Fireheart is Vanessa Lanang’s first fantasy novel and it dives into many fun fantasy tropes. We got an opportunity to ask Lanang questions about her latest book and find out what inspired her to write Fireheart.
What made you write a fantasy novel as this is your first one?
Lanang: “I didn’t come into loving fantasy the way I do now. I spent most of my early reading in young adult books in the genre of horror. A lot of my influence comes from Christopher Pike and Anne Rice. And I think some of those darker elements play into some of my character’s personal struggles. I eventually moved into dystopian and urban fantasy before I settled into fantasy as a genre I wanted to write. I loved the idea of building a world that played by the rules I created that wasn’t based on the modern world. And to have the ability to use magic on top of that was the icing on the cake. I also like the urgency of larger stakes that characters have to face in fantasy.”
Why did you choose to write about dragons?
Lanang: “I’ve always thought dragons are wonderful, magical creatures. But from the ones I’ve read, I’ve only seen them in epic fantasy or Arthurian fantasy. So, I wanted to tell them in a different way: different breeds of dragons with different capabilities and dragons that weren’t always ferocious. As I was writing, I was able to explore a way of using them as a vehicle to inform the history in Fireheart of how the lust for power had tainted these creatures’ once gentle existence, much of how greed and power can corrupt our world today. In earlier versions of this story, I had a lot of scientific information about how dragons breathed fire and how their anatomy played into it. As much as I enjoyed exploring that, I eventually edited it out to focus more on the characters’ stories.”
Which books inspired you when writing this book?
Lanang: “I don’t know if there’s any one book that really inspired me to write Fireheart. But I do know that I wanted to write fantasy after reading books by authors like Leigh Bardugo and Laini Taylor; with Bardugo’s wonderful world-building and Taylor’s beautiful prose, who wouldn’t want to write fantasy and create such magical worlds.”
Are you going to write more fantasy novels in the future? What other mythical creatures besides dragons are you fond of?
Lanang: “Fireheart is set up as a stand-alone novel with series potential. I wanted it to have a satisfying ending and not leave the reader on a cliffhanger. But I think it leaves enough unanswered about the world I’ve created for future antagonists to create new challenges for Kaliyah and her friends. A continuation of this story has potential at some point in the future, so there could be more dragons. Another avenue I’ve been wanting to explore is mythical creatures from Filipino folklore. I feel there’s a lot of room for me to explore culturally and give visibility to.”
The book cover jumps out at you with the pastel colors. How did you decide what colors and book cover worked best for Fireheart?
Lanang: “I absolutely love this cover. Franziska at Cover Dungeon did an amazing job. I worked with my publisher on ideas of what covers were current in YA fantasy and what I wanted the cover to evoke. One of the great things about working with a smaller press is how much input I got to add to make the cover come alive. And I think the graphic designer hit the mark with the color palette. Whenever I’m at book festivals or conferences, I have so many readers approach and say how the cover drew them in.”