Exclusive Interview: “Dragonfall” Author L.R. Lam
On the surface, L.R. Lam’s new epic fantasy / high fantasy / romantasy novel Dragonfall (hardcover, Kindle) seems like it’s all about that hot human-on-dragon action. And it is. But as she explains in the following email interview, it’s also about false gods hating those who put them on their pedestals.
Photo Credit: Lawrie Photography
To start, what is Dragonfall about, and what kind of a world does it take place in?
Dragonfall is about a dragon and a human falling in love despite it being a bad idea all around. It’s set primarily in the human world of the Lumet, specifically in the country of Loc, which is very loosely based on the Medieval period except a lot more fluid around gender roles and sexuality. Centuries ago, humans stole dragons’ magic and banished them to this dying world, but in the intervening centuries, they no longer remember what their ancestors did and now workship them as gods. But the dragon gods “remember,” and they do not forgive.
Where did you get the idea for Dragonfall?
I’d been wanting to write about dragons for years, but I felt I needed a specific angle on dragons to make them memorable. Turns out I wanted to make them sexy? I also gave them feathers, like dinosaurs, because why not.
I was also inspired by the question: “What if your gods were not actually gods, and they actively hated you?”
As you said, Everen is a dragon. But he’s disguised as a human. In some stories where dragons take on human form, they’re either really ugly or really pretty. Did you do anything like this in Dragonfall?
I wrote this book primarily as escapism while in lockdown in the U.K., so yes, I made the dragons very pretty. Complete eye candy. In some ways, in their humanoid form they’re a little elven or fae, right down to the pointy ears, so I decided to lean into it. Everen being a little too pretty gets him into some trouble now and then, which was quite fun.
It sounds like Dragonfall is an epic fantasy story. Is that how you describe it?
I think it’s sort of somewhere between epic fantasy, high fantasy, and romantasy. As the first book in a trilogy, it’s a bit smaller, mostly set in one city, though this series will gradually open out to show more of the world and become more epic in scope. Romance is the main plot driver, but I also have the depth of worldbuilding you’d expect in high fantasy.
Dragonfall is not your first novel. Under a couple different names you’ve written the Michah Grey Trilogy, the Pacifica Duology, and the stand-alone novels Goldilocks and Romancing The Page, as well as the Seven Devils duology with Elizabeth May. Are there any writers or stories you think had a big influence on Dragonfall but not anything else you’ve written?
Robin Hobb is an influence on both my fantasy series. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman was also a big influence for this one, and N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season gave me the courage to be a bit more experimental in terms of point of view.
How about non-literary influences; was Dragonfall influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
The Russian film I am Dragon, which not many people seem to have seen, but I found great fun. It’s basically Beauty And The Beast with beautiful fairy tale aesthetics, but the beast is a dragon who can turn into a human who never wears a shirt.
I was also more recently inspired by House Of The Dragon, which I really enjoyed. D&D is a subtle influence as well: I’m not any sort of gamer, whether board or video, but I have been dipping my toes into Critical Role and having great fun with it.
And what about the slut dragon episode of Rick & Morty? Because Kate Dylan, author of Mindwalker, said of your book, “Dragons have never been so sexy.”
I’ve never seen Rick & Morty, so nope. Very intrigued by the concept of “slut dragon,” though, so I’ll have to look it up [laughs]. I was more inspired by paranormal shifter romances.
Now, you’ve already said that Dragonfall is the first book of the Dragon Scales Trilogy. Do you know yet what the other installments will be called and when they’ll be out?
I do know the names, but I’ll keep them quiet just in case I change my mind or it gets vetoed by the publishers. Dragonfall was, for example, Dragonscale until the very last minute, when I decided Dragonfall was better (even though yes, I know there’s a game called Shadowrun: Dragonfall) and Dragon Scales would instead be the series name.
In terms of when they’ll be out, I’m not sure. Possibly not quite as fast as one a year, as fantasy books are long, and i want to make sure it’s as good as it can be.
With Dragonfall being the first book of a trilogy, some people will wait until all three are out before reading any of them. But is there any reason why you think people shouldn’t wait?
