Thursday, September 25, 2008

Frankenjack? Bringing C.S. Lewis to Life

C.S. Lewis died in 1963, but I brought him back to life. Sort of.

I did not cry out, "It's alive!" from the depths of my laboratory as Dr. Frankenstein did in that old movie. Neither did I exhume the body of C.S. Lewis for reanimation and genetic engineering purposes.

Instead, I asked myself the question, what would it be like if C.S. Lewis had conversations with an open-minded, contemporary skeptic? What would they talk about? Where would they go? Who would they meet?

So began my attempt to craft a simple idea into a viable book proposal and begin my hunt for a publishing house.

I had the initial idea in late 2003, but other projects consumed my time, primarily working on a book already under contract (The Lion, the Witch, and the Bible, recently reissued as The Heart of Narnia).

I was going to write my new book, with the working title Talking Sense with C.S. Lewis, in script form, like a play. In 2005 I had an epiphany that writing the book as a fictional narrative would open up all kinds of creative possibilities. This would make it easier to set scenes in various locations in the life of Lewis, describe his friends and other key individuals in his life that would appear in the book, and so forth.

In November 2005, I submitted the proposal to InterVarsity Press then moved on to one of the hardest parts of writing - waiting. In February 2006, IVP formally offered me a book contract for what would become Conversations with C.S. Lewis, released in April 2008 (I submitted the manuscript in April 2007).

Bringing C.S. Lewis to life as a fictional character true to his life and thought took a lot of work. I read or reread several biographies of Lewis, read a lot of his personal letters, read personal accounts of people who knew him, read or reread many of his key writings, listened to audio recording of Lewis in order to get a sense for his vocal patterns and such, looked through a number of books with photos of Lewis and his times, and more.

I also found that listening to The Great Divorce on audio was helpful, as that book by Lewis is also written in the first person and features a series of thoughtful conversations.

After determining what topics each chapter in my book would cover, I set out to research what Lewis thought on each subject, gleaning my insights from a broad range of his writings, then crafted his ideas into a fictional format.

So, in brief, that's how I set about bringing C.S. Lewis to life. If you want to meet Jack, open the pages of Conversations with C.S. Lewis and I'll give you some glimpses into the life and thought of C.S. Lewis in conversation with an atheist. I tried to make it a fun journey.

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