An interview with author Jaimal Yogis and illustrator Vivian Truong
The Children’s Book Review
In this episode, I talk to Jaimal Yogis and Vivian Truong about their graphic novel City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm! They answered many of the questions that so many of you wrote to us about.
Jaimal Yogis is the author of Saltwater Buddha, The Fear Project, All Our Waves Are Water, and the children’s book series Mop Rides the Waves of Life and Mop Rides the Waves of Change. His writing has also appeared in The Atlantic, ESPN Magazine, and The Washington Post. He lives in San Francisco.
Vivian Truong is a comic artist who has created artwork for Riot Games, miHoYo, Rebellion, and more. Her work includes the Punches and Plants webcomic series for the popular MOBA game League of Legends. She also works as a storyboard artist for game studios, a digital production studio, and a children’s book publisher. She currently lives in London.
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Bianca Schulze: Well, hello, Jaimal and Vivian. You guys have no idea how excited I am to have you on the podcast. There’s a couple of reasons. One is we have never hosted a book club article on our website before at the Children’s Book Review. And so, your book, City of Dragons, was the first book that I picked. And the other reason I’m excited is that we have had graphic novelists on the podcast, but we didn’t have them on to talk about a graphic novel. We had them on to talk about a picture book. So, you are the first graphic novel guests we have. So, thanks for joining me today.
Vivian Truong: Thank you for having us, Bianca.
Jaimal Yogis: Bianca, thank you.
Bianca Schulze: An absolute pleasure. So, the other amazing thing is because we had you on or your book featured on the website for a book club pick, we asked our readers on the Children’s Book Review to write in with questions, and we got over 200 questions to ask you. We’re not going to go into all 200 today, but we have a bunch. So, every question I ask you today is actually from a fan.
Jaimal Yogis: Oh, wow.
Vivian Truong: Yeah. This is amazing. Thank you so much.
Bianca Schulze: So, the first question is a question that many authors and illustrators get asked. And so, we got this question a lot. So, I don’t have a specific name to attach, but many readers, including my daughter, were curious about the inspiration. Jaimal, since I’m guessing the story began with you and your idea, what was your inspiration behind City of Dragons?
Jaimal Yogis: Oh, my gosh. Well, there’s so many. Actually, there’s less of one seed and more like a bunch of seeds that got planted that sort of like, grew into a dragon bush. I would say one of them is growing up reading fantasy novels and wanting to write one really badly. That’s the first.
But then I love the ocean, I love to surf, and I go back to this one experience a lot where I went to college in Hawaii, and I was going out to a break that was pretty scary. It was a secret spot where the waves broke, really gnarly by the rocks. And an Australian friend who was much better than me had taken me out a few times, and I felt comfortable enough to go alone. But then I got out there alone, and I was like, I should not be here. And then one other surfer paddled out, this real gnarled guy, and I was like, this guy’s face is making me feel like I should go back. Anyway, we’re bobbing out there, and he didn’t have the friendliest expression, but he just goes, you see them out there? And I go, what does he see? A big wave? And he goes, Dragons. And I had no idea what he was talking about, but then he goes into this whole thing about how he read dragons in the clouds and that they told him when the waves were going to be good, et cetera.
And then later, when I studied at a Chinese Buddhist monastery—I lived there for almost a year after high school. I had been steeped in a lot of dragon stories, and I connected that to dragons being like sort of bringers of weather and rain and behind the elements. But that moment of seeing how this guy experienced that in the water was really cool. And actually, we had a great time surfing that day. And I think I was working as a journalist before this. And when it came time to get up the courage to go and write my first fantasy story, that was one of the seeds. I knew I wanted to do a story about dragons and weather—or the elements rather. And I also wanted to do a story about friendship and a crew because a big influence from when I was a kid was like the Goonies and other stories where the kids had banded together to save the world kind of thing.
Bianca Schulze: There is so much to play in the book. I can see little nuggets of those seeds in the book and how they all came together.
Jaimal Yogis: I do want to say too that the seeds were planted, and then I wrote a sort of backbone of the story. And then Vivian and I, when we met, she had experiences with dragons that she could talk for equally or longer than me, I think, about her connections to dragons and things. So, we stepped back and made the story a collaborative process. So, I had sort of the—
Bianca Schulze: First go at it.
