|The Burning Sea|
|Sean McMullen and Paul Collins|
The Burning Sea is the first in a series. Does the series have an umbrella title? If so, what is it?
It is a six part series called The Warlock's Child, and one book will be published each month between April and September. Dantar is, of course, the warlock's child in the title, but the books are as much about his older sister Velza as they are about him.
- Would you give us a high concept (25 words or fewer) for The Burning Sea?
Dragons control the world's magic, but some powerful warlocks want to share that control. They have something powerful and dangerous that the dragons greatly desire.
- The Burning Sea and its sequels are planned quite specifically for broad market appeal. Will you tell us more about approaching writing with marketing as well as storytelling in mind?
Paul Collins and I do gym together once a week, and being writers the conversation is generally about writing and publishing. One day last September, between lifting weights, Paul and I decided that it should be possible to have a heroic fantasy novel with a strong, exciting plot and characters that appeals to advanced readers, but which is also accessible to reluctant readers. That would add up to a big market.
Paul had a novel on the back burner, and I expanded this by adding the dragons and making Velza a major character. Paul decided to make The Warlock's Child a series of six short novels: six short books are less intimidating than one big doorstopper. The strategy seems to have worked because The Burning Sea has gone into its second print run and the reviewers have loved it.
We deliberately kept the writing uncomplicated and the style humorous, while maintaining a high level of excitement in the plot. There is action every few pages, and in between there is a lot of detail about being a teenager on a sailing ship - I've spent time crewing yachts, which mainly involved pulling on ropes and getting shouted at. The perspective continually swaps between Dantar and Velza, so readers get a broad view of what is happening.
- Since the series is planned to appeal to older children and the YA market, how does Ford Street plan to manage the schedule?
Publishing schedules for children are never easy. We decided to launch the first book early in the school year, so that we could stage promotional events in schools to spread the word. The other five parts will come out monthly, with the sixth book being released in September. This means that all six books will be out in time for the Christmas market.
- Now, how about a character sketch of the main protagonist?
There are two principals, a brother and sister, who share centre stage about equally. They are from a noble family, but they have been made to serve aboard a warship for reasons they do not entirely understand. Dantar is a cabin boy, because that's the only job available to a 14 year old boy on a ship. He provides the ordinary seaman's view of what is happening, and he is mainly concerned with staying alive and looking for a girlfriend until he discovers that he has some truly remarkable powers. Velza is seventeen, and a type of magical officer. Although tough and dedicated, she is a bit insecure and is manic about following rules. She gives us the view from the top, as she advises the captain, dines with the king, and even meets with the leader of the dragons.
- Finally, what time period, fictionally speaking, do you intend to cover in the books?
The period covered in the story arc of the six books is just over two months, but the actual action takes place over a few days. This is because the characters travel about on sailing ships, which are slow - and if they are lucky, not much happens. Between trips, it gets very intense. The Burning Sea takes place in less than 24 hours. The books are already complete and the first four have actually been printed.