The Mirror is Mightier than the Sword!
-- An Interview with E.J. Stewart
The following are excerpts from an interview with E.J. Stewart.
Q: Welcome, Mr. Stewart.
A: Thank you.
Q: Well, you've written a series of books, called the Larkwood Chronicles?
A: Yes. The first in the series is The War of Mirrors.
Q: Why did you write The War of Mirrors?
A: I work at a girls’ school, and one day while I was walking down the steps on my way home,
I saw a student sitting in the school bus. She was looking at herself in a compact mirror,
putting the final touches on her makeup. “Wow,” I thought, “if she could only see herself
as she really is!"
Q: So you think there’s more to people than meets the eye?
A: Yes, I do. There’s more… there’s a lot more!
Q: Then you decided to write a book about it?
A: Yes. The idea just kind of rushed over me like a tidal wave. It was one of those moments
that you hear about, when someone gets a rush of inspiration…
Q: And the idea just sort of… took off?
A: That's right. I was consumed by the story.
Q: There’s a lot in the Larkwood Chronicles. Where did you get your ideas?
A: Most of the characters take their names from people I have known over the years.
Many of the minor events also come from my personal experiences.
Q: What about the major events?
A: Well, in order to answer that, I’d have to say, look in your history books! Of course, most
people might find that a little dry, so I would have to change my answer: It’s historical fiction.
Q: If it’s historical, who is the lion? Is he Aslan?
A: I can’t deny that there’s a resemblance. In fact the series was influenced by the works of
C.S. Lewis. As for Aslan, no. My lion is named Livingstone Lion, or The Living Stone. He
doesn’t speak at all in The War of Mirrors, at least not directly, but I will not deny that there
is a resemblance…
Q: Where is Larkwood? Is it just another name for Narnia?
A: Again, I would not deny that there’s a resemblance. When I first began writing the
Larkwood Chronicles, I had just finished reading The Magician’s Nephew to my son.
I set out to answer some basic, nagging questions that we had about it.
Q: What kind of questions?
A: Well, for starters, how would a London cabbie reign as King over a newly founded kingdom
of talking animals?
Q: So you came up with the “Several Rights”?
A: Yes, that’s right.
Q: What other questions did you have?
A: Things like, where did the green and yellow rings come from? Things like that.
Q: You mean the rings they wore to transport themselves between worlds?
A: Yes, that’s right.
Q: Where did they come from?
A: I’ve answered that question in The Bow. You’ll just have to read it for yourself.
Q: I see, the old “carrot and stick” routine, eh?
A: There’s no stick. There definitely is a carrot, though: a Larkwood Beauty!
Q: (Laughter) Speaking of carrots, just who is the Marquis de Lop?
A: He is a type of Screwtape (again drawing upon C.S. Lewis). He’s always trying to convert
people to belief in the “Kamsah.”
Q: Do they get converted?
A: No. The Larkwood Chronicles are very clear about that. But they seem to get along with
each other well enough, that is, people from Larkwood and people from the Southern
Q: Why did you choose Saint George as your hero? Isn’t he a bit obscure?
A: Well, yes and no. We don’t know very much about the real Saint George, so he makes
an ideal hero figure. I could invent almost anything about him that I wanted to. On the
other hand, he is immensely famous, being Patron Saint of England, and all.
Q: If there’s a Saint George, there must be a dragon.
A: Of course! There is always a dragon.
Q: What do you mean?
A: I’m speaking figuratively, of course. What I mean is, that we all have our dragons, don’t we? They don’t have to breathe fire, but in one way or another, we all have some kind of monster lurking in a cave, that brings evil into our lives.
Q: Does Saint George kill the dragon?
A: No one gets killed in the Larkwood Chronicles… not even the dragon. Think about it. In
The War of Mirrors, fallen soldiers are sent to the sanatorium. No one dies. Anyway, the
dragon sort of symbolizes Evil. Prince George says it himself, that he wants to see the Lion
slay the dragon, in the end.
Q: You said the story was inspired by The Magician’s Nephew. Were there any other questions
that you tried to answer?
A: Not questions, exactly, but you can tell that The Magician’s Nephew reflected C.S. Lewis’s
Q: How so?
A: I mean the ending, where Digory gives his mother a bite of the magic apple, and it heals her. That, in my opinion, is one of the most touching moments in all literature.
Q: How are the Larkwood Chronicles like that?
A: I guess I have more of a father complex. When my father fell ill, I was profoundly affected.
I wanted more than anything to find a “magic apple” that would heal him. I guess I invented
it, in The Bow.
