One of the things writers face when they create a rich fantasy world is that their readers don’t always want to leave once the main tale has been told. And, let’s be honest, some of the writers don’t want to leave either. But if you happen to be a fan of Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven saga, there’s good news: You don’t have to. Well, not yet, anyway. With the publication of Dragonwatch (hardcover, digital, audiobook), Mull is returning to the realm he created for what he says is the first of many new adventures.
To start, what is Dragonwatch about, and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the previous books in your Fablehaven series?
Dragonwatch follows Kendra and Seth, the main characters of Fablehaven, as they become embroiled in resisting a dragon rebellion. The story takes place only a few months after the end of the Fablehaven series, and serves as an alternate entry point for new readers, while also delivering a fresh array of problems for the characters from the previous series.
When, during the process of writing the Fablehaven books, did you come up with the idea for Dragonwatch, which is essentially a spin-off series?
When I completed book five of Fablehaven [2010’s Fablehaven: Keys To The Demon Prison] my tank was empty. I had shared the story I had set out to tell. But I loved the cast of characters, and the hidden network of secret wildlife parks for magical creatures where they adventured, and so I left the door open to return someday if new ideas took root. While working on my Five Kingdoms series, I started having ideas for a new batch of trouble involving wizards and dragons that I turned into Dragonwatch.
And, as you said, people don’t have to be familiar with the Fablehaven books before reading Dragonwatch.
Readers can start with Dragonwatch because it marks the beginning of a new batch of problems for our main characters, and I was careful to reintroduce the essentials for new readers. I hope that if new readers enjoy Dragonwatch, they will eventually delve into the backstory contained in the Fablehaven books. Those who have read Fablehaven will come in with the advantage of already caring about many of the characters and knowing more about their history.
So how often, in explaining the Dragonwatch plot to people, did you find yourself saying, “No, there isn’t a watch made out of dragons.”?
Watches for dragons, not made of dragons. Designer, fireproof, timepieces for the stylish dragon on the go…
No, in the story, Dragonwatch is the organization that confined dragons to sanctuaries and generally protects the world from a dragon apocalypse.
Is Dragonwatch going to be a series unto itself?
I have been planning the Dragonwatch series for years. It will contain five books, released roughly one per year. I have a plan for what will happen and how it will end.
Now the Fablehaven books were clearly written to appeal to fantasy fans of all ages. Was that your intent with Dragonwatch as well?
I’m always aiming to write something I would want to read as an adult that would also have strong appeal for young readers. I tend to involve young main characters in smart, twisty adventures. I put enormous amounts of energy into my world-building, just as much as I would writing adult fiction.
The Fablehaven books were sometimes compared to the Harry Potter novels. Do you think that comparison would work for Dragonwatch as well?
Both Fablehaven and Dragonwatch are written for a similar readership as Harry Potter. I’m not trying to replicate Harry Potter, but I am writing for a similar reader, somebody who values originality and surprises and exploring supernatural situations.
Were the Harry Potter books an influence on Dragonwatch?
Three books influenced me heavily as a writer. As a kid, The Chronicles Of Narnia showed me how imaginative storytelling could be. As I got older, The Lord Of The Rings demonstrated how deeply imagined and authentic a fantasy world could be. And then Harry Potter showed me that you could write an innovative book with young main characters that a whole family could enjoy together. Those lessons help define what I am attempting to accomplish as a writer, both in Dragonwatch and my other books as well.
What other books do you see as being the biggest influences on Dragonwatch? And I mean Dragonwatch specifically, not just all of your writing.
I’ve always been fascinated with dragons. I was influenced by Smaug in The Hobbit and Yevaud the dragon in A Wizard Of Earthsea. I liked that they were not just huge and powerful, but also mysterious and intelligent. There is something extra scary about an alpha predator that can strategize and converse.
In my Fablehaven books I tried to put new spins on traditional magical creatures, inventing new details and mythologies. With Dragonwatch, I’m excited to really dig into dragons.
What about non-literary influences, do you see any movies, TV shows, or video games being big inspirations for Dragonwatch?
I’m influenced by shows that are smart and imaginative, from Lost to Firefly to Dr. Who. I’m seldom influenced by the specifics of a show, but I do try to learn from the humor and the storytelling and the reveals.
Is there any interest on your part in writing a fantasy novel or series that isn’t for all ages, but is either just for kids or just for adults?
I have some ideas for fantasy stories with adult main characters geared more for adult readers. I expect I will write them someday. For now, though, I still have a bunch of ideas for stories with young main characters.
Now, as I understand it, there’s a Fablehaven movie in the works. What can you tell us about it?
There has been a Fablehaven movie in the works multiple times, but nothing is currently in development. I hope we’ll eventually find the right team to make a really good Fablehaven movie.
If they were making a movie out of Dragonwatch, who would you like them to cast as Seth and Kendra and why them?
I’m terrible at trying to cast my books. I see my characters a certain way in my head, and I’m too close to them to picture what actor would work. I’ll have to trust a casting director for that job.
Finally, if someone really enjoys Dragonwatch, and they’ve already read the Fablehaven series, which of your other books would you suggest they read next and why?
I would recommend they try the Five Kingdoms books next. It’s about some friends who get kidnapped into another world and have a bunch of adventures as they try to get home. The mix of humor, action, and discovery is more similar to Fablehaven than in my other books.