The Dragon of Ynys by Minerva Cerridwen Genre: Clean LGBTQ Fantasy
Every time something goes missing from the village, Sir Violet makes his way to the dragon’s cave and negotiates the item’s return. It’s annoying, but at least the dragon is polite.
But when the dragon hoards a person, that’s a step too far. Sir Violet storms off to the mountainside to escort the baker home, only to find a more complex mystery—a quest that leads him far beyond the cave. Accompanied by the missing baker’s wife and the dragon himself, the dutiful village knight embarks on his greatest adventure yet.
The Dragon of Ynys is an inclusive fairy tale for all ages.
You can currently order The Dragon of Ynys at a lower shipping rate by adding it to your pledge on the Alia Terra Kickstarter. This awesome project presents three short stories by Minerva’s good friend Ava Kelly, featuring dragons and queer representation, both in English and Romanian, with beautiful illustrations by Matthew Spencer. You can add The Dragon of Ynys to your order after selecting your pledge level on the main page, as well as Alanna McFall’s The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus and E.D.E. Bell’s Just Bart, if you like.
Can’t wait that long before you get your hands on The Dragon of Ynys? Then you can, of course, still order it separately via the Atthis Arts website or any other bookseller.
Either way, we recommend checking out the Alia Terra Kickstarter to discover Ava’s magical stories, and the beautiful art which includes Romanian folklore elements! You can add your pledge until June 25, 2021, 2:00 AM CEST.
Violet had heard quite a few stories about dragons and while they didn't agree on most points, all of them mentioned that their kind preferred to live in caves. So without wasting time, he informed the mayor that he had found a clue, and then left her house and the village. He walked all the way to the mountainside and it took no longer than an hour to find a large cave.
As he entered, he wished the dragon had chosen a sunnier day. Cloudy as it was, he could only see a couple of steps ahead, and the darkness beyond made it impossible to know how deep into the rock the cavity went.
He trod onto what felt like thick carpet, and grunted as he stubbed his toe against something hard. A similar growl sounded in answer. For a moment, Violet wondered if echoes could be louder than the original sound, but then there was a rustle and the tinkling of metal against metal.
"Excuse me?" he called.
A black mass moved out of the darkness and two yellow eyes fixed on Violet. "Excuse me, you said?" a deep, reverberating voice asked. "What should I excuse you for?"
"Er..." Violet took a few steps back from the giant, scaly face. "Disturbing you, I suppose. Though actually, I guess that you are the one who owes the mayor an apology."
"An apology?" the dragon repeated. "We are meeting for the first time and you are demanding an apology? Is that how your people say hello?" The creature sat on its hind legs, but its head still towered high above Violet's. It did catch some light now, and he could see the gleam of enormous fangs.
He wondered if this had been a safe plan, but then decided it would be better to just press on. "Fine," he said, "I don't care all that much about the apology. But what I do care about is that the mayor employed me to return her golden chain. I have reason to believe it is in your possession, and I would like to take it back."
"Oh, all right." The dragon sounded rather amused. "I suppose that in a place like your village, that chain really is the only perk of being mayor. Far be it from me to take that joy away."
With a loud tinkle of moving coins, the beast shifted and reached behind itself. Then it dangled the golden chain, hooked on a claw that looked at least as dangerous as the fangs, in front of Violet's face.
"Here you go. Sorry for causing you trouble."
"Thank you." Violet was not exactly an expert when it came to gold, but the chain seemed to be unharmed. "I will leave you to it, then."
"To...being a dragon and doing...dragon things." Violet frowned. "What I meant is, I'll be off, returning this."
"Of course. Have a nice day." Going by the shimmer of its teeth, the dragon was still smiling.
With the chain safely back around the mayor's neck, a council meeting was called in order to decide what to do about the dragon.
"I don't think there is much you can do about it," Violet mused. "I've seen it, and I think it's a little too heavy to simply kick out of its lair. Besides, it's not actually in our village. And it was quite polite."
"But surely a dragon can mean nothing but trouble," one of the two council members piped up. "Perhaps this was only the beginning!"
"We don't know how long this dragon has been living here," the mayor countered. "We've never even seen it fly over Ynys. At least I haven't. Now it has stolen one thing and returned it upon a simple request from Sir Violet. I don't think we have to fear this creature."
So, to Violet's relief, the meeting was over before dinnertime, and the mayor did not assign the village's only knight to go up against the dragon.
Minerva Cerridwen (she/xe) is a genderqueer aromantic asexual writer and pharmacist from Belgium. She enjoys baking, drawing and handlettering.