Q: Don’t we all want a “magic apple”? Can you tell us something about your writing style?
A: Well, that is one thing that can never be compared with C.S. Lewis. I will say, however,
that J.R.R. Tolkien had a lot to do with it.
Q: I didn’t notice any hobbits in the Larkwood Chronicles. Do you mean The Imp?
A: Well, he may have been a type of hobbit, but not exactly. Actually, he’s more of Jung’s
Trickster than anything else. No, I’m talking about the way I wrote the book.
Q: Tell us!
A: Well, the first inspiration that I told you about carried me through from the beginning to
the end. At first I had planned the entire thing as one big book, in three sections.
Q: What happened?
A: It was simply too long, and the sections weren’t equal in length. Plus, there were some
problems in sequencing the events, especially during the war in the Chutneys.
Q: How did you solve those problems?
A: I divided it into three separate books. I still couldn’t solve the problem with the Chutneys,
though, so I had to divide that section in two. That’s how there came to be four separate
Q: I still don’t see what that has to do with Tolkien?
A: Oh, yeah. Well, after I finished writing the story all the way to the end, I went back and re-
wrote the whole thing as a motion picture screenplay. That shed a lot of light on the way
that the characters told the story. In some places, I had to re-write what had been narrative
as dialogue. Imagining how the whole thing would look as a motion picture helped me
visualize the scenery. Then I went back and reconstructed the narrative. At the time I had
just finished re-reading The Hobbit and Lord of the Ring. I noticed something about
Tolkien’s technique: he alternates two exchanges of dialogue with two paragraphs of
narrative. This is very predictable in Tolkien. So, yes, in answer to your question, I
consciously adapted this technique from Tolkien.
Q: Is that “two-plus-two” technique predictable in E.J. Stewart?
A: I tried to adhere to it, but I wasn’t always able to. You need to have some variation, you
know. The trouble was, a lot of things still didn’t match up very well, so I made a series of
sketchbooks – everything about Millie, everything about Milton, everything about music –
that sort of thing.
Q: What about mythology?
A: Well, The War of Mirrors is sort of nondescript. There are fauns and satyrs, but there are
also the swans, the timeless trees… and the River of Time.
Q: What about The Lyre Birds, and The Dolphin?
A: Those are based on Greek and Roman mythology. I found that there is a lot of confusion
in the remnants that we have of that mythology. I have read Robert Graves on the
subject. He gives half a dozen accounts for every personage. Much of that which we
have now seems to have been handed down from an earlier age. What I did was to
reconstruct the story of the Titans, and from that build up a more pristine pantheon that
I could work with in the war in the Chutneys.
Q: Wow! I hope you'll publish your pristine pantheon someday! How about The Bow?
A: That is definitely northern. You have stories retold by Emil Grimm. You have circular poems
inscribed on a shield. One of the keepers of the tree, Radiance, is named Snorri.
Q: After Snorri Sturleson?
A: Yes, that’s right.
Q: Then who was Skalli named after?
A: Actually, that’s just a little joke of mine. Robert Skalli is the name of a winemaker in France.
Q: Hmm. You said your style couldn’t be compared to that of C.S. Lewis. Why not?
A: Well, Lewis has an inimitable style, if you catch my drift. He is a master at painting
landscapes. Even if I tried, and believe me I have, I would not be able to paint a landscape
nearly as beautiful as those of C.S. Lewis. Take a look at Perelandra, and you’ll have almost
an entire book full of examples.
Q: How would you describe your own style, then?
A: I would say that I’m pretty good at creating little puzzles, and solving them. In fact, that’s
just about all I do every day -- I create puzzles and solve them.
Q: So the Larkwood Chronicles is a series of little puzzles? When will we see the solution?
A: You'll just have to figure most of it out for yourself. It makes life interesting, doesn’t it?
Q: Yes it does! By the way, there are a lot of songs in the Larkwood Chronicles. Is there
music that goes with the songs?
A: For some of them, yes. Some are songs that I wrote a long time ago, especially those
of the Fiddle Feste in The War of Mirrors. Also, one of the main themes of The Lyre Birds
is music, so a lot of those songs were written with the music in mind.
Q: What about the others?
A: Well, I pretty much left the others to the imagination. Maybe we'll just have to have a
contest one day, to find out who can write the best music to my lyrics.
Q: Well, folks, there you have it. E.J. Stewart tells the story of how he wote the Larkwood
Chronicles. Thank you, Mr. Stewart, for being with us today!
A: Thank you for having me.