Bestselling fantasy author Meg Cowley credits her writing path to her parents for encouraging her creativity, JK Rowling for inspiring her, and a meeting with Christopher Paolini that led her to finish the novel that started her first series. Her Books of Caledan (a trilogy plus prequel) take readers on a coming of age/sword and sorcery adventure full of dragons, elves, humans, and elementals. After fans clamored for more stories in that world, she developed a new set of characters and wrote the Chronicles of Pelenor. The new series currently includes books 1-3: Heart of Dragons, Court of Shadows, and Order of Valxiron. Connect with Meg on Facebook and her website at MegCowley.com, and visit her Amazon author page for all her books. To receive a free starter library, go to Fiction.MegCowley.com.
What is at the heart of your new series, the Chronicles of Pelenor?
The Chronicles of Pelenor is an epic, sweeping saga that explores many of the issues we all face—identity, morality, and belonging—in a flawed world where what is right and good does not necessarily prevail.
All of the characters have incredibly complex back stories and motives, and these make it extra satisfying to write, watching them battle their inner demons. Some have lost love and struggle with grief, blame, and intimacy. Some have done unforgivable things and struggle to find redemption. Some are blinded by ideology, greed, or morality and don’t make the best of choices for themselves or others around them. Our choices bleed out into the world around us—as do theirs. One poor choice in this series ignites everything—what will become a world war, and the fall of everything, if it’s not averted.
I like to think that nothing is beyond redemption, and that anyone can find love, happiness, and belonging, but also that our actions have consequences that far outreach the sphere of our own life. I hope that this series explores those important themes and lessons in a worthy way.
Tell us about your main characters in the Chronicles. Why will readers connect with them?
There are several viewpoints in the series. The main ones are:
1) Harper—an orphan half-elf who has never really belonged anywhere. She’s struggling to define who she is in a new place, in the midst of chaos, who she can trust, what she wants, and how she can play a meaningful part in the struggle to come. Haven’t we all, particularly in our formative years, felt like this, wondering who we are and what life is about?
2) Aedon—an exiled elf running from the law with a hidden past of a spectacular fall from grace and a loss that he’s never healed from. He’s always running, never facing up to his problems. I think we’ve all got dark scars in our past that can negatively impact our future relationships and prospects if we let them.
3) Dimitri—an elven soul who wants to change the world. He’s always been an outcast, and he’s done dark things to get to a position of power, but deep down he knows he isn’t (and won’t be) accepted. I think it’s easy to condemn him, but equally easy to blind ourselves. To tend misguided views on what is important in life, and stick to them, no matter the consequences, out of sheer desperation.
In a strange way, Dimitri is who I identify with most. As a teenager—absolutely—Harper is me. Trying to figure out the world and my shaky place in it. But as an adult, having never really fit in and having made mistakes too in my life, I really identify with his journey of redemption and soul-seeking.
Court of Shadows is book 2 of the Chronicles. What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
I have clear visions for where the series needs to go—the character arcs and plot arcs. But actually, stories and characters are very fluid things and can go in unexpected (and wonderful or problematic!) directions. It’s a challenge to allow the story to flow organically, whilst also hitting those key markers.
When did you know you had taken Court of Shadows as far as it could go, that it was finished and ready for publishing?
I heavily plot my stories, so I always know when the end is done in terms of story. It goes through substantial edits, beta reads, advance reads, and proofreading. It’s a natural process now, and I know the story I have at the end of that process is worthy of reading.
So far, what has been your favorite part of putting together the Chronicles of Pelenor?
I adore the inter-character relationships and character growth—my favourite part of writing stories! I think my favourite part of the series, however, will be writing “The End” on book 4, the final installment, and being able to sit back and think “wow, it’s done.” Having a completed series is a magic like no other. All that hard work, all those words, done.
The Chronicles of Pelenor take place in the same world as the Books of Caledan. What sparked the initial story idea for the Caledan series? And what was the inspiration for the Chronicles?
My series all start with characters that appear in my head one day, and a world and story unfurls around them. Caledan began with Prince Soren and Eve. At the time, I was dealing with my own grief and coming of age, so their journey—Soren healing from his mother’s death and Eve finding herself—was a very natural thing to explore. When it comes to Pelenor, my readers have been begging for years for more stories from that world…Harper, Aedon, and about a dozen more appeared. Some have been sorted into series yet to come, but the main cast of this series just begged to be written. Again, their issues are ones I really want to explore as they strike home in my own journey and the concerns I have about our own world. I have so many more stories to tell in this world!
What was the most difficult aspect of world building for these two series?
There are many different species of beings with their own histories and cultures, so being mindful about differentiating and detailing these is difficult, especially when those aspects are not huge parts of this particular story arc.
Your writing takes many forms—short stories, novels, children’s books, and even adult coloring books. Is there one form you’re drawn to the most when you’re creating?
Epic fantasy! It’s my life blood. I just adore the complex narratives and multi-viewpoint tales. That being said, art always has a special place in my heart. I also run a fantasy book cover illustration business (EpicFantasyCovers.com), so I get my fix of fantasy art by drawing awesome fantasy covers for authors.
If the stars aligned, what past or present television or movie series would you love to write for (or be involved with in any capacity)?
Oh my gosh. Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Game of Thrones—or anything set in those worlds!
What first inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always written and drawn, since I could hold a pencil. JK Rowling really inspired me—I grew up the same age as the characters when the Harry Potter books/films were being released, which was massively powerful in my formative years. It was meeting the very lovely Christopher Paolini in 2011, however, that sparked my decision to finally finish the book I had been writing since 2007… and the rest is history. That story eventually became (after much polishing and re-writes) the first in the Caledan series.
Do you have any writing rituals or something you absolutely need in order to write?
Oh, yes. Earl Grey tea. Silence. Somewhere comfy to sit. Time in the morning when my mind is fresh. And absolutely zero distractions, because I am a master procrastinator. I have to be super strict with myself! (Case in point: right now I am supposed to be writing Pelenor, book 3 but instead I am typing this…oops…sorry fans!)
Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
Identity and belonging. They’re things I’ve struggled with my whole life—and themes I think many of us grapple with at one point or another.
What writing projects are you working on now?
Order of Valxiron, Chronicles of Pelenor, book 3 (on pre-order through Amazon). Plus, I’m working towards rebooting and finishing my Morgana Chronicles series. I wish I could write faster to finish up all these stories!
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Just that I really appreciate your support, everyone! It keeps me writing and publishing, one word after another, because I just don’t want to let you down. Thank you so much. I hope you enjoy our adventures together through stories.