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Why I Wrote Susan Of Narnia

The first draft of "Susan of Narnia"
I was first introduced to the world of Narnia when I was about eleven years old, through the BBC movie, "Prince Caspian". I hated that movie so much. In fact, I don't remember ever hating a movie in such an irrational way before or after the BBC "Prince Caspian".

I didn't hate the movie because of the poor quality. Back then, I was the sort of child that liked a movie no matter how poorly made. And today I actually quite like all of BBC's Narnia movies. No, to be fair, my hatred had nothing to do with the movie at all. 

I hated the movie because my routine had been broken. 

You see, Mom was away visiting a friend and she was rarely away. Dad and my Uncle Caleb were home taking care of my siblings and me, and they were doing a poor job of it. The house was chaos, my brain hurt from watching too many movies, and the food wasn't all that good. To top it all, we ended a horrible day with a new movie my Uncle Caleb brought home. 

Not only had the day already been weird, now we were watching the movie called "Prince Caspian" and it hurt my eyes so much and it was just so weird and made no sense. And my uncle laughed at me for never having heard of it. 

When Mom came home and asked how the weekend went, I told her about the awful movie. 

"Oh," she said, "I'm surprised you haven't heard of that. It's a Narnia movie."

Well. 

That was the second time being told I should have heard of something I thought awful. But it did pique my curiosity. So, we went to the library and borrowed the rest of the BBC movies. And I decided they weren't too bad. And when I saw there was a newer movie released called "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" I watched that, too, and decided it was definitely not too bad. And then I saw there were seven books. 

And so I read them.

And I fell in love. 

I read the books in their sequential order, and believe that's the best way to read them ;D I started with the "Magician's Nephew", then the "Horse and His Boy" (decidedly my favorite!), and finished with the "Last Battle".

But ... a few things bothered me about the books. 

First, it was when I finished the "Magician's Nephew". I loved the book, and I especially loved Polly and Digory. But I'd also seen the movies and knew Digory wasn't married. How could those two not grow up to be married? 

The second thing was when I read those few short sentences in the "Last Battle" that condemned Susan. I read them again. And again. I couldn't believe Lewis had made her go bad. 

How could Susan have forgotten Narnia? How could she have said it had been a childish game when she'd grown up there? 

I'd always felt myself to be most like Susan. Deep down, I wondered most of all, "What does this say of me?"

I knew that I had to write her story. It wasn't a mere disappointment like Digory's and Polly's missed romance. I had to tell her story, not just because it needed to be told, but also because I needed to know why and what had happened to her. 

But I was too young to know the answers when I was twelve, and I knew that. So I told myself, "Someday. Someday I'll be ready to write her story."
The first cover I designed that was almost used in place of the other ... but most of my friends didn't like it. So I made a new and final cover. 
Over the years my mom decided for a time she didn't like Narnia because all fantasy made her uneasy. I didn't care about fantasy, but I adored Narnia. I couldn't bear to have that series taken away. I've never been much of the type to reread books, but I would read these books over and over again and tell Mom how good they were, trying to convince her it was the best thing ever written. I would even sometimes compare them to scripture just to make my point. I didn't want to just barely be allowed to read the books. I wanted everyone, even my mom, to see how amazing the "Chronicles of Narnia" were. 

One day a lady was over visiting, and I was reading one of the Narnia books. That lady told my mom how she didn't like Narnia, how she thought they were evil. And Mom said, "Yeah. I'm not sure what I think about it either." 

Not being shy at all and seeing my opportunity to try and make two people see how good the books were, I said, "I love Narnia because it reminds me of my favorite book in the Bible, Revelation."

The woman said, "That's exactly why I don't like Narnia."

I was confused. After the woman left Mom told me that other woman didn't believe in the New Testament or Yeshua. 

In my childish logic, I took that as further proof that the Narnia series was indeed very good. 

When the next two Disney Narnia movies came out I was beyond excited to watch them. But I hated them instead, disliking the new "Prince Caspian" the most of the two. This time I hated those movies in and of themselves, not because of a disrupted atmosphere. I hated the extra bickering and war. I hated that all the depth and warmness was missing. And I hated that the movies had added a bit of romance between Susan and Prince Caspian. I completely hated how both movies portrayed Susan.  

As the years went by and I reread the series, again and again, to prepare myself for writing the eight book. I wasn't sure what I was going to write, but I had several scattered images of an idea. 

