Every now and then I’ll invite an author, artist or other creative type-person onto the blog for a quick chat about their work, their future projects and just general life gubbins. To kick off my ‘Cuppa and Catchup’ series, here’s my lovely friend and Yorkshire-based author and artist Meg Cowley!
- Hi there, Meg! Thank you for stopping by the blog 🙂 Tell us a little about yourself and what you’re working on at the moment.
I’m an author and illustrator from Yorkshire, England, and I love all things fantasy, magic and dragons! Fantasy heavily inspires everything I write, and fantasy and nature inspire my art. (What is fantasy anyway, but nature, embellished!)
Right now, I’m drafting the Shattered Crown (Caledan#3) and plotting the first in my next series, which will be an Arthurian retelling with a twist! In terms of illustration, I’m planning a full-colour, romantic, illustrated retelling of the traditional Arthurian tale, which will also be available in black and white/greyscale as a colouring book.
- This month you’re relaunching CALEDAN, your series of young adult fantasy books. Can you tell us a bit about the series and how it came to be?
It’s 10 years since the main character, Soren, appeared in my head and the world of Caledan emerged. The story and characters have evolved a lot since, as you might imagine!I was inspired to write a book, not just a story, when I went to a book signing and talk by Christopher Paolini at a rare UK appearance. Discovering The Creative Penn showed me how possible publishing my stories was.
The tale begins with the queen, Soren’s mother, being murdered by her brother, who is intent on taking the throne for himself. He pins all blame on Soren, who flees. Soren, a naïve prince, has to decide whether he is worthy to rule, and how he can do so what he is a fugitive.
However, the wars of men are petty. The trilogy and prequel explore the human issues of belonging and identity, whilst also chucking in a heap and magic, dragons, and kickass elementals. Somehow, the characters not only have to try and make their own way through the human world, but discover how to succeed when forces far greater than themselves are in play.
This is a ‘noblebright’ epic fantasy series that fans of The Lord of the Rings, Inheritance Cycle, and Books of Pellinor would enjoy.
- As part of the launch, you’re very kindly offering a novella to readers for free called THE FIRST CROWN. Tell us about it!
Yes! The First Crown tells the tale of Beren, the very first king of Caledan.
Peace between men, Eldarkind and dragons exists in the trilogy, but it was not so in Beren’s era.
Beren has to unite with his greatest enemies, the dragons, and the Eldarkind, to have any hope of defeating a threat that could destroy them all.
No spoilers, but the events in the First Crown tie in very strongly to the main trilogy.
New readers will have an idea what might happen in the series, and readers finding the prequel after reading some of the series will understand some of the back story.
- Do you have a favourite character from the CALEDAN series that we should look out for?
Bahr of the Fire. He features in The First Crown (prequel) and The Brooding Crown (book 2). Who wouldn’t love a maniacal elemental hell-bent on revenge!?
- What’s your typical approach to writing? Do you like to outline a book first or dive right in and see where it takes you?
I am the planning queen. I could not ‘pants’ a book if my life depended on it! Well, I could, but it wouldn’t be a good book. Typically, I outline 1/3rd of my final count i.e. for a 90,000 word novel, my planning is about 30,000 words. It sounds a lot, but putting in effort pre-drafting means writing is easier and more fun, because I’m not trying to figure it out as I go along.
I usually record what I know – a few sentences for each viewpoint. I then develop a timeline, place events chronologically (so multiple viewpoints tie in together at the correct times), and fill in the gaps. I’m left with a sentence or two for each chapter. I flesh those out depending on how much detail there needs to be. After the planning is done, onto writing I go!
- We’ve often spoke about how writing’s been a never-ending learning process for us. What tough lessons have you learned over the years?
Gosh, there have been a few. Firstly, that marketing is as important as writing. It’s all well and good writing the most amazing book ever, but if you don’t understand book marketing, you won’t make a living from it.
Secondly, to always follow what you love to do (though, because I do this as a career, I have to balance writing what I love with what will sell). Writing books that your heart is truly invested in creates great books that you are proud of, and that readers will enjoy because you’ve poured all your efforts into them.
Thirdly, be hungry to learn. We are always students;never masters. There is always something we can do to learn a new skill to improve our writing. My biggest reward is reader satisfaction, but with every book I will always strive to remain humble and improve something so that I’m putting a better book out there for my readers than before.
- You also have a children’s book series available called DIARY OF A SECRET WITCH. What’s it all about?
In Diary of a Secret Witch, 10-year-old Penny discovers she’s a witch. Hilarity and calamity ensue!
This is a fun children’s series that I wrote with Sabrina the Teenage Witch as my inspiration. I loved that series as a girl and I wanted to create an entertaining read that younger girls and boys could relate to. Penny is always getting herself into magical scrapes, and she’s such a fun character to write I can imagine her having many adventures!
- How do you find writing for young adults versus writing for children? Does writing for the different age group require a different approach?
