Readers of A Pilgrim in Narnia know that I like to feature indie and small-press authors from time to time. Judy Carlson’s The White Knight, the Lost Kingdom, and the Sea Princess was published by Nordskog in 2015. Here she reflects upon the creation of her tale, and some of sources of struggle and inspiration.
As most writers are aware there are three ways to publish a book currently: traditional publishing houses (like Zondervan), self publishing, and a relatively new way that we might call custom publishing. Custom publishing means hiring a company to utilize all their equipment and expertise to, for a set price, depending on which services you choose, give you the finished product.
My book was published traditionally by Nordskog Publishing. It was a long journey to publication for me, and if one is accepted by a traditional type publishing house they have certain standards and rules by which an author must abide. These can become ticklish at times. In my case we also had some barriers with the C.S. Lewis Company in the UK, as they were concerned that my story was a spin-off of the Chronicles of Narnia. It was not, although my original subtitle was “A Sometimes-Like-Narnia Story”. However, we overcame those hurdles and went on to publication.
My story was definitely inspired by Mr. Lewis’s work. Yet it is definitely an original with the characters and universe all of my own creation. It is an epic-fantasy called The White Knight, the Lost Kingdom and the Sea Princess. It is structurally more like The Lord of the Rings but has many ‘footprints of Narnia’ in the content. I will not discuss my book here but focus on the struggle in writing it and bringing it to publication. I hope my long journey may encourage others with such aspirations to write a story that can impact the culture at large and be worthy of the extreme effort involved in such an undertaking.
Approximately eight years ago, in the very earliest stages of feeling the ‘need’, the ‘press’, the ‘impulse’ to write an ‘eighth’ chronicle of Narnia, I felt confused, alarmed, chagrined to even consider such an impossible task. I had always wished Mr. Lewis had written that last story that he alluded to in the ‘Voyage,’ and it seemed a great loss that he never did.
To say that I have been impacted by C.S. Lewis’s writing would be a huge understatement. I love the title of this blog by Brenton because since I first read the Chronicles in 1970, in a college literary movements class (as well as works by most of the Inklings), I have never been the same. Agreeing that I have been a ‘Pilgrim in Narnia’ is a profound personal description of my journey since then. I have read those stories over and over again to my six children, as well as listened to the unabridged tapes and cd’s by various English narrators. Although I have read his apologetic works, the greatest impact has been his fiction–in which is wrapped all of his theology and even his personal bents, humor and ideologies.
As I alluded to above, I was hard pressed to even consider attempting the impossible. But once the idea came to me I was almost hounded by the thought. Over time it crystalized from “Oh how I wish Mr. Lewis had written that Eighth Chronicle as he had hinted he might,’ to ‘why don’t you write it?’ Then came all of the former self doubts, which to me, were simply realism. “Who can emulate the works of a mind, an educator, a linguist, a ‘Classisist’ of the highest level?’ To even try is audacious to the end of fool hardy. No one will take this seriously as a work that should even be attempted and I would have been the lead dog in such a criticism.
But nevertheless, there it was laid out before me like a door mat saying WELCOME that you see a hundred times but never take seriously enough to step over and in. Finally all of the illogic of doing it couldn’t prevail over the extreme press in my spirit and story-writer’s pen. I stepped on and over the WELCOME mat, and The White Knight (‘sometimes-like-Narnia’) tale began.
It was just to be a short little chronicle like Mr. Lewis’s in length. I do so love to tell a story–just ask my grandchildren! But I do believe that God in His Throne Room had a far different intent. Had I known of it I would surely never have begun such a massive undertaking! 472 pages–with the aid of a professional grammarian, my husband–and seven years later it was published on July 1, 2015. I have 22 grandchildren, many of whom were born during those seven years–most are named in the story and two born since its publication–and have made a major move with major construction on our ‘new’ country cottage. For inspiration, I have a Narnia-like tall lamp post I can see out of my bedroom window. Magic!
Why do I share with you these final details? Often now people ask my advice on wishing to publish a book and the how-tos. I must emphasize that such a commitment must be supported by those closest to you. And, yes, you can conquer enormous hurdles if you and they believe in your project.
But most importantly, do you believe that spending your time in such an endeavor has redemptive qualities that can touch your culture? Unfortunately, there are a plethora of ‘Christian’ books out there but way, way too few books ‘written’ by Christians. As the Medieval writers wrote and believed that we should hide or code our messages, ‘lest a profane man should tred upon the sacred,’ so should we. My book is not a ‘Christian’ book but it is a book written by a Christian. My hope is to see it cross over into a culture desperately in need of something other than dystopian despair, but not ‘pie in the sky’ or ‘ivory tower’ shallow writing. My messages are ‘coded’ but they are deeply etched in every character and action. After all, I did write every word.
“You can’t be too careful, those Christians are planted everywhere.” C.S. Lewis
By Judy R. Carlson