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The Dragonslayers

THE DRAGONSLAYERS started very differently from any of my other books. You see, back when I was a teacher I somehow got pulled into directing a big production of ALICE IN WONDERLAND, which was being put on by the entire fourth grade at my school. While I was doing this our music teacher helped me write three original songs for the show. It turned out that I loved writing songs, and I had so much fun doing it that I wanted to try it again.

The night we put on ALICE for the parents I was so excited I couldn’t get to sleep afterwards. As I was lying in bed, I saw an image in my head of a princess lifting up the edge of her skirt to reveal that she was secretly wearing army boots, then launching into a song called “Kick Up Your Heels!”

That was the first time I met Princess Willie, and I knew right away that I wanted to write a musical show about her. By the time the night was over, I had figured out who the rest of the main characters and groups in my play were going to be, and what it was basically going to be about. I kept sitting up in bed and scribbling notes to myself so that I would remember in the morning.

I spent most of my writing time over the next several months working on that play, and of course I had many surprises along the way. By the time we opened we had a fully staged show featuring 88 kids in costume, a dozen original songs, and an enormous dragon with flashing eyes who entered the auditorium from the rear for the big final battle scene.

Putting on that show was one of the most fun things I ever did. About twelve years later I decided to turn it into a book. So in the same way that you will sometimes see a book that is a “novelization” of a movie, THE DRAGONSLAYERS is a novelization of my own play. I had to change some things, of course; after all, the stage and the page are two different ways of telling a story. But the characters are basically the same, and many of the things they say in the book are exactly the same as they say in the play. A lot of what I had to fill in were the things that you would normally see in a play—details about the world the story was taking place in, and so on. I added other details as well, such as naming the king and the queen, rather than just calling them King and Queen. Overall the book is very close to the play I first wrote back in 1980.

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