Jaimal Yogis: First go at it. But it’s since become a collaboration, which has been such a pleasure, and I think it’s made it a lot better.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah, one of the first questions I have from somebody that wrote in is about the dragons. But I do just want to ask a quick question before I go onto this dragon question. Vivian, how did you get connected? I believe you both have the same agent, and I’m curious, like, what drew you to the story, why you wanted to create the art?
Vivian Truong: Yes, I got an email from Jaimal one day, and so he basically presented the script to me. It was kind of like a screenplay at first, but after reading through it, I knew immediately I wanted to work on it. For me, it felt like a story I have always wanted to read or see on TV—or something like that. As a kid, I used to love dragons a lot, and I always watched a lot of cartoons growing up, things like Pokémon or whatever. I just always loved fantasy creatures. And dragons are a huge part of it also because they’re big in Chinese culture. So, I felt like dragons always surrounded me in a way. And I just kind of feel like that kind of connection to them. So, it was just really exciting for me to see the whole story about dragons and also like a Chinese protagonist as well because I just felt like I could finally see kind of myself in stories. It’s like something I would have loved to have seen growing up.
Bianca Schulze: I have this question from Martin Bodnar, Connecticut. And so, Vivian, I want to direct this question to you since you seem to have a deep connection with dragons. And he wants to know, what do dragons mean to you?
Vivian Truong: Oh, to me, they’re like these really kind of powerful beings. They’re just really fantastic. I always used to dream that one day a dragon would come and whisk me away from all my problems. Because every time I went to a family event or something like that, whenever you went to one of those Chinese restaurants or celebrated Chinese New Year, you could see so many kinds of dragon motives everywhere. So, I felt like that’s how I felt connected to them. I was born from dragons, and dragons were meant to find me, and I was meant to find dragons. I have that kind of like, connection to them. That’s how I feel about them.
Bianca Schulze: I love that. That’s beautiful.
So, you mentioned also like how you felt, Vivian, that this was so great to see a Chinese protagonist. And I want to say that I picked your book for the first book club pick because I loved the diversity of the characters. I’m Australian. I’m Australian American. And so, I loved that these characters had come from the US. That they weren’t Caucasian, and they were in Hong Kong. And then the other characters they met were from different backgrounds. And that’s what drew me to want to share your story with everybody.
So, Jaimal, I will go to you for the next question from Linda Gawthrap from Pennsylvania. She wants to know more about this girl protagonist; she says, was choosing a girl hero intentional?
Jaimal Yogis: That’s a great question because I chose a boy protagonist. I think just at first knowing like a boy’s experience of coming of age better. And actually, the very first protagonist was not when I was first thinking about this story wasn’t Chinese, either. Like, I think I was looking at it more through the lens of my life. But as it evolved and Vivian and I started chatting, we decided to change some of the characters. I always wanted a diverse story and an international story.
I was an exchange student in my senior year, and this exchange program in France brought together kids from all over the world. We were in Paris. There were kids from Thailand, Japan, Scandinavia, and all over, and it was the greatest experience of my life. It was so eye-opening. So, I think I wanted to recreate some of that.
When Vivian and I got together, we said, well, let’s step back and make sure this story is ours. And one of the ideas we both had was to make the protagonist a girl. We didn’t even really have a reason, per se, other than it felt like, let’s try this on. And I knew Vivian likes drawing women and girls, and I love her art. So, we just thought, let’s try this out, and we flip-flopped it. And we switched a few of the characters around from my original story, their genders, and it was an interesting exercise because I thought, oh, we’re going to have to change everything. But a lot of the story’s core didn’t shift that much. It was more just sort of changing, like Grace’s attitude and other things that make her who she is. But it was interesting that I think we changed less than we thought we would.
Vivian Truong: Yeah, but she was always the same, just to jump in. I think one of the reasons was because initially, the story was three kids, but I felt like we needed someone from a Hong Kong background, and that’s when we kind of introduced Jing. For me, it felt like we should have maybe the protective girl, and then she had a friendly female relationship with another girl because I often think back then anyway, I think it’s going better now. But you see a lot of stories where, especially with the main girl and another girl, the character, they don’t talk at all. Or when they do, every time they interact, it’s always about boys or something like that. So, I kind of felt like it would be good to show her to have a friend she could relate to how more kids would typically do.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah. The gang is four, two boys and two girls, and it is an even playing field. Quintessentially, the girl characters have feminine traits, and the boy characters have male characteristics. Still, everybody’s just on an equal playing field, and I really enjoyed that aspect.
