Dragon Scale Lute (Legends of Tivara, Daughter of the Dragon Throne Book 1)
By JC Kang
Publication Date: March 2, 2016
Genre: YA, Adventure, Fantasy
Had she lived when the power of music could still summon typhoons and rout armies, perhaps Cathay’s imperial court would see the awkward, gangly princess as more than a singing fool. With alliances to build and ambitious lords to placate, they care more about her marriage prospects than her unique abilities.
Only the handsome Prince Hardeep, a foreign martial mystic, recognizes her potential. Convinced Kaiya will rediscover the legendary but perilous art of invoking magic through music, he suggests her voice, not her marriage, might better serve the realm.
When members of the emperor’s elite spy clan– Kaiya’s childhood friend and his half-elf sidekick (or maybe he’s her sidekick?)– discover mere discontent boiling over into full-scale rebellion, Kaiya must choose. Obediently wedding the depraved ringleader means giving up her music. Confronting him with the growing power of her voice could kill her.
Q&A with the Author
1) Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I’m of Chinese descent, born and raised in the former capital of the Confederacy with a huge chip on my shoulder. I grew up disconnected from my ancestral heritage, with one foot rooted in geekdom and the other in hip hop and skateboarding. I later lived in Asia, and now work as an acupuncturist and Wing Chun Kung Fu instructor. I’m married with two daughters and a Rat Terrier who rules the house.
2) Where and when did your writing journey begin?
That foot rooted in geekdom included teenage years playing Dungeons and Dragons and reading fantasy/sci-fi novels. At the time, I wanted to be an author, even though I didn’t have a unique idea in my head. Twenty-some years later, I was cleaning out stuff from my mom’s house and came across my fantasy world. I laughed at what my fourteen-year-old self had created (that is, stolen from my favorite novels, minus insignificant details like gravity, climate, and supply and demand), and spent the next six days reimagining the world.
On the seventh day, I rested. In that moment of deep contemplation, I realized I would never play Dungeons and Dragons again. Instead, I started writing stories in hopes that my fourteen-year-old self wouldn’t think I was such a loser.
3) Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing?
The famous names include: George RR Martin for his stupendous world building and plotting; Hickman and Weiss for the chemistry between their characters; Jacquelyn Carey for the way her characters grow and collect mementos.
More important are the lesser known (for now) authors in my critique group: JC Nelson (Urban Fantasy), who explained how to describe without weighing down the pace; Kelly Walker (YA Fantasy and NA Romance), who always wanted to know what my characters were thinking and feeling; Victoria Van Tiem (Rom-Com), who taught me to layer actions, thoughts, and observations in the narrative; Ernie Laurence (Epic Fantasy), who basically schooled me in the nuts and bolts of fiction writing; and Pam Godwin (Dark Erotica), who creates sympathetic characters with compelling narrative voices (and kinky sex habits).
4) What does a typical day in your life look like? And how does your writing routine fit into your day?
Between treating patients and teaching, I work from 8:30 am to 9pm. However, I enjoy large gaps, like a three-hour lunch break. That’s where I get a lot of my writing done, unless the weather is awesome or Facebook is working.
5) How did you come up with the idea for your novel?
The Dragon Scale Lute is the prequel to the prequel of the first book I wrote: True Colors of Betrayal. In that first hot mess, which needed five revisions to become fit for human consumption, Kaiya is already a poised master of musical magic. I worked backwards as I learned the craft of writing, with Kaiya un-growing like Benjamin Button. Since I knew where she’d end up, the Dragon Scale Lute became her origin story, where she’s an awkward girl just discovering her abilities.
6) What do you think sets your novel apart from others current on the shelves?
It’s a multicultural epic fantasy, where different historical ethnicities share a world with elves, dwarves, orcs, and a dragon. Each ethnicity has a unique culture and own sphere of magical mastery. For example, “East Asians” evoke magic through artistic endeavor, and “Native Americans” can use shamanic magic. Plus, each book has at least one surprise, where if you look back, you’ll see that all the hints were there the whole time.
7) Which character in your book is your favorite and how much of yourself is reflected in that character?
The half-elf spy Jie (“jyeh”) started off as a minor character, but became the favorite of my early readers and crit partners. As I wrote more, I fleshed out her history and origins, and the larger series became her story—even though she still plays second fiddle throughout.
If anything in her is similar to me, it’s her narrative voice. She’s sarcastic, holds grudges, and has a quip for every occasion.
8) Which scenes in your book did you have the most fun writing?
As a martial artist, I always enjoy writing combat (but I’ve learned to simplify and avoid being to technical). However, in Dragon Scale Lute, the scenes where Kaiya makes connections to the magic of music were the most fun to write. In a way, it was like reliving the wonder of learning something new, and the impact it had on others around her.
9) What do you hope for your readers to take away after reading your book?
I hope they can enjoy a non-Western fantasy setting, and perhaps go seek out more offerings of the same.
10) What are your hopes for this novel?
Of course, I hope it will be wildly successful and traditional publishers and Hollywood studios will be knocking at my door for the rights. Realistically speaking, if it does even half as well as my published crit partners’ works, I’ll be happy.
11) What do you have in store next for your readers?
Dragon Scale Lute is the first in a four-novel series, which I’ve been working on for about six years. I also plan three more series that take place in the same world, which peels off more layers to the story until the final twist is revealed. The half-elf Jie serves as the glue that holds them together.
About the Author
A Chinese Medicine Doctor and Martial Artist by trade, JC Kang would have never started writing fantasy stories save for two fluke coincidences.
In the Christmas of 2010, while cleaning out childhood junk from his mom’s house, he came across his old Dungeons and Dragons campaign world. Before relegating the binder of maps and notes to the trash where it belonged, he decided to peek back and see what his 13-year old self had created.
He couldn’t help but laugh at the silly ideas that had crossed his teenage brain. Rivers flowed uphill. Empires produced resources out of thin air. However, a few interesting premises had potential.
For the next six days, he redesigned his world, taking into account things he’d learned over the last 25 years. Advanced stuff like gravity, evolution, and supply and demand.
On the seventh day, he rested. Looking at his glorious creation, he was hit by the realization that he’d never play D&D again.
A month later, the second event occurred: three weeks of major snowstorms. Stuck indoors for days at a time, he used his skills as a professional technical writer and pumped out a 120k word novel set in this world… only to find out that fiction writing and technical writing were two different beasts.
He set off to study the craft, and learned advanced ideas like characterization, point of view and tension. After revising the first book, he wrote a prequel. After the prequel, he wrote a sequel. And finally, he wrote the prequel to the prequel: the Dragon Scale Lute.