Diane lives in Los Angeles and is a teacher, though she used to live in Ohio and had her book published by KSU press. Her work, teaching, and book focus on the Inklings – the famous writer’s group that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were a part of.
She has insights into the group that anyone interested in these writers – or a writer interested in the group – will find fascinating. She has discovered writing and connected them to show the changes to the manuscripts because of the feedback from the other writers.
[00:01:53] Stephen: that was JP and Christine from the serial fiction show. Great podcast. Whether you are a writer or a reader, they [00:02:00] have a separate. Show for each one of you. So if you’re would like to get into serial fiction as a writer or a read some of the serial fiction available, they’ve got something for you.
Wonderful podcast check. In today’s episode, I’m really excited to welcome Diane glider. You may not recognize her name, which is why we have this podcast to introduce you to people. You may not recognize, but I was very excited to talk Diane, because she is a professor that has studied and written several books on the inklings, which was the group writer group formed by several people, including CS Lewis and JRR token.
And she talks a lot about. The group, how they influence each other, the benefits of how they influence each other. It’s a great conversation. Had really fun talking to her. What really got me interested in her book. It’s called Bandersnatch, but I was introduced to it through J thorn in his mastermind group.
And he. Lives here [00:03:00] in Ohio. So that gave me some interest. If another Ohio author was interested in it, but also Diane printed the book through Kent state press, which I live eight miles away from. So it has a lot of Ohio connections. So I figured I’d add to that list. By interviewing Diane from me, she is not from, not in Ohio, she’s out in California, but this is a really great interview, really fun time talking to her, learned a whole lot and had a whole lot of things to think about afterwards.
So enjoy the interview and I hope it gives you a lot to think about also here’s Diane.
[00:03:37] Diane: My desire in writing Bandersnatch was to get outside of just the people who are. Familiar with Lewis and Tolkien, and really reach out to creative people of all stripes and to encourage that collaborative way of working.
[00:03:50] Stephen: Yeah. So let’s officially get started and feel free. If you have something really exciting and fun to share, jump in, I try and keep it casual [00:04:00] conversation as much as possible. So it’s not just back and forth questions and answers. All right, Diana. Welcome to discovered wordsmith. I’m very excited to have you here today.
How are you?
[00:04:10] Diane: I’m doing great. What a privilege it is to talk with you. I’m really excited about today’s conversation.
[00:04:16] Stephen: You used to live in Ohio. So right now we’ve got gray skies in Northeast Ohio. So that’s what you’re missing. I
[00:04:22] Diane: don’t know that I’m missing Ohio weather, to be honest. So I grew up in outside of Cleveland and went to school at bowling green state university.
So I’ve got lots of strong ties there, but I have to say living in the Los Angeles area. The weather’s a little bit nicer. I just have to say
[00:04:38] Stephen: I, and I would counter that with, I lived in San Diego for awhile and the weather got boring to me. I missed having rain. I missed having snow. And so honestly I like changes in weather.
I take, after my grandfather, when a storm would come up, he’d grab a beer and a lawn chair and go sit in the yard and just let it rain all over. So I get that from him. I think [00:05:00] outside of writing, tell us a little bit about yourself, what you like.
[00:05:04] Diane: So I am a full-time teacher at Azusa Pacific university.
I’m a professor in the honors college. And so my work is. Thrilling to me, because it gives me an opportunity to read great books with great students. And we integrate the study of literature history, theology, and philosophy into a four year great book sequence. And it really is fun. Teaching is a blast.
And then in addition to that, I write and publish. Primarily on a CS Lewis and J R Tolkien I’m enchanted with their friendship. And with the way that friendship in general can be a kind of rocket fuel for our own creative process. W which
[00:05:47] Stephen: is a great philosophy. Cause I mentioned a writer, friend, J thorn uses your Bandersnatch book or his mastermind group and has everybody read it.
And that’s essentially what he’s trying to emulate. [00:06:00] That type of gathering. And I think it’s, I had heard vaguely a little bit about them, but then I got your book and I read your book and I’m like, oh my gosh, there’s so much more here. So let’s talk about that. But because you do have a couple of other books, but let’s talk about Bandersnatch for a moment.
What got you so interested in CS Lewis and Tolkien in them and want to write this book about their inklings and they’re gathering. Sure.
[00:06:23] Diane: I discovered toking and the Lord of the rings when I was still in high school. So I was part of one of those nerdy groups of students for those kids that read these fantasy novels, which at the time were very like fringy.
