Fly, Dragon, Fly!

It’s launch week for Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi, and Team Tara is here to get things started off right! Yup, two authors  named Tara have interviewed two women with the initials EM (what are the odds?) about the process that went into selling and editing this beautiful middle grade novel.

We’re also giving away a signed copy of the book (and a bookmark!) to one lucky person who comments on this post by Friday, June 29, so make sure to leave your thoughts at the end!

Now Tara Dairman will kick things off by chatting with Emily Mitchell, who edited the book.

Tara Dairman: While a lot of middle-grade fiction today is high-concept or action-packed, Flying the Dragon tells a quieter, more family-centric story. What about the book appealed to you as an acquiring editor?

Emily Mitchell: The characters really drew me in — fully realized, flawed, sympathetic, and surprisingly funny. Strong characters are key for a quieter story like this one: in the absence of whiz-bang action, you need something to keep readers engaged, and the best way to do that is to create characters that readers want to spend time with. I loved Skye’s self-deprecating humor and Hiroshi’s earnest befuddlement, and I loved how Grandfather was wise and tender without feeling like a stereotype. Natalie and I worked hard to polish some of the plot elements during the editing phase, but the characters were spot-on right from the start.

TD: Did you know much about Japanese culture or kite-fighting before you started working on this project, or was it an educational experience for you?

EM: I read The Kite Runner — that was the extent of my knowledge of kite-fighting. And aside from having some friends of Japanese heritage and knowing I don’t like sushi, I knew very little about Japanese culture before working on this book. The tidbits about the rules of language, for example, were fascinating.

TD: One of my favorite elements of this book is how Hiroshi’s culture shock is expressed through so many specific, poignant, and even funny moments. Do you have a favorite?

EM: When Hiroshi proudly demonstrates his newfound knowledge of American slang by telling his ESL teacher, “That totally sucks.” Definitely my favorite moment in the book.

Thank you, Emily! And now here’s Tara Lazar in conversation with Natalie’s agent, Erin Murphy.

Tara Lazar: What was your initial reaction the first time you read Flying the Dragon? What elements of the story jumped out at you, and what stuck with you? How did you know you wanted to sign Natalie?

Erin Murphy, agent extraordinaire and owner of superdog Lulu.Erin Murphy: When I first read it, Hiroshi was the only point of view character. I really loved Hiroshi, and most of all, I loved his relationship with his grandfather. I love the way I learned so much about Japanese traditions through Hiroshi’s experience with having to learn American ones. Natalie’s manuscript hit that sweet spot that is very hard to find with middle-grade fiction manuscripts: the voice felt true to the age group, the character’s experience unique yet universal, the emotions going deep but tinged with humor, too. Natalie was both wise and enthusiastic when we spoke, and fun to talk with, and incredibly knowledgeable, both about children’s books in general and about the experiences her character had in the manuscript. I sensed we could work well together, and I knew she was committed to working on the manuscript to bring it to a new level and make it even more of what it was. In particular, Hiroshi’s cousin (then called Susan, now called Skye) was screaming to have a bigger voice in the story. Now half the story is hers, and the juxtaposition and overlap of Hiroshi and Skye’s experiences make for such a rich read.

TL: We hear these days that a lot of editors are interested in multicultural fiction. Did that make this book easier to sell? Or did the quiet nature of the story make it harder to market to editors?

EMu: Back when we were shopping the story, “multicultural” was still carrying a bit of negative connotation from years before, when publishers were all producing multicultural folktales that turned out to be spotty sales-wise. The push to publish multicultural stories that reflect the experiences of today’s diverse readers had not really begun in full, not in the way we see now. And Natalie and I have running jokes about the “q-word”; it came up in almost every rejection the manuscript received, I think–but, delightfully, it has also turned up in the shining reviews we’ve seen so far, as a good thing! As always, I hold on to faith that great fiction will find a home and an audience, even if it’s a little harder to find. I think the book is an absolutely perfect fit for Charlesbridge!

TL: What do you think of the cover? How does it visually convey the story that’s inside?

EMu: Oh my goodness, that cover! It made me swoon from the start. That dragon in the sky! Both characters shown, the bicycle giving it a contemporary feel, and yet the whole thing looks timeless. I could not be happier. There’s an extra pleasure in the way this book and EMU Jeannie Mobley’s Katarina’s Wish look side by side on my shelf–both with silhouetted figures, both with similar colors, both so incredibly eye-catching, and both such satisfying debuts.

TL: Why do you think kids and adults should read Flying the Dragon?

EMu: Because it’s a fabulous story! And if that’s not enough, people who have knowledge of Japanese culture will be delighted at its expression here, and those who don’t will learn something of it, and all will see bits of themselves in both Hiroshi and Skye–and very possibly have a good cry, too. And the kite fighting is thrilling!