Since 2013 she has been writing for Paranatellonta, a project combining photography and flash fiction (https://paranatellonta.tumblr.com/). Her first published work was the queer fairy tale 'Match Sticks' in the Unburied Fables anthology (2016). Her short stories have also appeared in Atthis Arts anthologies Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove (2019) and Community of Magic Pens (2020).
For updates on her newest projects, visit her website (https://minervacerridwen.wordpress.com/) or follow her on Twitter (https://twitter.com/minerva_cerr).
Baked goods are an important element ofThe Dragon of Ynys. Do you have an easy recipe you can share?
My easiest recipe is probably that of my oats rocks. They’re perfect for breakfast, or at any other time of day, really.
- 150 grams of sugar
- 50 grams of honey
- 150 grams of ground coconut
- 150 grams of oats
- 150 grams of white flour
- 3 eggs
Mix everything together with a whisk or fork until homogeneous. If the dough is too dry and doesn’t stick together well, you can add a little bit of milk.
Then scoop out balls of dough onto an even baking tray—I use an ice cream scoop for this, as it’s fast and fun to do! Either line the baking tray with baking paper, or use little paper cupcake holders to put the rocks in. (Never put the dough directly on the tray to avoid burned edges.)
Bake the rocks for 10 minutes at 200°C and then lower the temperature to 170°C for another 10 minutes. Enjoy!
Tell us about your favourite cinnamon rolls.
Cinnamon rolls aren’t easily found in stores where I live, so my favourites are the ones I make myself. And even that, I must admit, I haven’t done more than a few times so far! But more will definitely follow.
The recipe I use is an adapted version of Regula Ysewijn’s Kanelbullar, which you can find here on her website. Regula Ysewijn is a member of the jury of Bake Off Vlaanderen, which I love watching every year. I wouldn’t like to compete myself, as it sounds quite stressful to create all those masterpieces in so little time, but I often find inspiration in the intricate recipes and like getting to know the candidates week by week. Regula herself has published several books, like Pride and Pudding and Oats in the North, Wheat from the South (US title: The British Baking Book), focusing both on recipes and their history. It’s great to have a cookbook that you can just sit down with and read front to back!
What is your favorite part ofThe Dragon of Ynysand why?
If I had to choose just one chapter, it would be chapter 5. This is where Sir Violet and Snap sit by the fire at night and finally open up to one another, understanding one another better than they ever have in the decade since they first met. I really loved going into Snap’s history, getting to talk more about dragons in general, and making Sir Violet realise that just because someone is a dragon, that doesn’t mean they’re always brave or invulnerable. The atmosphere of this chapter reminds me of evenings with friends in pandemic-free days, when we could sit outside by the fire and it got late enough that the most personal stories came out. For me, that scenery symbolises a sense of connection and really getting to know each other by sharing stories.
That said, I wrote the entire book after asking myself the question: what would I love to read right now, myself? That’s how I knew I wanted dragons, baked goods, a light tone, and some humour. It turned out to be an adventure that I revised and was lucky enough to get published again last year with Atthis Arts. I learned so much that it feels like the book became a part of me, so at risk of sounding cheesy, the whole book is very close to my heart.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters? Last February I wrote a crossover story with my friend Ava Kelly to celebrate the anniversary of their bookHavesskadi. It features Sir Violet and Snap the dragon, my characters fromThe Dragon of Ynys, and Orsie and Ark fromHavesskadi. Both our books were drafted around the same time, and as they’re somewhat similar—in the sense that both stories are about dragons, based on fairy tale themes, and include an asexual character—it was great fun to celebrate the anniversary by creating something together.You can read this story,Lost in Ynys, for free on Ava Kelly’s website.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters inThe Dragon of Ynys?
The main character is called Sir Violet. He’s in his early thirties at the time of the main adventure, and he doesn’t have a lot of experience with adventures in general. Being the knight of a small, isolated village like Ynys means that he never really had any more spectacular quests than finding someone’s missing handkerchief—and after the dragon arrived, many more objects went missing, but it wasn’t exactly a challenge to figure out where they went. However, Violet generally doesn’t mind that that leaves him more time to relax at home or to enjoy pastries from Juniper’s bakery. Violet lives alone and is aromantic and asexual.
Snap is a huge black dragon who lives in a cave close to the village of Ynys. He’s often amused by the ways of humans, though he also thinks it’s important to be polite, and is ready to offer his help where needed.
Holly is the wife of Juniper, the baker who has gone missing when our adventure starts. She’s known for her patience, and for being able to look very sternly when necessary. She’s better at elegantly sliding off dragons’ backs than Violet is. Holly is a trans woman in her forties.
