Spotlight & Author Interview: Heart of Fire + Character Introductions


Heart of Fire

Dragon-mage, #1

by Raina Nightingale

Genre: Epic High Fantasy

Release Date: April 16th, 2023


Camilla has always been told that humans are inferior. They cannot use magic. If they bond to dragons, they will doom the creatures to extinction. She has never believed a word of it. She has always known that she can use magic, and she suspects it is the elves who harm the dragons by keeping them to themselves. Now, she is presented with the opportunity of a lifetime: a dragon’s clutch is hatching and while she will earn the wrath of her captors if she is caught, she has the chance to see a dragon hatch and perhaps even to Recognize.

Kario’s people have feared dragons since time immemorial. When an unrealistically huge black dragon flies in while she is hunting, she is certain she will die. Instead, her life is changed when Nelexi, Obsidian Guardian of Areaer, chooses her as her final rider. Kario takes the name Flameheart, but she is soon homesick and afraid that she is insufficient to be the partner of a god.

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Author Interview:

How did Heart of Fire first come to be? What did it start with?

It was the image of a dragon-rider bond like no other that first inspired Heart of Fire. I was eight or nine years old, had recently learned to read, and I had not yet read any dragon-rider books, but I’d heard of the idea, and I always loved dragons, so I just saw Camilla and Radiance, and I knew their bond was special, that they were close in a way no one else was, and that was why Camilla could telepathically speak to other humans, too (in my world, dragons are telepaths, but can generally only speak to each other and their riders).

Camilla and Radiance’s names were there right from the beginning, too. Though Camilla is pronounced so that the last two syllables rhyme with Vanilla! But it doesn’t matter very much if you don’t pronounce it that way, I don’t care. It matters to me because of my synesthesia, but I really don’t care if readers pronounce her name however it sounds or looks to them.

What surprised you the most in writing Heart of Fire?

It is hard to say for certain, because I have re-written it so many times! And I am finding the latter books in the series to be quite surprising. But I guess probably the most surprising moment in Heart of Fire was when Camilla started thinking about what destiny and freedom mean. I did not intend to write about that, and I don’t even find the kind of debates some people have about destiny and fate and free will to be very interesting most of the time. Fire, they don’t even make sense. Well, then, I’m writing Camilla, and off her mind runs in that direction and it becomes rather a big deal to her, because she is very upset about the possibility that there might be destiny – or even that someone might think there is destiny and that she has a destiny, instead of just being who she is for her own reasons!

What does the title mean?

Originally, the book was called DragonMagic (this is when I was eight or nine) because I always knew that Camilla’s bond to Radiance gave her a unique magic. But then I changed that to Dragon-Mage and made it into the series title, and it has a double meaning because there’s also a newly-created race of dragon shifters who are all mages. They aren’t called dragon shifters in the book, though. They end up being called dragonmages for a little while, and then someone comes up with the idea of calling them ‘were-dragons’ but that’s kind of irrelevant to the title.

But the title of Book One, Heart of Fire could also have been the title for the whole series. It has many layers of meaning. One layer of meaning is that my secondary main character takes the name Flameheart, but even that has layers of meaning in it and reasons. But it’s also called Heart of Fire because, through her bond with Radiance, Camilla has a very deep connection to the Heart of Fire, the sacred flame in the core of Areaer, and that is what makes her magic so unique and powerful. And Nelexi, the Obsidian Guardian, carries a spark of the Heart of Fire inside her. It is a major theme throughout the whole series.

Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?

No. As in, none of the characters are inspired by real people. I don’t do that! I don’t know real people well enough to use them as character inspiration! But I hope my characters feel like real people – they certainly do to me, sometimes running off in unexpected directions, that then when I can look back on it later, make perfect sense.

Do you consider Heart of Fire to have a lesson or moral?

Well, it is about love and anger and freedom, with a focus on non-romantic love, just to be clear! Camilla’s anger comes from her love – for her dragon, her brother, her Mom: but what about when her anger isn’t useful and actually hurts them? What does it really mean to love? What does it mean to be free, and how are freedom and love related? But I would say it is more that it shows the characters’ lives, like real people whose lives and choices are intertwined with these themes, than that it is a story with a moral!

