Q&A archive

Q: Sooo, Mr. Lawhead, because of your books I sampled mead this weekend. I liked the fantasy better than the reality. :)

A: I know what you mean. Some of these things are better in the imagining than in the doing: wild (tough, stringy) meat roasted over an open fire, rustic loaves of bread (made of stoneground flour carrying bits of, well, stone) eaten with (likely rancid) butter or cheese, jars of (warm, flat) foamy ale …. may have a certain romance, but food in the Middle Ages could be a challenge.


Q: Someone has posted the first three chapters of The Bone House on flikr, and I just wanted to be sure that you knew. ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/emaltia/sets/72157626814724373/detail/ ) I have been fairly active on your fan forum for three years, and someone going by "The Bone House News" recently posted the above link on the chat portion at the bottom of the page. I thought it looked pretty suspicious, and that if you wanted these chapters released, they would be on your official website. Maybe they are from you, and if so, I apologize for the inconvenience of my message, but if not, I just wanted to be sure you were aware.

A: Thanks for writing. The chapters are legit, and I know they’re being posted. That’s all I can say just now. Curious? Follow the trail!


Q: Are you a plot-first writer, or do you just write without a clear direction?

A: Are those my only choices? My books tend to be fairly plot driven as opposed to character driven. What this means it that the thing uppermost in my thinking is ‘What happens next?’ as opposed to ‘What kind of person is this?’ Although of course characterization is important and unless the characters ring true the plot cannot have integrity and most likely will not hang together. Also, the writer cannot be seen to be simply pushing people around on paper. My method is what James Michener called ‘inventing-discovering’ which is as good a way as any to describe the rather mysterious thing that happens when one becomes enmeshed in creating a story. Certainly the writer is calling the shots, deciding what will and will not happen … but at various points there is a strong sensation that the story is ‘out there’ somewhere, alive and moving, and the job at hand is to find it and write it down. In the early days, I could write a book with little or no advance planning. My notes for an entire book would be on a scrap of paper. Nowadays, I like to plot things out a bit more – probably because my books are getting more complex and relying more on historical research, which has to be right. So I’ve resorted not only to scribbled notes but also to whiteboards to keep locations, time sequences, and character names organized.


Q: I have read your books called THE CICLE PENDRAGON and I think it's the best history I have ever read!!! It's AMAZING!! I think it's a great theme to make a film, if you do the film it could be one of the most viewed as like as Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings, Brave Heart or more similar films. I hope this message help you to motivate to do the film or films because you could make happy a lot of person whit this fabulous history. I have to apologize if my explaining is not as good as it has to be but I'm a Spanish and I can't expressed as better as I want. With lot of proud and admiration to your person have a kind regard from me.

A: Gracias! ‘Why don’t you make a movie of _____________ (fill in the blank)?’ is the question I am asked most often. Alas, I am not a filmmaker. If I were, I could do something about it. As it is, I wait for the call. Mr. Spielberg, are you out there?


Q: Stephen, why doesn't somebody make a movie of some of your books. I would love to see one or two or three! I think the Pendragon books or Song of Albion would be some of my favorites. But I would be happy for any of them to be made into a good movie. Or a miniseries.

A: See what I mean?


Q: I am reading Tuck, just started and am fascinated by the role of the church and how King Henry was paying for each death his father administered. I really found it interesting that the price varied depending on the class of citizen, the serf being worth much less than the knight for instance. Is this historically accurate? I am familiar with the sale of indulgences so I was wondering if this was an offshoot of that?

A: It’s completely accurate. These were not 'indulgences' per se, but a way of paying off sins accumulated by misdeeds or various sorts; killing someone in battle qualified for this sort of pay-as-you-sin plan. The payment could either be paid by time spent in purgatory, or a negotiated fine. And, yes, serfs and peasants were ten a penny, while noble commanded a more princely sum. Note: It was William II paying these fines, not Henry (he's later).


Q: I have been unable to locate an audiobook for The Dragon King Trilogy. I am deeply interested in reading these books however I do not have the time to sit and read as I have very young children. Are there plans to have an audio version for these books?

A: You’re spoilt for choice, I think. Oasis has produced an unabridged audio version of each Dragon King book, available on CD or as audio downloads. A company called Graphic Audio has produced enhanced audio versions (Sound effects! Actors!) that are available off their website, again in CD, or as a download. No excuses, now.


Q: I'm currently reading Byzantium, my first Lawhead book, and am loving it. However, one question keeps bothering me. Why is the slavehood of Aidan the priest recognized by Emperor Basil and others who are not Danish? It does not make sense to me. The arrangement seems to be thus: If one person can overpower another, the overpowered is suddenly and forever a slave and property to the captor, and everyone around thinks this acceptable. Is this really how it worked?

A: So, the question is: Why didn't someone undertake to 'free' Aidan? The simple answer is that, as you've suggested, a slave was considered a man's property, like his cow or his wagon. There were laws everywhere against taking or freeing another man's slave -- just as there were penalties for stealing his horse. And there were laws providing for returning a runaway slave to his rightful (in other words, if you knew a man was a runaway slave and yet failed to return him, you could be prosecuted for theft). Slaves were routinely bought and sold as property between individuals of different nations -- a very lucrative trade since the dawn of history.