Juniper is a cis woman and the wife of Holly, also in her forties, and the best baker in Ynys if you ask Violet. Her cinnamon rolls are legendary and her hair is shiny enough to attract Snap’s attention. She’s quite heroic and her weapon of choice is a rolling pin, which I think describes her character perfectly. :P
Where did you come up with the names in the story? The first version of Sir Violet and Snap the dragon was found in a short fairy tale I wrote in Dutch in 2011 for a group of friends. Back then, they were called Ridder Viooltjesblauw and Pootjes. Literally translated: Sir Violet-blue and Paws. I’d chosen those names because they were a little cuter than you’d generally expect of a knight and a dragon, which wouldn’t make them too intimidating for the dragon and the knight to eventually befriend one another. I liked naming the knight after my favourite colour and the dragon after one of the cats of Mrs. Figg fromHarry Potter.
Then, as I recreated these characters forThe Dragon of Ynys, which I would write in English, I felt “Sir Violet-blue” was quite a mouthful and shortened it to “Sir Violet”. This sparked the idea of naming every character after a plant, as it’s always difficult for me to come up with names, and having a direction to think in helped both with the naming process and with figuring out early on what the characters were like. I sometimes consulted the language of flowers in order to fit certain characteristics with a good name or the other way round. And this trick worked even for the dragon: after all, a snapdragon is a flower!
I knew early on that I wouldn’t stick with “Paws”, as it didn’t suit the dragon quite as well in this story as it had done before—but “Snap” was just perfect.
One of the minor characters even got a new name in the 2020 edition, as my editor and I realised that it would make more sense for a character who’d been born in the desert to be named after a plant that grows there.
If you could spend time with a character from your book, who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Snap is a dragon, so he’s always going to win at this sort of questions, I’m sorry. I’d probably just hang out at his cave, perhaps snuggled against his side if he’d agree with that, and chat or drink tea and enjoy some pastries.
But if I had to pick a human character, I think a day with Juniper would be great fun. Not only because of all the baked goods I’d get to taste, but also because I could learn a lot about baking from her, and we’d be guaranteed to have fun since we share a sense of humour.
Who designed your book cover? Ulla Thynell, a Finnish artist who makes truly magical artworks with a fairy tale vibe. You can find Ulla athttps://ullathynell.com/and onInstagram, where she also posts impressive nature photography.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your book? Yes. In terms of skill, I think every writing project makes one a better writer, both through practice and through edits that reveal patterns in our style. But content-wise,The Dragon of Ynystaught me even more. I think the most important thing I realised when working on the revisions for this book was that you can’t decide to accept everyoneexcept yourself. When you’re writing a story about acceptance but you’re still telling yourself that the gender you were assigned at birth has to be “good enough”, that you just shouldn’t think about gender too much… Then it will show in your writing, like it did in the 2018 edition ofThe Dragon of Ynys. I’m grateful that I got the chance to set this right with the help of E.D.E. Bell, who is a wonderful editor and friend. I’m proud of all the small changes in the 2020 edition that make it so much more inclusive and that actually show, if only to myself, how much I’ve grown on a personal level, since my first draft.
The Dragon of Ynyswas published before in 2018. What changed in the 2020 edition?
When the original publisher went out of business, I decided I wanted to revise the story before getting it published again. Through a long, thoughtful review, it had become clear to me that there were several sensitivity issues in the 2018 edition. As the story was not as inclusive as I’d hoped, I wanted to set this right. Certain remarks, especially when characters are talking about keeping a trans child safe, were based on what I had heard myself throughout my life, from people who meant well, but were ignorant on the subject. However, I had originally focused too much on their good intentions and not addressed in the text how they could have done better. Considering that this was the sort of fairy tale that is meant to lead by example, I felt I had to set this right. Working with Atthis Arts was a blessing, as they offered me the chance to work with several sensitivity readers.
I also wrote a complete new epilogue, which addresses the way Violet still becomes friends with a character that introduced herself very awkwardly to him. He actually learns the word “aromantic” on page now—before, it had only been my headcanon that he would find out that there are words for his orientation, thanks to the stories they collect. This epilogue shows more coherently than the old one what I wanted to show about the future of Ynys.
And, of course, another big change is the beautiful new cover, created by Finnish artist Ulla Thynell!
What can we expect from you in the future? I’m going to have a short story titled “The Bound Heart”, co-written with L.S. Reinholt, in queer horror anthologySkulls & Spellsfrom Artemisia’s Axe and the Corpse’s Tongue. Watchthis spacefor news about the Kickstarter they’re launching for the book this month!
I’m also editing a science-fiction novel co-written with L.S. Reinholt.
In terms of solo-writing it’s been a difficult year. I work in a pharmacy and the pandemic didn’t leave me much time to write, but I do have some ideas brewing. I’m thinking about a novella with a genderfluid main character where baking will also be involved… But the details are still secret. Even to me!
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