So, I have a question from Lola Schulze, and yes, you might recognize the last name. She is Lola Schulze from Colorado, and she says, who is your favorite character, and are any of them inspired by your childhood?
Jaimal Yogis: You want to go first, Vivian?
Vivian Truong: Oh, yeah, I do. Ramesh is my favorite, the London kid, and it’s because he reminds me of all these boys I kind of grew up with. They’re just like, kind of smart alecks.
Bianca Schulze: He’s a total smart aleck.
Vivian Truong: Yeah, exactly. And I just love that. I feel like Jaimal writes him really well. He just kind of says all these things that he doesn’t think about at first, and sometimes it can be hurtful or whatever. But I think he does have that kind of sensitive side, too. That kind of he does learn to rein it in, and he does eventually apologize as well in the book.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah, I liked that part where he is, like you said, a smart aleck sometimes. He probably says things that maybe he should just think about and not say out loud. And I love that that’s kind of addressed. And even though his character has a learning curve, he’s still Ramesh at his core. He’s still a smart aleck, no matter what.
Vivian Truong: I always loved his character.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah. Jaimal, how about you?
Jaimal Yogis: Well, I also love writing Ramesh. I’ve always had one friend like Ramesh, and one of my friends who is not from childhood but from my current life actually reminds me a ton of Ramesh. I think he gives me some material because he’s just constantly sarcastic and funny. But I also think I love these four characters equally. I sometimes feel like they’re like, what’s that film Inside Out, where there are the different parts of our internal dialogue? Like, Ramesh is the part of you that just is, like, sort of smart aleck stream of consciousness that you hold back sometimes and sometimes don’t. And James is like an intellectual drive that wants to know more but also understands the world so you can do good.
And Grace is like, I think, really looking into her heart about what is my purpose. Why am I here? And trying to understand herself. And Jing is like that loyal friend who looks out for everyone and is unwilling to sacrifice being the star or just put others first.
They’re bigger than that, too. But sometimes, I feel like two of them are on each shoulder, talking to me through my day.
Bianca Schulze: Yes, I love it.
Well, I have a question from Gloria Patterson, and she says, is there any chance the group of friends will go to different locations, like Australia, in the future books?
Jaimal Yogis: There is definitely a chance of that. They do move around, and I don’t want to say commit to any particular locations because we’re still in flux, but they do go to a new continent in the second book, and their travel continues as the series goes on. Vivian and I have been lucky to travel to other cities, and it was hugely influential, I think, in who we became. And so, we hope, whether kids can travel or not, that these books can be a way of sort of traveling and getting out of your usual surroundings.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah.
Jaimal Yogis: One of the cool things about dragons is that almost every culture on Earth has some sort of dragon mythology. So that’s also an exciting aspect that we want to explore.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah. I remember growing up in Australia, and we read these amazing Aboriginal stories; for us, it was the serpentine. And I found those stories; they really moved me as a kid. I loved that sort of mythical, but it also felt real.
Anyway, I have another question… let’s go with Janelle Lafferty from Virginia, and she is curious about what part of the book was the most fun to write. And I would also love to add for you, Vivian, what was the most fun part to illustrate so either one of you can go first there.
Vivian Truong: I really loved illustrating the four dragon kings coming together. It’s kind of like a flashback in the book, but it was really fun to draw them together and see how they fight against the bad side. That was really fun to draw.
Bianca Schulze: Jaimal?
Jaimal Yogis: I remember really liking that in the first book. It’s hard for me to remember because now I’m writing a summary of the third but liking that scene in the attic when the kids get up there, and they have this heart-to-heart and sort of like the walls kind of are coming down for them emotionally, and they’re connecting. I remember a lot of times as a kid with friends like if you had a fort or you had, like, a tree somewhere to get away from parents in school, an atmosphere came about that was like, we’re going to talk about things that we don’t usually, and I remember having fun with that one. It was challenging, too, to figure out how not to make this hokey. Like, where it’s like, okay, the music slows down, but when I finally felt like that was happening, they light a candle and the dragons there. I like that scene a lot.
