Author and illustrator Cressida Cowell is looking to ancient Britain for inspiration for her new three-book children’s series, with the first, as-yet-untitled book due for release in the UK and the US in the autumn of 2017.
“How to Train Your Dragon [as a series] was inspired by Viking-era Scotland, but this one was inspired by a much more ancient time,” Cowell told The Bookseller.
"There are giants, wizards, sprites and magical things. There is a boy hero and a girl hero and they are from different warring tribes. The boy has no magical abilities and the girl has difficulties being a warrior. It’s such an exciting world.”
Cowell described the new titles as “highly illustrated, high-adventure”, and said her visuals are a “way in” to the book for children who may find reading difficult. “I write and illustrate sort of at the same time. I always visualise the characters first and if I’m doing a location I will sometimes draw it before I write [about it]. It makes the fantasy richer.”
The bestselling How to Train Your Dragon series—which recorded sales in the UK worth a total of £9.98m, according to Nielsen BookScan—came to an end with How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury in September last year, and Cowell said it would be “strange” launching a new series now that she has a far higher profile.
“With Dragon, even though my publisher backed me from the start, nobody else was looking at it. It came out with no fanfare, so it does feel a bit odd that there will be more of a focus on this one,” she said. “But I don’t worry about all that. You should always just write something that you would have loved [to read] as a child.”
The new series will be published by Anne McNeil, senior publisher at Hodder Children’s Books, in the UK; and Megan Tingley, executive vice-president and publisher at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in the US. The pair concluded the deal for the series with Cowell’s agent, Caroline Walsh of David Higham Associates. Cowell said the three women were behind her “from the start”, adding: “Anne and Megan have been there since the first Dragon book, and Caroline has been my agent for 17 years. These people have forged my career.”
She also said that the new series has been a long time in the making. “I was writing these characters at the same time as the last Dragon book, but the beginnings of the world [in her new series] have been around for roughly five years. It’s hard not to talk about something I’ve worked so hard on, not even to my family…apart from my husband.”
There are currently three books planned in the series, but Cowell conceded that there could be more. “I have an overriding story arc, like I did with How to Train Your Dragon. But with Dragon I didn’t know there would be 12 books in the end, so I can’t say there definitely won’t be more.”
Cowell also said that she would never turn her back on the Dragon universe, even though she believed that particular story arc was complete. “I’m not bored of that world,” she said. “It’s when you’re bored of a world that you never go back. And I still get kids writing to me, saying: ‘I want to know about…’ But right now, I’ve got my hands full. This world is just as big and as rich.”