Feature Friday: Core


Author Teshelle Combs dropped by to discuss with me her fantastic story, CORE. It’s a YA Fantasy novel with dragons (oh, yeah!). Read on…


YA Fantasy

Book Description

From the moment Cale sets his eyes on Ava Johnson, he catches fire to their fates, locking them both in a wild spiral, tied to a world of betrayal and chaos.

Cale Anders lives a normal life–as normal as any eighteen year old dragon could hope for. He has always managed to straddle two worlds, one of underground fight clubs and siren hunts, and one of family barbecues and backyard football. Still, for as long as Cale can remember, he’s been the middle man–the ambassador for his own family–bent on reconciling the stark differences between his fiercely intelligent blue dragon relatives and the boisterous, passionate red dragon nesters.

But when Cale picks the steely-eyed human, Ava, to be his rider, he must choose between the family he’s always loved, and the only girl who can unlock his potential and spark his core. Ava, her heart entrapped in a prison of callouses, is caught off guard by the rawness of the Anders’ life and the honesty of the boy who claims to belong only to her. But even more alarming than her immersion in a world she never knew existed, is the realization that love can grow slowly, steadily, and painfully, no matter how furious her resistance.

Together, Cale and Ava upturn the balance of the dragon world, leaving their very lives vulnerable to the wiles of forces neither of them truly understand.

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Interview with Teshelle Combs


Your YA Fantasy, Core, is about dragons. How does Core’s dragon mythology differ from previous ones fantasy readers have become familiar with?

I did a lot of research before I decided on the angle I wanted to take with my dragons. Of course, there is so much different lore about dragons, from Norse legend, to knightly tales, to Asian and South American stories. And I wanted to do something a little different.

I wanted very much for my dragon character, Cale, to be able to have a complex relationship with his human, Ava, so I decided to create a world that hosts different dragon races, each with different forms and tasks, all protecting the unprotected and thus maintaining the balance of the world.

My red dragons are fierce, boisterous, and animated. They’re my warriors. Because they protect humans, they often relate to them in the way they form nests and herds –similarly to the way humans form families and communities. Until they change form, reds also look very much like humans, which makes it easier to live among them.

My blue dragons are cold, clinical, and calculating. They protect knowledge and care little for social interaction that doesn’t promote the growth, spread, and collecting of intelligence. Thus, they don’t usually marry, and they tend not to live in nests (or family units).

I’ll stop here, since I don’t want to give too much away, but there are also black, grey, and green dragons, each unique.

Also, because I’m of mixed races myself, I wanted to explore the dynamics of a family that not only has to cope with being dragons in a human world, but with being different from one another. Cale’s family is an unusual mix of blue and red dragon lineage. Throw a strong-willed human, Ava, into the mix and… well, I had a story!

 Cale appears to balance two types of lives. Could you tell us a little more about him, and why he feels he needs to do this?

Cale is probably the kindest character I’ve ever created. First of all, he’s blessed (or cursed, as he believes) with the gift of Immaculate Honesty, which means he literally cannot tell a lie. Ever. Even when he needs to. Add that to his inherently protective and good-natured personality, and… well, I just love him to death.

Of his entire family, Cale–the middle brother–has the most even mixture of blue and red dragon blood running through his veins, though he is technically classified as red. It means that he can see the weaknesses and strengths of both races and is more willing to embrace them all. He feels as though it’s his duty to be the glue, the bridge. It’s a tough job, especially when he isn’t appreciated for it.

Who is Ava, and why does Cale find himself drawn toward her?

Of the five dragon races, only two require riders in order for the dragons to maintain their second form: red dragons and the terrifying no-ir (black). Red dragons must find the human that they feel they’re meant to be with, build a relationship with them, and Impress them in some way. When a red asks a human to be their rider, the human can say “no” and that dragon will never be able to change. If they say “yes,” the dragon and rider must perform the pact to completeness before they are bonded together for life.

Without giving too much away, Cale sees in Ava all of the things he feels he needs a rider to have. Within her are the qualities that can spark the flame within his dragon core. Cale thinks the hardest part of his journey will be convincing the no-nonsense Ava that she has all of those traits, but he has no idea what obstacles will rise up against them as they fight to be the first rider and dragon pacted in over 100 years.

Are there any experiences or places you’ve traveled that helped influenced this novel?

Definitely. My home. I grew up in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and the experiences I’ve had there, from rock climbing, camping at the beach, stuffing mangos down my throat, and knowing exactly what it’s like to be so hungry you’d eat anything, have helped me write “Core.”

Also, being welcomed in my dad’s village in the island country of Dominica, as well as villages and towns in the lovely Romania, have given me insight into what I would like villages like Great Nest to feel like. I’ll never forget those visits, never forget sitting down to eat and being presented with an entire fish head, seeing someone suck out the eyes. I’ll never forget eating birds and goats that we slaughtered ourselves. Experiences, places, and people give my stories color. I’m very thankful.

 Congratulations on Jaxter! What are some of your hopes and fears on the exciting journey of parenthood?

Well, my greatest hope for my baby boy is that he can figure out what it is he’s meant to do–what it is he loves–and that he goes out and does it. It would be nice if he wanted to be a writer like me or a musician like his dad, but I really don’t care what it is he falls in love with. I just want him to go for it. Hopefully, I can be an example of someone who did just that.

My greatest fear is that he’ll be filled with fear, that he’ll be too afraid to love hard and to work for what he wants. And because it doesn’t make sense for me to be fearful about him being fearful, I chose to be filled with hope instead. I’m going to make a ton of mistakes as a mama, and he’s going to make a whole bunch of his own as figures out how to be a human being; but I hope and believe we can find courage in God and in each other as a family. No room for fear and regret. We have too much to be happy about, and too much to fight for.

There, all done with that rather emotional question! *trying not to cry*

Thank you so much for the interview, Alesha! I hope I didn’t ramble too much… just enough.

Oh, Teshelle…you have not seen rambling until you’ve seen me in action! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story with us. I’ve added CORE to my book queue, and I can’t wait to start!


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