Campbell River-based author Kristin Butcher is exploring a new genre with her latest series of books.
Butcher has been writing books for young adults and teens since 1997, but this is her first time experimenting in the fantasy genre. The trilogy starts with The Druid and the Dragon, launching on Oct. 15, and is set in Ireland in the year AD 1000. However, the reader does not explicitly know when or where it takes place. Butcher wanted to keep the book set in the real world to ground it in reality, she says.
“If you’re building such a world that is unknown to anyone, then there are so many pitfalls to fall into. You’re going to get caught up all over the place because you’re not picturing the world as it is,” she said. “I think the reason that I don’t like a lot of fantasy or science fiction is because they’re so far out there. The names that they give things are unpronounceable even when you read it. I was OK with writing this because basically it’s grounded in a reality that most of us can relate to.”
That did not stop her from exploring the new territory. The Druid and the Dragon follows a 13-year-old girl named Maeve who has been seen as a misfit for her entire life. Maeve meets a druidic seer one day who informs her that Maeve has a special gift, which changes her entire life. On her adventures, Maeve also meets a dragon who tells her the land is in grave danger and Maeve is the only one who can save it.
“She’s going to have a big decision to make down the road,” Butcher explained. “That’s basically what the first novel is built around. The entire trilogy is focusing on her journey to find out who she really is.”
With the book set in the real world, Butcher knew it was important to ensure that the details were accurate. With the help of historical fiction author Jack Whyte, she was able to go through the book and pick out little details that were not quite historically accurate.
“It’s an interesting thing, because things that you don’t even think about turn out to be important,” she explained. “For example, in my initial draft of the story I had the old seer sucking on a pipe, and [Jack] said ‘Nope, they didn’t do that then.’ That was taken out then. It makes you feel better when you know that things are fairly true.”
Butcher also grounds the reader by writing in traditional Celtic rituals and bringing them to real places in medieval Ireland like Newgrange, an ancient site that has significance in the book.
While working in isolation is ideal for a novelist, getting the word out about the book has proven more difficult than usual in 2020. Typically, Butcher would hold events and book signings, but this year she has had to do things a bit differently. One way she has managed to keep interest up in the book is through her social media platforms. Butcher is also an artist, and she has been doing daily sketches of characters and scenes in the book and posting them to her Instagram and Facebook pages to drum up excitement for the book.
“They’re drawings of the characters and things from the story,” she said. “I do those very quickly, they’re like 15-minute sketches. Each day I’m putting a sketch up on Facebook and Instagram and explaining who the character is from the story. It’s garnering interest.”
Also in the lead up to the book’s Oct. 15 launch, a part of the proceeds from pre-orders will be donated to a youth human rights non-profit called Equitas.
“In the story, my main character Maeve is an outcast. She doesn’t fit in. Part of the theme for the book is more about inclusivity. It fits with that charitable group. Until Oct. 15, anyone who pre-orders the Druid and the Dragon, five dollars from each purchase goes to Equitas to help them in their program.”
The book is available for pre-order and will be sold at Coho Books, as well as other online retailers.