I’m ecstatic to interview Michelle M. Bruhn, the author of the wonderfully-written Songflight, for her blog tour. I loved this book so much, so it was pure delight to take a sneak peek into the behind-the-scenes of its making.
About the Book:
As the only child of a dragon slayer chief, Alísa’s purpose should have been simple: lead the clan
in ridding humankind of the dragon scourge. But while gaining respect from hardened warriors
is difficult enough with a vocal stammer, when they learn her empathic powers connect
uncontrollably to the dragon enemy, it becomes impossible.
Confidence shattered, Alísa resigns herself to silent service under her father’s apprentice. But
when her growing connection reveals one dragon’s capacity for good, she realizes the war isn’t
as black and white as the slayers teach. Now Alísa faces an impossible choice: stay with her
family in comfortable but condemning silence, or follow the dragon claiming to know her true
purpose. But if she can’t lead slayers, how on A’dem is she supposed to lead dragons?
1. How did you come up with the idea for Songflight?
I started writing a version of this book about twelve years ago, and that version borrowed heavily from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern. It morphed from basically fanfiction into its own world with themes very near and dear to my own heart, such as empathy, the difficulties and triumphs of communication, and standing up against wrongs even if you are the only one who will.
2. What caused you to give the main character, Alísa, a stutter?
The inspiration started because of the movie, ‘The King’s Speech’ (the story of King George VI and his speech therapist). I didn’t know much about speech impediments before that movie, and after watching it I was curious about the condition.
After a few days of researching to satiate my curiosity, I really wanted to write a character with a vocal stammer, both because I believe in the importance of representation in media (be it race, disability, mental health, etc.), and because this particular disability/differing-ability fit with the one of the book’s themes—giving a voice to the voiceless. After thinking it all through, I decided it made the most sense to give the stammer to Alísa, the MC.
3. What was your favorite part to write?
This is a little depressing, but the scenes with Alísa’s overwhelming dragon empathy. For some reason I can get to that head-space really easily—the sharing of pain, the struggle against emotions that aren’t hers, and the utter loneliness of being the only one to feel it are all things that I can somehow relate to even though it’s very much a fantasy element.
On a lighter note, I also love writing the dreki—little fairy dragon creatures. Their unique communication-style is really fun to play with, as are their mind-sharing powers.
4. Music and song play a large role in this book. Where did that inspiration come from? How easy or difficult were the song lyrics to write?
I’ve been a song-weaver all my life. When I was very little, making up song lyrics came easily to me—there were no inhibitions and I would just make them up and have my stuffed animals sing to each other. Now that I’m older, it’s definitely harder. There’s pressure for my lyrics to actually be good now, haha!
5. What kind of research, if any, did you perform for this project?
I did quite a bit of research for Songflight. There were many small things I just Googled, like how far a horse can travel safely in a day and does cauterizing a wound kill bacteria? Then there were slightly bigger research topics, like Gaelic and Celtic culture (and poetry meters…) and how fast birds of different sizes can fly (so that I could extrapolate and figure out how fast my dragons could fly).
The biggest research topic was definitely speech impediments. Since I myself don’t have one, I knew I had to be very careful with this topic. I read papers from scientific perspectives to find out how and why impediments occur, and I read a book on speech therapy methods so I could learn how Alísa might deal with her blocks. My favorite part of this research, though, was watching YouTube videos from young people with stutters who wanted to help their friends understand what it was like. These Own Voices videos really opened my eyes and heart and helped me get inside Alísa’s head.
6. Which character is most like you? The least like you?
Ooh, most like me is a tie between Alísa and Graydonn. They’re like two sides of me, Graydonn being a slightly wiser version of my outer chill, and Alísa being the emotional core of me that rarely gets out for fear of being hurt.
Least like me is Koriana, though I wish I had more of her in me. She holds tightly to her beliefs and is unafraid to call things as they are.
7. What part of the writing process is your favorite? Least favorite?
Favorite is definitely the second draft, before any but my alpha readers have seen it. First draft is really hard for me because there’s nothing there yet, while second draft is going back and adding in all the cool things I thought of while still in the middle of the first draft.
Least favorite is probably the proof-reading. By the time I proof-read, I’ve already read the book a million times and don’t want to read it again for another year or so thank you very much!
8. What reasons led you to self-publish this book?
I’m a control freak, haha! Though I do want reader opinions from betas and professional opinions from an editor, I want every final say to be 100% mine. I don’t want a publisher to tell me that Graydonn should be a shifter (even though I love shifters in other books!), and I don’t want to be handed a cover that I hate and being told that’s what I’ve got.
I know that those two examples are extreme. And I know that most publishers will respect the author’s desires, especially when it comes to story elements. But I’ve heard horror stories too, and those made my control-freak brain say, “Nope. Self-publishing.”
9. What are your favorite dragon books?
The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli and the Dragons In Our Midst series by Bryan Davis! The former is rather new to me (and is a comp-title for Songflight), while the latter I read in my mid-teens and have loved ever since.
10. Can you tell us anything about the sequel or other writing projects you’re working on?
Right now I’m hard at work on polishing the outline for the sequel, and I’m stoked to start drafting it!
There will be hatchlings galore (dragon and dreki), some fun and awkward romantic fluff, and quite a few more slayers (dun dun DUNNN!).
Songflight comes out August 21st and is definitely worth pre-ordering!
Preorder Here: https://www.michellembruhn.com/buy-links
Click Here for Preorder Goodies
*For the next stop on the tour, visit https://unicornquester.com/blog/.
To Learn More About Michelle M. Bruhn:
Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/readersandsongweavers
Free Short Story: https://mailchi.mp/4ae220da6c4a/songflight-short
Michelle M. Bruhn is a YA fantasy author whose stories focus on outcasts, hard questions, and hope. She is passionate about seeing through others’ eyes and helping others to do the same, especially through characters with diverse life experiences. She finds joy in understanding others, knows far too much about personality theories, and binge-watches TED Talks on a regular basis. She spends the rest of her free time making and listening to music, walking, reading, and snuggling with her cats.