This novel was written after completing the 635,000-word Earth Heart epic – currently unpublished. My publisher accepted book one of Earth Heart, but we later decided that starting with The Dragon was more practical for a debut book. The timeline for Earth Heart is uncertain for now.
The Dragon in My Back Yard deals with an unhappy 11-year-old, angry because he is ignored by his parents. This has no relation to my upbringing. I’m not going to say I didn’t have conflicts with parents and siblings on occasion, but I consider it to be normal familial relationships – in fact, better than many. My parents were married for 64 years and I had three siblings – also different from the novel.
We lived in a typical one-story suburban house (see photo 1) with a modest lot. No mansion. When I was about 12, my dad (with help from a lot of relatives!) bought 90 acres near Lanesville, Indiana. Only ten acres were tillable, the rest was forest (see photo 2). Dad named it Heinzesite because it was on Heinze Road and he was a master wordsmith.
Throughout the early to mid-1970s, we put in over a mile of trails through the woods. We camped until a great aunt took pity on us and bought a used mobile home. That became our second home. We didn’t keep livestock out there, so our visits were mostly on weekends until school was out.
Like Josh in The Dragon, I had friends out at the farm all the time. We played and explored. (And unlike Josh, worked the gardens…) You will see those experiences reflected in the vivid setting descriptions. The fun that Josh and his friends have including swinging on grape vines, getting into persimmon fights, and exploring the landscape (see photos 3-5). (We also threw overripe cucumbers at each other and up in the air to watch them explode on impact.) The sounds and scents of the forest, crunching of leaves underfoot, and birds in the trees are also what makes being in the woods so relaxing.
As to the ideas behind the trouble Josh and Yu (the dragon) get in, well, that is due to my fertile imagination. Perhaps it’s fertile because I’m a long-time organic gardener – but maybe not. For novels I’m a pantser – the story writes itself. I have a general plan for the story arc but not the details. Things that happen to Josh and Yu aren’t pre-planned. As the story flows, I make choices.
Josh’s big sister is a girl with her nose in the air. She has no interest in nature and would rather party, wear designer clothes and jewelry, and live large. My daughter Emily encountered children of privilege when working with a polar bear preservation organization. They were riding in a Tundra Buggy to see live polar bears near Churchill, Manitoba and didn’t give a whit about them. They just wanted to party!
Are there any future novels beside the Earth Heart series? I have no plans to create a book two for The Dragon in My Back Yard. I do have two sci-fi novels on the back burner. One is nearly complete, the other is just a few chapters in.