Bianca Schulze: I do notice a great balance between drama and action. And when you said you didn’t want it to be hokey, there are those sentimental spots, but they’re done so delicately, and it all blends well together. And I feel that makes the story exciting because it has these multilevel and multidimensions versus just being like action nonstop. I love where you just take a moment and pause with the characters and get to know them. So, I thought you both did that so well.
Jaimal Yogis: Thank you. That means a lot. Yeah, I think it’s great. I have much more respect for storytellers who do that well because it’s not easy. And, yeah, trying to develop that further as the characters grow is challenging, but we’re doing our best. And it pushes the limits of your brain; I think, because you have to use tap into your own emotions. So, we’re trying.
Vivian Truong: That means a lot. It’s also important for kids’ books to have these kinds of moments, because you’re writing about kids for kids, to show that these quiet moments are really important. It’s important to talk about your feelings, get to know each other, and learn about who you are. So, these nice breaks from the action are also really important.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah. I just will add that learning who you are, but also learning who others are. Because when we can understand and have empathy for others and understand the challenges that somebody else might be going through, that’s such an important lesson for childhood. To stop and, yes, take care of yourself. But also, be able to look outside yourself and see how others feel. To see what they have going on. So, your book shows that, too.
Jaimal Yogis: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. That’s a huge highest compliment.
Bianca Schulze: Here’s a question that Elizabeth—I hope I say your last name right—Elizabeth Ivanovic from California. She asks, what made the graphic novel medium ideal for this story?
Jaimal Yogis: Well, one, I’d say, that just Vivian’s art. She’s so good. And so, if you can have a storytelling partner with those skills, why wouldn’t you?
But I think going back to the beginning of what I was trying to create, I did start to write it as a chapter book before Vivian and I stepped back and really started co-creating it. And a friend had said, oh, this sounds like a great film. And I was struggling with, like, what’s the beginning, middle, and end? It was getting a little bit complex. He said it sounds like a movie, and I wrote it as a screenplay. And that was the format I gave to Vivian to check out because what happened was, I thought, well, it would be cool to do both, right? I’d love to see it as a movie and a book, and maybe the screenplay version will help me clarify the plot. And then I ended up liking the pacing of it. And I collected comics as a kid and loved the format. I thought, well, if I could team up with somebody whose art I like, and then Vivian was just amazingly available and helped me so much with the story that it seemed like a no-brainer.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah, I could see why it felt like a no-brainer.
Suffermisse from Arizona asks, how did you come about choosing the title of your book?
Jaimal Yogis: Hong Kong is like a city of dragons, literally. Some buildings have holes in them and the skyscrapers, and it’s like to allow dragons to fly through them because dragons are often thought of as good fortune, and dragons are such a big part of Chinese culture, but Hong Kong embodies that in the architecture. And so, when we decided to have it there, it seemed fitting. And then we also talked about wanting to go to other cities, and we toyed with a lot of different titles, but that one just kept sticking. Do you remember any other aspects of that, Vivian?
Vivian Truong: I don’t remember City of Dragons, but I do remember trying to decide the subtitle, The Awakening Storm, that took the name suddenly. Because you kind of immediately think of Hong Kong in a way, but also it does leave it open for them to explore around the world because the whole idea is that the dragons, they don’t just live in Hong Kong, they’re kind of all around us, like everywhere in the world. They’re just kind of sleeping, in a sense. So, it’d be fun to explore that one day.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah, that’s so fun. I feel that is the hardest part about titling a book. You want something specific enough that it sort of gives you a hint at what the story is about, but also broad enough that you don’t get trapped if you’re planning a series and broad enough to sort of give appeal and almost create allure and mystery. So, I love the subtitle, The Awakening Storm. I thought that was great.
Jaimal Yogis: I really like it now. I remember feeling uncertain as we were going out with it and having a lot of anxiety like you’re committing to it for the series now. I’m really happy we did it well.
Bianca Schulze: So, here’s a question for you, Vivian. This is from, let’s see, well, I’m going to combine two questions. So, Jennifer McKelvey Galindo from Indiana and Mary Wright from Florida were very intrigued by your color choices. In a roundabout way, they asked what was your favorite color you used in creating the book?
Vivian Truong: I don’t know if it was obvious, but my favorite color is yellow or orange yellow.
