OneKind recently caught up with leading children's author Lucinda Hare, a long time supporter of OneKind. Her latest book Flight to Dragon Isle is the first work of popular fiction to use the term onekind as an explaination of the natural bond between humans and animals.
At the heart of your books is the relationship between Quenelda and the dragons. How important do you think it is that people appreciate the human/animal bond?
The animal/ human bond has been at the core of our existence on Earth since mankind stood upright; we have been living together for thousands of years. We are intricately linked both spiritually and physically to animals, although the dynamics of the relationship have radically changed in the last century. In the not too distant past, our survival was literally and visibly linked to the rhythms of nature and the animal world. There was no divide. We knew and understood animals and our environment, and depended upon that detailed knowledge for clothing, food, agriculture and transportation. That interdependence defined our perceptions and relationships with animals. We never took more than we needed, and gave back when we could.
Since the advent of modern transport and the industrial revolution which heralded the onset of urban living, that link has been weakened or severed entirely with the exception of companion animals. This relationship is far deeper and more profound in its consequences than the name ‘companion’ implies. Our bond with them is subtle and complex, but there is no doubt that they improve our quality of life. Companion animals provide unconditional love over their lifetime. They combat isolation and loneliness. They are sensitive to mood and distress, giving us comfort and improving our health. They welcome us home, and protect us when we sleep. Dogs give us eyes when we cannot see, ears when we cannot hear, and smell what we cannot, from drugs to IEDs. Animals are true and unstinting companions who enrich our lives and bring us joy. Without this human/animal bond, our lives would be greatly diminished.
Do you believe there are serious consequences for all of us if more is not done to restore that bond?
The Earth’s ecosystems and resources are coming under threat by excessive human exploitation, and sadly animals are no exception. More and more of us exist in cities, many of them unimaginably huge, and many have lost our link with the natural world. In our consumer-based society, the millions of products and processes that come together to provide us with what we want whenever we want, are invisible. A tiny percent of us are engaged in raising cattle, sheep, hens and pigs. Few see the cycle of life and death of the millions of domesticated animals that feed us, so many of us no longer know where our meat, dairy and vegetables and clothes come from. Thus the cost to animals is unseen and unknown, and to be brutal, many no longer care, even if that price is appalling cruelty (for example the fur industry) or extinction. The majority of us will never see inside an abattoir, an animal transport or a living animal being skinned in China for its fur, and are more than comfortable to maintain the status quo.
In our consumer-driven society, it is today and not tomorrow that counts. We have become dangerously rash and complacent; taking the view that ecosystems, their resources and the creatures that inhabit them exist solely to provide for our many needs, with no thought to the cost. They are ‘just’ animals. ‘Just’ is a dangerous word, used to justify appalling cruelty. Animals suffer daily both directly and indirectly because of this exploitation; whether it be intensive farming for food, sport, entertainment, deforestation and habitat destruction, pollution, the fur industry or vivisection; their suffering ignored and unheard by the ignorant majority. Legislation where it is passed, is often implemented on a short term basis is for short term gain, constrained by powerful lobby groups and industries with barely a nod to the future. We need to rethink our role, to do away with the idea of ‘ownership’ particularly where it applies to companion animals, and replace it with stewardship. But this will only be achieved by an increased awareness of our environment and the realisation that we, our fellow creatures, and our one Earth, are a single living entity linked in a myriad of subtle and symbiotic relationships, each impacting upon the other. If we do not restore the symmetry and balance of nature and the human/animal bond by recognising that nothing is infinite and that we have a great deal to learn from animals, our legacy will be bleak indeed.
What led you to choose dragons, were you deliberately choosing animals that were ‘larger than life’ or fantastical?
Choosing dragons was an easy choice because these magical creatures live in the imagination of every child on the planet. All over the world legends and myths of dragons exist. Dragons are dinosaurs with wings, and we know dinosaurs existed, so why not dragons? So, no matter where a reader lives, and no matter the animals they have as pets or have as working animals, or even if they have no pets at all, they can conjure an image of a dragon in their mind. This way no-one is left out of the story.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for the dragon characters - are the personalities of the animals you live with and have rescued reflected in any of the dragons?
