FAQ

Q: How did you come to live in Oxford?
A: In the mid-80s I began work on THE PENDRAGON CYCLE. I was soon aware that the limited resources available to me in Lincoln, Nebraska (this was before the Internet, if you can imagine that ….) were inadequate to the task at hand. This gave me a good excuse to move the family to Britain for a year, which is probably something I’d wanted to do for a long time. Our year was extended a bit to almost two years, at which point my visa ran out and we returned to Nebraska. After a couple years in Lincoln both my wife and I felt a real pull back to the UK, and we went with that. In 1990 we moved to Oxford and it has been our home ever since.

Q: Do you have a degree in Celtic Studies?
A: No. I am a real amateur when it comes to history. Amateur, that is, in its true sense: someone who does something for the pure love of it. My undergraduate degree is in Fine Art, I have almost-a-master’s-degree in Theology, and now you can call me Dr Lawhead because my alma mater, the University of Nebraska, kindly awarded me an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: Where, indeed? I have no idea how to answer that question, other than to say: everywhere. Books, travel, conversations, early morning brainstorms, newspaper articles, looking out the window – all these result in ideas. But the idea is the easy part – I have enough ideas to keep me going for a lifetime. The hard part is writing the book.

Q: What is your writing routine or method?
A: Five years as a magazine writer and editor turned me into a disciplined writer. I am usually at my desk by 10:00 in the morning, and with breaks for lunch and afternoon tea, I’l l be finished by 7:00 in the evening. I start at the beginning and work my way toward the end. I don’t wait for the muse to inspire me. I just lay down the words day after day and eventually I have a book.

Q: Who are your favourite authors?
A: I admire the novelists of the 19th century – Charles Dickens, Alexander Dumas, Walter Scott, Mark Twain. I have great admiration for G K Chesterton and C S Lewis, both their fiction and non-fiction. And, of course, Tolkein. I read everything by Ian Fleming – twice -- when I was a teenager, and my wife claims that his style has influenced my own. I was also heavily influenced by the writing of Mika Waltari, who was very popular in the ‘40s. He was a Finnish author who wrote a seminal trilogy (The Egyptian, The Etruscan, The Roman) that captivated me. Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy probably piqued my earliest interest in the Arthurian legends. Robert Heinlein was and remains my favourite science fiction writer.

I also read more contemporary writers: Matthew Kneale’s The English Passengers is high on my top ten, and Martin Cruz Smith never disappoints.

Q: What are you reading now?
A: I am reading quantum physics, cosmology, and philosophy because this underpins the current series, BRIGHT EMPIRES.

Q: Do you have advice for aspiring writers?
A: First of all, read. Read widely, not just the stuff you think you’ll like or with which you will agree. Keep an open mind. Pay attention the writer's style, the way he or she puts the point across or tells the story. Analyse what various writers are doing and learn from it.

Secondly, write. I actually get letters from people who want to know how to get a book published, when they haven’t written it yet. Write, write, write. Try to keep to some sort of disciplined schedule, especially if you have a day job or family responsibilities that compete for your time. Subject your writing to the most stringent criticism you can find; do not seek encouraging words from family and friends who tell you you’re great. Be hard on yourself. Don’t assume that the world is waiting for your deathless prose – it isn’t. You have to be better than everyone else to get read.