Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Blog Tour Guest Post + Giveaway: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

Please join me in welcoming author Marie Brennan to Let Them Read Books! I have always had a fascination with dragons, so the moment Tor invited me to be part of the blog tour for Marie's newest novel, A History of Dragons, I did a little happy dance. And then said yes, of course! I was smitten with the book and my review will be posted here tomorrow, but today I've got this awesome guest post from Marie and a giveaway for my awesome readers!

Without further ado, here's Marie!

Ahhh, pulp adventure. It’s so fun, and yet such a mess.

It was never a respected corner of publishing, even when respectable authors were working in it. The whole idea of pulp magazines was that they were cheap, disposable entertainment, not worth the time or money or attention of more reputable literature. Sometimes that judgment was fair (the vast majority of pulp fiction sank without a trace), and sometimes it wasn’t--witness the classics of the genre that still get attention even today.

What has lasted, above and beyond even the few individual figures who survived, is the energy. The pulps were gonzo, before gonzo was a thing. Sure, you may search a given story in vain for even a shred of something resembling logic--but who cares? If the author did his (or more rarely, her) job right, the story is wall-to-wall spectacle, with more plot twists than you can shake a typewriter ribbon at. And out of that frantic dance came a whole host of tropes that we use even today.

I made a list of those tropes, when I set out to write this series. See, my previous project, the Onyx Court, was serious, deeply-researched historical fantasy, full of intrigue and as historically plausible as I could make it. Switching to Isabella’s memoirs was a major gear shift. Thirty thousand words into A Natural History of Dragons, I was trying to figure out how to arrange for Isabella to obtain some information. I imagined her overhearing a conversation, asking roundabout questions . . . no. What I needed was SMUGGLERS. And MYSTERIOUS FIGURES IN THE NIGHT. In short, I needed to cut loose from the part of my brain that said, “but, but, but, how?” and go for things that were shiny.

Illustration from the book by Todd Lockwood
Of course, that doesn’t mean leaving logic behind entirely--because these days, our standards for pulp adventure are a good deal higher. The rampaging sexism and racism and other prejudices of the classic pulps aren’t exactly attractive anymore; I’m not going to toss in a cannibal race or have anybody worshipping Isabella as a goddess, to pick two examples, no matter how iconic those tropes are. Figuring out how to use the furniture of the genre without falling into more subtle iterations of those problems is also a challenge.

But even with those considerations in mind, this project is sheer fun. Things on my list of tropes that I can use: ancient ruins, booby traps, undeciphered languages, mystical curses, hostile environments, dangerous animals, near-death experiences. (Is it wrong of me that I’m fond of giving my characters diseases like malaria and yellow fever?) Other things, which would be spoilers to mention here. When I find myself not sure where the plot should go next, I can look over my list for some new element to chuck in. It keeps the energy high, and makes me eager to get to that next shiny bit.

I don’t claim to have fully replicated the gonzo enthusiasm of the pulps. But I hope I’ve done something even better: welding that enthusiasm onto a more solid base. Failing that, I hope at least to entertain. It is, after all, what the pulps did best.

Thanks, Marie!
Aren't you guys even more psyched to read the book now? A Natural History of Dragons is on a blog tour! Click here to read an excerpt and click here to visit Marie Brennan's website!

And now for the Giveaway!

Thanks to Tor, I've got a copy to give away to one of my lovely readers! To enter, please leave a comment about this guest post or about your own love of dragons (with your email address)!

This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada and ends at 11:59pm, Friday, March 8, 2013. Winner will be selected at random. Thanks, and good luck!

This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected.
Stay tuned for more great giveaways!


  1. This book sounds so good to me and I really enjoyed the guest post. I absolutely love seeing an author's "method behind the madness." There is so much thought that is put into a really good story and it's fascinating to see where an author is coming from when writing a book and how they put all of the different pieces together (whether they be from a certain genre such as pulp or otherwise). It's really like getting a behind the scenes look at a book!


  2. I tend to be such a realist about what I read, have only recently added a bit of fantasy or paranormal, but this sounds very intriguing. Thanks for the giveaway.

  3. Thanks for this great feature which is fascinating and unique. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  4. This compelling book and wonderful post are captivating and special. What a lovely giveaway. thanks. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  5. I like a book that challenges the characters with disease. And a little cannibalism isn't all that bad - and it could lead to disease (double winner!). Thanks for the chance to win. I follow via email: nrlymrtl at gmail dot com

  6. Thanks for the homage to pulp fiction. There is a certain amount of it that does deserve respect and many of our best writers came though that door into the world of "respectable" literature. I'd love to win a copy of "Natural History" thanks for offering a copy. I am a loyal email follower: carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

  7. I love dragons and obviously, fantasy genre. :D

    -Len of Musings of a Reader Happy

  8. sounds intriguing enough, would be great to get out of my comfort zone.
    ehc16e at yahoo dot com

  9. Dragons are cool! Definitely like them in "Game of Thrones" !!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    mestith at gmail dot com

  10. Aw man, I used to be so obsessed with dragons (and still am, to a lesser extent). This sounds like a great take on the dragon book- I love the realism and psuedo-Victorian feel, and it sounds like a really great departure from the typical swords-and-sorcery types :)
    aircdrewood at gmail dot com

  11. I find dragons so interesting and would like to learn more about them. The illustrations I've seen from this book are stunning! I think I'll see dragons in a different light here.


  12. Okay, I was intrigued by A Natural History of Dragons before, but now I really want it. I love some pulp adventure, and it's been a long time since I've had it. Thanks for the opportunity to win!

    pherlaithiel (at) gmail (dot) com

  13. I have heard some of the buzz around this book and honestly I was intrigued from the first murmurs of this book....I really really want to read this, especially now after reading your guest post! I love dragons because they are a mixture of beauty and danger. The paper thin wings, the marble like eyes, the iridescent scales....I just love them and I especially love them in fantasy lit. I would love to win this giveaway! My email addy is: thelitbitch [at] me [dot] com

  14. What a coincidence! First they show the "I Love Lucy" episode with Lucy in Scotland and a dragon. Next a Dragon book giveaway! denannduvall@gmail.com.


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