All the dragons are based upon our furry four legged family. Two Gulps and You’re Gone is based upon our huge ginger cat Rufus. He is temperamental and difficult. Hugely intelligent, he came to us seriously overweight, having been in care for four and a half years. And he loves his food too, so he has a lot in common with Two Gulps Too Many, the overweight fledgling Sabretooth below who Quenelda meets in Flight to Dragon Isle.
Gentle little Chinook inspired Root’s dragon Chasing the Stars, and the rather bad tempered battlegriff I’ve Already Eaten was inspired by our elderly cat Peppercorn, otherwise known as Grumpy Granny. Stormcracker Thundercloud III, the Earl’s fierce loyal battledragon, echoes many characteristics of Puzzle, a wonderful black cat who shared our home for many years.
Pictured: Quenelda and Two Gulps and (below) Lucinda's cat Rufus. Spot the similarity?
Having grown up in a rural environment how would you say your own attitude towards animals has changed over the years?
My passion for animals hasn’t changed; if there is a single childhood memory that defines me it is my love for all living creatures, and the realisation I could never be a vet because I cannot distance myself from the injured and ill. (I wept buckets over rabbits afflicted with myxomatosis and the fact we had deliberately engineered such a disgusting disease to remedy our own mistakes.) But my understanding of animals, my awareness of how we treat them, that has undergone a sea change. So my heart hasn’t changed, but my head has.
Your first two books form part of the Dragonsdome Chronicles, and this book seems darker than the first book in the series. Do you think it’s important for children to understand that life is also about darkness and complexity?
Flight to Dragon Isle is intended to show young readers the darker side of our relationship with animals, as well as to convey that few things are wholly black or white; rather that human and human/animal relationships are complex and subtle, and that even out of tragedy something new and good can be born.
Do you have future stories worked out fairly solidly in advance or do you prefer to react to things happening around you and feed those into your books?
Writing for me is a dynamic process. I have a rough idea of the ending I want for each book, but how my characters are going to get there I don’t know until I am actually writing. Ideas suggest themselves in many ways as the story progresses, and I plug them in where I can. I have no idea yet how the Dragonsdome Chronicles will ultimately end, which is fun for me too and leaves me open to fresh ideas!
I understand you were influenced by the Lord of the Rings trilogy growing up. What are your thoughts on whether the line between what is termed adult or children’s fiction is now effectively blurred?
I was about ten or eleven when I read Lord of the Rings. By then I was reading Conan Doyle and Dorothy Dunnett. Our house was full of books which made it easy. Books were marketed at a specific age group with little cross-over, which even then didn’t make sense to me; I remember rediscovering Winnie-the-Pooh at university! There are fabulous children’s/YA books that more rightfully belong to ‘any age group,’ but we still live with a Victorian legacy that clearly demarks the end of childhood. But why should we leave our childlike wonder for life, our joy and enthusiasm behind just because we are adults? I’ve found reading children/young adult books provide a simpler sense of fulfilment and comfort that adult books, no matter how wonderful, can.
You reference OneKind in the new book, Flight to Dragon Isle. Do you think that young people need to better understand the idea that humankind and animalkind are really onekind, from an early age, or do you think this understanding is already inherent in children and to be encouraged?
I believe that children have an inherent and intuitive empathy with animals, but I also believe it that needs to be cherished and nurtured through example and education. Until recently we didn’t openly recognise or explore this human/animal bond, although it is embedded in mythology, legend and history worldwide irrespective of culture. Perhaps it is because childlike emotion is in many ways kindred to animal emotion. It is a natural kinship that captures and captivates us as children, and as adults can draw out the deepest and best in us. Sadly, that empathy can swiftly be discarded, that forever bond broken by human ignorance and cruelty. We are fighting both the loadstone of tradition passed from generation to generation, and the fact that millions of us will never come into contact with animals during our lifetime; which is why we need animal charities like OneKind to encourage us to cherish and explore this innate bond that can give us so much.
Where next for the Dragonsdome Chronicles and do you think we may see a movie or TV adaptation one day?
When I’m writing I visualise the story in my head. Since I was a child I have had an overactive imagination, which as an author/illustrator I am not only free to explore, but earn my living from. How lucky is that? I can imagine an Imperial Black dropping out of the dark sky, purple flame lighting up the battlefield, so it would be wonderful to have that made a reality in a movie!
Many thanks to Lucinda for answering our questions.
You can order a copy of Flight to Dragon Isle, the second book in the Dragonsdome Series from here.
You can find out more about The Dragon Whisperer series by visiting here