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Q&A with New York Times bestselling author, Patti Callahan: Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Updated: Apr 11, 2019

EXCEPTIONAL AUTHORS. STANDOUT BOOKS. An Elevator Interview with Book Blogger —Judith D. Collins

The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis. In a most improbable friendship, she found love. In a world where women were silenced, she found her voice.

Dear Reader,

Welcome to October as we enter one of the most spectacular seasons. Fall is the perfect time for curling up with a great book.

Speaking of October books, I am honored and delighted to have with us today for a Q&A, the New York Times bestselling author, Patti Callahan Henry (writing as Patti Callahan). An avid fan of the author for many years —I have had the pleasure of reading all her books. One of my favorite Southern authors.

Her latest book, BECOMING MRS. LEWIS is a literary work of art and her best yet! The author's passion is reflective throughout each page of this amazing journey. Her storytelling as well as her deeply moving videos—highlight the essence and beauty of Joy Davidman and CS Lewis' relationship. A beautifully written and profoundly moving love story of two intelligent literary minds.

To fully capture and convey the story of Joy Davidman Lewis, Patti retraced Joy’s steps from New York to Oxford, England. Patti’s extensive research is both documented and imagined in this book, BECOMING MRS. LEWIS.

Without further introduction, — the spectacular award-winning author Patti Callahan joins us to tell us more about her latest book (and some fun personal facts). I hope you will love, BECOMING MRS. LEWIS as much as I did. Read My Review. I know you will agree —she was born to write this story! Top Books of 2018.

Happy Reading!



About the Author

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times best-selling author of fourteen novels, including the historical fiction, BECOMING MRS. LEWIS—The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis. Her fifteenth novel, THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER, (Southern Contemporary Fiction) will be published June 4, 2019, and available for pre-order now.

A full-time author and mother of three children, she now resides in both Mountain Brook, Alabama and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband.

Visit Her Website and Connect!

Q & A With Bestselling Author Patti Callahan Henry and her latest book BECOMING MRS. LEWIS.

On Sale Oct 2, 2018

Thank you for joining us today Patti! It is indeed an honor. We are delighted to learn more about your new book. Let’s dive into this exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, the woman C. S. Lewis called “my whole world.” In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, the woman "beside" the man: BECOMING MRS. LEWIS.

Q: Having the pleasure of reading an early digital copy of BECOMING MRS. LEWIS, I became immersed in your extensive research, travels, personal letter to readers, and beautifully designed videos—it is apparent you have put a great deal of effort and time into the writing of this extraordinary novel. Tell us a little about the spark or the initial inspiration and your process?

PATTI: I was inspired by the award-winning poet and writer, Joy Davidman. So often we hear of the “wife of” and I wanted to know her beyond that title, beyond the ways she has been portrayed as the dying woman in Shadowlands.

I knew she was a writer and a poet, but I wanted to understand her and how she changed not only her life but also the life and work of one of our most beloved authors of the twentieth century – C. S. Lewis. I immediately set out to learn about her. There were conflicting narratives about her and I wanted to know this woman. So, I began with her work – her letters and poetry and essays. I wanted to hear about Joy from Joy. And I dove into the deep end.

Q: In your note from the author, you state you felt an odd kinship with Joy Davidman and her Lewis adoration. You wanted to know more about this woman. Who was the poet and novelist who had lived a world away from Lewis both culturally and literally and yet fall in love with him? As you mention, Joy did not seem to care about what others thought, but you did. We love this. Tell us about why you chose this “particular” woman for your debut into the historical fiction world. The driving force behind penning BECOMING MRS. LEWIS?

PATTI: In an essay titled “On Fear” she wrote, “If we should ever grow brave, what on earth would become of us?”. And then she answered that question with her life. And I just loved that idea – of asking ourselves something that big and then living into the answer.

She set out to change her life in ways we can’t imagine. She had a mystical experience she didn’t understand and instead of just letting it pass her by, she sought for answers. This woman – a prodigy and award-winning poet, a genius and novelist, a critic and woman with a master’s degree – never gave up. Who wouldn’t want to write or read about that woman?

Q: There is much mystery between Joy and Jack during the years of 1952-1956.

Tell us a little about Joy’s influence on Lewis’s prose and in the women, who were Lewis’s characters. Why do we not give credit to the women who inspired (men) our favorite writers?

PATTI: We give so little credit to the woman who influence our famous men. We talk of the woman “behind” the men when we should be talking about the women “beside” the men. And Joy is one of those. She is rarely given credit for the muse, best friend, co-author, love, and wife she was to C. S. Lewis. Their love story and her wit and intellect contributed to some of C. S. Lewis’s greatest works on love, grief, the true self behind the veil and of course faith.

She co-wrote Till We Have Faces with him and contributed to many more of his works. She typed his pages and she edited his words. Why do we give so little credit? Why do we relegate these genius’s to “wife of”. The least interesting thing about Joy was that she was C. S. Lewis’s wife.