No, it wasn’t mainstream interest the way it is now, we didn’t have the movies and so on. So I got very interested in Tolkien, loved that. Read did a lot of reading when I was in high school. And was absolutely flabbergasted to discover that my two favorite authors were friends with each other. For me, it was just, it was stunning.
It was like discovering that Stephen King and Shakespeare had coffee together or something. It [00:07:00] just never occurred to me that two of the most productive and well known authors in the world actually met together with one another twice a week. And I thought, I wonder. I just wonder what were those conversations like?
What happened when Lewis and Tolkien got together in the pub, sat down with a beer and talk together. What was the conversation like? What would it have been like Stephen to just think about sitting at the next table and overhearing those incredible conversations between these two creative men. And then I got to thinking, because I’ve always been interested in the creative process.
What difference did their conversation make to the books that they were writing? And while I was still in high school, I started to investigate this. I thought these were key questions. I just became fascinated with them. And I found that actually very little had been written about the subject. And so some other authors who might be listening [00:08:00] in, when you can’t find the book that you want to read, you decide that you have to write it yourself.
So it turned out to be harder to write harder to investigate than I thought. So I believe it or not. It took me 23 years of research to piece together. The answer to those two questions. What did they say to each. What documentation do we have about their conversations, about their interaction, about their friendship.
And then what do we know about the difference that it made to the things that they were working on? So that was my first book, a book called the company. They keep, would you demonstrated this interaction? I had, it was like Sherlock Holmes kind of investigation. Could I find scraps of their rough drafts?
Could I find evidence of their conversation? And then it could, I find proof positive that this conversation made a difference in the books that they were writing. And I was very excited to be able to bring that research together, but the company they keep is really a [00:09:00] book for people who are total nerds about Lewis and Tolkien, and who want to know just every blessing detail of their interaction, because I find that so fascinating.
But Bandersnatch kind of grew out of that. And maybe one of the ways to think about Bandersnatch is that’s a book that tries to answer a different question. And that question is what can we learn from their example?
[00:09:25] Stephen: Okay. So what were some of the things that surprised you when writing this? What did you learn that you wouldn’t have expected that?
Oh my gosh. I can’t believe that type of thing.
[00:09:37] Diane: I’d say that one of the big ideas that I learned from this is. I had been poisoned, I would say poisoned is not a bad word. I’d been poisoned by the idea that the creative process is something that we take on ourselves. This idea that we have of the lone solitary genius, who’s in the attic and typing away on a typewriter on a dark [00:10:00] and stormy night and pulling up ourselves by our own bootstraps and overcoming all the obstacles, a very lone ranger kind of image of the creative process.
And I would say that my biggest discovery after now, over 40 years of looking into creativity and creativity in groups is the idea that collaboration is the normal structure for creative breaks. In practically every field that you can imagine, whether that’s technology or politics or within the church within new philosophical breakthroughs, but certainly for writers, we think of writing as being a lonely craft, but everywhere I looked, I found that behind productive and innovative writers, Were others who surrounded them and who played as a lot of different kinds of roles.
So we think about critique groups. For example, we think about the inklings [00:11:00] as a critique group. And I figured that mainly the gift that they gave to one another was the gift of critique. So toking would give his poem to Lewis. Lewis would say, fix this. And I didn’t like this and do this better. And what I found is that critique is a tiny fraction.
Of what happens in a good creative group. You know that from working with a mastermind group, it isn’t necessarily the critique that sustains you. For example, simply having someone else interested in your work gives you a sense of hope and anticipate accountability about getting that thing done. If somebody says, oh, I’m so interested in that novel that you’re working on, I’ll check in with you next week and see how it’s coming.
Then when you wake up the next day, you think I’d rather waste the day on a little bit of Netflix and a little bit of this or that, but you think, oh no, that person’s waiting for me a week from now. And their [00:12:00] accountability is going to make a difference in my productivity. In fact, I think it’s very helpful to not think about accountability per se, but the idea of expectation.
We need to surround ourselves with people who have a sense of expectation about what we’re going to do, who are waiting eagerly to see what the next chapter might be, or the next discovery might be, or the next publication might be. And as we do that, we find that in those seasons where we as often. Lose.
