|The Wolf of Tebron, Gates of Heaven Series #1|
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A young blacksmith must undertake a perilous journey to the four ends of the world to rescue his wife, who is held captive by the Moon. Along the way, he befriends a powerful wolf who encourages, protects, and ultimately sacrifices his life to save his human friend. A stirring allegory of God's love in classic fairy tale tradition.
C. S. Lakin lives in the otherworldly kingdom of California, in a forest that resembles Tebron. In addition to the many fairy tales she writes, she also forays into the real world with her many psychological mysteries. Her novel Someone to Blame (winner of the 2009 Zondervan novel contest) releases October 2010. When she is not writing, she works professionally as a book copyeditor and writing coach. She has two amazing daughters, a dedicated and encouraging husband, a demanding but lovable black lab pup, and three persnickety but irresistible cats. Whenever possible, she disappears for days atop mountain peaks or explores the ocean sixty feet below the surface. The rest of her life is spent between sea and sky waiting for a city not made by human hands.
Favorite verse: That’s like saying what brand of chocolate do I like best. I default to Romans 8:31, 32: What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
but depending on the day, the verse varies. As we all know, the Bible is frozen Holy Spirit, so when we open it up, God directs us to what we need to ponder on right then. Seems each week I have a different favorite verse. My all-time funny one is in the NRSV of Proverbs 30:2 and is often my theme “for the day” :”Truly I am too stupid to be human.” Really, it says that!
Our Interview with C.S. Lakin
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a Type AAA personality who is all over the map. I have way too many interests and get distracted by too many creative ideas. I love reading and writing novels and I’m very social and tend to talk people’s ears off. If you see someone walking around missing ears, they probably just held a conversation with me. Oh, I did I say that in another lifetime, I probably would have been a stand-up comic? I like to write about very heavy, difficult, painful things, so that’s why I make a lot of jokes.
What is your favorite Bible verse?
That’s like saying what brand of chocolate do I like best. I default to Romans 8:31, 32, but depending on the day, the verse varies. As we all know, the Bible is frozen Holy Spirit, so when we open it up, God directs us to what we need to ponder on right then. Seems each week I have a different favorite verse. My all-time funny one is in the NRSV of Prov. 30:2 and is often my theme “for the day” :”Truly I am too stupid to be human.” Really, it says that!
How did you get started writing Christian fiction?
I had written three novels over twenty years for the mainstream market, and had five or six agents try to sell my literary fiction/mystery novels without success. I became very discouraged. When I returned to my faith, I pled with God to fire me up to write for him. Whoa! Watch out. I felt like the princess with the dancing slippers—you remember that fairy tale—Everyone who puts on the dancing slippers dances until they fall down and die of exhaustion because they can’t stop. That’s how God answered my prayer. He showed me exactly what he wanted me to write and said, get going! So…I did and am…sometimes getting a little tired and feel like sitting out the next tune. No, really, I am so thrilled. I’ve written seven novels in the last four years and have so many ideas, I will never get them all written. Half are fantasy and the other half are contemporary mysteries.
What inspired your interest in writing Fantasy?
In answer to my prayer that went like this, “God, tell me what to write,” God said, “I’ve got just the thing. No one is doing it and no one will want to buy it or read it. At least, not right now. But I know what I am doing and I have a time table and a plan. Trust me.” He put a little book in my hands by Chesterton called Orthodoxy, which I believe with all my heart Gilbert, back in 1905, was inspired to write (at least the chapter on fairy tales) for moi. I jumped right into The Wolf of Tebron, thinking I wanted to represent God as someone much more accessible than Aslan—someone always by your side, watching over you while you sleep, feeding, caring, warming, teaching, saving, and ultimately sacrificing himself for you (us). What better creature than a wolf, which is really a big cuddly dog in disguise. Okay Aslan is NOT a tame lion, and Ruyah is NOT a tame wolf, but he knows how to laugh and get goofy, which may seem sacrilegious to some, but all you have to do is look at the goofy things dogs do to know God has a great sense of humor.
How did you come up with the concept for The Wolf of Tebron?
I take traditional fairy tale elements and turn them into new stories. This book is derived from the Grimm’s fairy tale called The Enchanted Pig. It was one of my favorite fairy tales as a kid—with a woman who had to go to the four ends of the earth and talk to the moon and sun and wind to find her husband. She had to wear out three pairs od iron shoes and collect chicken bones along the way. I tweaked the story quite a bit, but Joran does the same in searching for his wife. The woman in the fairy tale was alone and despondent, but Joran has his wolf, and those who walk with God know they have the best companionship possible.
Is any part of The Wolf of Tebron factual?
Well, all the allegory is, of course. And no, there are no real rumphogs or frych birds, although, every one of my books has a rump hog in it somewhere. The truths in Wolf are very rich and deep; you just have to get past having Scripture come out of the mouths of various animals. In the next book (my favorite!), The Map Across Time, the best and wisest character in the story is a fat white pig named Winston, who has a terrible British accent and is quite full of himself.
How did you design the setting?