Q: Joy wrote to C. S. Lewis, a man seventeen years older than herself. A man of experience and knowledge. She wrote to him seeking answers that would satisfy both her heart and her intellect. Out of the hundreds of letters he received, he had written to her. What started as a spiritual search turned into much more. Can you imagine the day Joy opened the letter from C. S. Lewis? And the day she met him for the first time?

Tell us a little about what Lewis and Joy may have been feeling? Did these two brilliant minds ever imagine meeting and falling in love?

PATTI: Oh, I doubt either of them ever imagined such a meeting or such a “falling” in love. Their worlds were as opposite as they could be – literally and spiritually. This was part of what drew me to the story – what an improbable love story this was!

A Jewish-born woman, married with two sons living in upstate New York and an Oxford don at Magdalen College. Who would have ever believed they would meet much less become friends and then much less fall in love? I wanted to answer “How did this happen?”

I can definitely imagine how Joy felt when she opened that first letter from C. S. Lewis – I imagined it and then I wrote it in a scene. THEN after almost three years of pen-friendship, I imagine she felt as if she had finally discovered someone who understood her. The day she met him, I believe she felt as if she already knew him. It must have been a profound experience!

Q: Patti, there are many C. S. Lewis quotes in your latest book, as well as others. Do you have a favorite quote or writing of C.S. Lewis or Joy? If so, why?

PATTI: For Joy, it is “If we should ever grow brave, what on earth would become of us?” And for Lewis, it is, “Courage, Dear Heart.” As spoken through Aslan.

Q: In a recent interview, you mention BECOMING MRS. LEWIS is a transformational journey of two people whose lives were changed because they met on paper with words. Tell us a little about your thoughts on the “power of words” and how they have impacted your life?

PATTI: Oh yes! I believe in the deep power of words. When my children were young, I would often say to them, “Be careful, words have power.” They were tired of hearing it, but it’s true! I believe our stories, myths, and fables have shaped our lives as much as our experiences. This has impacted my life in that not only has story been an incredibly powerful experience for me but also that writing has transformed my life.

Q. In all your travels and research, what did you find the most fascinating? Did you learn anything new?

PATTI: I found it ALL so fascinating – learning about their lives and work and families. I was so involved in the research and reading that I felt as if Joy and I were hanging out together for years. Probably the most fascinating for me was twofold – first, reading her unpublished letters and poems which are kept at the Wade Center in Wheaton, Illinois.

And second – visiting London and Oxford where I walked the “Places of Joy”. Yes, I learned many new things about them both – but I’m going to keep readers in suspense until they read the novel. 😉

Q: Any recommended reading of Joy’s which will help readers understand this woman and the power of prose?

PATTI: Absolutely I recommend reading Joy’s work! I hesitate to tell people what to read first. If you like poetry, read that first. If you like essays or personal letters, read those at the beginning. Her work is varied and interesting no matter where you start. In the back of my novel, I have a suggested reading list!

Q: As an avid reader, blogger, and marketing professional, research is key. I find authors who go to the trouble of putting together research, history, videos, travel, and marketing material to promote their book further enhances the overall reader experience. I certainly appreciate and treasure. You become invested in the characters and their lives.

You too have invested the time and effort to provide readers with an experience they will remember long after the book ends. Your passion shines through with your personal experiences and how you came to fall in love with first C. S. Lewis’s work even as a child—and, as a bonus, Joy’s.

What message would you like for readers to come away with after reading, BECOMING MRS. LEWIS?

PATTI: I never like to tell others what to come away with from my work. I believe we each find what is most meaningful to us. But what I came away with was the power of a woman when she sets off on a quest for something that will satisfy her heart, her mind, and her intellect.

There are many themes in this book, but the biggest one for me when I was writing it was about the True Self—not only following it but also trusting it and having the bravery and courage to break society’s expectations and go on a transformational quest for the truth. That was Joy’s struggle her whole life. She never felt good enough until she realized she was who she was made to be, and then it happened—she found true love with herself, and then with the man she calls Jack.

Q. What is coming next from either Patti Callahan Henry or Patti Callahan, now that you are writing under two names with two different genres. We hope to hear more of this historical fiction. You dazzle and think you have discovered your real passion. I LOVED. Is it too soon to discuss with readers (contemporary or historical)? Can you share what may be coming next?

PATTI: I have two books in the works!

One will be released on June 4th, 2019 titled THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER and is the story of two sisters, a brother, a pub, and a father with Alzheimer’s in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. I am returning to my beloved stomping grounds for this one.

And then the second, in the works, is historical fiction to be released in 2019 about a calamity in the 1800s that reverberates to today’s world in Savannah, Georgia.

JDC: Thanks, Patti! Both upcoming books sound very intriguing—fascinating news for readers! Seems as though you will be very busy with two books releasing in 2019. This interview has been very insightful. Thank you, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share with our readers exclusive "behind the scenes" details, and inspiration behind BECOMING MRS. LEWIS.

PATTI: Thanks, Judith!

JDC: Before ending this Q&A, some quick fun facts about YOU— the author. With the elevator ride, you provide your best elevator pitch about your book and some quick questions you answer off the top of your head.