But if you want a quote that sounds like moralistic or like it’s a lesson, here is one.

“It may not be unjust, Camilla, but it is not justice. And all that is not justice will degenerate into injustice.”

But what does the speaker mean by justice? And, are they right? What do you think? See, even here I’m leaving you with a question or two!

What is your favorite part of the book?

Hah! I like the whole thing far too much to have a favourite part of it! That quote I just mentioned is one I really like though – and perhaps my favourite scene is the one depicted on the cover! Or maybe my favourite part is Camilla’s relationship to Radiance, how close they are, and the exploration of what closeness means! Or the Heart of Fire ….

Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

Sylvara, probably. She is (as you may guess from reading the sample) quite unlikable. She’s been an enemy to Camilla all her life, snitching and telling on the other slaves in an attempt to curry favor with the elves, and she’s good at the pity play, at acting all sorry and pitiable, when she doesn’t mean it at all. But then she bonds to a dragon, too, and that empathic, transforming bond must have effects on who she is. She’s a person, with reasons of her own (even if they will never make any sense to Camilla) for the things she did and the things she feels, and she has her own desire for freedom (even if Camilla will never believe it). So that was an interesting and complex balance to write, and in the end I decided to give her a small bit of perspective, to give readers a glimpse into the complexity that is her life. In a lot of ways she is Camilla’s exact opposite, because whereas Camilla is straightforward and forthright in her beliefs and desires, even if she can get confused and have conflicting and complex responses to this, Sylvara’s beliefs and wants are confusing and tangled, even inside of her. It’s really hard to know what the real Sylvara is.

What are your immediate future plans?

Write the rest of the series and publish book two – Scars of Fire – probably in the Fall. We’ll have to see how things go since it’s a bit too far out for me to be really certain about anything, since I am very, very bad at planning! But Scars of Fire does not need a whole lot of work at this point, so I should be able to get it out there sometime this year! Currently, I’m wrapping up writing book three, and I’m pretty sure this series is going to be four books.

Introduction to the Characters:

Camilla is the primary perspective in Heart of Fire. Born and raised as a slave to the Wood Elves, loyalty and freedom are her primary values, and she believes everyone should have the power to defend their own freedom, without being at the mercy of everyone else, with spiritual and mental freedom being by far the most important. She is the rider of Radiance, a golden dragon with a personality and fire to match her own, and she is deeply committed to her brother’s safety.

Lavilor is Camilla’s younger brother. In contrast to her personality, he is quiet and shy, internalizing his experiences, instead of turning to anger. He is deeply devoted to his sister and wants her to be happy, and is the rider of young Sleet, a silver dragon as compassionate as he is.

Sylvara is Camilla’s hated enemy, more hated even than many of the Wood Elves, for currying their favor at her own expense, and those of others she knows. Unfortunately they are now stuck together, between Sylvara also desires freedom and chased Camilla when she fled, and neither can make their way through the dangerous territory before them alone.

Kario Flameheart comes from the Plains of Zharda, and a people protected from many of the atrocities that haunt the world by the Goddess of Storms and the Sun. Chosen by Nelexi, Obsidian Guardian of Areaer, she has had to leave her home, because her people cannot accept dragons. Nelexi really just wants her final rider to be her friend, but Flameheart struggles with the feeling that she is insignificant and merely a liability with no powers or helpful abilities in a war between ancient gods.

About the Author:

I (Raina Nightingale) have been writing fantasy since I could write stories with the words I could read (the same time that I started devouring books, too). Now I write “slice of life” and epic dawndark fantasy, for fiction lovers interested in rich world-building, characters who feel like real people, and spiritual experiences. I think giant balls floating in space can have the same magic that fairytales teach us to look for in oak trees and stars. I have a lot of universes and while not all of them have giant balls floating in space, most of them have dragons of one sort or another!



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