We lose vision. We get discouraged. We know that somebody else is holding hope for us and can sustain that through those troubling, dark times that all authors
[00:12:48] Stephen: face. Yeah. And that definitely is one of the things with Jay’s mastermind. Supports each other. We celebrate each other’s wins. We read each other’s stories and help give [00:13:00] feedback.
And it’s, I’ve got the mastermind Saturday. I have to have a win. I can’t tell everybody that I watched Netflix all week. You’re absolutely right. It’s a mindset shift. So do you think the group, particularly Louis and talking, do you, how do you think their stories may have been different or the writing may have been different without each other to support.
[00:13:24] Diane: So in, in Bandersnatch, and also in my book, the company, they keep I say flat out that they would not have written what they did. If it hadn’t been for the influence of the, so a couple of big examples of that, that, that may help to bring this into focus. One of them is this idea of expectation or encouragement.
So talking says that without the urging of CS Lewis, he never would have brought the Lord of rings, Lord of the rings to. Because there were two separate occasions. Like he worked for more than 15 years on this book. That’s a long time to sustain faith in a project. [00:14:00] And we know from his letters and his diaries, that there were two separate occasions where he said, I don’t know where this story is going.
I don’t know what I’m doing. This is talking right. Told him I have no more faith in this story I’m giving up. And one of those times he had a lunch with CS Lewis. We have documentation of that particular conversation. And Louis said, no, you can’t stop. We need to know where the story is going and talking would say, I don’t know where this story is going.
And Lewis said that doesn’t matter. Sit down and write and talking said not going to do it, never going to do it. I refute I’m finished, but as talking as walking home from that lunchtime, he’s thinking to himself, maybe I should give it one more shot. And then slowly, he gets back into the manuscript and slowly he begins to get some traction some momentum, and then slowly, the story starts to come to life [00:15:00] before his eyes.
And he continues on that happens twice in the history of the Lord of the rings. And I think that all of us who are writers. Can really identify with Tolkien sense that this is no good. And I don’t know what I’m doing, and this is never going to sell. Or for some of us I’ve gotten 40 rejection notes from publishers and agents.
And I just may as well just give it up. So overcoming discouragement is one of the most important things that our writing group does for each other. But sometimes in addition to that, we see a key ID. That transforms the nature of our work. So as we explain to one another, the kinds of projects that we’re working on, as we discuss with one another, what we’re thinking, someone who knows how to ask a good question or make a good suggestion, this is different from a critique that can sometimes be the thing that propels a work into the next stage.
So again, to talk about Tolkien’s [00:16:00] example, because it’s so vivid, Talking did not plan to write the Lord of the rings. Did you know that? So he wrote, the Hobbit got picked up by a publisher and it was an instant classic. And so the publisher of the Hobbit did what all publishers do when they have a successful work, they go back to the author and they say, we need another book.
Exactly. Like it except different. And we have letters from Tolkin and he wrote back and he said, I don’t have anything else to say about habits. I’m not going to do it. And the publisher sleaze and he’s Nope. And the publishers all come on. So there, it, maybe it was a little bit more fancy British English, but they go back and forth and talking says, all right, I’ll give it a try.
And so he writes, he starts a new story, but he doesn’t really have an idea or a concept for. So he starts writing a book. He calls the new Hobbit he’s that lame in his beginning, the new Hobbit. And he starts with a [00:17:00] Hobbit birthday party, photo and builders. Bilbo’s birthday party fireworks, and then an escape from the Shire.
And he gets about that far. And he’s, I am bored out of my mind with the Hobbit part. This story is going nowhere. I. So this is another one of those times when he gets together with his friend, Louis and talking says flat out, I’m bored to death with this. I have no idea where this story is going. It has no tension.
It has no forward move. Are you still there? You’re frozen on my screen. Oh no, I’m still here. Can you hear me good. And Louis listens and I think that’s one of the best gifts that we give each other, right. Lewis listens and then reflects we talk about being a resonator. Louis makes what I think is a brilliant observation.
It’s the one sentence that completely changed the entire direction of the book. Lewis says, you know what? [00:18:00] Habits are only interesting when they are in habit. Like situations, habits are only interesting. When they’re in an Hobbit like situations. And I think so, so talking goes home and he’s mulling the sentence over and over.
Hobbits are only interesting when they’re in UN-Habitat like situations that night, he rewrites a section of the Lord of the rings. And your listeners may remember a scene where the hobbits are journeying away from the shy. And they hear hoof beats in the distance and they hide in the roots of a tree, very vivid scene on the original version of that piece of the story.