Many of the reasons not to delay tend to fall into publishing reasons, since selling your art as commerce in late stage capitalism is fundamentally a numbers game, hooray. That said, I will share that the story, while definitely not neatly tied up with a bow, does come to a natural pausing point, I’d say, though some people think it’s a bit of a cliffhanger.
I’m mostly just really excited for people to get to meet Everen, Arcady, Sorin, and Cassia and the world I created and can’t wait to share it with people. I tried to make the world a fun one where people can fly away into a land of magic and dragons, and I’d like it to live in other peoples’ heads, too.
Now, along with Dragonfall, you also recently put out Seven Mercies, the second half of the Seven Devils Duology. What is that series all about, and when and where does Mercies and the previous book, Seven Devils, take place?
It’s basically Star Wars or Mad Max: Fury Road, but make it gay and murdery. It’s set in a far-future world and stars a ragtag found family trying to smash the patriarchy in space.
Seven Devils and Seven Mercies are sci-fi space opera stories. How, if at all, do you think writing in a completely different genre — science fiction vs. fantasy — may have influenced Dragonfall?
I’d say Seven Devils has more overlap with writing Dragonfall than, say, Goldilocks. Elizabeth May and I still had to make up a whole new universe from the ground up, whereas Goldilocks is set in our world and so I had to extrapolate from that. The technology in Seven Devils is also very fantasy-esque. There’s laser bullets and telepathy and it’s not overly convinced with the scientific underpinning. It basically is “pew, pew, in space.” Like Dragonfall, it’s a sort of classic SFF story updated and given a modern twist.
As I mentioned, Seven Devils and Seven Mercies were cowritten by Elizabeth May. How — again, if at all — do you think working with another writer may have influenced Dragonfall, and how do you think writing with Elizabeth May in particular may have influenced Dragonfall?
Co-writing is a fascinating experience because you really become more than the sum of your parts. The way Elizabeth and I write together is different than how we write separately. We edit over each other until our voices blur. I think we both learned a lot from each other. That series was ambitious in terms of having 5 and 7 point of view characters, respectively, which would have been very daunting if we hadn’t been splitting them. I think that helped me weave in 4 for Dragonfall and in general try and push myself in new directions. Co-writing teaches you to be less precious and to really consider words from every angle, and it’s also a lot less lonely. You have someone just as into the story as you are, which can be a joy.
Earlier I asked if Dragonfall was influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to flip things around, do you think Dragonfall — and, by extension, the Dragon Scales Trilogy — would work as a movie, show, or game?
I’d love it to get a TV show, but as ever, that’s so far beyond my control it feels impossible and too daring even to daydream about. I’d prefer TV or a film as it’d give you more room to really get into the character interactions, but I’m not picky. A film would be amazing. A video game would also be interesting since it’s such a different medium that I don’t have much experience with that I’d likely cede a lot of control and just see what happens.
So, if someone wanted to adapt Dragonfall into a movie or TV show, who would you want them to cast as Arcady, Everen, and the other main characters?
Unfortunately, my brain doesn’t really seem able to link actors to my character particularly easily. I could do it for Goldilocks, strangely, but all the others have been a challenge. I think ideally I’d love for them to cast unknowns so I could have them match the pictures in my head and also launch their careers, which would be really neat.
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Dragonfall?
It plays a lot with language, so if you are a bit of a language geek, you might enjoy it. And if you’d like a fantasy with a much more open approach to gender and sexuality, this might also be your bag.
Finally, if someone enjoys Dragonfall, which of your other novels would you suggest they read while waiting for the next book in the Dragon Scales Trilogy to come out?
I’d go back to my first fantasy, the Micah Grey trilogy, which starts with Pantomime. In many ways, Dragonfall is its spiritual successor. I wrote the bulk of the first one when I was 22, so my writing style has shifted a bit in the intervening 13 years, but I’m still so very fond of it and I miss writing Micah Grey. It’s set in a magic circus in a Victorian gaslamp inspired world, and I had a lot of fun, and I hope you will too if you decide to pick it up.