Thank you, Erin, for that terrific peek behind the scenes!

And what’s a launch party without a door prize? Please leave a comment below for a chance to win an autographed copy of Flying the Dragon. We’ll choose a winner this Friday.

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32 Comments

Filed under Agents, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Interviews, Publishers and Editors

32 responses to “Fly, Dragon, Fly!

  1. Congratulations, Natalie!

    Like

    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Erick! Of all the reviews this book has received, yours is the one that will forever stick in my head (and heart!). Yours was the book’s very first review, and by someone in the book’s intended audience, no less! You are smart and funny and just the kid I hope that every teachers has in his or her class one day. 🙂

      Like

  2. Cynthia Levinson

    Emily’s favorite scene is mine, too! When I read Tara D’s question, I was hoping Emily would mention “that totally sucks!” Not being a fiction writer, I was fascinated by Emily’s comment that, in a quiet novel, characters have to be spot-on, complex, and believable, as Skye and Hiroshi are. And, how fascinating to learn from Tara L’s interview with Erin that, initially, there Hiroshi was THE main character. The alternating characters work SO well. Erin, Emily, and Natalie all did a fantastic editing job. The book is seamless and exactly the way it needs to be!

    Like

    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      It’s funny, Cynthia, because that’s one of my favorite lines, too, and one that was added much later, and only once Skye became a POV character. Thank you so much for your kind words and for being here to celebrate with me, Cynthia. xoxoxo!

      Like

  3. Tara, thanks for the great interview! I love reading about the process – especially the words of fabulous editors and agents. Natalie – I’m thrilled for you. And while I’d love to win an EXTRA copy here, you can bet I’m ordering your book today!!!!

    Like

  4. Hooray, Natalie!!!! I’m so thrilled to see this book making it’s way out in the world. AND I’m thrilled to be having a party to celebrate it! Love, Love, Love this book and it’s characters, and it is so fun to read about its beginnings. Congratulations!

    Like

    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Arigato, Jeannie! Thanks so much for your support over the last year or so–you’ve created such a supportive place here at EMUs Debuts. I’m in the middle of Katerina’s Wish now with my 10-year-old, and LOVING it. Can’t wait to celebrate its launch with you!

      Like

  5. Alexa

    Can’t wait to read it. Congrats to all!

    Like

  6. HOORAY!!! Can’t think of a better reason to celebrate. Welcome, FLYING THE DRAGON! The world of children’s literature is a better place now!!!

    Like

  7. Pingback: Launch week for Flying the Dragon! | tara dairman

  8. I’m lookng forward to reading this book! It was so fun to see it featured in the Indie Kids flyer from my local bookstore!

    Like

    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Thanks, Kristin! I saw the flyer, too, at my local indie–so grateful to Indie Bound. 🙂 Thanks for celebrating with me!

      Like

  9. Looking forward to reading this book! And if I win, I’ll donate it to my friend who is a school librarian — cross my heart. Congratulations, Natalie!

    Like

    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      You’re such a good samaritan! I love it when people donate books to my library. 🙂 Thanks so much! 🙂

      Like

  10. I feel so lucky that I got to read the ARC, and now have my own copy of this beautiful book. It wasn’t until this interview that I realized FTD had originally been told with a single POV. The two characters’ voices played so well off of each other, it was as if this was always the way the story was meant to be told. Happy launch week, Natalie!

    Like

  11. Anytime a book with an Asian main character comes out, I’m thrilled; but add in a cover by my favorite illustrator, Kelly Murphy? Swoon!

    Like

  12. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    Thanks, Liz! I love Wendy Shang’s THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU, and I was honored when one blogger said that Wendy’s book and FLYING THE DRAGON would pair well together for a book club group. And Kelly Murphy–I totally agree that she is amazing. Part of this launch week includes an interview with her this Thursday, so I hope we’ll see you back here! 🙂

    Like

  13. Fantastic interviews! I can’t wait to read this book! 🙂

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    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Thank you, Larissa! I enjoyed reading the interviews, too. Both Erin and Emily are remarkable women and are so good at what they do. Lucky, lucky me. 🙂

      Like

  14. Pingback: Flying the Dragon « Nitz Bits

  15. Congratulations again Natalie! What a wonderful team you have. May you have many, many sales!

    Like

  16. It’s quiet, meaning there isn’t any big time action, but it’s also got a great hook. I love the two perspectives and think it adds so much the book. And two kids coming from different cultures and trying to understand each other was a compelling plot. I think any quiet book that has those elements and great characters will sell. This book is just wonderful.

    Like

  17. Pingback: soup of the day: flying the dragon by natalie dias lorenzi « Jama's Alphabet Soup

  18. Pingback: There Was an Old Dragon, and he’s HERE! | EMU's Debuts

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