The writer who comes in is a writer on a white horse, and it turns out it’s Gandalf, returning from wherever he had been after this conversation with Lewis Tolkien looks at that scene again and says to himself what would be [00:19:00] UN-Habitat. And he rewrites the scene, the horses, not white, but black. And the writer on that horse is not Gandalf, but a black writer and the black writers enter the story.
And all of a sudden we’ve kicked up the tension in the story by in introducing two key questions. First of all, if this isn’t Gandalf golf, if this isn’t Gandalf and where is scanned. So you have a mystery or attention to resolve, right? But the bigger question is what the heck is a black writer and why is a black writer interested in little hobbits?
And all of a sudden the story takes off. Tolkien says at this point, the story took over. It started to take on a life of its own, a darker purpose and a new genre. So you think about the Hobbit is a children’s story and it’s basically a kind of folk tale or fairy tale. [00:20:00] Lord of the rings, Lord of the rings is an app.
It’s an epic quest. So all of a sudden this kind of becomes a brand new thing that in chance, not only us as readers, but it’s author it in chance, talking with a new sense of purpose in. I would say drive and curiosity, because so often as we’re writing, whether that’s, non-fiction kind of scholarly work like I do, or whether that stories we write best when we ourselves are absorbed in trying to discover new things, a new way to express those things.
[00:20:44] Stephen: Telling that story I think is so great because there’s a lot of new authors, young authors that listened to the podcast. And first of all, if tokens spent 15 years writing, but only had two times when he thought, oh, I don’t know what I’m doing. That’s pretty [00:21:00] impressive because I know a lot of us have that every month.
So every day, but the other part is I loved that. He was saying. Louis just helped him. Didn’t really help him so much as his observations and that put in a different path because I’ve talked to a lot of others lately. We’ve heard that at times, suggestions people saying, if you were don’t know where to go, a Stephen King says that same thing.
If you don’t know where to go blow somebody up. And that’s what that is. It’s the same thing that the story doesn’t feel right. Then something has to change. And I love how that’s discovered in that way. And I know a lot of people. Probably need to hear that more often, because I know I’ve had to do it myself at J looks at my, some of my things and talks about it or others read it.
And I’m like, okay, where’s the point. I need to blow somebody off.
[00:21:52] Diane: Yeah. Some things are fascinating to us, but they’re not necessarily fascinating to our readers. So one of the critiques that the inklings [00:22:00] made of Lord of the rings as they were getting started is there was too much dialogue, not enough near.
That’s a very simple observation and talking, resisted that advice. He said that habit talk amuses. And so since he was amused by it, he assumed everybody was going to be amused by it. But we have to write with our audience’s needs in mind, not necessarily our own preferences. And so talking went home and rewrote a lot of the early chapters of the Lord of the rings.
And we can document this. I love this example because it’s one of those places where as a researcher, I have proof positive that a comment made by an inkling. Influenced another inkling. So Lewis, they, the group got together. They said there’s too much habit talk, not enough narrative. When you compare the early drafts of the Lord of the rings to the later drafts talking cuts the dialogue by almost a third.
That’s a pretty [00:23:00] big. Change. That’s a big influence that these comments made and it shows that critique and advice can really make a
[00:23:09] Stephen: I was going to say, and for the better, that’s what you need, that we can always see our work. I’m sorry. I interrupted you. What were you saying?
[00:23:15] Diane: But again, I want to get away from the idea that the primary purpose of these groups is critical.
Because not everybody needs a critique group. Sometimes we just need people who can surround us, who can encourage us, who can resonate with us, who can pressure us cooking, be role models for us who maybe have done this once or twice before who can say, I’ve been there. This is okay. You’re going to get through it.
Here’s what I tried. Here’s what worked for me. All of these kinds of things. We also need. Who simply oppose us. And this is one of the most interesting forms of feedback who say, you know what, that’s not going to work. That sounds really good, but it’s not gonna, it’s not [00:24:00] going to end up where you think it is and who push against us.
And then we either push back right. Stronger than ever before. Or we avoid a dead end because somebody else has been on that path before us and tell us where the pitfalls are, where the landmines are buried. And it means a lot to us as creatives to have other people who say I’ve been there. I tried that.
