A couple of you asked for the link to my interview with Stephen Lawhead. If you scroll down to day one of the blog tour, you’ll see two links for a part one and a part two. Again, this is my interview from last year around the release of Hood.
The King Raven Trilogy – Book 2
By Stephen R. Lawhead
From the back of the book:
After losing everything he owns, forester Will Scarlet embarks on a search for none other than King Raven, whose exploits have already become legendary. After fulfilling his quest–and proving himself a skilled and loyal companion–Will joins the heroic archer and his men.
Now, however, Will is in prison for a crime he did not commit. His sentence is death by hanging–unless he delivers King Raven and his band of cohorts.
That, of course, he will never do.
Wales is slowly falling under the control of the invading Normans, and King William the Red has given his ruthless barons control of the land. In desperation, the people turn to King Raven and his men for justice and survival in the face of the ever-growing onslaught.
From deep in the forest they form a daring plan for deliverance, knowing that failure means death for them all.
Scarlet continues Stephen R. Lawhead’s riveting saga that began with the novel Hood, which relocated the legend of Robin Hood to the Welsh countryside and its dark forests. Steeped in Celtic mythology and the political intrigue of medival Britain, Lawhead’s trilogy conjures up an ancient past and holds a mirror to contemporary realities. Prepare for an epic tale that dares to shatter everything you thought you knew about Robin Hood
Chapter One begins with:
So, now. One day soon they hang me for a rogue. Fair enough. I have earned it a hundred times over, I reckon, and that’s leaving a lot of acreage unexplored. The jest of it is, the crime for which I swing is the one offence I never did do. The sheriff will have it that I raised rebellion against the king.
When I began reading I admit that I struggled with the language of the first chapter. I’m not one who can easily jump from one style of writing to another, and this sort of Welsh speak–a very close first person–was hard to understand at first. But after a while I grew to love Will Scarlet. Lawhead’s creative techniques never fail to amaze me. Becky Miller said it well at her blog:
From that point, I became intrigued. The story, for the most part, is a first person recitation to a priestly amanuensis who is recording the condemned man’s “confession.” The storytelling device intrigued me as a writer, as did the frequent interruptions to show a growing relationship between the scribe, Odo, and the condemned, Will.
The effect was to give the story a bit of a herky-jerky feel, especially when occasional chapters popped up written in third person from the point of view of the antagonist. But rather than spoil the story, I felt the unique twists added dimension, and clearly, as the tale played out, were absolutely necessary.
As a writer I often think ahead of the story, considering the direction I might take things–a game I play to see if I think at all like the author. I’m sure you do the same.
Will brings us up to date with the happenings in the forest and how he came to be waiting for his untimely death. I had hoped that the last third of the book would reveal the freeing of Will by his forest companions and was curious as to the method. I was not disappointed.
As to the story setting in Wales, Lawhead had this to say in my interview with him last year:
BG:Book One in the King Raven Trilogy is the re-telling of a familiar tale, only re-imagined and placed in a different setting. What was your inspiration to write Robin Hood in this way?
SRL: For King Raven, I’ve used a similar approach to the one I used with my series, The Pendragon Cycle. Thus, the story I tell, while containing some familiar elements, is far, far different, unfolding in a different time. Also, the setting is new and different – not Sherwood, for example, but the wilds of Wales. Many of the familiar characters appear in interesting new roles and guises. So, there are surprises all along the way – fascinating incidents and details most people will never have read about.
BG: Why did you put him in 11th century Wales?
SRL: Because that’s where he belongs! Actually, this is what I like to do: take a popular tale of legend back to where it began … as opposed to where it ended up. The thing is, whenever you get an enduring hero – like Robin Hood – you have to ask yourself: how did his story get started? That’s the question that interests me, and sometimes the answer can be very surprising.
Most writers seem only-too-willing to replay the same accepted version of the beloved outlaw over and over again – a version largely cobbled together during Victorian times and flogged by Hollywood.
As a result most people assume a fairly tame, swashbuckling tale which takes place in the high middle ages, involving a lot of aristocrats swanning around a balmy Sherwood Forest full of Merry Men singing Hey-nonny. However, the real Robin Hood was likely born in the devastating clash between two completely different cultures – British and Norman, following the devastating invasion of 1066 – and the root of the story is darker, more earthy and elemental. There is far more to Robin Hood than most people realize.
BG: That’s because, as you mentioned, we all grew up on Hollywood’s version of the stories. Tell us how Hood is different.
SRL: In the famous words of Pat Lobrutto: This ain’t your mama’s Robin Hood. Forget green tights, forget a lot of merry men ho-ho-hoing in a tame arboretum.
My Robin Hood is raw and elemental and he lives in a dark, forbidding forest. Sure he has charm, but he’s also a haunted man: haunted by the memory of his mother, whom he loved, and his father, whom he hated. My Robin Hood is a British freedom fighter – but often a reluctant one – who must make his way in turbulent times. I think readers will find that he’s a complex, compelling character.
BG: I’m always curious how much of a story is fact and how much is fiction and if separating the two is difficult for the author.
SRL: I wouldn’t call it difficult – I’d call it fun. I like weaving together the known threads of fact and the suppositions of fiction. The idea is to create a seamless whole out of the two. And the two elements – fact and fiction – aren’t really competing. In each case, it’s all about the story. Factual history is already a story – and creating a more personal story out of the mega-story of historical events seems a very natural thing to me.
BG: You’ve said in a previous interview that you seek out writings from local and amateur historians hoping to find an “unorthodox premise.” Was there any such “unearthings,” any surprises, while researching for Hood?
SRL: Quite a lot, actually. One of the most surprising was the probable genesis of the legend – not Sherwood, but the primeval forests of the Welsh borders known as the March. In other words, it is highly likely that Robin was a British freedom fighter, not an English lord. He was fighting for his people and his homeland in Wales, not squabbling over a titled estate near Nottingham. When you look at the evidence, you begin to see new possibilities for this story that have yet to be explored.
Another thing that surprised me was how late what I call the ‘accepted version’ of his story appeared. It wasn’t until six or seven hundred years after his birth, so to speak, that anyone tried to stitch all the various parts of the legend together to form a continuous narrative story. Before that there are only bits and pieces of anecdotes, incidents, poems, and songs by dozens of different writers in many different times and places. That leaves a lot of territory completely uncharted, and ripe for exploitation.
I don’t have enough time today for further discussion regarding Byzantium and Song of Albion. Maybe another day! Visit other participants:
Be sure to visit the other CSFF Blog tour Participants.
Wayne Thomas Batson
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika or Mir’s Here
John W. Otte
Daniel I. Weaver