The colors were important in the book and the story. The theme of Nate and Grace was the bond with her dad and how they used to look for stuff together. So, I thought it was important for Nate to have that kind of water theme to commemorate her dad. And so, she has a lot of blue objects, her backpack, I mean, is blue. And you’ll see hints of that maybe around her room or just like the items she uses. I have a lot of ocean decorations.
I use the kind of yellow to kind of sort of hint at the yellow emperor. That’s her jacket. So, it kind of has that kind of connection. And the gray, I felt like Grace is she’s so kind of grown up. She’s in that kind of skater girl phase, so she doesn’t want to stand out too much. And for me, it also signified her grief over her dad. So, she’s kind of like going through that, still kind of processing that. So that was kind of like how I decided Grace’s colors.
And all the other characters each have their own kind of colors. You can see like Ramesh; obviously, he has a red jacket, so I felt he was quite bold and everything. And James is green. I felt like green is a bit more like a kind of growth, you think of nature. And then for Jing, it is a little bit like pink, a little bit blue. But she kind of like goes for whatever. She’s quite feminine, but also, she can be quite a tomboy as well at the same time. So, I kind of like that mix. Yeah, I thought a lot about all the colors, so that’s why I try to keep the book as vibrant as possible. And then a lot of the colors have their own kind of meaning behind them, too.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah, I love that you explained all that thought behind each character and the shirt they wear. That was great. I love that you shared that.
I’m going to insert my own question here. I was going to leave this all the readers’ questions. I realized nobody asked this question, and I’m curious about it because I mentioned one of the reasons, I picked this as a book club pick was because I loved the diversity of the characters and that it was set in Hong Kong. Another thing that I like about it is that both of you, between the art and the words, don’t shy away from hard topics. And Vivian, you mentioned grief, and it’s not a spoiler because it happens early on, but Grace’s dad dies. And some people may not like to tackle complex topics in kids’ books, but I think it’s important, especially where we’ve all just come from with the pandemic. And there has been a lot of loss and grief. And I think not talking about topics such as grief is a disservice to our kids. So, I just would love to hear both of your input on the importance of tackling complex issues in children’s literature.
Vivian Truong: Yeah, I think it’s extremely important. I think we shouldn’t shy away from these topics because the thing is, children all grow up, and they all have to experience these kinds of problems, and I think we should be able to talk about it. And also, I think people tend not to realize that children are smarter than you think; they will learn. They might have a lot of questions for you, but as an adult, you should try to help them answer these questions. And grief is kind of a part of life, and we should be able to kind of explore more. I think Jaimal wrote an amazing story about a girl trying to keep her dad’s spirit in her life.
Jaimal Yogis: Yeah, I’ll just echo that. And I mean, I was dealing with my own dad’s passing when I was writing it as the story was kind of coming into being. My dad was getting a stage four lung cancer diagnosis, so that was up for me. He’s also in the military, so a lot of Grace’s dad came from my dad and that relationship. And I think the grief process is much bigger than you think it will be. And lots of kids are going through grieving, whatever their pets, their grandparents, sometimes their parents or aunts and uncles. And so, death is just all around us.
I remember as a parent, I have three boys, and as a parent, you think you kind of want to raise them at first to protect them from all the harshness of the world, but you realize they start to trust you more when you’re honest with them. I mean, of course, you have to soften the edges of some topics to be appropriate. But to respect their intelligence, I think I’ve noticed they respect and trust you, that you’re kind of telling them some of the hard truths about the world that they already know from their friends and whatnot or media. And so, I think it’s important just to open the dialogue with literature, and you have that it’s a great way to open up conversations about difficult topics. I think stories are really how we process emotions as well.
So, I could go on forever about this, but I think you have to make things age appropriate. Still, I think you also don’t want the opposite, which is like, gratuitous difficulties or violence without being able to show the characters, like talking about grief or bigotry. It’s like you don’t want to introduce those topics without some processing, too, I think. So, it’s a fine line. I hope we’re walking it well. It’s tricky.
Bianca Schulze: Correct me if I’m wrong. I think it was James who asked Grace a direct question about how her dad died. And I remember thinking that I loved that it was added where he said, but it’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it. And I’m paraphrasing, but I think it was James. Yeah, and I loved that because that’s also a tool that hopefully some kids will experience where it’s okay to talk about these conversations, but it’s also good to honor and respect that somebody may not want to talk about it. And I loved that that character allowed that little moment to happen.
