NA: Welcome! What drew you to write in the fantasy genre?
CL: Freedom. With historical fiction or contemporary fiction or any other sort of fiction where reality and literature intersect, the writer has to be concerned with the accuracy of certain details and with matching the shape of the story to the shape of the real world. And that’s good. That is as it should be. But that is also very confining. In the fantasy genre, however, the writer has to work with a bare framework of logic--but that’s it. And the writer can even set the terms of the logic that governs. So there is this incredible freedom in fantasy literature for a writer to construct any sort of world or any sort of backdrop for the telling of whatever story the writer can imagine.
NA: What is unique in The Pursuit Of A King compared to other fantasy stories?
CL: The tone, for one thing. Fantasy stories can be very serious, and some can be very dark. The Pursuit of a King is meant to be light and fun. Another thing that sets it apart is that I tried to take actual Bible verses and imagery and incorporate them into the story; the book of Proverbs is the backbone of The Pursuit of a King, I would say. But I tried not to make the Bible references too heavy-handed. It’s done in a way that meets a person where he or she is; the more familiar the reader is with the Bible, the more the reader will see. But that familiarity is not crucial to enjoying the story. It’s more like there are little buried treasures throughout for a reader to find—if he or she cares to look.
NA: As you look back on writing the book, what challenged you the most, and how did you get through it?
CL: For all my talk of freedom, I needed some sort of boundary. It can feel overwhelming to write open-endedly, and it gives a writer the dangerous option of rambling on and cluttering up a story. So I set a chapter limit. That helped me pace the story and narrow down what really needed to be said.
NA: Which character was the hardest to write, and which was the easiest?
CL: Barto was the hardest character to write. He had to serve as a balance to Artemerio without overshadowing him, which was especially challenging since Barto tells the story. And since I wrote it in first-person from Barto’s perspective, I had to stop now and then and consider whether I was giving him thoughts and observations that sounded too much like a girl. Writing what boys do is one thing; writing what they think is another. :)
Vestero was probably the easiest character to write. He was just sort of there waiting for me as I wrote. He wasn’t really planned; he just kept turning up. And I was as surprised to discover his identity at the end as if I were reading the story instead of writing it.
NA: If you could be any character in your books, who would it be?
CL: Lady Mercy. But overall I try to create the sort of characters people would want to be or at least meet, so I’ve spread out qualities and character traits that I admire among most of the major characters and many of the minor ones. And I’ve finished three other manuscripts at this point…so my answer might change depending on the story.
NA: Do you get attached to your characters?
CL: Yes! Well, not the ones that represent evil. But all the others I do, even the ones that aren’t major characters. In one of the other manuscripts, a minor character …How can I say this without saying too much? Hmmm…I’ll just say that he didn’t make it to the end. It was such a sad day when I had to write of his passing. But I gave him a very nice funeral in the story, and he was mourned appropriately by the other characters.
And I have to say that it made me think of God in writing terms—how terribly attached to each of us He must be and what grief must be involved in losing some characters when they choose to wander away from Him.
NA: I liked your use of fruit. Do you like to bake?
CL: Ah, the fruit. Thanks. You know, I really am not much of a baker. With the right brownie mix, I do okay. And I have my go-to homemade cookie recipe for office parties and/or holiday gatherings. Other than that…no. I wrote the part about cake because I wanted cake, not because I know what I'm doing when it comes to baking one. :)
NA: Can you tell us three things about yourself we readers may not know?
CL: Well…let’s see. First, I suppose it might help readers to know more about my own taste in literature, so I’ll throw out some names here—C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, Baroness Emmuska Orczy—but then I’ll go a step beyond and say that as much as I enjoy these writers’ works, I think G. K. Chesterton is my favorite. (And then I’ll go even a step beyond that and recommend his book Orthodoxy.) Second, as a roundabout but related way of referring to a musical literary genius whose works I enjoy, I’ll mention that I first read Chesterton because Rich Mullins mentioned Orthodoxy in a radio interview I heard. (I know Rich Mullins is admired for his musical talent, but, come on—“And the moon is a sliver of silver, like a shaving that fell on the floor of a Carpenter’s shop…” That doesn’t have to be sung to be beautiful. He was a brilliant poet. Oh—and that line about the moon is from his song “The Color Green,” for those who might not know.) Third, I’ll venture on to an unrelated topic and point out—delicately, good-humoredly, and with some regret at even bringing up such a trifling thing (but I feel it must be done)—that I noticed in the review you wrote that you referred to me as “Mrs. Little.” I don’t mind! It’s an understandable assumption. But I must, politely and inoffensively, I hope, offer the following correction: I am a Miss…at the most, a Ms. (But I like the “s” sound of Miss more than the almost “z” sound of Ms., to be honest with you.). And there. All done--and a little over the limit of three things.
NA: Are there going to be any books that will continue where The Pursuit Of A King left off?
CL: Yes. I’ve finished three sequels. I am very excited about these other stories! Each story is a continuation of the series, but each one has its own distinct theme and message and could stand alone. So a person could start with the second or third or fourth book without having to read any of the others first…well, when the second and third and fourth books are officially available, that is.
But I am pleased to announce that I am making the second book, The Heart of a King, available as a free (yes—free!!) e-book. After the various hoops are jumped through, it should be available through several different retailers, but in the meantime, it can be downloaded from Smashwords.com in formats that work for most e-readers. (Here’s a link to the site where it can be downloaded: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/CandaceChristineLittle .)
NA: Do you have future book plans or ideas?
CL: The fourth manuscript leaves open the possibility of future stories, but for now I have no plans for any. Actually, there is plenty of room for other stories to be squeezed in between the manuscripts (in the intervening time between the events in the stories), and I’ve thought about giving Barto his own book. Now that you mention it, I guess I do have ideas--lots of them. But we’ll just have to see what happens. All of these stories have come as a surprise to me, so I expect any future ones to be similarly unexpected.
NA: Do you have any advice to those wanting to write allegory?
CL: I try to keep in mind something J. R. R. Tolkien said on the subject, and I think his words might be helpful to other writers, too. He said that “the more ‘life’ a story has, the more readily it will be susceptible of allegorical interpretation; while conversely, the better a deliberate allegory is, the more nearly it will be acceptable as just a story.” (I’m quoting Tolkien as he was quoted in a book by Humphrey Carpenter called The Inklings.)
NA: It's been great to have you here! Do you have any final words for our readers?
CL: First, Noah, I want to thank you for interviewing me—and for offering the kind of reviews you do. I’m so impressed by your blog! Second, to your readers, thanks for taking the time to read this interview! If you are interested in more information about the book, feel free to check out the book’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Pursuit-of-a-King-by-Candace-Christine-Little/106715742709251 . (I have Notes posted there with more details, and there are a couple of chapters posted on there in the Notes section, as well.)