Oh, I love creating fantasy worlds. I wanted to capture the traditional feel found in old fairy tales, which, when you think about it, was often the contemporary setting of the day in which those tales were written. We picture the little cottages in the woods, but those were real villages and houses way back when. I do not want to invade the milieu of fairy tales with an urban or modern setting, but my characters and their struggles feel very modern. In fact, my marketing director told me he kept forgetting this was a fantasy world because it felt so real. The thing about fairy tales is they start in a real world and real situation. Jack gets sent by his mother to market to sell the cow, because they are starving. It’s only after he foolishly (read:divine direction) trades the cow for “magic beans” does he end up atop a beanstalk talking to a goose that lays golden eggs in the castle in the clouds.
How long did The Wolf of Tebron take you to complete?
It usually takes me 2-3 months to write a book from concept to clean first draft. As an editor, I edit as I go and reread and clean up the chapters so that by the time I get to the end I’m pretty much done with a near final draft. With that said, you can probably guess I plot and outline pretty thoroughly and don’t just write off the top of my head. I feel my books are quite complicated and deep and have intense plots and character arcs, and all that needs to be plotted on charts and cards. I do allow for a lot of free creativity to come in. And often the characters try to run the show, but I prod them back on the path.
Do you have a character in The Wolf of Tebron that stands out to you?
Well, there aren’t too many characters in this book, unlike the dozens in most of my others. But Ruyah the wolf of course if my favorite character because he represents all that Jesus is to me. I even have a cut out photo of a wolf taped to my lamp next to my bed to remind me how much he loves me. And yes, don’t’ go into shock, but I do intend to get stuffies made and sell them in my marketplace! I think everyone should have a stuffed Ruyah wolf to cuddle with.
How much research did The Wolf of Tebron take?
This book took a bit, but most do for me. I use dozens of Scriptures and quotes from famous writers in all my books. The second and third books have extensive biblical Hebrew, but this one doesn’t. The research for Wolf was mainly revolving all the quotes and themes from Lewis and Chesterton, which supply the framework of the entire book.
What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing The Wolf of Tebron?
Nothing specifically. I came to love Chesterton’s work through researching all his quotes.
How many books will be in the Gates of Heaven Series? Are they stand-alone titles or do you have to read through the series to get a full picture?
Ah, this is what is great. Fairy tales stand alone and each book (hopefully seven maybe more, but three for sure) can be read in any order. But, the fun thing is I weave characters, scenes, and locales through all the books so that you will pick up things you read in another book. Places and events are mentioned in each book referencing the others. And characters kind of wander out of one book and steal the story in another. I love fantasy series, but often you must read them in order and if the first books are hard to get, you don’t bother with the others. I didn’t even want the cover to say “book 1” but alas, it is the first…
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
Living in this world. Need I say more? Apart from that, I’d be happy as a rump hog in a mud puddle if I could just write all day every day and eat chocolate.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
I love creating stories, writing scenes. My favorite part of the actual writing task is to end a chapter with a bang.
What does the writing process look like for you?
Well, take a look at my desk! I am a brainstormer, and I have index cards, notebooks, reference books, Post-it notes, pieces of scrap paper, charts, outlines all over the place. I am pretty diligent and usually sit down and just start writing. I like to write six hours straight, with a break at lunch to walk the dog. I can’t write in little spurts or with any noise at all.
What other new projects do you have on the horizon?
I’m more than halfway through book four in the series: The Unraveling of Wentwater, which is all about words and how a town starts disappearing when words disappear. I just finished writing my fifth contemporary drama/mystery, which was difficult and largely autobiographical, about the mystery of my father’s strange death in 1961, and my mother’s fierce betrayal of my family. That was a hard one to write, but God directed me to do so. I am also now developing my eleventh novel, Intended for Harm, a modern-day adaptation of the story of Joseph set in the late 20th century—telling of a dysfunctional family that learns about forgiveness. After that, back to fantasy. I’m like a ping pong ball.
What message would you like your readers to take from The Wolf of Tebron?
Wolf has the best message of all my books: You are loved. It’s that simple. I would hope the ending will make you cry and break your heart, as you reflect on what God did to save you.
What is your greatest achievement?
I don’t feel I’ve ever done anything great. It’s a great achievement to complete every book, but I don’t do any of it on my own strength or with my own talent. Every great thing I have in my life is a gift from God. This question confuses me!
What is your goal or mission as a writer?
I see these fantasy books as a serious ministry, and that’s why I’m so thrilled to partner with AMG, as they share and uphold my vision—the vision God has given me and charged me with. The world needs allegorical fantasy. There are hundreds of millions of fantasy readers and many of them are looking for hope—that’s why they escape to other worlds. They need fantasy that ultimately points to a God who loves them and who cares, books that don’t preach but do what Lewis said he’d hope of Narnia—he wanted not to teach people about Christianity, but to help them experience it. That is my mission.
What do you do to get away from it all?
I need to do that! My favorite pastime is backpacking. Only when I’m up on top of a mountain with no cell service and my pack on my back am I truly “away.” Anything else is not really a disconnect. I need to completely disconnect or I’ll get up and clean the house, bake cookies, play games on the computer, gab with someone on the phone or send e-mails. You have to drag me Farrrrrr away to get me to unhitch! My other favorite thing is scuba diving, but it’s more expensive and I haven’t been able to do that for a number of years, but I’d much rather be hanging with the fish and barracudas sixty feet under water than lying on a beach any day—and that’s saying a lot because I love the beach!