I see this a lot in my reader groups: people (particularly girls) asking for recommendations of novels with strong female leads. And then inevitably, fifty people comment with various novels they love and recommend. And almost exclusively, the novels feature ass-kicking women with hyper-masculine tendencies and abilities that somehow mark them as “strong.”

And inevitably, I roll my eyes.

Now let me just say that I will be the first to admit that I’m a Sarah J. Maas fan, and she is the queen of writing ass-kicking female leads. And I am fully aware of the hypocrisy of my own stance here for even liking her books. But I will just say that any trope, when written well, can be overlooked. Even enjoyed.

But…

It’s still a trope. And it’s one I think we should address.

In today’s society, gender is almost a bad word. There’s a chasm between those who think gender is binary, and the other side who is shouting with ever-louder bellows that gender is much more than we’ve defined before. And for the sake of my own sanity, I won’t get into the nuances of that argument, except to say this: I believe gender is both binary and varied. And I believe that’s what makes humanity beautiful.

Because there are plenty of men who love ballet and art and cooking and reading and playing the piano and performing and [insert any defined “feminine” hobby or preference here]. There are plenty of men who cry at a great movie, who are tender and compassionate, who are not afraid of their emotions. And they are no less masculine for it. Because masculinity has nothing to do with what you enjoy, nothing to do with your personality, and everything to do with innate responses to the world around you.

And the same goes for females. As far as the pink-loving, glitter wearing, ruffle-clad gender norms are concerned, I am not the typical female. My favorite color is black. I like to hunt and fish. I’d rather be in the mountains. I don’t wear high heels. My cuticles look like crap most of the time.  I can’t stand most romantic comedies. And my favorite movie is Braveheart. Yet I am fully female and fully feminine and I am glad to be. I don’t consider femininity weak, lesser, or of any less value than masculinity.

So it really bothers me when modern culture purports that in order for a woman to be strong, she must take on masculine characteristics. Like it or not, women are, by nature, physically weaker than men. We are not capable of the feats most men are. Of course there are exceptions. Of course. But as a rule, my husband can do more physically than I can. And that does not make me weak. It makes me different. Because believe me, there are plenty of things I can do that he cannot.

So when authors write female leads who can fight like a man and take down most of them, it bothers me. (If you’re a Maas fan, I know you’re probably saying, “But Morgan, Aelin [Throne of Glass] is also feminine! She loves dresses and chocolates and pretty things and…” Yeah. I know. But I would argue that it is not a love of dresses that makes one feminine. Why can’t a man have an appreciation for fashion? Why does that make him less masculine? Why can’t a woman not have an appreciation for fashion? Does that make her any less feminine?) Why should the ability to fight like a man mark a woman as strong enough? Why shouldn’t innate nurturing and empathy be marks of strength? (I won’t even go into childbearing, childbirth, and child rearing. Because God help us if a man ever had to experience a contraction. But I digress.)

Let’s flip this coin and look at it from another perspective. My husband cannot and does not see the world the way I do. He does not consider the reasons behind what people do first—he considers whether or not what someone has done is a reason for recourse. Protection first. Consideration second. But not me. As a woman, I default to considering the why behind actions first. I stop to think about what makes people the way they are, and often that leads me to give grace and mercy before acting. And likewise, it often leads me to advise my husband to do the same. Where his instinct is to protect first, mine is to nurture first.

And both of things are good. Of equal importance. And equally strong.

I don’t need to kick ass in order to prove my strength. My husband does not need to watch a rom-com in order to prove his sensitivity. We can be different—complimentary—and be at our best. Strong. Beautifully nuanced.

It became my heart’s anthem to find a way to convey this genuinely. I wanted to show what I’ve learned from my own marriage—that complimentary qualities are better when they’re together. And that inherent masculinity is strength just as much as is inherent femininity.

It’s the very reason I wrote Elizabeth (the main character in The Promised One) to be the way she is. She speaks her mind. She does not think of Ferryl as superior or stronger or better. Nor does she think of herself as superior or stronger or better.

They are equal.

*Gasp.* What a concept.

My two main characters are equal. Partners. Masculinity and femininity working together. Side by side. Not in front or behind. And as their story progresses, you see this more and more. Without spoiling anything for those of you who haven’t read it yet, I will simply say that their story is one of showing how feminity is its own kind of strength, just as needed and powerful as a man. And it has nothing to do with high heels and dresses and ribbons and bows. It’s a story that shows how we were designed to compliment each other, not vie for the title of “strongest.”

