Updated: Jan 25
October 17, 2021
From Patti Callahan, the bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis, comes another enchanting story that pulls back the curtain on the early life of C. S. Lewis.
We had the pleasure of speaking with author Patti Callahan for the second time this year and this time around we chat about her latest novel Once Upon A Wardrobe, along with writing, book recommendations, and more.
Hi, Patti! Welcome back to The Nerd Daily! We last spoke to you in March. How’s 2021 been for you?
I am so happy to be back with you! 2021 has been a wild ride, hasn’t it? It’s a year that teaches us not to hold our expectations too tightly. And it’s all gone by so quickly. How is it October already?
When did you first discover your love for writing?
I discovered my love of writing at such a young age, that I honestly don’t remember when it all started! I believe I have been writing stories since I could hold a crayon. Writing and reading have always been my way of alchemizing the world around me and trying to find my way through life.
Quick lightning round! Tell us the first book you ever remember reading, the one that made you want to become an author, and one that you can’t stop thinking about!
Little House on the Prairie: This is the first book I remember reading over and over. Their lives were so real to me that I felt I knew the Ingalls family as well as I knew my own. I’m not sure it made me want to be an author, but it dang sure made me want to be reader, which might, in the end, be the same thing!
But it was later when I devoured Anne Rivers Siddons books that I felt this very particular desire to write my own novel. Something about the way she wrote, about the places she took me as a reader, made me want to try the very same thing. I still strive for the feeling I had when reading her novels.
Your new novel, Once Upon a Wardrobe, is out October 19th 2021! If you could only describe it in five words, what would they be?
Where did Narnia come from?
What can readers expect?
Once Upon a Wardrobe is a journey not only behind the wardrobe door, but also into the lives of a family who must reconcile the seemingly opposites of life and death, and of imagination and logic. The reader will meet George Devonshire, an eight-year-old boy who asks his physics prodigy sister, Megs to find the origins of Narnia. Megs sets off on a reluctant quest to find answers, and we travel with her on her adventures.
Where did the inspiration for Once Upon a Wardrobe come from?
It’s so hard to answer what inspired me for this novel and yet that very fact is what inspired me to write this novel! I often wonder what inspired some of my favorite tales, and when I interview other authors for Friends and Fiction, I ask, “What is the origin story of your story?”. My own answer changes with time because we might look back and see where a story originated only in hindsight.
Once Upon a Wardrobe, is a story that grew out of many other stories. When I was writing the novel Becoming Mrs. Lewis, I realized that the year that C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman met through letters was the same year that The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was released.
During research, I would often see small crumbs of Narnia in C. S. Lewis’ young and middle life. Those crumbs stayed with me and I wanted to show them in a story. I wondered things like — What made Lewis start and then stop and then start again? Had he meant to create this land and or did it grow into Narnia as he wrote? I began to ponder how much his life ended up in his stories. How much of our life ends up in our stories? How much is conscious and how much is unconscious?
In the end, the inspiration for this novel was curiosity.
Where did your interest in the life and work of C. S. Lewis stem from?
I’ve been reading Lewis all of my of my life. My father was a pastor so our house was chock full of Lewis books. I read The Screwtape Letters when I was too young to read it, and then fell through the wardrobe door. What has consistently fascinated me about his work is the fact that it changes with time, meaning if I read one of his books ten years apart they come alive in different ways. Reading his work – whether I agree with him all the time or not – is endlessly fascinating.
Can you tell us about any challenges you faced while writing and how you were able to overcome them?
The most challenging part of the story was to “show” the events in C. S. Lewis’ life without speaking in his voice. I decided to allow the reader to see those events through the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who understood the power of Narnia. I read loads of books about Narnian theories and re-read Lewis’ autobiography Surprised by Joy. I interviewed Lewis experts and dug through my old files from Becoming Mrs. Lewis. I took all of that and attempted to allow the reader to see it from George’s point of view.
Were there any favourite moments or characters you really enjoyed writing or exploring?
I loved all of my characters from the very real (C. S. Lewis and his brother, Warnie) to the imagined (The Devonshire family and Padraig). I really enjoyed delving into Megs mind and struggle because she is so very different than I am. Her interests and her aptitudes are far beyond mine (she is a physics prodigy). It was fascinating to have her come to the realization that there is often no need for the great divide between science and imagination. Both provide meaning in different ways, and I wanted to show the both/and approach to our mysterious, dynamic and sacred lives. Myth and story can take us to places that science can never take us, and science can take us where myth and story can’t take us. I wanted Megs to live in both worlds, to see the ineffable in the world around her. She can still solve the greatest mysteries of physics and know the value of story and imagination!
What’s next for you?
I am too superstitious to talk about ideas that are newly forming! So…shhh…
Elise Dumpleton is the creator of The Nerd Daily and has a degree in Internet Communications—so all things coding, marketing, and more! She also lives and breathes all things television, musicals, and books. Follow Elise on Goodreads!