Lisa (@ Over the Effing Rainbow), Jorie (@ Jorie Loves a Story) and imyril (@ One More) are delighted to bring you WYRD AND WONDER, where they plan to celebrate all things fantastical throughout the month of May!
Today I am interviewing Stephen R. Lawhead, author of the new fantasy novel, In the Region of the Summer Stars, first book in his latest series: Eirlandia.
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DJ: Hi Stephen! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Stephen R. Lawhead: Hi, DJ. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve been writing professionally for over 30 years, so many readers will already know that most of my books tend to be placed on the fantasy and science-fiction shelves of the various bookstores. For anyone curious about the more mundane details, I usually direct them to my official website: http://www.stephenlawhead.com, or my Facebook page.
DJ: The title of this new book, In the Region of the Summer Stars …. I think I remember a book by that name, and it’s about King Arthur. What gives?
SRJ: Actually, I think maybe your book is called Taliessin Through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars. I have it, too, in fact. (As well as an old vinyl LP by an Irish group called The Enid.) These are two brilliant epic poems by the genius writer Charles Williams. For me, that phrase conjured up the sort of Otherworld feel I wanted for Eirlandia and, fortunately, there is no copyright or trademarking of book titles, so I felt free to use simply because it’s such a beautiful and evocative phrase, and one I repurpose and put to good use in the story.
Eirlandia is set in the great golden age of Ireland’s mystical past—part history, part fantasy, but totally inspiring. It is loosely based on the kinds of events, characters, culture, and life you find recorded in Ireland’s legendary Lebor Gabála Érenn, or more often called, The Book of Invasions which records a seeminly never-ending series of invasions of the island by various tribes and races—including faéries, and the Tuatha Dé Danann. Both of these folk come to the forefront in my tale.
DJ: It’s been a long time since you published your last book, The Fatal Tree. This is really hard on your fans! I mean, a person can only re-read SONG OF ALBION so many times, right?
SRL: Writing books isn’t getting any easier, and neither is publishing. It all seems to take a little longer these days. Thanks for sticking around. I have pretty much completed the writing all three EIRLANDIA books, even though the first one is just now being published (15 May 2018). With any luck, they’ll be released in fairly quick succession but that’s not a decision I make.
DJ: What do you think of Game of Thrones?
SRL: I congratulate George R. R. Martin on his success! I have actually only read the first book in the series, and that was many years ago. I haven’t watched any of the TV series. I, like many other authors and other creative people, try to limit or avoid exposure to works that might inadvertently influence their own efforts. When I’m writing epic fantasy, I’m going to be more likely to read history, thrillers, science, and philosophy than another author’s epic fantasy. It’s safer.
DJ: What, specifically, are you reading right now?
SRL: This past year I’ve made a vow not to buy any more books, but rather to read what I’ve already got in the house, or what other people pass my way. I’m reading a couple of crime novels, and Just William books, and I recently finished Rose Tremain’s The Colour and Robert Harris’s Conclave. My son, who has moved to Texas, got me James Michener’s book by the same title and I’m slowly ploughing my way through that. Also continuing to chip away at Dermaid McCullough’s mammoth tome Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years.
I keep a lot of books on the go (guess I’m not a ‘completer-finisher’), so there are bookmarks in Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker; The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz; The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro; Magnus by George Mackay Brown. When I want a nice short read, I dip into Chesterton’s The Complete Father Brown or Richmal Crompton’s ‘Just William’ stories. Next serious book to crack: The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene, but I should probably finish a few of the ones already started, right?
DJ: I know you are originally from Nebraska. What is it like living in England?
SRL: I’ve been in the UK so long now that this feels like home, so in many ways it’s just ordinary life. However, I am constantly aware that by living here I have all kinds of access to things that are helpful in my writing, things I just couldn’t get when living in the States (I also lived in the Chicago area, in Memphis, Austria, and on an island north of Seattle). I can experience the climate, the landscape, the ancient monuments of the events I tend to write about. Historical resources are plentiful, it’s easy to travel abroad from here, and somehow just breathing the air in ancient locations is both inspiring and informing.
On a personal level, I enjoy living in a relatively small country that has strong institutions (such as the BBC and National Health Service), generally responsible governmental agencies, and a high level of public discourse. ‘Nuff said.
DJ: What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have hobbies?
