Part way through the development of The Last Dragon Chronicles, one of my editors (I had five over the course of the series) suggested we might think about writing a prequel to The Fire Within. This had a lot of appeal for me, because I would be able to explore the life of the Pennykettle women in much more detail, before David entered their house. But try as we might, Jay and I just couldn’t come up with a narrative that worked. Then one of us (probably Jay, she has all the best ideas) suggested that rather than write one novel, we should instead create a series of much shorter, illustrated books that would each tell the story of one of Liz’s dragons, some we knew from the Chronicles and some we didn’t. Each story would stand alone, but if they were read in sequence they would cumulatively lead up to David’s arrival.
My UK publisher liked the idea. We told them we wanted to write sixteen books, the last of them being about Gadzooks. Sixteen might have seemed an ambitious target, but the stories were quick to write and fun to develop. And some of the other series on my publisher’s list stretched way beyond sixteen titles. So they commissioned the first four and we duly delivered them. We had a wonderful illustrator, Adam Stower, who gave the covers their signature look. And everything looked rosy – until my publisher decided to cancel the series. To this day, no one has ever given me a satisfactory reason why. And I still can’t tell you now. I can only think that people were confused about where the books sat in relation to The Last Dragon Chronicles, which had moved into deeper, darker waters by then, and that made them difficult to sell. It hurt all the same. To say Jay and I were heartbroken is an understatement. I strongly believe that if The Dragons of Wayward Crescent had been allowed to run their complete course and been given a proper foothold in the market place, they would have been incredibly popular then and now. I have never heard a bad word said about them, other than the odd gripe when people discover they are younger in feel than the Chronicles, which is kind of obvious if you look at the covers. We still love them. And when we eventually get the rights back, we might well publish the missing ones ourselves.
These books are great for young, developing readers, especially if they like clever, charming dragons. My favourite of the four is the last one, Grabber. (The stray cat that turns up at the end – that’s Bonnington.) Number five would have been about Liz’s house dragon, Gwillan, and there would have been a very mysterious one about Gretel, too. Only the first two books (Gruffen and Gauge) were published in the US, but you can find all four UK editions online.