In this week’s Issue 045 author interview installment, Gabrielle Roselynn Dina talks with us about all kinds of fairy tale goodness in regards to her story “The Dragon Hunter’s Daughter.” It’s sure to add a little enchantment to your Tuesday!
LSQ: This story takes place in such a rich world that could easily fill up an entire novel. What are the challenges in keeping stories like this in short form? How do you know which worldbuilding details to include or leave out?
Gabrielle: The details of the actual world in the “DHD” were easy to limit because I decided early on that I wanted this story to reflect on how classic fairy tales are often constructed, with referential naming, the significance of numbers, etc. One of the tropes that goes along with that is the setting is a small village in a far off land in a vaguely antiquated time period, all of which are never explicitly named, so following in the footsteps of this trope really aided me in not getting pulled off into tangents that would only service the building of the world, and not the actual story.
The hard part came in when I was actually writing the lives of Meralda and her family. So many things about the lineage and purpose of Dragon Hunters were left as a mystery, but I could’ve written for days on their history, as well as the contemporary life of Meralda’s family. As I was writing I just kept reminding myself that the crux of the story centered on the relationship between Meralda and her father: not her sisters or her mother, not her potential love-interest in the future, not even the mysterious lineage of her family. Keeping the true core of the story in mind while I wrote helped me to include little tidbits of the other things without getting swept up in them, which was admittedly sometimes very difficult.
LSQ: What was your favorite part about writing this story and why? The most difficult?
Gabrielle: Meralda’s conversation with the dragon was by far my favorite part to write. The dialogue between the two of them came so naturally, and I would’ve loved to write pages and pages more of just the two of them talking, if I thought I could get away with it.
The most difficult section to write was the intervening time between when the Dragon Hunter vanished to when Meralda found the dragon in the cave. It’s a lull in the action, and I struggled with finding the right balance between giving the story enough rest time without letting it drag on too much. That section underwent the most revision because it took a few tries to finally get that balance right. A big thank you is necessary to give to my poor long-suffering, put-upon mother, who read each and every version several times over to help me whittle down what was originally a boring slog of a passage into something more coherent and entertaining.
LSQ: The beginning of this story hints at events in Meralda’s future. Do you plan on exploring more of her story?
Gabrielle: At first, I didn’t plan on expanding this story at all; I thought it worked well as a one-off piece with enough mystery left that the reader could imagine what happens next for themselves. However, my father has always pushed for an expansion of the storyline (he’s very invested in the possible future romance between Meralda and the knight), and lately I have been entertaining the idea because there is so much more I could explore in this world. Romance would definitely be a part of it, but an unexpected reunion between all three sisters would also be high on my list of priorities. I’m also incredibly curious to delve into the backstory of Meralda’s mother, who definitely knows more about the Dragon Hunter than she lets on. So, short answer: yes, I’d love to come back to this story and expand on it in a few years. There’s definitely room for more adventure.
LSQ: Who and what inspires your writing?
Gabrielle: The inspiration for this story can definitely be summed up by the “write what you know” rule, and one of the things (or people) I know best is my father. “The Dragon Hunter’s Daughter” was originally just meant to be a birthday gift for my dad, with the Dragon Hunter as a fictionalized representation of him. I tried to include as many of his loves and interests as possible: dragons being the main one, but also wizards, The Crocodile Hunter, The Hobbit, Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor on Doctor Who – I even managed to squeeze in a Babylon 5 reference or two. The other elements were inspired by inside jokes between the two of us, and special phrases that mean a lot to us. One of the quotes that’s had a special place in my heart for years is “I love you as meat loves salt,” from the English fairy tale “Cap-o’-Rushes”, and it’s one of those phrases that has a special meaning for both my dad and me, ever since I discovered it in a fairy tale anthology of father-daughter stories, and it certainly had the strongest influence on the direction and shape of the story as I wrote it. I often joke that most of my short stories are “memoir fiction,” but this story has by far been the most personal, and close-to-life story I’ve ever written.