Perhaps that’s the whole point. Because perhaps femininity and masculinity are stronger when they’re together.

Shallow art does not equal good theology. Let me say that again.

Shallow art does not equal good theology.

If art isn’t authentic to the human experience, it’s not art.

There. I said it.

*breathes*

This topic can be…touchy, to say the least. For Christians, anyway.

I’ve avoided it, to be honest. I thought to myself, “If someone brings it up, then talk about it. But don’t open that Pandora’s Box. It’s not worth it.” People have brought it up in my inner circle. But I can tell that they, like me, weren’t sure what to say about it. Perhaps they couldn’t make eye contact. Or perhaps they toed the sand and danced around the subject with shrugs and incoherent grunts. And I think maybe I know why…

We’re scared. Or maybe we’re chickens. But we’re afraid to say what we really think. For whatever reasons (which I am positive there are many, but that’s for another blog post), we think that if people knew how we really feel, they’d think less of us. Judge us. Run screaming from our heretical ways.

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic, but I’m trying to make a point. Because I think the bottom line is, as a whole, Christians don’t make authentic art anymore. At least not in the mainstream. (Before you get your panties in a wad, let me clarify: I know this is not a universal rule of thumb. I am saying that it is generally true, with few exceptions.)

Hear me out.

When I look at the Sistine Chapel, when I listen to Handel’s Messiah, when I read Lewis, or Spurgeon, or heck even Tolkien, I am forced to wonder what happened to modern art. I am forced to wonder how we traded The Screwtape Letters for some of the Christian fiction drivel you can pick up on Amazon.

I am Christian. I make no bones about that. But neither do I shove it down your throat. You’re free to have your own thoughts and beliefs, just as I am free to have mine. Just as I am free to infuse mine into my writing and art. Which I do. If you’ve read even a chapter of one of my books, you can tell that my faith is integral to who I am.

But I refuse—REFUSE—to let the ideals of what my faith should produce dictate the content of what my art conveys. Or to put it more bluntly: just because I’m a Christian does not mean I am going to write G-rated books. Just because I believe in a perfect God does not mean I am going to write perfect characters or idyllic stories.

Listen, I’ve read a lot of modern Christian fiction. It’s terrible. (Granted, there is some that is not, but it’s a SHORT list.) And I mean that in the most sincere way. It’s weak. Ineffective. Laughably shallow. It focuses on faith as if it were this thing to master. As if belief in the Almighty were a checklist for the day.

  • Bible reading? Check.
  • Kindness to a widow? Check.
  • Prayer at dinner? Check.
  • Church on Sunday? Check, check.

I think life is a little more nuanced than that, don’t you? And quite frankly, I think we–the humans God created–are a little more colorful than that.

We’re flawed in profound ways. Profound. We’re addicts. We’re liars. We’re thieves. We’re miscreants. We’re whores. We’re oath breakers and failures. We’re cheaters and swindlers. We’re murderers and haters. We’re bigots and shunners. We’re people. In every flawed color. We’re people. Humans.

And I think it’s high time Christians stop pretending like we’re not.

Conversely, I read a lot of mainstream fiction that also conveys a lie. It purports this ideal that self is the ultimate prize. That if we can learn to love ourselves, we’ll have it figured out. That if we can find our inner strength, we’ll have arrived.

I don’t know about you, but my strength fails me on a continual basis. And the moment I start thinking I’ve got my sh*t together, it usually hits the fan. In that vein, I think the majority of modern mainstream art lies to us, too.

So what, then?

When I set out to write The Promised One, it was not with the intention of writing Christian fantasy, or even anything particularly meaningful. It was simply a færytale love story. It was honestly just a labor of love that morphed into something much deeper. It became an opening into another world–a world in need of redemption much like ours. As I wrote the love story I wanted to read, it hit me: love here on earth is meant to be a shadow and portrait of a greater Love. And it is often through our love stories that we learn, begin to understand, or even find the greater Love.

But as the characters came to life on those pages, I wondered what people would think of them. Of the seventeen year old girl who slept with her boyfriend and carried his child. Of the prince who was more interested in flirting with the ladies than living up to his responsibilities. Of the orphan who hated the idea of the divine. Of the mother who would stop at nothing to get her way, even at the expense of her family. Of the foul-mouthed brother whose temper flared at the drop of a hat.

But much more so, I wondered what my Christian friends would think of the language, violence, debauchery, murder, incest, betrayal, dark magic, and more in my books. I wondered what my non-Christian friends would think of writing a couple who waited until their wedding night to have sex. I wondered what my Christian friends would think of the protagonists who were sleeping around or ambiguous characters who murdered and lied and played a game for the sake of their own gain. I wondered what my non-Christian friends would think of the scenes with Providence himself showing up.