Even though Emperor Basil was not a Dane, he would still no doubt recognize Aidan as both priest and slave. If so moved, he might have offered to buy Aidan and then set him free, but it would have had to be a financial transaction agreed to by the slave’s owner. And yes, strange as it might seem to modern sensibilities, everyone accepted this arrangement -- slaves included.


Q: Message: I love !Hero and City of Dreams. However, I am very sad to see Rogue Nation hasn't been released yet. I found some forums dated from 2005-2007 that said there was trouble getting a publisher. That was a few years ago already and I haven't been able to find any newer news about Rogue Nation (or its sequel). What is the status of these two novels? And is there any mailing list I can get on that will notify me when they are released? Thank you.

A: The business relationship with the commissioning publisher of the !Hero books broke down after the first book was published. We have not been able to interest another print publisher in the work. However, technology may be the saving of that series. We are currently looking into the possibility of offering all three titles as electronic downloads. No guarantees – but if it happens, you can get details on this website.


Q: I'm currently reading The Iron Lance and I just wondered what your references on the beliefs etc. of the Célé Dé were, as I took a class in high school on world religions and world views, which makes me all the more curious.
A: The Célé Dé were not a religion, they were simply a movement within the Celtic Church. In short, they were Christians. As for references, there are many through history regarding this movement, or sect as it is sometimes called. Somewhat confusingly, it goes by several different names as different eras sought to transliterate the Gaelic they thought they heard. Most commonly, you will find them referred to as Culdees. I suggest you research ‘Culdee’ and see where that takes you.

Curiously, the Célé Dé are commemorated still in the Scottish word ‘ghillie’ or ‘gillie’ – which is used to describe a ‘guide,’ usually for hunting or fishing. However, the etymology of ‘ghillie’ is ‘gille,’ which means servant. Gille Isa, or Gille Ies, means Servant of Jesus, and eventually transmutes to simply: gillie. So, working backwards, Célé Dé – or Gille De (De from Deus, or God) – means Servant of God.


Q: I just finished reading Patrick and was wondering if and when you were going to write a sequel. I have read all your books since the beginning and thoroughly enjoy them. Most I have read multiple times. Thanks for the stories and for your time.

A: At the time, I would have been happy to continue the story of Patrick into his public ministry, as the project was conceived as a two-parter …… but, sadly, the publisher did not think the reading public would support the effort. And now I’ve moved on. At this distance, it seems unlikely that I would revisit the story.


Q: The epilogue in Byzantium indicates that the hero is St. Aidan. But a Google search show St. Aidan to have lived in the 7th century, not the 10th. My question - Is Byzantium a historically somewhat accurate novel of another St. Aidan? Are Gunner, Jarl Harald and the amir real people who where in his life? I really enjoyed it. If it was historical, that puts a whole new dimension to it. Thanks!!

A: Perhaps it was a bit too subtle, but early in the book, I mentioned how it was the practice of the early Celtic Christians take the name of a revered saint when they became priests – as a way of carrying on the memory and values of that saint. Also, then as now, believers named their children after saints. The 7th century Aidan was highly esteemed by many in the isles who came after. So, as my Aidan was destined for the priesthood, he was given the name of that illustrious saint. It is a practice that endures in many Christian sects to this day. As to the other characters – Gunner, Harald, Basil, etc. – some are genuine historical figures, and others are composites based on real persons. Many of the events mentioned in the book – the political upheaval, the intrigue within the Islam court, and others – are genuine. I wanted to make the book as historical as possible without sacrificing the story – after all, it is not a history textbook, but a novel. With me, story wins every time.


Q: I am in a bind which is causing a serious writer's block. First of all I completed my second novel that takes place during the time of Becket and Henry II. That book basically wrote itself, though through research on my third novel (a sequel) had to make changes to geography. Since I live in New Jersey, USA, and have never been to England, my knowledge of the Canterbury area is nil. What should I do? I can't find too many books concerning Canterbury area during the 12th century. Will I be in jeopardy if I now resort to imaginary landscapes outside of Westgate, etc. ? Thank you for any advice.

A: I appreciate that you want to get it right. That is important – all the more so because Canterbury is a well-known place and you absolutely cannot resort to imaginary landscapes if you claim to be writing an historical novel. The two just don’t mix.

A site visit to Canterbury has much to recommend it, but even then your research cannot stop there. If you can’t swing a visit, you must become tireless in other research to compensate. Old maps are a big help, as well as old paintings and etchings. The internet is at your disposal. And there are many helpful books that you could consult – regional geography, and particularly Church of England history; I expect anyone who lives in New Jersey is within reach of the libraries of New York City, which could prove useful.

Sorry, there is no way around it if you want to be taken seriously – the Canterbury path is too well known – you will have to do the hard slog. No excuses.


Q: I've been trying the 3-walkm 4-jog gait. Did you make that up? I couldn't find anything on the net about that technique. It sort of works.

A: This is from Scarlet where the Grellon sometimes adopt this gait to move about the forest. And no, I didn't make it up. It is a very old practice used by hunters and soldiers when men on foot have to cover a lot of ground in a short time. Less tiring than running and quicker than marching, soldiers trained in the tecnique can go on and on with very little rest.