Here’s what works better. Here’s what my experience has demonstrated. Just I talk in the book I talk in Bandersnatch about resonators, right? People who fundamentally understand what we’re going through. And I think one of the most powerful things we can do for each other is just to companion together in the dangerous process of creating new story, people who get it, who understand what we’re going through and they don’t have to give us advice necessarily.
They don’t even have to warn us about pitfalls and problems. [00:25:00] Sometimes the most powerful things that we can hear is, yeah, I know. I get that. I’ve been there. I’ve felt that. And I made it through to the other side
[00:25:12] Stephen: and the encouragement. That’s what I like. What you said about Pocan, not wanting to write.
And the publisher saying people like it, you need another one because nowadays authors always talk about a right to market. Oh, I don’t want to do that. I want to write what I want to write. And they’re thinking a lot of times I want to write a token piece. I want to write token, but there it is. Token was basically told, right?
You got to still write what people want to read. You got to write what they want. And if he had not written Lord of the rings Hobbit. It could have just been forgotten in time, maybe remembered in red in high school, but nothing beyond that, I’m not saying everybody should just do cookie cutter stories, obviously talking didn’t let me ask you this.
[00:26:00] How did you go about researching this and finding the information and putting them together? I know his son, Chris has released some drafts and things. Did you ever get a chance to talk to him or did you interview anybody who knew them and how’d you go about all the reasons.
[00:26:14] Diane: Yeah, I did get a chance to interview people who knew him.
I also did correspond with Christopher. And test it out with him, some of my observations, and he was very generous and answering questions for me. And so that was a really precious time. I spent most of my research in either the history of middle earth, that volume that Christopher Tolkien has edited.
But I also went to places like the Wade center at Wheaton college and other places. The Bodleian at Oxford, where some of these manuscripts are. And so I’ve studied the notes in the margins that the inklings wrote, studied their letters, diary, entries, and then tried to [00:27:00] piece together the narrative from all of that research.
It’s very time consuming. But I would look for say a comment from Charles Williams, who was one of their friends, about a meeting that they had. And he’s maybe describing some of the advice that was given and it’s oh, cool. Now can I find the original draft? And then can I compare it to the published version and do I see changes that seem to reflect the conversation that these gentlemen had together?
And so I looked at that and saw over and over again, that those comments, that critique made a difference. But again, praise. Encouragement role modeling all of these other things also come into play. You talk about mastermind groups and just sharing our collective with not having to make all of our mistakes by ourselves, hanging out with other people who get what it is that we’re trying to do.
Those things are all really important. And I [00:28:00] argue that all of us need to surround ourselves with a network of folks who can help in different ways. One of the interesting things, so Louis and talking, we’re part of a group that met twice a week, a group called the inklings, and 19 men over a period of 17 years met every week in Louis’ rooms at modeling college and Oxford to read their manuscripts out loud and critique.
And in addition, they met on Tuesday or Tuesday mornings at the Eagle and child pub. So that was an informal time and a was a much bigger circle that included some of their friends that some of their students. And that group also included some women. So there was interaction of a much broader sense, but then in addition to all of that, they would get together in twos and threes for lunch or for a beer, whatever, just to talk and just to check in on each other.
So the idea is that creative [00:29:00] people need to surround themselves with others. With whom they can share their struggles, their victories, and find ways to really companion together. In other words, the creative process shouldn’t be lonely. We should be very intentional about finding ways to connect with others.
Now, when I say that a lot of people say, I don’t even know how I’m going to find my own inklings group. Everybody’s like, where am I going to find my own inklings? And what I say at the end of Bandersnatch, as you may remember, is that most powerful groups start small. They start with one person finding another person who they think might be a good companion in the journey.
Two people trying the same things to people who enjoy one another’s company, but. Who perhaps have different personalities or different priorities, different gifts, right? Cause you need a new, a fresh perspective. And [00:30:00] remember that the inkling start with just Lewis and Tolkien, making a simple commitment to get together once a week for lunch.
That was it. Everything that we have more than 30 books at the inklings public. Incredible works like the Chronicles of Narnia, the Screwtape letters, mere Christianity at Lord of the rings, all this stuff it’s all created because two guys made a decision to start having lunch once a week. And those meetings over time became a critique group.
As they shared the writing that they were doing. And then it grew very slowly. They added one more person to the circle. I hung out for a little bit more another person to the circle and it grew into this dynamic thing, but we can’t start a creative writers group, just bang with 30 people. It doesn’t work that way.
