Retired from over four decades in a science-based career, author Joyce Hertzoff now writes flash fiction, short stories, novellas, and novels in several genres including mystery, science fiction, and fantasy. She released two books in 2018: So, You Want to be a Dragon, a middle-grade adventure, and Beyond the Sea, book three in The Crystal Odyssey series for a YA audience. You’ll find Joyce on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, as well as her website at FantasyByJoyceHertzoff.com and blog at HertzoffJo.blogspot.com. Read more about Joyce in her SWW interviews for 2015 and 2017, and visit Amazon Central for all of her books.
What is your elevator pitch for So, You Want to be a Dragon?
When three children succeed in turning themselves into dragons to parlay with real ones and protect their town, how can they change back?
How did the book come together?
I honestly don’t recall the spark that ignited this story. I had an image of a teenager selling shellfish and her little sister alerting her to the dragon attack on their harbor town. That’s basically still the first scene in the book. I had to put it together after that. What would they have to do to reason with the dragons? What process would they need? That was all based on the characteristics dragons have. It’s not a long book, so it took less time to write than my novels, but there was a lot of thought and research necessary to bring it together. And then I got the services of the amazing Rik Ty to give me drawings I could use and even a cover design.
Tell us a little about your main characters.
Bekka, the fourteen-year-old first-person POV character, is the responsible one, but she’s caught up in her little sister’s enthusiasm. She also learns during the story that her sister has skills and abilities she’s never known about. Cora is described by Bekka as seven going on forty, full of energy and enthusiasm. She’s the one who comes up with the idea to shape-shift into dragons. Derry, the third of their group, is a next-door neighbor, the kind of boy mothers are wary about. Additional characters include a revered mage, a self-styled shape-shifter, a boat captain, and the girls’ mother, as well as dragons (of course).
What was the most difficult aspect of world building for this book?
Finding ways for the kids to turn into dragons when the shape-shifter failed them, and then ways to turn them back.
What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
I had fun writing the story, and my enjoyment doubled again when I saw Rik’s drawing of the dragons and the kids, both for the cover and the inside of the book.
The Crimson Orb, the first book in The Crystal Odyssey series, follows teenager Nissa on a journey to find the wizard Madoc, her missing magic teacher. The series continues in Under Two Moons with Nissa searching for the source of Madoc’s strange books which leads her to discover secrets about her world and its lost crystal-based technology. What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in book three, Beyond the Sea?
It continues the story of Nissa’s growing awareness of the world she lives in. Traveling beyond the sea to Fartek, she has more new experiences and learns how divided the people of that continent have become since the fall of the artificial satellites a thousand years before. Finally, she and her companions find the source of the strange books Madoc got from a traveler from Solwintor.
Each of the books in the Crystal Odyssey Series takes place in a different part of your story world. How did you decide on the settings for this book?
I wanted it to have a somewhat Asian influence, as opposed to the Scandinavian features of Solwintor and the British feel of Leara. But the setting had to have inherent dangers too, like the chasm and the tigers.
What do you like most about Nissa, the main character in the series?
She is open to learning new things and accepting new people. She’s also a feminist, encouraging other girls and women to take charge of their lives.
What unique challenges did this project pose for you?
I wanted to make Nissa’s experiences different from those in The Crimson Orb and Under Two Moons. I also wanted each group of people to have unique characteristics and knowledge.
How do you meld science with fantasy elements to make this series work?
When I wrote the first book, I referred to it as crystal punk. Rather than electricity powering the machines, everything works using crystals. But they had to focus energy for that to be true. I based part of it on things like crystal radios, and the rest on the characters’ abilities to use their minds to focus the energy all around them. I wish we could do that. Many fantasy stories refer to the ley lines supposed to exist all around the Earth. The energy is strongest at certain places.
You help facilitate online courses for Writers Village University. What do many of the beginning writers you deal with misunderstand about storytelling?
Many don’t know how to bring out the emotions in their characters. That’s part of what engages readers. I struggle with that skill myself. Also a few rely too heavily on descriptions that have nothing to do with the plot or characters.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m working on several projects: the fourth book in The Crystal Odyssey series; a sequel to my award-winning portal novella, A Bite of the Apple; a story about a train disaster that turns out to be apocalyptic (I’m writing the third novel of that series); and an enviro-apocalyptic story about a girl exiled from a domed town.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I’ve also had a few short stories published. The latest story, “A Woman Hobbles into a Bar,” appears in the charity anthology Challenge Accepted.
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.
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