The main thing I saw was a story of two young children playing in a large house and finding a wardrobe and then asking their mother about it. And then I saw the mother telling them of her days as Queen of Narnia and how, after her family's death, she'd married Jill Pole's brother ... somehow Francis Pole was always in my early imaginations of Susan's story, though he was unnamed until I finally wrote the story. 

Also, until I finally sat down to write the story, I'd always planned to let Susan live a long, married life with Francis Pole. 

But when I started writing, Carl happened. And there were no children for a prologue. 

In my early imaginings I'd also seen Susan Pevensie seeking out C. S. Lewis before her death and asking him to publish her stories, but to never tell the world that she'd first written them. I also always clearly saw the beginning. It was of Susan sitting in her room, getting ready to go to a party. Before she left she looked in her mirror and saw Lucy. She didn't yet know that Lucy had just been killed moments before. Susan was perturbed by what she saw, but shook it away and went to the party to find out later that her family was all dead. And I knew that a mirror would play an important role throughout the rest of my story. 

I think my greatest fear at writing this book was being able to tell it in a worthy manner. It's daunting to try and finish a great author's story. Who am I to try and write what Lewis failed to do in his life? But I had to try. After finishing the "Lawrence Children", I asked all of you what I should write next. I was very much afraid that you'd all choose Susan.


So, I had to set my fears aside and write. At the end of December 2018, I was feeling a little burnt out of typing, so I decided to pen the entire first draft. Which I'm glad I did. Because the little bits of story I had imagined before finally took root and grew into a plot that spilled free under my red ink.

I haven't felt so good while writing a story in such a long time. 

It took about three weeks to write the first draft then type up the second draft. I then sent it off to betas and fixed some plot errors. And then I sent it off to an editor—she made 874 comments. I'm one of those weird authors that love having lots of things to fix ;D 

I think the hardest part with this story once I'd actually started writing it was what to title the book. In my mind, I'd always called it "Susan's Story". But that didn't flow well with the other seven books. But then I came across a place where Lewis was quoted for saying he wanted to write an eighth book and call it "Susan of Narnia". Thus, I had my title. 

I'd like to thank my wonderful betas: Ruth AmosEmily GellhausShae HamrickSarah LevesqueVeronica LynnAngela R. Watts, and  Connie White. All of them were prompt readers that encouraged me with words such as "I cried" and "This impacted my walk with God". They also gave me sound critiques for making this story stronger for all of you! 

I want to give a huge shout-out to Elizabeth Houseman for editing my book—she's the one who made 874 comments on my document. You can find her on Twitter as @bethyhouseman. And yes, all of them were needed. I learned a lot from her edit suggestions. I love working with her, because not only does she make me feel my story is clean, she is such a great encourager! She's edited a couple other things of mine, and every experience has been wonderful. I definitely recommend her services. 

And last but not least, I want to thank my friend, Esther Allison, for her clean-up edit! Not only is Esther one of my best friends, she has a sharp eye. I could see her someday getting in the editing business. She's also a fast reader. Sometimes I wonder how she could be human, because of how fast she can read. It's amazing. She's amazing. 

Do you remember how you were first introduced to the world of Narnia? What made you fall in love with Narnia? Did I do well daring to tell Susan's story?
I will be trying to get another serial written and posted, so stay tuned!

Comments

  1. I AM SO HAPPY IT IS HEREEEE!!!!! Congrats! =D And thanks so much for letting me beta. ♥

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  2. Have you read some of the other attempts at "Susan of Narnia?" I think yours is the one that has Lewis's agility — that quality that enables seriousness without pompousness, and can touch straight to the heart with only a few strokes.

    And of course you (and we) were invited to do this by Lewis himself. You've probably read this but just in case your readers haven't: Lewis wrote a letter to a fan named Denise in 1962, in which he said (in response to her request for a map), "There *is* a map at the end of some of them in some editions. But why not do one yourself! And why not write stories for yourself to fill up the gaps in Narnian history?"

    You took that baton and carried it to the line admirably.

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    1. Before starting my story, I did a scourge of the internet to look for other written efforts, and during the span of a month I read so many. To be more fair and honest, I skimmed most of them as I didn't really like any of them. Most were about Susan and Prince Caspian marrying, so more of a fanfiction of the movie. I did read one that I thought sweet of Susan of Narnia and Boromir of LOTR meeting and marrying. And then there was a Doctor Who meshing that I found interesting. Also, there's a book published called "Light Between the Worlds" that was originally a Narnia fanfiction, but more about "Lucy". It was a very angsty read, but enjoyable all the same.