It needs to grow organically [00:31:00] as writers, make a commitment to spend time investing in one another. And what I believe with all my heart based on all of this research that I’ve. Is if we start investing in one another, we will find our own work flourishing at a level. We never imagined because we truly do need the dynamic interaction that comes when creative people get together.
Argue, give advice, question lean into each other’s work. In other words, my own productivity soars. When I find others that I can invest. And then in turn, they begin to invest in me
[00:31:45] Stephen: and absolutely in is you talking about community? One of the guys in the mastermind has stated, he discovered that he needs to be part of a community and he quit a job and found a different job, so he could have more time to write.
[00:32:00] And so he could have more and he started doing co-writing and he’s doing a podcast with, so he’s, he said, that’s how I have to create. So you’re absolutely right on with that. From all, everything we’ve experienced in our own master. And you must have read these stories, dozens and dozens of times pieces here and there and out of orders.
I remember in high school every year, you’re given that list and you got to make book reports and the teacher handed us list. And the last books on the list with the token. Oh, and the Hobbit. And she said, but I wouldn’t recommend anybody do that because that was my master’s thesis. And I know them inside and out.
So of course that’s what I, and what cracked me up was she gave me a B minus because she marked some things wrong. And I got the book and showed her look, what I wrote is exactly what’s in the book. She goes, I’m not even going to look at that because I know. And I’m like, oh my gosh, are you kidding me? So I could have had an a on that, but she was too stubborn to listen.
So it’s good to talk to her what [00:33:00] I would consider an even more expert than just my old English. And I hope she doesn’t listen to this because she might, I don’t want that either. What are, besides the token and the Lewis and that, what are some of your other favorite books that you like? I see a whole bunch of books behind you.
So what are some more books like?
[00:33:18] Diane: Oh, gosh, I am an English teacher. So I do read all kinds of different things. Most of my reading right now really is related to my teaching in a great works program. We spend a lot of time reading things like Dante’s divine comedy and Aristotle’s Nicomachean ethics. So most of the reading that I do is not reading for pleasure, unfortunately, but it is reading that’s related to the teaching that I do, but there, there are lots of different kinds of books.
I’m not primarily a fiction. Reader, although there are stories that I truly enjoy and like a lot of the inklings, when I do have the leisure to read fiction, I really cozy mysteries. Laurie King’s stories are one [00:34:00] category that I really like, but I don’t read a lot of fiction other than inklings related work.
Mostly what I’m really fascinated with is non-fiction. A lot of the books on the shelf are books that have to do with the creative process. And this is something that I’ve been investigating and researching for a long time, because I’m personally fascinated with what happens in between the moment that you get an idea of the spark of an idea.
And then the finished product is sent out into the world. What is that? In-between what’s that black box. That mysterious thing that happens in terms of the writing process. One of the books I love that talks about the creative process in this highly interactive way is an account of Pixar and Disney and their creative process and book called creativity, Inc.
I don’t know.
[00:34:52] Stephen: I’ve got it in my library. I just opened it up last night and was reading through a little bit out cause. I’ve got so many books I’m [00:35:00] trying to look at and read and get info from. Cause I just had some things happen. I hit one of those breakthrough revolution, revelation moments. So I’m like, okay, I got to read this.
And anyway, that’s one of the books. Yes. On my shortlist to read various.
[00:35:14] Diane: Yes. I think every writer should read that. And again, they just demonstrate how it is that this synergy happens. As people gather, as they talk, as they argue, as they confront one another, as they ask great questions and how that collaboration elevate the relevance and the really the beauty, the skill, the quality of the work that’s being produced.
It’s a fantastic book. And it’s a great read
[00:35:40] Stephen: to Pixar movie. Are super for story structure because they pretty much. Give you the template for writing a good story in various way. And I think they’re perfect for that. So the creative process is that a hint to the next book you’re working on that we’ll see
[00:35:59] Diane: talking [00:36:00] with a novelist right now, actually about taking some of the ideas in Bandersnatch and then applying them more specifically to the two creative writers to world building and trying to get into more detail on my most recent book was about.
That I edited. That’s about CS Lewis’s science fiction stories. So many people aren’t aware that he wrote three science fiction novels, but a lot of people find those novels a little bit hard to digest. They’re fairly complex in some of their symbols and some of their references. Louis assumes we’re a lot smarter than we actually are.