In other words, I wondered where my story fit.

Nowhere, really.

It’s too Christian to be mainstream, and much too mainstream to be Christian.

And when I first queried it to publishers, I wasn’t sure who would pick it up. I knew a Christian publisher wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole as long as the characters remained messy and foul-mouthed and *gasp* not virgins. And I knew a mainstream publisher would want to white-wash the more powerful moments with the Creator, and the general notion of monotheism as an ideal.

I was unwilling to compromise on either front. And when I was offered a publishing deal from a mainstream publisher, I eventually turned it down for those very reasons.

So I decided to venture out into unknown waters. I decided to put this book out there and see what would happen. I decided to try something different: to present people as they are, not as they should be. And to present the concept of God divorced from the box Christendom has put him in over the centuries. To write a book with authentically flawed characters who discover the need for a perfect Creator through those flaws, not in spite of them. I took the risk of offending my Christian friends with my very much NOT G-rated content, in the hopes that maybe they could identify with my characters. I took the risk of offending my non-Christian friends with a blatantly spiritual story of the need for redemption, in the hopes that they might identify with my characters.

Because that’s just it. I think it is precisely through our flaws–and the flaws of those around us–that we find out our need for something more. It is in the imperfections that we go in pursuit of perfection.

I want to make something clear: by saying that shallow art does not good theology make, I am not implying that I have somehow found the formula for good art. I am not saying that my books are better, or deeper, or more profound by any means.

But I am saying that my books are authentic. You will not find characters who fit the bill of Christian idealism. Nor will you find characters who make good choices very often, if ever. But you will find characters who are searching for that ideal. Characters who are aware, even if only intrinsically, of their need for something more.

That’s the kind of art that doesn’t happen too often in this world.

Oh yes, there are those who make it. U2 comes to mind–raw music that explores the mystery of the divine from the flawed and inadequate human perspective. I think Crowder scratches that surface, too. (Listen to Praise the Lord by Crowder if you’re looking for some profoundly raw lyrics.)

I used to shake You like an 8-ball
I used to shoot You like a gun
I used to hold You like a hammer
Try to nail down everyone
I used to keep You in a steeple
Used to bind You in a Book
I used to take You like prescription
Without knowing what I took

~Praise the Lord, Crowder (American Prodigal)

As for authors, I will confess I haven’t read much modern Christian fiction like that. I’ve read more Christian non-fiction that ventures down that path. Blue Like Jazz comes to mind. Think what you will of his theology, Donald Miller at least explores the possibility that the god we’ve fashioned over the centuries just might be a tad bit bigger than the limitations we’ve put on him. I tend to agree. Wholeheartedly.

And I think that’s why I wrote The Promised One, and the subsequent books. To explore the idea of the Creator outside the bounds of religion. Outside the bounds of preconceptions. Outside the bounds of limitation. To let imperfect people stumble upon him and then discover–as I think we all do on some level–a keen need for him.

And I put this out there in the hope that maybe there are more of us. I think there are. I think perhaps there’s a whole coven of us, hidden in the caves, wishing that the bubble of modern Christian culture would burst. Wishing that we offered a little more steak and a little less breastmilk.

And at the same time, I think there’s a whole world out there wondering why self has let them down time and again. If there is something more. Something bigger. Deeper. Wider. Brighter. Better.

Hint: There is.

We all have them. There is no one exempt from their trappings. They haunt us. They chase us. They inhibit us. Sometimes—SOMETIMES—they even inspire us.

Imperfections.

Bad habits. Quirks. Temperaments. Attitudes. Flaws. Call them what you will, we all have them. And as a writer, I look to exploit them. Because let’s face it: perfect characters are, well… BORING.

Like our dear Prince Ferryl with his impulsivity and idealism. While those traits can be a good thing, they can also be a very bad thing for a man who is to inherit a kingdom. That idealism often comes back to haunt him when the world doesn’t turn as he expected. And he is often faced with the worry of what is not going on much more than what is. As a result, Ferryl can be temperamental and even irrational. And do things like, you know, leave Elizabeth behind because he’s so angry with her for just being herself. *ahem*

“I think you should to stay here, Elizabeth. I think you should get to know your mother, to find out what your life was like, your history, your family. Haravelle is your home. We both know that. And I think…” he said, tripping on his own emotion now. “I think it is best if you stay behind.”