Jaimal Yogis: Yeah, James is kind of wise beyond his ears, but that’s also, like, a cool thing about kids is they are really direct. A lot of times, they’ll be like, what’s wrong with you? And I noticed that it’s kind of neat that you often feel like, oh, my gosh, I should jump in here. Don’t ask that. But then when you hear kids talking to each other as adults, we learn sometimes, I think, to sensor ourselves to the extreme, where it’s like, oh, I better not. And kids haven’t learned all those niceties yet. Sometimes they’re able to get right to the heart of the matter.
Vivian Truong: Yeah. What I do you love about this book is that kind of like the whole theme of grief, and you just feel like, with Grace, she’s never gotten over her dad, and there’s nothing to get over because that’s something that’s going to be part of you forever. And it’s about her living with that grief and how she will move forward with it. And I love that moment when they talk about it because I still think Grace doesn’t even understand her feelings. Sometimes she has bursts of anger or sadness, and I feel like that doesn’t go away in a year or two or something like that. She could still grow up feeling really sad about her dad. But I do have this whole kind of journey in saving dragons. It’s about her becoming not stronger from her grief, but just kind of being able to learn how to live a bit.
Bianca Schulze: Yes, exactly. All right, I have a question now that’s just more of a personal topic. And this one is for you, Jaimal. And it’s from Starla Bates in Georgia. And she asks, as a child growing up, who was your biggest influence in life to make you decide on your dream career path?
Jaimal Yogis: Oh, goodness. Wow. I’d have to say it was my mom, who was a big proponent of following your bliss, so to speak, like really going after your passions. And she just never emphasized doing something for the money. She was all about finding your particular gifts, talents, and passions combined and letting that mystery unfold about what you’re going to do. And it allows me to do all kinds of wild things and, I guess, experiment, and take big risks. And it’s a huge risk to get into publishing books because it’s—particularly fiction—because you have to write the whole darn thing before you know anyone’s going to buy it. And I don’t think I would have had the courage to do that if I hadn’t had her voice in my head of not just taking those risks and following your passion, but also her voice of support. I guess it is hearing like she was always one to celebrate our victories. And she was a huge proponent of literature where we had to; we couldn’t watch TV very much until we read our books. And I remember I could watch some R-rated movies and stuff if I read the book first. Just really into reading and got us reading. So, thanks, mom.
Bianca Schulze: And we should shout out to your picture book series, the Mop books because your mom is a star in those.
Jaimal Yogis: Yes. That’s also dedicated to mom, who taught me about processing emotions with mindfulness and getting outside into nature and stuff all around. Both my parents did. Both books sort of go out to both of them. But yeah, Mop is a children’s picture book. Yeah, that’s about a kid riding waves. But I’m very lucky to have the parents that I did.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah, that’s really sweet. So, Melissa Myers from British Columbia has a question for you, Vivian. She asks, did you study art to become an illustrator, or did you teach yourself?
Vivian Truong: So, I would say I taught myself more because I went on to study at university. But that was more animation. So, it wasn’t so much drawing. But I did learn a lot of principles of storytelling, kind of drafting because you learn a process called storyboarding, which is what they do a lot in TV and animations and film. And that’s what helped me with comics, specifically with actual drawing. It was mostly me on a Friday night. I was like seven years old or something like that. Just like watching cartoons, drawing as fast as I can, enjoying the characters I see on the screen before they move. And then, when the Internet boom kind of happened, I started drawing more and more. And then eventually you see a little bit more, like, community growing or maybe people making tutorials. And that’s kind of how I started to get better.
But also, a shout out to all my art teachers trying to move me away from all the cartoons and stuff. Teaching me to do more realistic drawings, like life drawings, and learning more of the art principles, also goes back into your illustration style. Learning fundamentals before you go crazy and break all the rules is really good.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah. I have another question for you, Vivian, from Susan Jiang, also from British Columbia, and she’s curious about which illustrators and artists influenced you.
