate Christmas, and conquer the vast void of outer space. There are rockstars who meddle with dragon magic, clever and conniving shapeshifters, and powerfully exotic hybrids. Science fiction, urban fantasy, mystery, western, epic fantasy, YA fantasy…no matter the setting or the genre—here be dragons!
JH: What inspired you to write your story?
KD: “The Brooklyn Dragon Racing Club” is one of 17 stories in an anthology with the goal of taking typical dragon tropes and turning them on their heads. Three things shaped the writing of my story. The first was moving to a new neighborhood during the COVID-19 pandemic. The second was my unexpected discovery of how much fun it is to name characters. The third was a newly discovered obsession for the much-maligned pigeons of New York City.
I moved to a new neighborhood in New York during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when things were still quite bad. It was challenge to get to know a new neighborhood under those circumstances, but I did my best. I joined local Facebook groups. I read local history books. I became a regular listener of a hyper-local podcast and went on long walks around the neighborhood. By the time my publisher put out the anthology call, there was no question where my story needed to take place. I had fallen in love with it.
One thing I’ve always been particularly bad at is naming characters. I decided to try a little harder this time around, and in doing so, discovered a whole world of fun I’d been missing out on. I’ll share a couple of examples.
My neighborhood was home to a lot of older Italians, so for my protagonist, I wanted a very normal, ordinary sort of name for an Italian New Yorker. I wondered if there was someone I admired from history after whom I might name him. I landed on one of my husband’s favorite painters, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. For the purposes of this story, the name was shortened to Angelo. Caravaggio was a passionate, highly confrontational, and determined person. He fit my Angelo’s personality very well.
For my secondary protagonist, Karima, I chose another inspirational person from history: a woman who also fit the skills and personality of my character closely. My neighborhood was also home to a large Arabic-speaking community. The best-known Palestinian restaurant in New York was down the street from my house. So Karima was named after Karima Aboud, Palestine’s “first photographer.” The real Karima was brave, creative, and enormously talented, just like my character.
I chose the name of one of the dragons in my story, Odysseus, to reflect one of the themes of the story, the search for home and belonging. Odysseus is the noble hero of Homer’s The Odyssey and is famous for his lengthy adventures as he tries to go home to recover his kingdom. He is clever and brave and driven by his love for home and family–a bit like my dragon, who begins the story lost and alone, and ends up found and loved.
Because of social distancing, I spent a lot of time staring out of my window watching the antics of the local pigeons. When I drove past a local pigeon “racing club” one day, I wondered what Bay Ridge would look like if dragons took the place of pigeons in New York instead. They would need to be small enough to fit in, but still big enough to make their presence known. They should be smart and scrappy, but maybe a little bit ridiculous too. Not everyone would like them. I wondered if there might be a way for dragons and humans to live together. I wondered if there was hope.
And that is how my story about the racing dragons of Bay Ridge, and their human friends, was born.
JH: What one thing do you love most about writing?
KD: I write mostly speculative fiction, fantasy and science fiction, so most of my story ideas begin with “what if” questions. “What if” dragons lived in cities, for example. What if a dragon pooped on your car (how big would that be) or accidentally flew into your living room (would they freak out just like birds do)? My favorite game when writing to take a real world scenario and then just change one thing about it (like adding dragons to the mix of New York City), or take an “alien” scenario and insert one real world element. For example, what if you ended up on a strange planet with flora and fauna you didn’t recognize, but on earth you kept kosher? How would you know what to eat? You can create an entire world and set of characters just by asking one question and seeing where it takes you.
JH: What’s next for you in the way of writing/publishing?
KD: I have another short story coming out in late 2022 in a fantasy anthology by the same publisher, Cabbit Crossing Publishing. This time we’re taking monster tropes and turning them on their heads. My story will be about a troll who accidentally ends up at an (internet) troll farm.
JH: How can readers contact you?
@suggestionize (DM’s are open)
KATHARINE DOW is a writer, editor, and compulsive wanderer. Currently trying to stay put in New York state, she lives in a house full of books and records with her spouse and their wildly eccentric cat. She is the author of “The Brooklyn Dragon Racing Club” in Dragons of a Different Tail: 17 Unusual Dragon Tales, and “The Funeral Company” in Working Futures: 14 Speculative Stories About The Future of Work. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram as @suggestionize.
JH: Thanks, Katharine! Your description of how “The Brooklyn Dragon Racing Club” came to be is a wonderful peek into a writer’s process. Love it. Please, please, please come back and update us as your other publications become available.
All good things,
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