~The Purloined Prophecy, Chapter 44

And Elizabeth. Stubborn, logical, insufferably practical Elizabeth. There must always be a reason. There must always be an answer. Even when there is not. And that need for logic drives her every thought—ad nauseum. So when the world doens’t fit in a box, when the answers don’t make sense on paper, she is left to pick up the pieces of her logical mind and figure out how to cope. And she has a tendency to push people away—the ones she loves most—on that unending quest for answers.

She knew he was right. It was a logical, practical solution. For her to get to know her mother, for her to find out who she was and how she had grown up. To search for the memories that evaded her.

But most importantly, for her to find a life away from him.

Because it could never work as long as they were together. As long as they were together, they would always want each other, always love each other, always torture each other with a dream that could never be.

And for the first time in her life, Elizabeth hated every damned logical, reasonable word out of his mouth.

~The Purloined Prophecy, Chapter 44

Ever met anyone like them?

I sure have. I think I’m both of them at times. What about you?

It’s funny how art can be so cathartic. Because as I write these characters, I begin to realize profundities about myself: that maybe it’s our imperfections that not only make us interesting, but serve a greater purpose. A divine purpose. Maybe it’s our imperfections that serve to show us a Truth we might not have found otherwise.

Isn’t that what happened to Ferryl and Elizabeth? Didn’t Ferryl’s impulsivity and idealism help him realize that he would fight—and die—for Elizabeth? And didn’t that love for her help him realize that it was perhaps a part of a bigger plan, a divine purpose for both of them?

And what about Elizabeth? She wasn’t wrong about Ferryl—he had obligations to his kingdom that could not be ignored. But none of those obligations precluded his heart. And at the end of the day, that’s what he would choose. What he would always choose. And isn’t that okay?

I think imperfections are what lead us to the truth. I think our imperfections, though not always easy or even fun, can often be the best thing for us—that ever present reminder that we’re not God. And we never had to be.

And thank God for that.

 

 

Hi friends! Today I am sharing a guest post from the blog, The Arrow and the Song, which just so happens to be the blog of my editor, Arielle Bailey.

This was one of my favorite interviews ever, simply because the questions are so good. I think you’ll agree. Arielle is quite imaginative (part of why I love working with her). And yes, dinosaurs are really dragons. Dragons are dinosaurs. Whatever. You know I’m right.

Check out the interview below!

From The Arrow and the Song:

I had the privilege of editing this book and helping Morgan polish it for release.  If you like prophecies, realistic love stories, fantasy wars and politics, and a good villain against which the heroes can fight, you should check out The Chalam Faerytales!

Welcome Morgan!

Describe your book’s aesthetic in three words and/or a graphic.
Poetic Epic Færytale

What was the very first spark for this story?
Wow. That’s a difficult question… If I’m being completely honest, I think the book sparked in me when I was a kid. I remember from the time I was tiny, I would lay outside in my backyard, looking up at the sky and wondering if God had made other worlds. And if he had, if he would give them a similar story to ours. Would he redeem them the way he was redeeming us? Even as a kid, I figured the answer was probably yes. And from then on, I have had stories floating in my mind—stories of other worlds and other people. The funny thing is, I didn’t realize that I was a storyteller until well into adulthood. I just thought that if anyone knew the things floating around in my mind, they’d call me insane. Turns out I am insane—I’m a writer! Ha!


If you could invent a sub-genre to classify this book, what would you call it?
Hmmmm…. It’s probably Spiritual Romantic Epic Classic. Yeah. I like that.

What music did you listen to while writing it?  Are there any songs that go to particular chapters or characters?
As a singer/songwriter myself, I have a soft spot for the genre. So I listen to a lot of folksy, ethereal, under-produced artists who write their own stuff. They get bonus points if they play the piano. My favorite right now is RHODES. He’s a British singer/songwriter with a voice like butter. I think I took to him because he sort of reminds me of Ferryl. His music is deeply romantic but clever and thoughtful. It’s ethereal in all the right ways. He has quite a few songs that inspired a lot of scenes in my books, but ones that come to mind first are ‘Wishes’, ‘The Lakes’, ‘What If Love’, and ‘Crash’.

Do you have a favorite character, and if so, why?
Can I have more than one? *wink* I think my favorites are a tie between Titus, Michael, and a character you haven’t met yet named Hania. (You’ll meet her in the next book but sufficient to say, they call her a lioness for a reason. And I LOVE her.) Titus is my favorite because he’s so conflicted. He doesn’t know who he is yet. But he knows he’s not who he should be. I love his journey. And, having the privilege of knowing what’s going to happen to him (#AuthorPrivileges), his story is one of my favorites.

