A.J. Massey is the author of the YA novel Where Dragonwoofs Sleep and the Fading Creeps. The book centers on 13-year old Ben. Ben is a normal eighth-grader by day who one night awakens a fantastical dream world called Meridia. In Meridia, snow burns, the sun disappears and reappears without warning. And magic is addictive. But Meridia is disappearing and being eaten by a phenomenon called the Fading. Ben journeys across monster-infested oceans and sun-scorched mountains to retrieve the sphinx’s head. Which is the key to saving the world and every astonishing creature that inhabits it. But not everyone wants them to succeed. Soon, they find themselves pursued by the Sovereign and his generals, whose armies will stop at nothing to perpetuate the Fading and its consumption of the land. So YEM spoke to Massey about the inspirations behind his exciting novel.
Young Entertainment Mag: So what were some of your influences in writing this book? You’ve said that 80s movies were part of your inspiration. What other works that lit the fire for Dragonwoofs in your mind?
AJ Massey: My biggest influences were films like The Neverending Story, Labyrinth, Time Bandits, Return to Oz, and The Goonies.
YEM: What are some of your favorite parts about the world of Meridia?
AJ: My favorite parts of Meridia are the villains that live, work, and play in this imaginary world. Both weeds and creatures alike. I enjoyed writing the motivations behind the stone gargoyle, the Sphinx of Fact, The General of 1000 Wars, and, of course, the Sovereign. In most cases, the antagonists (or perceived antagonists) truly believe they are doing what’s best for Meridia or those they have sworn to protect.
YEM: What part of your own life do you feel manifests most strongly in Meridia? Or in the lives of the children fighting to save it?
AJ: Ben is not equipped to handle the social hierarchy and pitfalls of Middle School. He’s awkward, shy, and has never been in a fight. Ben’s plight is loosely based off my own experiences from Junior High. So the insecurity that Ben feels are feelings I knew too well. The land of Meridia allows Ben to shed this skin and realize his true self, while finding courage and life-long friends in the process.
YEM: What is the one part of the book, the one takeaway or aspect, that you wanted to shine through to young readers the most?
AJ: Along with a thrilling fantasy story, I wanted my characters to navigate the social complexities of the eighth grade and show that not everyone falls neatly into cliques. Oftentimes, we fall into middle school purgatory–not cool enough for the cool kids, not nerdy enough for the nerds.
So I wanted to show that, with the right friends, anything is possible. And no matter how awkward or different you may think you are, there are always other potentially life-long friends out there that share your goals and dreams.
YEM: Who do you picture getting the most out of this book? Who do you see sitting, reading it, with a huge smile on their face?
AJ: If I had a time machine, I would travel back in time and hand a copy of this book to my younger self. I would have LOVED this book. Teens who maybe feel a bit ‘off’ or awkward, while feeling like they don’t really belong in any clique or label, but are always day dreaming of adventure and action, will absolutely love this book.
YEM: So what can we expect from you in the future? Will there be more Dragonwoofs?
AJ: An outline for the second book exists. I’m hoping to start work on it this month (November 2018)! It will begin right after the last one ended.