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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Interview: Megan Holden talks about The Dragon Who Lost His Spark



Megan Holden is a full-time, stay-at-home mum to three toddlers, owner and founder of a children’s toy and bookstore, a former primary school teacher and a children’s book author. In 2023, Megan’s passion for education, enjoyment of reading, and love for language inspired her to write her first children’s book, The Dragon Who Lost His Spark. This book is themed around emotional intelligence and includes rhyme, fun characters and rich language to portray a message of confidence. Megan talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about The Dragon Who Lost His Spark.

The book is about building self-confidence and using some simple strategies to help do that. A dragon, Sparky, was once confident but has lost his spark, his confidence. He goes off on an adventure in an attempt to get his spark back. Along the way, he meets some new friends, who all offer him support, kind words or strategies to help get back his spark. Some of the strategies include having support from friends, saying affirmations and making mistakes.


What inspired you to write this book?

A few things inspired me to write this book. What really pushed me and inspired me to write a children’s book in the first place was that I have been reading books to children for years (as a teacher and as a mum) and am constantly on the lookout for good books. When it comes to finding a good book, I have a bit of a criteria. As a mum, my criteria includes a book with a quality message or story, some great vocabulary and something that is engaging and promotes conversation.


As a bonus, I also look for some kind of language feature within the book such as rhyme, repetition, similes, metaphors or alliteration. It is not always easy finding books that meet this criteria, so I decided just to write my own. I chose to write a book themed around emotional intelligence because as a teacher, too many times I was seeing students with a low self-esteem, low confidence, low self-worth and/or a negative mindset. When I became a mum, I was determined to help build positive mindsets, high self-worth and high confidence within my children, from really early on. I’ve been doing many things to try and achieve this, but when I decided to actually write a book, I thought it could be a great way to support what I was already doing and begin teaching some simple strategies to help build themselves up.


What research was involved?

There was a lot of thinking and research involved in many areas-particularly in the use of language and metaphors. I had to spend a lot of time on the characters for example, as they are all metaphorical. The dragon representing confidence, the owl representing wisdom, the lion representing bravery, and the bear representing strength. I had to do a bit of research around lions because I needed something that I could use that lions were typically afraid of. I found that unlike tigers, lions do not like water (which I actually didn’t know before). I also drew a lot from my own knowledge and experiences around confidence building and creating a higher sense of self-belief, as this is an area where I personally have done a lot of work and have also helped others to do the same.


A lot of my research with the emotional intelligence side of things was to support and confirm ideas and understandings that I already had. One area in particular that I spent some time on was tricking your brain into thinking that you are excited, when you actually feel nervous or scared about something. Nervousness and excitement are closely linked in the brain. They actually share the same physiological reaction, where the heart beats faster, cortisol surges, muscles tense and you get ‘butterflies’ in the stomach. The adrenaline that runs through your body when you are feeling scared, is the same as when you are excited.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

Because I’m a stay-at-home mum of three young children, I had to work in their sleep times and in any free moment I happened to find. Sometimes my husband would be able to give mesome time in the weekend where I could go to a cafe by myself and write, which was like a holiday! Mostly my routine involved being with the kids during the day and once they were asleep at night, I would stay up late and write. I also got up at 4am each morning, and would squeeze some writing in before everyone woke up. I loved that morning time because I had time to myself and I felt like I had achieved so much before the day had even begun. The mornings were my golden time, where I was able to achieve the most in my writing and have my best ideas.


How did you work with the illustrator Glenn Zimmer?

Glenn Zimmer lives in America, so we worked together via emails. Glenn was such a pleasure to work with. Initially, I sent him my manuscript to make sure he actually wanted to take on this project. From there, I sent a storyboard of what I envisioned for each page. He then offered his ideas and creativity to make improvements. He started sketching out the characters and sent them through to me to approve or suggest changes. Then he started on each page, sending through about 3 pencil sketches at a time for me to approve. Once the sketches were approved, he added colour and sent them through to me to check over. I would genuinely get excited everytime I had an email from him. He made everything seem so easy and had fantastic ideas of his own to contribute. His illustrations are just the best! He really captured the emotion and personality of all the characters in the story. I hope to work with him again on future books.


If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

My top song in my playlist for the book: Believer-Imagine Dragons (I couldn’t think of a more perfect song, not to mention the name of the band!!) A few other songs for the playlist: Brave-Sara Bareilles Affirmation Song-Snoop Dog Don’t Stop Me Now-Queen


If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

How amazing would that be! I would love to see these actors playing the lead characters: Sparky the Dragon: Tom Holland Owl: Tom Hanks Lion: Ryan Reynolds Bear: Helen Mirren


What did you enjoy the most about writing The Dragon Who Lost His Spark?

I’m passionate about emotional intelligence, especially in young people. I really enjoyed writing about something I believe so strongly about and thinking of some simple strategies that I could include in the book, without having to go into too much detail. I also absolutely love the lion character. He’s my favourite. His strategy that he offers is my favourite one as well, and one that I personally use daily.


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

The very first thing I did was read the book to my children (aged 3, 2 and 7 months). I don’t think they quite understood that it was a book that I had written, but they did enjoy the story, so that was good. My oldest son even drew his own picture of Sparky the Dragon and told methat he had lost his spark and needed to get some confidence back.-I took that as a compliment. To actually celebrate though, I did a book reading and signing at my local library. Afterwards, I had some friends and family come around to my house and we had some nibbles and drinks together. I have a much bigger celebration planned for when I sell my first 1000 books.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

My favourite book this year is Slow Down by Rachel Williams. It’s a beautiful book of stories about nature, such as pollination and how sunflowers track the sun. It’s written and illustrated beautifully and just looks gorgeous on the shelf at home and is also a gorgeous read. There are some great conversations that can stem from this book as well. A close second are the Grandpa books by Joy Watson. They’re so simple and relatable. My kids love them.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

I have two more books currently being illustrated and I’m in the process of writing a new book. The books being illustrated at the moment are about a bee who is determined to make a change and the other is about the adventures of a tractor on the farm. Updates on these books will be given in a few months time, on my social media pages and on my website (www.meganholden.org). I hope to have one of the books released by the end of the year, if all goes to plan. The book I’m writing at the moment, is about some naughty cows. I hope to have it finished by July this year and then begin the illustration process

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