Interview with Charlie Lovett – The Lost Book of the Grail

Charlie Lovett

Charlie Lovett is the New York Times Bestselling author of The Bookman’s Tale.

The Bookman's Tale

Today’s interview features a discussion on The Lost Book of the Grail and contains spoilers! I highly recommend Lovett as an author for anyone who loves history, books and a well-told tale.

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Michelle:

Hello Charlie,

I’m delighted you’re available for an interview today. The Lost Book of the Grail became an immediate favorite because of your multi-level writing style.

When you first started writing The Grail, did you think it  would neatly fit in a genre or that it would sweep the board covering murder mystery, romance, fantasy and historical fiction?

Charlie:

I don’t really think in terms of genre—I just tell the story I want to tell about the characters I have created. I’m always surprised when I see my books shelved in the mystery section because I don’t think of myself as a mystery writer. But then, I think every good book is a mystery in that we want to turn the page and see what happens next. One bookseller listed The Bookman’s Tale as “Historical Romance,” and until I saw that list I hadn’t even heard of that genre. I’m perfectly happy for people to put my work in whatever category they like, but when I’m working on it I just try to tell a good story.

Michelle: 

I’m glad you approach writing from creating a good story as your top priority.

I love how you employ the centuries of history behind the lost book – the many people who touch, revered, protected and then stole the book. It feels like the lost book is an over-arching character. In the writing process, how did you develop this approach for the reader to learn about the lost book? Do you see the book as a silent character?

Charlie:

I absolutely see the book as a character, and that is something I have done in my previous novels as well, especially The Bookman’s Tale. Characters become interesting when they have to overcome obstacles, and the lost book has about 1500 years of British history to lay down those obstacles. By following a book through history in short scenes I could provide an outline of the history of the cathedral in addition to following the adventures of the book itself. As far as process is concerned, I wrote the historical sections one at a time, for the most part, and not in any particular order. I would just get interested in a certain period and start in on the research, always thinking about how what happened in the past could connect to the preset story.

Michelle: 

I’m amazed over the amount of research you put into your writing. I loved the religious and historical references established in the cathedral portions of the novel.

Arthur Prescott is a delightful, fusty man – more in tune with the written word than social interaction. Even so, he has key people he works with who reveal his character. Before the reader meets Bethany Davis, Arthur walks with Gwyn . Did you intend their relationship to be a contrast to how Arthur ends up working with Bethany? He certainly expected to have nothing more than a platonic relationship with women.

Charlie:

I think fusty is a great word for Arthur. He is not great at making friends, which is why he places such value on those that he has. Even though his book collecting group, the BBs, is an all-boys club, I think Arthur is one of those people who has convinced himself that he doesn’t really see gender. To him Oscar is a friend, David is a friend, and Gwen is a friend and even though he sees them in different contexts, he doesn’t really see those three relationships as fundamentally different in any way.

Michelle:

I can see how he has convinced himself he is okay with just having friends. Arthur is loyal to David and Oscar, but still hesitates to enter their lives deeply.

The secondary characters fulfill important roles. While reading The Lost Book of the Grail, I could feel their stories bursting through the lines in single sentences. Each character has a wealth of experiences that could add to the story. How do you decide how much of their background to include? What to forego?

Charlie:

It’s tricky sometimes to decide how much to include. The reader wants to feel that she knows those characters and they need to seem real and not like cardboard cutouts; but at the same time, I don’t want the story to get bogged down with unnecessary exposition. I think the best thing is to show those characters primarily in their interactions with Arthur, just dropping hints of their lives away from him into conversation. In some ways, I wanted the reader to know more about these characters than Arthur does, because of his cocoon existence. For instance, the reader, I hope, understands Oscar’s relationship with his mother much better than Arthur does.

Michelle:

Arthur is definitely cocooned. I felt like I got to know Arthur through one layer at a time. On the surface he is a curmudgeon, but he has a romantic side because of his belief in the Holy Grail. What point in the story do you feel he tips over from being the scholar to the adventurer?

Charlie:

I think it’s Bethany who tips him past that point. She is not willing to let him just sit there and be complacent, rather she pulls him into the adventure. I think the scene where she accesses information about the 1941 bombing on her phone almost instantly just after he has told her he can find that information in the local archives in a few days may be the moment when he begins to understand just what Bethany and her digital technology bring to the table.

Michelle:

I agree, her accessing information he couldn’t have obtained so easily was the point when he saw the value in looking beyond himself. The adventurer inherently must be able to move out of their comfort zone.

Bethany Davis is a contrast to Arthur. She is brash, technologically savvy, and emotive. She seems very familiar, like a friend I had in college. How do you picture her loving Arthur over the course of the next twenty years? I believe their love of books will keep them together.

Charlie:

Love is a funny thing, and it often, if not always, leads us to places we never expected to go. This is certainly true for both Arthur and Bethany. At the beginning of the novel, Arthur views the world almost as a museum—full of old books, old paintings, old music, architecture, liturgy, and so on. Bethany teaches Arthur that the world is a living place, and by doing so helps Arthur find his voice and dive into the world. Though Bethany leads the relationship through most of the book, I think the confidence Arthur gains during their adventures will help make them more equal partners as they move forward.

Michelle:

I’m sure you have new books you are in the process of writing. Do you have any tidbits you can share? I’m hoping you have at least a dozen in the works!

Charlie:

I just finished the manuscript of a new novel and am currently waiting to hear what my editor thinks of it. The book is set in New York City in 2010 and 1906 and is centered on the world of early twentieth-century children’s series books—like The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and so on. It’s been great fun to work on and I did loads of research about 1906 New York City. The book includes many real historical events, places, and people.

Michelle:

I’m signing up to read it! I don’t know anything about New York in 1906 and can hardly wait to find out what you’ve discovered.

So many readers secretly, or not so secretly, hope to become an author. What advice would you give to yourself before you were published, after becoming a New York Times Bestselling author?

Charlie: 

My biggest piece of advice would be—don’t give up. This is a tough business and it’s full of rejection. My story is not unusual. I collected a couple of decade’s worth of rejection slips before I had my big break. At any point I could have decided to stop writing, but I didn’t. I tell young writers to see each rejection as a necessary step on the road to acceptance—that way a rejection becomes something positive rather than negative. I would also tell writers to read as much as they can. If publishers are not buying your work, find out what they are buying. It’s important to remember that writing is an art form, but publishing is a business. No matter how good your book is, no one will buy it if they don’t think there is a market for it.

Michelle:

Thank you for spending the time sharing insights into your writing. The Lost Book of the Grail is now available in paperback. I highly recommend you get it today!

I will look forward to the release of your next novel. Michelle

Best Wishes,
Charlie Lovett

New York Times Best Selling Author of The Bookman’s TaleFirst ImpressionsThe Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scroogeand The Lost Book of the Grail.  www.charlielovett.com Podcast Inside the Writer’s Studio.

 

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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