One-on-one discuss with David Downing about "In Search of the King" | The alternate

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Ed: How and when were you first introduced to C. S. Lewis and the Inklings? What did you find most interesting and attractive about your work?

David: I read Lewis and Tolkien for the first time while I was a student. Someone recommended the Narnia Chronicles to me in high school, but I thought by the age of 18 I was way too sophisticated and mature to read "kids stuff"!

When I finally dived into The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe one summer, I was so thrilled to read all seven chronicles in one month. Then I sat down and reread all seven the next month.

I started reading The Lord of the Rings one evening in college when I was in class the next day and forgot all my homework because I couldn't do it. I remember it was about 2:00 a.m. when Gandalf was dragged into the abyss and I almost had an anxiety attack.

Later in the story, when Gandalf reappeared, I had a feeling of relief and exhilaration that seemed like a little tincture of joy on that first Easter morning.

I'm sure part of my attraction to Lewis and Tolkien is simply that both are master storytellers. But there is also a force of kindness in their work. As a major in English at college, I spent much of my time reading contemporary writers who are experts in portraying people in difficulty – selfish, neurotic, brutal, and downright evil.

But very few 20th century writers other than Lewis and Tolkien can show us what good people look like – characters with integrity, compassion, courage, and willingness to sacrifice for others.

I am sure that this ability to present good characters convincingly is derived from their Christian worldview, a feeling that ultimately it is not evil or chaos but good that reigns in the universe.

Ed: What scientific and non-fiction books did you write about Lewis and friends before your novel?

David: I have written four scientific books on C. S. Lewis: Planets in Peril (1992), a critical study of the Ransom trilogy; The Most Reluctant Convert (2002), an investigation by Lewis & # 39; Journey to Faith; Into the Wardrobe (2005), a detailed overview of the Narnia Chronicles; and Into the Region of Awe (2005), a study of how Lewis & # 39; wide reading in Christian mysticism strengthened his own faith and enriched his imaginative writing.

I also have the introduction and notes for the Wade Annotated Edition by C. S. Lewis & # 39; The Pilgrim & # 39; s Progress (2014) and the Wade Annotated Edition by Lewis & # 39; Dymer provided.

Ed: What was the inspiration or genesis for your novel Looking for the King?

David: When I talk about Lewis, Tolkien and their friends, I am often asked, "Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall at an Inklings meeting?" or "What I wouldn't give to share a pub lunch with C. S. Lewis!"

I am very familiar with the biographies and letters of the Inklings, so I sometimes wondered if I could help readers imagine what it would be like to meet these people in person.

Then, a few years ago, my wife and I visited Somerset and Cornwall, and we were intrigued by all the Arthurian sites, especially the local stories that the spear of fate, the lance that pierced Christ's side, was hidden somewhere in England could be . So I decided to create my own story where we got to know the Inklings in 1940, along with some adventure and romance to keep the story moving!

Ed: How much did you research for previous books and how much did you research specifically for the novel?

David: I was already well acquainted with the biographies, letters and major works of Lewis, Tolkien and Williams. But when you write a novel, you have to go back and look at all of your sources in a new way.

I had always focused on the stories of the Inklings and their shared ideas. Writing an imaginative work, however, raises a number of new questions: "What would Lewis wear on an afternoon hike?"; "What did Tolkien's study look like at home?" "Did Charles Williams have a distinctive style of lecture?"

So I had to go back and reread all of my source materials in a new way. It was a real pleasure and adventure to explore the Inklings as real people, not just story creators!

Ed: Do you have any plans for another Inklings novel?

David: Yes, I left room for a sequel. If you look at the end of Looking For The King, you will find that Tom McCord believes he could return to England in uniform. And Laura Hartman wishes she could enroll in one of the Oxford women's schools.

So, yes, Tom and Laura could be reunited in a sequel, face new puzzles and new dangers, and ask Lewis, Tolkien and Williams for help again!

Ed Stetzer is executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, dean at Wheaton College, and publishes church leadership resources through the Mission Group. The Exchange team contributed to this article.


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