Today I’m pleased to welcome Penny Chrimes to the blog, author of The Dragon and Her Boy and also Tiger Heart, both books which I have loved and would recommend to anyone who loves a good children’s historical fantasy. The Dragon and Her Boy is one of my most favourite books of the year so far, and today I’m pleased to welcome Penny onto the blog to answer some of my questions about the book and more. I hope you enjoy this interview and you can see more information about the book and author below the interview. 🙂
1. Can you tell us a little bit about The Dragon and Her Boy and the inspiration behind it?
I found my Dragon when I was on a guided walk through the City of London one cold February weekend. We started at the Monument to the Great Fire of London and the guide pointed out the little dragon looking up at the burning City. The guide said that the dragon was the guardian of London – but it seemed to me there was a mischievous glint in its eye. It looked to me as though it had got bored and decided to have a little bonfire, to cause a bit of a rumpus up there. So that’s where it started.
The story is about the same gang of London street children – the gutterlings – that are in my first book, TIGER HEART – and the main character is Stick, a street acrobat. The story starts when his friends Spud and Sparrow go missing one very hot day. Stick goes in search of them underground – and finds himself face to face with a curmudgeonly old dragon who has been lurking there for centuries. The question is – can he avoid getting eaten? And also find her a safe home, whilst rescuing his friends from a dark figure from his own past.
2. Did you have to do any research for this novel?
I did a lot of research – I always do! – although some of it I had already done for TIGER HEART. I ended up researching strange things like the dinosaur bones found in Georgian/Victorian times by early palaeontologists in the brick pits around London. I found a wonderful villain – a man who was actually a very influential palaeontologist called William Buckland, but who also had an obsession with eating every kind of animal in the world. A kind of gastronomic Noah! As well as lots of stuff about the food street children ate, and their lives – much of it from Henry Mayhew’s History of the London Poor.
3. The children like Stick speak in a unique gutterling language. How difficult was it to write this guttering speech and how much of it is made up?
It is all real – apart from the word ‘pandalorum’ which I just liked the sound of. I was very keen to hear the character’s voices in my head, and to get them right, so I spent hours reading a huge Dictionary of Slang by Eric Partridge and also Ware’s Dictionary of Victorian Slang. It was actually great fun – I love words! – and I now have a fine collection of insults in 19th century slang.
4. Both Stick in this book and Fly in Tiger Heart have unique animal companions, Fly has her tiger and Stick his dragon. Which of these did you prefer writing about and which creature would you want to be your companion on an adventure (tiger, dragon or something else)?
I think the Tiger would be far more noble and reliable as a companion. You never know quite where you are with the Dragon.
5. The illustrations both inside the novels and on the covers of both books are by Levente Szabo, what do you think of these illustrations?
I think they are wonderful. There is also a moment as an author when you first see the illustrations and you think – that’s not how I imagined it! – But actually they are far more wonderful – especially Fly riding on the Tiger and the Dragon toasting crumpets – than anything I could have envisaged. Levente is so talented!
6. Are you working on anything new?
I have a new book – a totally different, very wild world – coming out early next year with Hachette. Just editing it at the moment – watch this space!
7. What’s the best thing about being an author?
Being able to do what I wanted to do since I first learned to read and realised a book could take you to magical worlds and introduce you to amazing people. Not many people are lucky enough to have their dreams come true! Also staying home with a warm cat on my knee and eating cake. I love meeting children on school visits and talking about the books they love reading – and hope that they have enjoyed mine!
Thank you so much Penny for answering my questions today. Your cat is so cute and I loved the illustrations of the dragon toasting crumpets!. 🙂 The Dragon and Her Boy is available to buy now.
About the book
When Stick discovers an ancient dragon trapped in a tunnel underneath London, he’s more than a bit scared. Nonetheless he decides to help her, if he can.
But after so long in a tunnel, the dragon is starting to think that even skinny, half-starved street urchin Stick looks pretty tasty.
And if Stick can avoid getting eaten, there’s a second problem.
How can he find a safe home for a very large and very grumpy dragon…when dragons aren’t supposed to exist?
About the author
Penny Chrimes is the author of middle grade books TIGER HEART and THE DRAGON AND HER BOY, (ORION/HACHETTE). A third MG novel is due to be published by Hachette in early 2023. She is currently working on scripts for a new series of podcasts for children.
Penny is also the author of a number of picture books (as Penny McKinlay) including BUMPOSAURUS, FLABBY TABBY, and ELEPHANTS DON’T DO BALLET, all published by Frances Lincoln.
She has had a long career as a journalist, working as an Executive Producer at Sky News for 18 years on news output and documentaries (Tsunami: 10 Years after the Wave ; 7/7: 10 Years On). She won a BAFTA for Best News Coverage of the Glasgow Airport terrorist attack in 2008.
Originally from the Wirral, Penny has lived in south-east London – now Beckenham – for many years, and has two children – playwright Holly McKinlay and lawyer Scott McKinlay.
Did you enjoy this interview? Have you read The Dragon and Her boy yet? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