Vivian Truong: I mean getting into comics from the very beginning. Brian O’Malley, who wrote Scott Pilgrim, was a big influence. Currently, my favorite artists are people like Rosemary Valera O’Connell, who drew Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me. Then there’s Jillian Tamaki, who drew This One Summer. These are like these big comic names, and I love their art style. I mean, my art style is not similar to theirs, but I always find it really inspiring to see their way of storytelling.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah. I love that you can be inspired by a style outside your own and find places that nobody’s been to, too, by doing that.
So, here’s my question that I always love to know, and it’s ultimately, when a reader gets to the final page, what do you hope they’ll take away from your story? Jaimal, do you want to answer that first?
Jaimal Yogis: Well, I feel it’s multilayered in this book but what I keep coming back to in this series, and again, I’m sort of steeped in the whole spectrum of the adventure now as it continues, is friendship. The first line that Grace’s dad passes along is that courage and compassion are the most powerful force in the universe. I agree with Grace’s dad there. That combination is sort of infinite, and it takes both of those, I think, to be a good friend, and Grace and her friends are discovering that in their own way and getting to know each other. So, I hope that the sort of power of those is infinite. I think it’s also like a lifelong process. So, I think we’re all chipping away at it. I hope that the readers, in addition to having a great adventure and time, feel like they can do that, too.
Bianca Schulze: Vivian, how about you? What are your hopes?
Vivian Truong: Yes. I mean, it’s sort of the same thing. I love stories about friendship, especially. I hope that people who read the book can take away the fact that you can find strength in others. You can talk to people like your closest friends every time, anytime you feel you feel kind of isolated and alone, but there are always going to be people out there looking out for you and helping you. I really hope that people take away that message that you’re not alone in your struggles.
Bianca Schulze: That’s beautiful. We all could do with knowing that sometimes. Yeah. Well done, guys. I think the book is outstanding. I can’t wait to see the next adventure. And it sounds like there’ll be three books, is that right?
Jaimal Yogis: More than that, I think. We’re not sure the exact number yet, but there will be more than three.
Bianca Schulze: Exciting.
Jaimal Yogis: Yeah.
Bianca Schulze: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. We had so many more questions, and we could keep talking and talking and talking. So, I’m just so grateful for the time you have shared with me and the listeners today, and I hope you’ll both be back on the show someday to talk about the future books.
Vivian Truong: Yeah, that’d be amazing. Thank you so much.
Jaimal Yogis: Thank you, Bianca. It was a lot of fun. And thank you to your listeners for all the great questions.
Vivian Truong: Yeah, they were really great.
Bianca Schulze: Yeah, they really asked a lot of amazing questions.
This transcription has been edited and slightly condensed for the reading experience.
About the Book
City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm
Written by Jaimal Yogis
Illustrated by Vivian Truong
Ages 8+ | 240 Pages
Publisher: Graphix | ISBN-13: 978-1338660432
Publisher’s Book Summary: Grace and her friends must protect a newly hatched dragon from mysterious evildoers.
When Grace moves to Hong Kong with her mom and new stepdad, her biggest concern is making friends at her fancy new boarding school. But when a mysterious old woman gifts her a dragon egg during a field trip, Grace discovers that the wonderful stories of dragons she heard when she was a young girl might actually be real–especially when the egg hatches overnight.
The dragon has immense powers that Grace has yet to understand. And that puts them both in danger from mysterious forces intent on abusing the dragon’s power. And now it’s up to Grace and her school friends to uncover the sinister plot threatening the entire city!
Buy the Book
Follow Jaimal Yogis on https://www.instagram.com/jaimalyogis/.
Visit Vivan Truong on https://www.viviantruong.com/.
- About City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm.
- The seeds of inspiration for the story.
- What do dragons mean to Vivian Truong?
- The diverse characters and how they came to be.
- The female hero, Grace.
- The book’s setting, Hong Kong, and future locations in upcoming books.
- An exploration of grief in children’s books.
- The graphic novel medium and the artwork.
- Jaimal Yogis’ biggest life influence.
- Vivian Truong’s art background and the artists who inspire her.
- A discussion on courage and empathy.
- Jaimal Yogis and Vivian Truong’s hopes for City of Dragons.
Thank you for listening to the Growing Readers Podcast episode: Jaimal Yogis and Vivian Truong Discuss City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm. For the latest episodes from The Growing Readers Podcast, Follow Now on Spotify. For similar books and articles, you can check out all of our content tagged with Dragons, Graphic Novel, Jaimal Yogis, and Vivian Truong.