But Michael is another favorite. And I think it’s because he’s so nauseatingly selfless. He reminds me of my husband in that regard. He’s one of those people that would give you the shirt off of his back. But he’s flawed, too. And he’s got scars he hasn’t worked through yet. If I’m being honest, I think both of them are in my top favorites because I hadn’t planned on any of them. This story was birthed through Ferryl’s and Elizabeth’s eyes, so the secondary characters that became central characters were a surprise to me. I think that is honestly one of the most rewarding things about being a storyteller—the characters can really surprise you. And they feel like your own children in some ways.

Which character do you identify with the most?
This is a tough one for me, because I think there is probably a little bit of me in each of the characters. If there is a character I’d hang out with on weekends, it’s probably Hania (again, you haven’t met her yet but she’s just…. GREAT). If there’s a character I feel like I’d go to for advice, it’s Elizabeth, hands down. If there is a character that I would be thrilled to have show up slightly intoxicated at family parties so that he can say highly inappropriate things at all the wrong times, it’s Derwin. And if there is a character that I would hate but also be slightly jealous of her style and personality, it’s Meria. (Yes, I love the villain. She’s delightfully horrible.)

What was your favorite part to write and why?
I’m going to answer this the only way I can: by saying what has been my favorite to write of what you’ve read so far because… if I said what has been my favorite to write of the series so far, there would be major spoilers. (Again, #AuthorPrivileges) So, of books one and two, my favorite scene to write was Ferryl on the mountain. Largely inspired by Moses’ encounter with the burning bush in the book of Exodus, this scene gave me chills as I wrote it. I loved the challenge of trying to explain immortal, divine Light. I loved the challenge of giving God a personality. And I loved seeing it all through Ferryl’s eyes. For me personally, I think God is all of the things Ferryl encountered and more: light, music, fire, eternity, galaxies, heat, joy. I think creation is a shadow and portrait of the Creator. So to try to convey that magnitude with letters and words and phrases… it was daunting. But it was also quite cathartic and romantic for me. I’ve had a lot of readers tell me that was their favorite scene, too.

Did you have a LEAST favorite part to write, and if so, what?
I did NOT like writing any scene where Ferryl and Elizabeth fought. It was difficult to give them problems because I wanted to cradle them in my arms and keep them safe from all harm. (Again, they feel like my kids in a lot of ways.) But it has been a central tenet of these books to write love for what it really is—the valleys and the mountaintops. The highs and the lows. So I didn’t want to portray one of those we-never-have-problems-because-we’re-in-love couples. So I let them fail. I let them get nasty with one another. I let them say things they regretted. And I hated every minute of it.

What scene/s did you love writing that DIDN’T make it into the final draft?
Hahahaha, okay, you’re going to hate me for this, but when I wrote the first draft of The Purloined Prophecy, Lord Adam was originally intended to be a new love interest for Elizabeth. I thought it might be fun to give Ferryl a little challenge. I eventually changed that thread because of who Lord Adam became, and because of what I knew he would have to do in the rest of the books. But originally, there was a scene were he kissed Elizabeth. It was my subtle little nod to George Lucas and Star Wars because (SPOILER AHEAD….) of them being family. I thought it would be a funny little nugget to have for Derwin to make fun of Elizabeth for unknowingly making out with her cousin. BUT…. I ended up changing Lord Adam’s entire persona from being someone Elizabeth might be attracted to, to someone Elizabeth knew was up to no good. Because that will become tantamount in later books. So the kissing scene got nixed. (Plus I realized that even if she couldn’t be with Ferryl, it would take Elizabeth a lot longer than a few days or weeks to move on to another man.)

Will you share three of your favorite quotes from the book?
Ooooooh, YES. Gladly!

“I know who holds your leash, Prince Derwin.” smirked King Aaron, sipping again of his wine. “Just as I know you happen to like it that way.”
– Chapter 48, The Purloined Prophecy (I love this because I love Derwin. He’s a grumpy cuss and there is only one person in the world who has his number. And he happens to be married to her.)

“Providence was… He was…
Beyond.
Beyond anything Ferryl could put into words. His light. His color. The radiant glory and power emanating from him like a tangible wave of heat and power and infinity. Eternity. Future and past. The book and the pen that wrote it. The song and the notes that composed it. The canvas and the brush that painted it. Fury. Splendor. Fire. Wonder.”
– Chapter 49, The Purloined Prophecy (I love this quote because of what I mentioned before: the challenge of trying to convey who Providence is in mere words.)