It’s very different. Children’s writing is much easier. I can skate by on skeleton planning—a sentence or two for each chapter—and write an entire first draft based on that. Then there are the illustrations to consider, as they are vehicles for storytelling too. I also bear in mind educational levelling for my children’s books and tie them into the national curriculum in terms of vocabulary and grammar choices.
The young adult fiction requires a lot more planning and coordination, because the plots are so much bigger. I can follow half a dozen characters and several subplots in these stories, rather than one view point character and one plot in the children’s books.
- Let’s talk about the beautiful artwork you’ve been creating alongside your writing (totally not jealous! :P) How did you develop these skills?
I’ve drawn since I could pick up a pencil (that old tale!) and long before I could write. I’ve been creative as a hobby, but also commissioned to create various artworks since I was fourteen. I’ve always wanted a creative career; unfortunately, I wasn’t brave enough to do something about it at school, so I was unable to go to university to study an art degree. I’m lucky that I can have a career as a self-taught artist!
Drawing was my main hobby for years throughout school; I drew in class, I drew every night, I drew all weekend. I was that kid getting told off because my class notes were embellished with lions, dragons, anime characters and goodness knows what else. Practice is the key to becoming a good artist, as it is to becoming skilled at anything.
- As well as your novels, you’ve also created some lovely colouring books (I bought one for my sister last year, she was thrilled). Tell us a bit about them and how you got started:
I started my first colouring book in February 2015. I was quite ill at the time and feeling pretty down in the dumps. Drawing that book, at the suggestion of a friend, was a lightning bolt moment. I had been so busy for a couple years that I had barely drawn and it felt like a part of myself had died.There was no reason not to do it.
Drawing The Wild Colouring Book brought me back to life and gave me the bug for art again. Seeing it published was all I needed to draw more. I loved drawing my colouring books. Due to the market dying out this year, I don’t have plans to create many more, as they’re not financially viable.
However, I won’t be abandoning art any time soon! To complement my fantasy books, I’ll most likely be working on purely fantasy based art hereon in. Watch this space!
- Are you reading any good books at the moment?
Ah, so many. Some great books I have recently finished/am reading include:
Blackout by Mark Dawson (Not fantasy, but really getting into thriller/action/spy tales!)
A Threat of Shadows by JA Andrews (Who is now one of my fave new fantasy authors. This is a stunning debut.)
Awaken: Sleeping Beauty Retold by Demelza Carlton (A lovely tale through and through!)
No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron (Book 3 in her Heartstrikers urban fantasy series. She also writes sci-fi and epic fantasy and is one of my fave authors. Her style transcends genres!)
And I also recently read The Lumina Chronicles by Christina Macallister. It’s a colouring book/story mix, and one of the most visually stunning books I’ve seen.
- Do you have a favourite book? What is it and why?
Harry Potter. This is the series I grew up with. As the books and films were released, I was the same age as Harry, Ron and Hermione. As a dorky, shy kid with few friends at school, I spent most breaks in the library, curled up and finding a home in Hogwarts. It’s hard to define why, but that series deeply affected me and is a great source of strength and inspiration for everything I do now.
I think more than anything, the books, and JK Rowling’s own journey through life taught me that it’s ok to be different, it’s ok to be me, and it’s ok to follow my dreams—however outlandish and untraditional they are.
- Let’s talk about movies – what’s your favourite and why?
Toss-up between anything in the Middle Earth or the Hogwarts world! They feel so real and that’s why I love them; the attention to detail that was put in, especially to Middle Earth, brings it to life so tangibly that I could always imagine myself stepping through the screen into this real world.
I spend much more time watching all the extended discs from the LOTR/Hobbit franchise than I do the actual movies, because I enjoy seeing just what has gone into producing what we only see on screen for sometimes, the blink of an eye. I hope my worlds are that rich.
- If you could take any three authors to dinner, living or dead, who would you take and why?
JK Rowling, Tolkien, and Joanna Penn. Three brilliant minds. I would love to hear their stories, and pick their brains.
- What’s something you absolutely cannot live without and could never give up ever?
Creating. It’s what I was always meant to do.
- As time goes on, I realise how important it is that creative folk look after their wellbeing. What do you enjoy doing to recharge your creative juices?
I really struggle with self-care! I often burn out and am trying super hard to focus on my wellbeing this year. My number one tip is leaving my desk and getting some fresh air. I go walking most days for a break. Whilst I stomp, I listen to the latest writing podcasts, and these get me back to my desk with my blood pumping and my brain fired up!
- What are your plans for the coming year, creative-wise? Any exciting projects we should look out for?
Gosh, I have big plans and big dreams!
Hope I can pull them off. Books of Caledan will be completed and out by May, including the boxset.
I then have at least thirteen titles planned in my Morgana(Arthurian) series, and a ton of other ideas to explore! I want to write and publish at least 1 million words in 2017.
- Tell us again where we can buy your books and artwork:
All my books are available on Amazon through my website, as are my social media links. Stop by and say hi!
- Thanks again for stopping by, Meg!
Thanks so much for having me, Rachel – a pleasure!