SRL: My hobbies have had to take a back seat to getting this new series written, so I haven’t had as much time as I would like to do extra things. When I have time I like to paint—I do big, splashy, abstract oil paintings—and I am hoping to get back into sculpture. I’m sourcing some wood now for a summer project. I like to play guitar, and I have a little home recording studio so I can lay down tracks; when my sons were younger and in the house, we’d all play and record together which was a lot of fun. I like to tinker around the house and the garden is an endless source of amusement and obligation; I’ve got some grape vines that I take care of and a lawn to groom. I like woodworking projects, and I really like to fix things (believe it or not, my summer job in college was at ‘Bob’s Fix-It Shop and Bike Repair’).
My wife and I enjoy dinner parties and entertaining, whether we’re on the giving or receiving end. We travel a lot, both for business and pleasure, and do long walking trips in Europe. As of this year, I have a new grandson and when I think of travel now I think of visiting him.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Stephen: What a breathtakingly awesome introduction to a thoroughly fascinating adventure this is! Of course.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the Eirlandia series? In the Region of the Summer Stars is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Stephen: No messages. People don’t need more messages, but they do need stories, and all good stories have to be about something. Therefore, all my books have a theme, and I depend on that theme when writing. But, the theme is for the reader to work out for themselves. I’m always amazed by what individual readers come up with. That’s exciting, and humbling.
DJ: Now that In the Region of the Summer Stars is released, what is next for you?
Stephen: I’ve always got something up my sleeve. I like to surprise people.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about In the Region of the Summer Stars and the Eirlandia series that we haven’t talked about yet?
Stephen: Only that Eirlandia is an epic fantasy full of battles and betrayals, heroes and druids and faéries and magic, and seasoned with a touch of history to anchor it in time and place to the world we know. That should do it.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
Stephen: Entirely my pleasure, DJ.
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*** In the Region of the Summer Stars is published by TOR and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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In the Region of the Summer Stars by Stephen R. Lawhead is the start of an epic fantasy adventure series set in a realm rich in imagination and intrigue, and steeped in the wonder of the Celtic Otherworld.
The isle of Eirlandia has been ravaged by the barbarian Scálda, who seek to conquer all. The High King has called for the warring clans and tribes of the Tuatha DeDanann to set aside their feuds and unite to fight to save their nation.
Conor is the first-born son of the Celtic king Ardan mac Orsi. He should have been battlechief, but a birthmark casts him as unclean and that honor has fallen to his younger brother Liam. Conor is resigned to his fate, but wishes he could do something to earn his tribe’s respect.
Sometimes wishes take unexpected turns—when Conor is wrongly accused of theft and cast out of his tribe, he embarks on a dangerous mission to not only prove his innocence but to expose the treachery that led him on this path. He also seeks the ethereal beauty he saw being abducted by the Scálda. Convinced that she is no mortal woman, but one of the faéry, Conor must find and rescue her.
Because he knows that if the Scálda gain the secret of faéry magic, they will conquer his homeland.
About the Author:
Stephen Lawhead has created all his life. Born in Kearney, Nebraska in 1950, he entertained his younger brother and sisters with amazing tales and slight-of-hand magic tricks. Later he learned to play electric guitar and played in not-bad bands through university and beyond. He studied art—primarily painting, sculpture, and ceramics—at Kearney State College, but whatever else he was doing, he was writing: poems, short stories, humorous essays.
His first professional work was done at Campus Life magazine in Chicago, where he was a staff writer and then editor. During his five years at Campus Life he wrote hundreds of articles and several non-fiction books.
In the misguided belief that writing wouldn’t pay, but music would, he moved to Memphis and formed his own record label. The record company failed, and the pressures of supporting a young family forced Lawhead to sit down and see if he could write a publishable novel. His first work, In the Hall of the Dragon King has been translated into a dozen languages, recorded in both unabridged and enhanced audio, and has never been out of print in the English language.
Book followed book, and in 1986 the Lawhead family moved to Britain so that Stephen could research and write THE PENDRAGON CYCLE. They settled there permanently in 1990, with some years spent living in Austria and a sabbatical in the United States. He is now a dual US-UK citizen.
In addition to his twenty-nine adult novels, he has written nine children’s books, many of them originally offered to his two sons, Ross and Drake. He is married to Alice Slaikeu Lawhead, with whom he has collaborated on books and articles. They make their home in Oxford, England. Lawhead’s non-fiction, fiction, and children’s titles have variously been published in twenty-four languages. He has won numerous industry awards and in 2003 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by the University of Nebraska.
Whilst writing dominates his creative life, he still finds time to paint and sculpt, and he still likes to plug in his electric guitar.
You are invited to contact Stephen Lawhead.