"Pillage" is one of Obert Skye's favorite words. Not only is it fun to say, but it also has interesting and dramatic meanings. So, when Skye began writing a series about dragons, "Pillage" was the name he chose for the title of the first book.
Now comes the second book in the series, and it, too, is named with one of Skye's favorite words: "Choke." "It means so many different things," he says. You can choke up with emotion, choke and fail, choke and smother, and more, and they all come into play in the story, he said in a telephone interview from his home "near a thin, winding road," somewhere there that is not here.
Words have always appealed to Skye, which is one reason he became a writer; words and imagination — is there any better combination? he asks. "Imagination has textured my life. It just makes everything so much more fun," he said.
Skye (the pen name he uses; it has such a wordsmithy sound) purposely keeps his background vague because he wants kids to imagine things that are probably better than he could write or do. But he is the author of the award-winning "Leven Thumps" series and is now in the second book of his "Pillage" trilogy, both published by Shadow Mountain.
The story tells of a teenage boy, Beck Phillips, who loses his mother and must go to live with an "uncle" in a mysterious mansion in Kingsplot, where he also discovers he has the ability to "plant and grow" dragons. Those are two more of Skye's favorite words. "I love what they mean," he said, even when they apply to something you might not expect, such as dragons.
But, it turns out this ability is a mixed blessing for Beck, who in Book One ends up having to save Kingsplot from the pillage of the dragons.
"Choke" picks up as Beck, confused by conflicting stories from adults who claim to know what's best for him, retrieves the last dragon egg in existence and plants it in a mountain cave. The dragon that hatches is a queen.
"It's obviously a bridge between the first book and the third, which will then talk about the king dragon," says Skye, "but I loved writing it. It's probably my favorite thing I've written."
He started the trilogy while he was still in the midst of "Leven Thumps." There was so much going on with that series, he said, "and I needed a break. I was back East, and I got on a train and took it to the end of the line. It was a place where there were some hills and mountains, and I thought it would be a fun place for dragons. I've always loved dragons; they're adventurous and can be funny as well as mean."
Skye was very happy when "Beck landed in the middle of the coolest adventure ever. He gets to live in a very cool place. I've always loved manor houses and the idea of secret doors and secret passages. And there are mountains and caves, where they find an amazing place. Ever since I was a kid, I've loved discovering things. The actual process of discovery is so great."
And that's what he hopes the books are, as well: a journey of discovery. "They are unlike a lot of other books. It's a slightly different take. And I love it when there are surprises at the end, when things happen that make you pause and think 'that wasn't quite what I thought it would be.' "
It's also a journey of growth for Beck and his friend Kate, who also don't always act like you think they should. "So many librarians tell me they love Beck. He's been a lot of fun to write," says Skye. Beck's a bit of a rebel, a free-thinker. "He's probably more like me than I want to admit."
Skye travels around the country a lot, talking to school classes and assemblies. He's working on a new program that he'll introduce in September. "It's going to be very cool," he promised. You can find updates at his brand new website www.abituneven.com.
But he's also happy to have a chance this summer to not only work on Book Three but also spend time with his family. His four kids are 9, 11, 13 and 17, which makes them the perfect age for bouncing around ideas, he said. "They're my best critics."
It's also a time for reflection. "I rarely get to take time to step back and realize how fortunate I am. My whole life, I wanted to be a writer. I feel so lucky to get to do what I do — and that my family still likes me." He's gone a lot and sometimes has deadlines, but his family has been very supportive, he says.
Skye also has some summer advice for all his fans: "Keep reading. And keep watching for dragons. They are out there. Just keep watching."