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June 1, 2016

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Meet Tui Sutherland

Reading Club staffer Nicole Adduci is a more than a fan of the Wings of Fire series, she’s a super-fan. She’s regaled her colleagues and friends with updates about the world of Pyrrhia. She’s sorted her friends as different kinds of dragons. (Did you know there are different kinds, including NightWings, SkyWings, and MudWings?) Nicole has even made sure everyone knows when the next book is due to arrive! As you can imagine, she jumped at the chance to interview series author Tui Sutherland—and we were thrilled to eavesdrop on their conversation! 

Nicole Adduci: Let’s talk about dragons! For those readers who aren’t as familiar (obsessed?) with Wings of Fire, tell us a little bit about what’s going on in Pyrrhia these days. 

Tui Sutherland: Well, we’re in between Books Seven and Eight right now. Book Five saw the end of the War of SandWing Succession, so now the dragon tribes are all trying to adjust to a new world at peace, but there are still a lot of grudges and plans for vengeance floating around. The remaining Talons of Peace don’t know quite what to do with themselves. There are three new queens in Pyrrhia, which is great because their predecessors were all pretty terrible…but it’s also precarious because new queens are the most vulnerable to being challenged or overthrown.

So a lot of dragons are moving forward happily, hoping for some quiet peace to live their lives, while others are looking around and wondering how they can maneuver themselves into greater positions of power. And although the war set a lot of tribes against each other, it also saw certain tribes working together like they never have before, so there’s a lot more inter-tribe interaction happening now than in previous centuries. It’s kind of a grand experiment: can dragons from different tribes coexist? (Particularly in the current situation in the rainforest, which is pretty tense!)

Can these new queens and the original five dragonets work together to keep everything steady, or will the simmering resentments all rise up and ruin their plans?

I’m excited about what happens next, and I hope readers are, too!

NA: Was it difficult to say good-bye (sort of) to Clay, Tsunami, Glory, Starflight, and Sunny at the end of Book Five? They’re in an entirely new role at Jade Mountain Academy.

TS: A little, but it wasn’t too hard because I knew we’d keep seeing them, and because the series is structured to give each dragon his or her own book and then wrap up their big emotional journey within that book itself. So although Clay’s story continues, for instance, I felt like he had his most important revelations by the end of Book One. I think all five dragonets are ready to help the next set of dragons with their journeys, even if they aren’t exactly perfect yet (I don’t think they should ever be that!).

NA: Learning about the different dragon tribes is my favorite part of the series. Did you take inspiration from any real animals to give certain dragons certain skills (like SeaWings that can light up like deep-sea fish, for example)?

TS: Yes, absolutely! The RainWings’ secret weapon, for instance, was inspired by something I read about spitting cobras, which really do spray venom out of their fangs—although I made the RainWing venom a bit more deadly. And there was a nature program at a library near me where someone brought in a type of monitor lizard, which in the wild kills its prey by biting it and then waiting for the bacteria in its mouth to slowly kill it. They can smell with their tongues over long distances, and they only need to eat about 12 times a year. I thought this sounded perfect for one of my dragon tribes…the one in the worst shape when we meet them!

NA: As a human, I have to ask—do you think scavengers (as a species, as opposed to just the one-offs we’ve seen so far) ever play a significant role in the fate of Pyrrhia?

TS: That’s a great question—I definitely do think so! There are two species on this planet of equal intelligence, but neither of them realize it about the other. The humans know they’re not at the top of the food chain, but they still think they’re the smartest animals around. And yet it’s usually their dumbest individuals who change the fate of Pyrrhia—like the one who killed Queen Oasis! Hopefully at some point we’ll get to meet a smarter scavenger who can set things on a better course. I’d say there’s hope for interspecies peace at some point…if only the right dragon (someone like Sunny) and the right human (I totally know who she is, but you don’t yet!) can find each other.

NA: Did you have a favorite dragon to write? Was it hard to get so deep into one character’s head only to switch to someone new in the next book?

TS: Usually whichever dragon I’m writing at the moment is my favorite, although I did particularly love getting into Glory and Peril’s heads (for Books Three and Eight, respectively) because they’re funny and much more likely to say what they really think than I am in real life! The hardest switch was from Book Six to Book Seven, because, in Book Six, Moonwatcher can read minds, so I was able to share what almost everyone in a scene was thinking—but then suddenly, in Book Seven, I was stuck with just one character’s thoughts again, and it took me a few chapters into the first draft to readjust!

NA: I think that recurring characters can really round out a world—it’s like seeing an old friend somewhere you didn’t know they would be! Did you know that certain characters—Peril, for example—would be getting their own stories later in the series?

TS: I must admit that every time I add a new character, a part of me thinks, “Ooo! I could write an entire book about this dragon!” Because every dragon is the hero of her own story, after all, and every dragon is on some kind of character journey that could be really interesting to explore. I rarely introduce characters that I intend to completely discard afterwards (unless they die super-fast; sorry, Horizon!). So if I’ve spent more than a sentence describing someone, I’m probably hoping to get back to them at some point, although not necessarily as the star of their own book. I knew I wanted a lot more of Anemone after Book Two, for instance, and I would love to eventually get back to Lynx from Book Seven if I can!

I didn’t know at first that Peril would get her own story, but I got so much fan mail about her after Book One, and I loved thinking about her so much, that I couldn’t resist…after all, she has much further to grow than some of our other heroes!

NA: It’s impossible for us to resist asking: which dragon tribe do you think you belong to?

TS: I suspect I’m a RainWing—I sleep a lot, I think everyone else should sleep more, I would love a pet sloth, and I’m generally pretty mellow, apart from my secret weapon, which I obviously can’t tell you about. ;-) But on the other talon, I’m allergic to a lot of fruit and I love eating chickens, so the RainWings might be a little horrified by me! So if they threw me out I’d probably try the SeaWings or SandWings next. :-)

 

To catch up on the entire series, check your Reading Club flyers or visit scholastic.com/clubs.


 

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November 9, 2015