I became a Christian when I was 19 years old, while reading C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and I’ve never stopped reading C. S. Lewis. I carry a number of his books – fiction and non-fiction – in my e-reader when I travel on business.
So, when my wife Linda asked me years ago what I might do if I retired “the next day” (knowing that, in fact, I had no interest in retirement), the answer popped right out:
“I think I’d try to write the fourth novel in C.S. Lewis’s Ransom trilogy.”
That’s what I said. If I had taken the time to reply carefully, I would have said something like this:
“I think I’d try to write Christian-themed mystery-adventure stories that would be similar in style and content to the third book in C. S. Lewis’s Ransom trilogy: That Hideous Strength.”
Later that fall, we took a long-planned family trip to England. We stayed in the town of St. David’s, on the coast of Wales, and at one point drove across the island to spend some time in Cambridge. I began writing my first novel on the flight home, and, as you might imagine, it seemed only natural to place my lead character – Rebecca – in England. That’s where C. S. Lewis spent his career (though he was born, and spent his early years, in Ireland), that’s where Linda and I had just spent time, exploring portions of Wales and England, and that’s where That Hideous Strength takes place. So, I placed The Face of the Enemy in England.
Since all of my novels – adult and young-adult alike – focus on Rebecca herself or on her family, they are all grounded at least partially in England. True, there is quite a bit of movement. In the second adult novel Rebecca travels to the U.S. and most of the action is in New York City and the Chesapeake Bay area. And in the second Visioners novel, her daughter, Joanna, does the same thing.
But my stories are likely always to have an England flavor, and you can sense that in the way people talk. Joanna, for example, refers to her friends as her “mates.” And, if she needs to say something about a sidewalk, she says “footway.”
I have always found it extremely helpful to see and touch and feel the sites I am going to describe in my stories. Sometimes I can’t actually get there and have to rely on electronic visits. But there is nothing like walking through the actual places where scenes, especially action scenes, are going to take place. I’m going to say more about that, but I’ll wait for a later entry.