And so I worked with a wonderful team of scholars to write a book called a compass for deep. And that’s my newest book, my newest publication just about a month ago. So people who are interested in Lewis, CS Lewis as a science fiction writer might find that helpful. The next book coming up is a book called journey back again, reasons to revisit middle earth.[00:37:00]
And this is a book that tries to argue one time through Lord of the rings. Isn’t enough, but there’s a lot that talking does not only in his world building, but in his story tower. That we miss in that immersive experience of just reading Lord of the rings the first time or watching the movies through one time or two times.
And it looks a little bit deeper into talking’s own gifts as a storyteller and as a world builder. So that book should come out in another year and a half or so, but that’s the current
[00:37:34] Stephen: project. I’ll definitely look for that. I’ll put some links up to your other books too, in the show notes. Love to read some of, yeah.
And you mentioned about the CS Lewis science fiction being complicated. Hard to understand. I must say return of the king was not the easiest read for me ever. It wasn’t read, especially because Hobbit, like you said, was the kid’s book, very light and easy [00:38:00] fellowship was similar to that. But then the next two, definitely.
I probably closer to something like dune, where it takes some thinking and almost struggled to keep up with it sometimes, or they’re much deeper. Yes,
[00:38:15] Diane: there’s a story that helps me when I’m thinking about talking as a creative writer. So one of the things that a CS Lewis and his brother Warren Lewis, really enjoyed was going for walks, walking for miles, 10, 20 mile long walks across the English countryside, and then winding up in a pub somewhere after a long day of hiking.
And they invited Tolkien to come along with him. I’ll come along with them a couple of times. And what they discovered is the problem with going hiking with Tolkien is he stopped at every interesting leaf or plant or tree, and he would see we’d walk 10 feet and he’d go, oh my God. Look at that tree. Look at its form.
Look at it. Walk a few [00:39:00] more. Oh, look at the leaves and how they shimmer in the light and CS Lewis and his brother just looked at each other. It’s we’re never going to get anywhere because he’s so into. The environment, right? The location, he’s fascinated with all this. And this goes back to what we said a few minutes ago that talking himself had his own amusements, the things he was amused by the things he was in chanted by the things that he loved.
But if we’re going to write and we’re going to write, we can’t write just according to our own taste, we have to take into account the tastes of others. And I don’t think that means compromise. But when we’re writing short story or a novel, or even a scholarly book, we have to take into account. What are other people wanting to hear?
And not only that, what do they need to hear in order for my message to come across clearly? And we can’t just write for our own amusement. That’s what we do in our journals. And that’s what we do [00:40:00] in our diaries. There are situations where we are the audience for our own. But if we want our work to have a broader appeal, if we want people to buy our books, we have to write in a way that we are bridging the gap between what’s happening in our head and what’s happening in the minds and the hearts of the people who read what we do.
So Stephen King talks about this in his wonderful book about the writing process. He talks about the magic trick, right? Do you remember that? Where he says the magic trick of an. Is the ability for them to imagine something and communicate it so vividly that the same image comes alive in the mind and the heart of the reader.
And there is something wonderfully magic about that. Isn’t there, but in order to do that, we can’t be self absorbed or self obsessed. We can’t say, [00:41:00] as some of my students want to say, I know what I mean. Or I thought that scene was fascinating, or I love that long conversation smack in the middle of my action story.
We can’t do that. We have to be more sensitive and more thoughtful. I don’t think that’s compromised. I think that’s entering into the kind of dynamic relationship that an author ought to have with one’s reader.
[00:41:28] Stephen: Absolutely. And I would say, I’m not saying I’m a great writer. I’m not Stephen King talking or anything like that.
But I love the story about talking because obviously he wrote the way he actually lived and how he takes a walk is how he wrote. But I would argue that you could write whatever you want in any way you want, but it’s pointless art if nobody reads it. So there’s no point in writing. In a way that nobody wants to read because it’s not appreciated.
It doesn’t help anybody. It doesn’t do anything for the [00:42:00] world, but doing your art and being able to make it approachable by others. That makes it more. Successful as the art as writing or pictures or whatever, but that’s very, that’s not my own thought that stuff I’ve read picked up from others, which you backed up right there.
I think of
[00:42:18] Diane: it in terms of being invitational. I want my writing to be very invitational. So even my most scholarly work has to be a kind of medium place where we, I can meet with. And we can be having the same experience together as a writer, like many writers. I find it very helpful to have journals and to have notebooks and to have scraps where I am working out things for myself.
