THE HIGHLAND DRAGON’S LADY, in retrospect, involves just a vast amount of people running around in the middle of the night. On occasion they change it up and sneak around, but still: everyone sensible is sleeping, and Reggie or Colin will be wandering down roads or climbing up trees and getting into trouble. When I was writing, I didn’t quite realize how often that happened, but I’m not really surprised to find it as I look back. My previous couple novels didn’t really allow for that kind of thing, the settings being what they were—and, middle age and its unfortunate need for sleep aside, I have always loved that kind of thing.
When I was a kid, we’d generally start our family vacations before dawn—I’m not sure whether this had to do with traffic or whether my parents just hoped that my sister and I would fall asleep for most of the journey—and it was the coolest thing ever: getting up when everything was still dark and going on a trip, especially a trip away from school and normal life and rules. (Half of those trips were for Christmas, which was the other big get-up-before-reasonable-hours event. I still remember hearing Dad’s voice when I was six, saying “My God, it’s four in the morning,” with the nerve-shattered tones of a Lovecraft hero post-Necronomicon. Hee. Sorry, Dad.)
A few years after that, on vacation I’d stay on the computer until two or three in the morning, listening to the Santa Anas howl around the house and chatting with friends from all across the country. Sometimes I’d go to let the dog out and just stand there, feeling the hot wind and watching a sky full of stars, with no lights in any of the houses nearby.
Older still, I spent a lot of nights going to dances or LARPs and then out to diners at 3 AM, ordering apple pancakes the size of my torso (oh, Bickford’s, we hardly knew ye), putting six packets of sugar in my tea, talking over how Joe’s character was so overpowered and did you see Bob and Chris oh my God, they’re totally hooking up, no they’re not, well, she wants to, but…
…crucial intelligence analysis, you know? Or we’d all be sitting around the biggest dorm room we had watching my friend Mike thoroughly kick the ass of a Mega Man game (yes, I was a geek) or bootleg Twin Peaks tapes, and realize that we were urgently in need of snack food, and so there’d be a run to the convenience store that stayed open even when Providence’s absurd Puritan laws made just about everything else shut down. I don’t know that I could combine BBQ chips and amaretto cherry fudge these days, and I definitely don’t think I could manage it between midnight and noon, but back then it was no big deal.
Those hours say youth, really, and with it all that youth implies: the feeling of potential, of testing the boundaries and getting away with something, no matter what it was or if anyone would ever really try and stop you. The world has fewer rules then. It’s a good time for magic and for transformation—and a pretty good time for romance, as my younger self could probably confirm.