“Maybe I need you, yes. But maybe… Maybe you need me, too.
“Because the truth, Elizabeth, sometimes it’s black and white—as black and white as the halls of Benalle Palace.
“But sometimes, Elizabeth… Sometimes the truth is as nuanced, as colorful as the glittering halls of Chesedelle. And it requires something more of us. Something beyond logic, beyond reason. Sometimes the truth requires…”
“Faith,” she interrupted softly, tears lining her eyes.
“Yes,” he nodded. “Faith. And I think the fact that it requires both faith and logic is what makes it truth at all. I think the fact that it’s both unchanging and depthless is what makes it formidable, eternal.”
– Chapter 52, The Purloined Prophecy (This. This sums up the mystery of my faith. It’s both black & white and as nuanced as a glittering crystal. It is the enigmatic marriage of tangible and intangible. And I think love was given to us to help us understand that, even if only just a little.)

Are there any hidden easter eggs in your book that we should look out for?
Only about a million. Every prophecy, of course. They will all matter. And some of them… well, some of them will be left for you to decide how they will work. The moths. Oh, I can’t wait for you to learn about the moths. And well, I cannot give all of them away because where would the fun be in that? But sufficient to say that there is a LOT more to Michael’s story. And you already know it, you just don’t realize it yet.

How did writing this book help you grow as an author?
I think looking at the world through the eyes of so many different characters has made me a better person. So often in real life I will interact with someone who reminds me of one of my characters. And so I take a moment to listen longer. I make a point to absorb and retain. I think I’ve become a better listener and a better friend. And perhaps those reasons began as selfish character research. But it has taught me to slow down, to soak in, and to appreciate human nature in all its varied forms.

What’s your favorite book?  Did it influence this story in any way?
That’s like asking me what is my favorite star in the sky. GEEZ. Okay, I have several go-tos that I read over and over. I absolutely LOVE Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I make a point to read that one about once a year. I also LOVE The Princess Bride by William Goldman and the entire Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. Of course these books influenced mine. Of course! How could they not? I think all art influences art. I think all life influences art. But in particular, I love how the story of Christ is represented in such a tangible way in Redeeming Love. I love that, again as I said before, a love story teaches us about the Creator’s own heart. Yes, that book is beautiful.

And as for The Princess Bride? The book is witty and clever and quick and yet still sweet and poignant and deeply romantic. I think that had to have influenced me in some ways. I did not set out to write a particular genre. I set out to try to be authentic and write authentic people, with a healthy sprinkling of magic. People who are deep and broken and scarred, but are still funny and clever and witty. People who have many layers, like we do. So of course The Princess Bride influenced that. It’s a masterpiece of light-hearted fairy tale meets profound peek into human nature. I love every morsel of it.

What’s next for you as a writer?
I’m deep in the throes of writing this series. As of now, I have written the first five books of the series and have started writing the sixth. I have eight planned out so far. But I have a sneaking suspicion that there may be more in there. Only time will tell. I haven’t allowed myself to think past this series yet because I’m a bit of a *squirrel* kind of person when it comes to creativity.

BUT… as I write these books, I am also simultaneously working on writing, composing and recording a companion soundtrack, with both songs and scores influenced by the story and characters. I don’t have a definitive release date set for it yet, but you can at least get a sneak peek of one of the songs on the trailer for The Promised One here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MwIK5WvoME (I wrote, arranged, and performed the music for this, and the piece is lovingly called Ferryl’s Song.)


Do you have a favorite dinosaur?  If so, what?
Bahahahahahaaha #NonSequiturAlert
Okay ummmm, peg me as one of those people who firmly believes dragons are dinosaurs. Fight me. I don’t really care about real-life dinosaurs, except perhaps Littlefoot (color me a kid of the ’80s). But give me dragons all day. So yes, my favorite dinosaur is a dragon. Elliott, to be precise. Pete’s dragon. He’s perfect. You’re welcome. And while we’re on this dragon vein, I also happen to love Abraxos, Manon’s mount in the Throne of Glass series, though technically he’s a wyvern, which is an armless dragon. Which is really a dinosaur. #Science

Thank you for stopping by, Morgan!  It was delightful to hear about behind the scenes of this book and series.

Maybe you noticed it… maybe not. But in The Promised One, there are a WHOLE LOT of Hebrew transliterations. Pretty much every proper name, including all the places, provinces, towns, castles, kingdoms, plus all the character names (except a few — more on that in a bit) are Hebrew in origin.