But to me that’s very different than the transactional process that I think writers have to master in order to really connect with.
[00:42:54] Stephen: I agree. Totally. Diana, it has been super great. You have probably [00:43:00] put so much information in here for writers that I’m probably going to have to make sure I tell my mastermind group and everybody to listen to this, because there’s just so much in there that you’ve talked about, but is there anything else?
And I know this is probably pulling up, but is there any other advice you would give to a new writer? Somebody that’s listening to this whole interview and all these great things that. Any, anything, others to give them advice, tell them what to look forward to what to do or anything like.
[00:43:28] Diane: I would say that this idea that we can write in community in connection with one another is something that’s not only more vital than it’s ever been before, but also easier than it’s ever been before because of the advantages of doing what we’re doing.
Now, talking over, talking online, connecting in this way, find, even finding out about each other and discovering some of the overlaps in our worlds and in our interests. So it’s not as hard and scary as you think I would say to [00:44:00] new writers. And I would encourage you to just try to start small with little reaching out, having conversations and starting to begin the process of immersing yourself in this larger world.
One easy way to get started with that. And one of the most inspiring things that a new writer can do is think about finding a writer’s conference. And there are lots of them and they’re everywhere. And I remember my first writer’s conference, so I have a PhD in writing and composition, and I already published a couple of books when I went to my first writer’s conference and I thought, oh, this is going to be great because I’m going to pick up a couple of tips that might be helpful for me.
My mind was blown. I felt like I was getting a graduate education in what it looks like. To be a writer because here I was with a couple hundred other people who are doing what I was doing, who understood what my questions were, who had made discoveries big and small, that [00:45:00] transformed my own experience.
As a writer, try to find some writers, conferences, find writers, conferences that are in the genres that you’re interested in and the tend and writers can be shy. So when you attend those events, make it your goal. To reach out past your comfort zone and talk to as many people as you possibly can. And I think that’s one of the most transformative beginnings for people who want to try to taste what it’s like to become a writer in community.
[00:45:34] Stephen: Absolutely agree. Jay and Zach had a, they called it a summit plan for last year, but because of COVID, it got shifted to this year and there was something like 120, 130 people signed up. But when they shifted it to this year, they couldn’t have as many locals. So I think this is probably going to be the norm, but there were like 40 people that showed up and then everybody else was on zoom calls.
So it was a very small intimate [00:46:00] conference. There wasn’t a person that left. Without being, oh my gosh. I am like so jazzed and fired up right now. And we talked about it. We last week at our meeting, it was three weeks down the road and we were still mentioning it. And how much we got out of it and learned it again.
I couldn’t even tell you everything that was said at the talks. It was in the room, the energy and talking to people like. And it wasn’t one of the huge ones that had 3000 people. It was small and intimate, and Jay said he liked that. And he’s very much thinking of doing another small one next year. Here’s hoping.
[00:46:38] Diane: Yeah, that’s brilliant because I guess I think the most important thing for me to emphasize. Is becoming a better writer. Isn’t just a matter of better information. I love podcasts. I think they’re great. We can get great information from a podcast. I love books. I hope everyone will continue to read about the creative [00:47:00] process and learn more from books, but something magic happens when we get together face to face.
It changes us in a way that nothing else does. There is a dynamic. Energy that happens. That motivates us. That kills us, that moves us forward exponential, and we need to make time for that people say, oh, I don’t have time to go to a conference. I don’t have time to get together at one of these events, or I don’t have time to meet with my mastermind group.
And if you don’t understand, you are going to take quantum leaps forward. If you stop trying to struggle on your own piece, it together by yourself, we are made, I believe to flourish in communities. We thrive not only when we receive encouragement, but when we give it not only when we receive a critique and opposition and challenge, but when we give those things and it’s in that dynamic [00:48:00] interaction, that so much of our creativity is awakened.
And I love that process and I can’t speak highly enough of the need for each of us to find those groups, not just one, but several different kinds of groups that help to propel us to the next
[00:48:15] Stephen: level. Absolutely. And I totally agree with that. They ended up, I won’t keep you all day. I probably could sit here and talk with you for quite a while.
This has been great. I do appreciate your time and your wonderful books. So thank you very much for being on the podcast.
[00:48:30] Diane: My pleasure. It’s been a joy.