Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Dear C. S. Lewis

I am a fiction writer.  I take facts and imagine what if to create a story. 

Today, you're invited to share in a fictitious correspondence with C.S. Lewis. Formulated answers came from blogs, articles, memories and photos from my daughter's dream come true trip, and Lewis' books.

Dear C.S.,
Several writers have expressed an interest in your writings and would like to ask a few questions.

Dear Mary et al,
Interesting. Let me light my pipe first then we can chat. Oh, and by the way, I prefer to be called Jack. If we have time I'll tell you why later.

There. Now. How may I assist you?

Dear Jack,
For this conversation, my questions pertain to your fiction writings. Where did you find your ideas?

Dear Mary et al,
One really must write what one knows. My long term infatuation with mythology became seed for stories. I tasted Norse mythology first as a teen then ventured into Greek, Roman, and of course, Celtic.  I consumed details then analyzed and integrated the information as a fire consumes paper. My desire to learn more could not be quenched. Chronicles of Narnia, Space Triology, and other fiction works grew from this in depth repertoire of information. 

Dear Jack,
I understand you discussed ideas with J.R.R.Tolkien. How did you know each other?

Dear Mary et al,
Tolkien played an important role in my life. I had walked away from God as a teen. While teaching at Oxford, he and Hugo Dyson argued with me late into many nights until I realized the truth and chose to engage in a deep relationship with Christ. With this, my life and writing morphed into a resonance of my new faith. 

Dear Jack,
Did you meet in coffee shops to discuss or edit your works? 

Dear Mary et. al,
We formed a literary discussion society along with three other men from Oxford called ourselves the Inklings. Talks centered around fiction, especially fantasy.  From this group, Tolkien and I read each other's work and agreed to meet regularly to edit each other's manuscripts.

I understand American writers from your period meet in coffee shops to critique or edit each other's works. We, in the UK, met in pubs. Tolkien and I specifically met at the Eagle and Child pub nearly every evening to discuss, mold, prune, and enhance each other's work. His English background infiltrated my writings and my Irish background seeped into his works.

Dear Jack,
Can you tell us about the settings you each chose (re: Narnia and Lord of the Rings)?

Dear Mary et al,
We both grew up in religious homes. He remained close to his faith, but I didn't. Under the influence of Tolkien and others I truly started a life-walk with Christ. 

With Tolkien's help, the memories of special childhood places became settings for my stories. If you travel to Tintern Abbey you might just see the Wood between the Worlds. You won't hear a sound, not a bird, water, or a person talking, you'll only sense the trees growing.

Dear Jack,
What are your thoughts about marketing? I assume you didn't have to blog or FB to promote your book. Did you need to market your works?

Dear Mary et al,
One could say I marketed my books. I felt a need to correspond to readers questions. Why, I remember one particular letter from a ten-year-old girl living in Hertfordshire. She asked a question about a statement Aslan made toward the end of the Silver Chair. Quite delightful that question was, yes, indeed.  I responded to her inquiry immediately. 

Years before, in 1956, I responded to an American girl's question about writing well. Among several points, I listed:  Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”  (C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children, p. 64.)

Dear Jack,
You certainly invested a lot of time in your writing.

Dear Mary et al,
Perhaps. However, when one finds a passion, time will be invested. I can't imagine doing anything else. Let me leave you with this thought: I sometimes think that writing is like driving sheep down a road. If there is any gate open to the left or the right the reader will most certainly go into it.  (“Cross-Examination,” in C.S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, ed. Lesley Walmsley, p. 555.)

Dear Jack,
Thank you for chatting with us. You wouldn't mind answering any questions that might pop up from comments, would you?

Dear Mary et al,
Of course not.  Let me refresh my pipe then we can have at it.
THE wardrobe C.S. used is in a small museum on the Wheaton College campus.  While attending the Write to Publish conference, a friend took my picture. I am the one on the left.

What would you like to ask C.S. Lewis, aka Jack?
What have you learned for past or current writers/ authors?


patti.mallett_pp said...

THIS IS AWESOME, in every way!!! Thanks so much!!!

Laura S. said...

This is a fun post! I grew up reading C.S. Lewis' books. Love the Chronicles of Narnia of course, and I'm also a fan of his Space Trilogy!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks for stopping by. Jack sends his greetings as well.

I guess it kinda shows I enjoy his books as well. AND I've read his books more than once myself and for my children. Lots of fun.

Stacy Henrie said...

One of my favorite C.S. Lewis books is not actually one he wrote, but it's about his marriage later in life. It's called Shadowlands. There's also a movie about it - not sure which one came first, but I love them both.

Debra E. Marvin said...

Very enjoyable post. Thanks for interviewing Mr. Lewis! :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

I haven't read Shadowlands yet, but have heard good comments. He truly loved his wife, and was brokenhearted when she died. sniff sniff, true love.

Mary Vee Writer said...

I found my conversatin with Mr. Lewis enjoyable and enlightning, however, I didn't like the smoke from his pipe. :)

Joanne Sher said...

Fascinating and FUN post :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Ooo, I love the smell of a pipe. Not the detrimental effects of it, mind you, but I really enjoy the smell of pipe tobacco. (I don't smoke one!)

I love CS Lewis and I remember my dad reading all the Narnia books to us growing up. I loved them!

GREAT idea for a post, Mary!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks for stopping by today. Jack would like to know if you've read any of his works.

My dad smoked a pipe. But my mom smoked cigarettes. I didn't like the combination of scents.
We helped our children stay up late for midnight New Years Eve celebration by reading through one of the books. Stories were continued during long car rides. Great read-a-louds!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Cool post, Mary! I agree with Sherrinda...Can't stand the smell of cigarette or cigar smoke, but pipes have a surprisingly comforting smell. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Mary - thanks for the reminisce. I wrote my BSc dissertation on the C S Lewis space trilogy and so it was a nice refresh, to hear what he had to say.

He is definitely someone close to my heart. Isn’t it strange how you can feel close to someone you’ve never met. I don’t get this with anyone “famous” but Lewis, I guess I must look up to him alot.


Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks Sarah :)

Seriously a dissertation on Lewis? Wow. Had I known I would have also contacted you. I enjoyed my research for this post. Sounds like you enjoyed your research as well.
Have you been to the UK? My daughter studied at Oxford. She took a day trip to the Abbey mentioned above. She called from there, elated.."Mom--I found Narnia!" How can you put a price on that?

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Mary, what an enjoyable post! We are in the process of reading through the Chronicles of Narnia with our children now. We actually read five chapters of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on Sunday with a friend's child and then watched the movie (first time for my kiddos). I fell in love with the stories as a girl, and I'm hoping my kids do the same. Thanks so much!

Mary Vee Writer said...

I'm sure your children will love them like you did. These are timeless works.
Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the insightful questions into one of my favorite writers. Keeping things concrete will make for more interesting stories. I enjoyed you ending your post with a picture of you and your friend with the Wardrobe.

Thank you,

Anonymous said...

Hi Mary!

Yes - but I live in the UK, Bristol, which isn't too far from Oxford. : )
I'd like to go see it again without work getting in the way, though.

Dissertation was great (few years ago now). It was on the cosmic trilogy and whether it was science fiction or fantasy.

You did a great job at being Lewis! No help from me needed.