What’s with that?

There’s a pretty simple explanation, actually. The book is an allegory of the Old Testament. (Well the first four books, to be precise. And yes, you guessed it, the books after that will be an allegory of the New Testament. You’re welcome.)

So I spent quite a while researching ancient Hebraic folklore, traditions, fare, culture, even currencies. I took some liberties, of course. I mean, it’s fantasy, kids. But in general, most everything you read is based on the ancient Hebrew culture. So of course, all the names had to be Hebrew.

And let me just tell you… finding a non-ridiculous transliteration spelling of some of the Hebrew words I wanted to use was… challenging. It’s a guttural language, to say the least. So as with some of the tradition and folklore, I took some liberties with spelling too. But it’s so cool to know that every name has meaning, and everything is rooted in the culture that gave us the Bible.

So without further ado, here are some of the more popular proper names in The Promised One, and their meanings (and pronunciations, because I’m generous like that).

Places:

Navah (nah-VAAH) — Hebrew; means “home”

Midvar (MID-vahr) — Hebrew; means “wilderness”

Haravelle (HAH-ruh-vell) — Hebrew origin: HAR, means “mountains”

Benalle (beh-NALL) — Hebrew; means “wisdom”

People:

Ferryl (FEH-rill) — Irish*; means “brave one”

Elizabeth (ee-LIZ-uh-beth) — Hebrew; means “promise of God” (hint, hint)

Delaney (de-LAY-nee) — Gaelic*; means “from the black river”

Michael (MY-kull) — Hebrew; means “which man is like God”

Meria (muh-RY-uh) — Hebrew; means “rebellions one” (Ha! I love this!)

Aiken (AY-kinn) — Hebrew; means “made from oak trees”

Erel (EH-rill) — Hebrew; means “hero”

Bedell (buh-DELL) — French*; means “messenger”

Derrick (DEH-rick) — Germanic*; means “rich or powerful ruler of all people”

Other:

Chalam (CHAH-lumm) — Hebrew; means “dream”

*There were just some names that no matter how hard I tried, I could not find a Hebrew transliteration or name that fit their personality. And sometimes, if I found the word, it did not an eloquent name make. So I took some liberties from other cultures to find just the right names. Although I must admit to you that when it came to the name Ferryl, I just liked it. It was perfect. Sorry, not sorry.

 

Hey guys! It’s release day!! Hooray!! The Promised One is officially available for purchase wherever books are sold. Oh man, I am FREAKING OUT!!! I wanted to share with you an article from Ampersand Write, a writing community I am a part of. It was so much fun to answer these questions and I am thrilled to share with you just a little insight into the making of The Promised One.

Enjoy!

~Morgan

[separator type=”thin”]

Original article by Kristen Aitken, Ampersand Write

Every once in a while, a story comes along that grabs you by the shirt collar and sweeps you off your feet until the last page turns. One such book for me is The Promised One by Morgan G. Farris. Having known Morgan for many years, I could not wait to get my hands on a copy of what she had poured her heart and soul into creating… And, of course, to pick her brain about it for your benefit! Following is a behind-the-scenes look at what became this beautiful, charming, magical tale that is available now for purchase.

Tell us about your book!

Wow, okay doesn’t every author hate having to sum up their story into a few sentences? Ha! My book is called The Promised One and it is the first book in a series I’ve lovingly (and painstakingly) named The Chalam Færytales. (Chalam is the Hebrew transliteration for dream. In the book, you learn of the chalam tree, which has the legend that when two people share of its fruits, they share of the same destiny.) The book follows the stories of Elizabeth and Ferryl, my two main characters, and their journey of finding their way back to each other after being separated by magic, a wicked queen, and a destiny they don’t know that awaits them. They’ve known each other their whole lives, and fallen in love over those years, so that when the story kicks off, you’re not watching a couple fall in love, you’re watching a couple who is already in love figure out what went wrong. It’s a fantasy, so there are mythical creatures and spells and curses and all that jazz. But at the end of the day, I wanted to tell a little bit different kind of love story—the story of what happens after that first kiss.

What gave you the idea for your work?

I think there is one glaring way that art fails to adequately reflect life: love stories. In books and movies, most of the time the best part of the relationship revolves around that first kiss—or that first time the couple finally admits their feelings to one another (however that pans out). But in life, I think we forget that the kiss is only the beginning, and that love is something that is forged over time, not discovered in a moment of passion. I really wanted to read a book about that, but they’re few and far between. Like the adage says, write a book you want to read. So I did. And somewhere in the churning and mulling over of these ideas of love, these characters, this world, and this concept was born. And because I’m a nerd, of course that concept was a fantasy.

