Stephen Lawhead: Back to His First Love
His million-selling Pendragon Cycle was an extensvely researched retelling of the Arthurian saga. His exploration of the Robin Hood legend, the King Raven Trilogy, took the beloved outlaw from Sherwood Forest to his more likely historic place, 11th century Wales.
Now, Lawhead embarks on his most ambitious work to date, The Bright Empires series. Beginning with The Skin Map, he weaves epic adventure, alternate realities, vivid history, philosophy, and physics into a tale like no other:
Kit Livingstone’s humdrum life takes a drastic turn when he cuts through a strange London alleyway on the way to his girlfriend’s flat and is met by his long-presumed dead great-grandfather, Cosimo. Cosimo explains that the alley is one of hundreds of ley lines—pathways between times and places and realities—and Kit is one of the gifted few who can walk them...
The sprawling epic will span five volumes altogether. “I’ve had the idea for the Bright Empire series for more than 10 years,” Lawhead says. “In my mind, I’ve always thought of it as my ‘super-fantasy,’ as enthusiastic about it as I am. After years of indulging my passion for historical fiction, I’m keen to get back to my first love—High Fantasy.”
Of course, Lawhead’s famed foray into historcal fiction wasn’t easy. Fascinated with the story of King Arthur since childhood, when Lawhead first approached his British publisher about the book, they scoffed at the idea of an American retelling the legend that had already been told many times before.
He continued to improve his writing skills and then moved his family to England for a year and a half to do research for Taliesin, the first book in his Arthurian series the Pendragon Cycle.
It was during this first British sojourn that he discovered the Celtic connection that weaves through many of his novels, most notably the Song of Albion series.
Lawhead points out that another thread throughout his novels can be found in his characters themselves—the tenacity and perseverance of Aden in Byzantium; the strength of character in Merlin in the Pendragon Cycle and in Bran in the King Raven Trilogy. “It’s the hero strain coming through,” he says. “How does the human spirit respond to the difficult times we all go through?”
Although these difficult times don’t include the bulk of Stephen’s life, there have been hardships, including a serious struggle with cancer in 2006 and 2007.
While his life has changed in many ways during his three decades as a novelist, his writing inhabits the same space and spirit it always has. Stephen keeps to a normal schedule, starting at nine and taking breaks for lunch and, living in Britain, tea.
He loves chasing the sense of wonder, always making his books new and slightly different. Others may try to repeat the formula of a bestseller, but he doesn’t like doing the same trick over again. —Katie Hart