      I did read somewhere that Lewis half-heartedly wanted to write more on Susan. But to be honest, I was very hesitant taking up the baton as I didn't want to trash his creation. That is why I read the Narnia series multiple times first, read Lewis' biography, and many of his other works before attempting my story.

      Thank you very much for your kind words. They truly are encouraging, and I'm just so glad to finally have written this story and to have peace about Susan myself.

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  3. Ahh, I love kind of "behind the scenes" posts like this. Honestly, I wasn't the happiest with Susan's original ending either.

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    1. Thanks, Gray! And yeah, I don't think Lewis was completely happy with it, either. Now we all can be satisfied 😉

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  4. I never liked what Lewis chose as an ending for Susan. I'm glad you chose to write this!

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    1. Thanks so much for reading, Skye. I'm glad you all loved it.

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  5. I loved reading the origins of your Susan of Narnia story! I'm sorry that you didn't have a good introduction to the series, but I'm so glad that you love it as much as I do now!!!
    My introduction to it was when I was little and found a copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie and asked my mom what it was about. She said that it was about four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, who went into a magical world through a wardrobe and met a lion and a witch. She was surprised that there was a film version and said that we should watch it. I loved it, or course, and saw the next two movies in the theater. She told me that that they were based on books and in one of them the professor went into Narnia. I decided to read all of the books before the next movie came out (it's only been over seven years and we're not any closer). I've read them all at least twice and it is my favorite series ever! You did a great job with this story!

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    1. I'm so glad you decided to read all the books before the next movie came out, haha!
      For one my my Au Pair kid's birthdays I found her a German version of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I really do think all people should love this series as much as we do ;D
      Thanks so much!

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  6. I'd never thought about how Polly and Diggory didn't end up married, but you're absolutely right! I guess it's because he technically wrote The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe first, but still... within the story, it seems like they should've ended up together.

    I 100% agree about Susan: I always felt like she was the most like me of the Pevensie kids, so it really hurt when I got to the end of the story and she'd somehow convinced herself that Narnia was all a fairytale. It just seemed so unfair for EVERYONE else to be called back for The Last Battle and her, not only to be barred from Narnia, but to have to live the rest of her life on Earth without her family.

    I haven't read your series yet, but I'm definitely intrigued after this post! I don't know when I'll give it a read, but I definitely will!

    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbosityreviews.com

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    1. Yes, I've always understood that's why they didn't marry (because of the sequential vs. actual written order. But then that chemistry was sooo strong in the Last Battle, one couldn't help but think even Lewis would want them together.

      And yes, it did seem so unfair;/ But I guess it's how it must feel to God when we reject the gifts He gives us; gifts so perfect and complimentary to who we are.

      I can't wait until you read it ;) your thoughts are always fun to read!

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  7. Totally agreed about Susan's fate.

    About pairing everyone off — I'm more conflicted. I think I kind of find it refreshing when an author lets a boy and girl go their separate ways as they grow, just because that's how life is. "Neville and Luna!!" "Joey and Phoebe!!" It *seems* like a satisfying idea, but it may be an OK thing after all, and more nuanced, to go the other way.

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    1. I actually agree, that normally I am quite fine with an author keeping relationships light and fun, with no need of a romance. But for some reason I really wanted these two together 😂

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  8. ah i love this post! i've actually been working on my own susan story, so while i really want to read yours (it sounds amazing!), i've forced myself not to until i finish my own. :)

    susan's fate has always haunted me, and i loved that quote by c.s. lewis when he said that her story wasn't over, and that he thought she'd eventually get back to narnia. her story makes more sense to me now, as i'm older - i see her story as a christian who's fallen away from their childhood faith, but will one day come back to God. <3 <3

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    1. Ohhh I'd love to read your story when it's finished ;)

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  9. What an amazing story. It links so well to the Last Battle and was written in a similar vein to CSLewis’s Screwtape Letters. It actually felt like it was him writing. The ultimate compliment. Great effort and you’ve looked after Susan which is what so many wanted to read.

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    1. I still must read the Screwtape Letters. Thank you so much for your generous words! I still feel such immense relief and not for having looked after Susan :)

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