Updated: Jan 25
Nov 12, 2021
This week’s Authors At Home is with Patti Callahan, New York Times bestselling author of sixteen novels and co-creator of the web show Friends and Fiction. Her latest novel, Once Upon a Wardrobe, tells the story of a girl who sets out to learn the inspiration behind Narnia on behalf of her terminally ill younger brother, and in doing so reignites a sense of hope in her own life. Here, Patti shares with us the inspiration behind her new book, her love of the Narnia series, and her life as a writer.
When did you first read the Narnia series, and what drew you to it? Why does it still mean so much to you to this day?
It’s hard to say why something rings so real and true as a child, but I do know I was enchanted and enthralled by Narnia. I looked for it behind every closed door. I think — if I were to analyze it — I would say I believed (believe) there is an unseen world right here with us in the seen world and I wanted (want) to find it.
What is your favorite thing about the series? Do you have a favorite character?
My favorite thing about the series is the sudden realization that the Pevensie children have when they realize that they are royalty in another world, that through a door in the back of a wardrobe, there is a land where they are Kings and Queens and there are thrones waiting for them. My favorite character is Mr. Tumnus, which doesn’t make much sense as he’s not the most glamorous, but he almost does something horrible and then takes it back. He is nervous and brave at the same time.
Aside from Narnia, what other books, movies, and shows do you like, and what are some of your other hobbies?
I am a reading junkie — I love everything from fantasy to mythical to realist to memoir to beach to literary. I am sure I missed a category there that I love. I want to enter into a new world, feel new things, see new sights, know other’s emotions. My hobbies mostly revolve around reading and writing and outdoor hikes and bike rides. I do love to create and re-create my inside spaces, the places where we live our daily lives.
What inspired you to write this book, and what kind of research went into it?
I was first inspired by my interest (some might say obsession) with “origin stories”. Where to ideas, songs, music and art come from? Every culture in the world has an origin story about where the world began. But what about the origin story of a fictional world? That was the beginning of this book.
What are you doing when you’re not reading or writing?
Spending time with my family, hiking, biking, walking, kayaking or traveling. I love new adventures and a big extended dinner at a long table with people I love.
What can you tell us about Friends and Fiction? How did it get started, what has been your favorite part of it so far, and what do you look forward to in the future?
Friends and Fiction — ah! What a treasure it has been. We (Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel and Kristy Woodson Harvey and I) host a weekly LIVE webshow on You Tube and Facebook where we interview other authors and talk about writing, reading and publishing. As our tagline says, Four NYT bestselling authors, Endless stories. We also have a Friday podcast with librarian Ron Block called Writers Block. We have over 54 thousand members and our community, with over 100 posts a day about books, reading and writing. It’s extraordinary.
It started during the pandemic when all of our book tours were cancelled and we wanted to find a way to support each other, our work, Indie bookstores and other authors. My favorite part? The incredible community. As for the future — we are so excited for all the guests, ideas and events we have coming up!
What does your writing routine look like?
When I first began writing, my children were very young so I wrote very early in the morning. That habit has continued! I try to write first thing, to keep my morning hours sacred for the writing. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s a dang fine day when it does.
What drew you to writing, and how has your journey as an author influenced your life?
I have always been a reader. When I was a child I would actually get in trouble for reading — “get your nose out of that book.” So my belief in the power of story slowly and finally translated into my attempt to tell a story. Nothing has influenced my life more (other than family) than my writing journey — it has changed me not only in my understanding of being human, but in becoming part of an incredible community of artists.
When college student Megs approaches author C. S. Lewis with her younger brother’s request to find out if Narnia is real, he instead takes her on a magical journey through the moments in his life that led to his greatest creation.
Megs Devonshire, on a scholarship at Oxford, is brilliant with numbers and equations. She prefers the dependability of facts — except for one: the brother she loves with all her heart doesn’t have long to live. When George becomes captivated by a brand-new book called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and begs her to find out where Narnia came from, there’s no way she can refuse. Despite her timidity about approaching the famous author, who is a professor at her school, Megs soon finds herself taking tea with the Oxford don and his own brother, begging them for answers. What she receives instead are stories . . . little-known tales from different periods in Mr. Lewis’s life, which she takes home to George. Why won’t Mr. Lewis just tell her plainly what George wants to know? The answer will reveal to Meg many truths that science and math cannot, and the gift she thought she was giving to her brother — the story behind Narnia — turns out to be his gift to her, instead: hope.
About Patti Callahan:
Patti Callahan is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of sixteen novels and podcast host. She is the recipient of The Christy Award — A 2019 Winner “Book of the Year”; The Harper Lee Distinguished Writer of the Year for 2020 and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year for 2019.
Patti Callahan is the co-host and co-creator of the popular weekly online Friends and Fiction live web show and podcast, featuring the four New York Times bestselling authors Mary Kay Andrews, Kristy Woodson Harvey, and Kristin Harmel. With endless stories and special guests, they are LIVE every Wednesday at 7 pm ET on the Friends and Fiction Facebook group page, their YouTube Channel, and Parade Magazine Facebook page. You can follow them on Instagram and, for weekly updates, subscribe to their newsletter.
In a recent essay series partnership with Parade Magazine, each Wednesday viewers get a new “life lesson” from one of the FF writers on Parade.com as well as a chance to discuss the themes later that evening on Facebook Live. A full-time author and mother of three children, she now resides in both Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband.
Connect with Patti! Website: patticallahanhenry.com Twitter: @pcalhenry Instagram: @pattichenry Facebook: @AuthorPattiCallahanHenry
Writer and publicist. Doxie lover and champion of elephants. Always looking to rec you a book to read.
The Reading Lists The Reading Lists is a Medium publication aimed at introducing you to your next great read. Here you’ll find recommended book round-ups, author interviews and advice on all things writing and publishing. Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org