What is your favorite character in your work and why?

My favorite character in my book is probably Commander Titus. He’s not a huge part of the story in the beginning, but I introduced him in book one because in books two and three, he becomes paramount to the story (and he doesn’t even know it). But you’ll see even in book one that Titus is a conflicted man. He doesn’t know what he wants, he doesn’t really even know where he stands. He’s fiercely loyal, even to his own detriment, but his main flaw is that he cannot see the good within himself. I love him because I think Titus is a little bit of all of us. He is darkness and he is light and some days he gives in to one of those more than the other. But he wants to be good. He wants to do right. He just can’t quite figure out how in his circumstances.

What is one aspect of your current work that sets it apart from other books/stories?

It was really important to me from the beginning that this story feel real, even though it is set in a fantasy world. I wanted the characters to be relatable, to be people we could see ourselves through. On the other hand, my books are an allegory of the story of the Biblical Messiah. I wanted to convey the magic of that story without preaching and I wanted to paint real people without white-washing them the way Christian literature often does. So the characters are messy. They fail. They have foul mouths (God forbid!). They hurt each other—purposely and accidentally. They hurt themselves. If you’ve ever read the Old Testament, you know there is nothing G-rated about it. I wanted to make sure that my story held true to that. That is why I haven’t marketed it as Christian literature, but also haven’t shied away from saying what it is—a reimagining of the greatest story ever told. It’s a niche genre with an unconventional angle, and from the moment the story began to unfold, I knew I was writing something a bit risky. But I also knew I was supposed to write it, so here we are. I’m genuinely curious to see what people think, to be honest.

Do you recall how old you were and/ or what happened to spark your interest in reading?

I am what you call a victim of the school reading system. In other words: school ruined me for reading. All those AR points turned reading into a burden for me from a young age (a mistake our schools are making that I am quite passionate about, to be honest.) But I did have a few exceptions to that rule that I fell in love with from an early age. Little Women, The Iliad and The Odyssey, and The Chronicles of Narnia, to name a few. But it wasn’t until I was in my early twenties and met my husband that I learned to crave reading and, funny enough, it was his love for Harry Potter that turned me into a bookworm. So yes, I am one of those millions of people who say that Harry Potter ignited their passion for reading. And yes, I was an adult when that happened.

What is your favorite book and why?

I could no sooner pick a favorite book than I could pick a favorite star in the sky. But I do have some go-tos that I can’t seem to quit reading. Foremost, I am a hardcore forever fan of Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I have read that book too many times to count and I still ugly cry every time. I am also a super nerd for the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. She is just… a stupid brilliant writer and if I could channel even an iota of her voodoo magic, I would.

When did you start writing? And what about that gave you the desire to write?

I started writing when I was nine years old. It manifested in the form of songs for about twenty years and over that time, I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of them. I always loved writing papers in school and in college, but I never considered myself a writer, per se. It wasn’t until the summer of 2014 that I began penning novels. To date, I have written seven novels, but The Promised One is the first one to be published.

What are your main influences (writing-related or otherwise)?

I am heavily influenced by music. I’m a musician, so it’s in my blood. For most of the scenes in my books, I have a song to which I attribute the moment. (For those curious, you can find my Apple Music playlist of those songs here.)

If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would you meet and why? What would you ask them?

C.S. Lewis. Hands down. He and I are kindred spirits in so many ways. He was a skeptic at heart. He never took things at face value, not even his faith. He challenged it, questioned it, and explored it. What he left behind was a legacy of thought-provoking prose that has shaped so much of how I think of God and the world. I’d sit down with a cup of hot tea and ask him to tell me stories the same way Elizabeth (in my book) would ask her father to.

What inspires you to create?

Most definitely my faith. Everything I do is colored by it. I’m not going to preach to you, I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong and I’m right. But I am going to tell you, in some form of art, no doubt, that an undeniable something has gotten ahold of me, and I’m a better person for it. The Promised One is most definitely a love letter to that faith and a testament to the work of Providence in my own life.

Want to find out more?

The Promised One, the first book in The Chalam Færytales series, is available for purchase now. You can check out this and other works by Morgan (because she does a lot more than write) here. And check out her book trailer below! (She even wrote, arranged, and performed the music for it!)

[button content=”Purchase the Promised One” color=”black” text=”white” url=”https://www.morgangfarris.com/product-category/books” openin=”_self”]

Until next time,

~Kristen Aitken, Ampersand Write