Inklings

Still Chasing the Inklings: Guest Post by Katherine Reay

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2021! You can find all the posts here. Be sure to also follow the International Inklings Instagram account here. Hope you enjoy!)

It’s always a delight to have award winning author Katherine Reay join us for Inklings Week! And be sure to pre-order her fall novel, The London House – it looks amazing!

When sitting down to write this post, I thought about all the academic approaches I might take about this remarkable literary group, citing the importance of camaraderie, creative discussions, intellectual freedom, and friendship.

Yet my enduring love and my “chase” after them is far more personal — and that’s what I want to share. Two particular Inklings — C.S. Lewis and and J.R.R Tolkien — have become, over the years, my creative, intellectual and spiritual anchors. Years ago I read that C.S. Lewis credited George MacDonald with “baptizing his imagination” and G.K. Chesterton for baptizing his intellect. That’s what Tolkien and Lewis did for me, baptizing both imagination and intellect together. Tolkien gave me the stars (that indescribable magic within a story) and Lewis — my favorite Inkling — taught me, and is still teaching me, how to navigate them. 

While C.S. Lewis penned incredibly rich stories, he didn’t create the all-encompassing aura Tolkien offered. Lewis’s stories carry you along like an arrow, leading you somewhere great. He had a very defined purpose for each word within each story, and he often kept that purpose his little secret. He rarely revealed his point, his message, his meaning — the crystalline truth he wanted to impart — but it was always there. Lewis masterfully left finding that “deeper magic” to the reader as he wrapped it into a powerful and imaginative story. 

It is that “deeper magic” that draws me back as a reader and pulls at me when writing. I too want to lay down a theme just below the surface that invites the reader in and hints at something more. I can’t claim to have captured it by any means, but I do chase it. 

Today I’d like to peel back the curtain on my latest C.S. Lewis inspired attempts to bring a bit of “deeper magic” to the page… 

For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. 

This simple line from Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters grabbed my imagination and formed the foundation for my novel, The Printed Letter Bookshop. In the story, readers follow three women at varying stages in life, each dealing with her own journey and challenges, but all finding themselves thrown together in a struggling bookstore. Surrounded by mistakes, mishaps, and a budding friendships, these women slowly learn that their pasts do not define them and their futures are not immutably fixed. They learn, as Lewis points out in The Screwtape Letters, that life can only be truly lived, experienced, and savored — in the present. 

To “show” that on a different level, readers will notice that each woman tells her story from a different point-of-view. One shares in third person, as if she has stepped away from her own life and is a mere observer of the happenings around her. The second woman writes in past-tense as she has formed her present on a faulty foundation and, in many ways, is stuck in those assumptions and mistakes. Although the final woman shares her story in present-tense, she does so for all the wrong reasons — out of fear because her past is too painful and her future holds no hope. 

So, while The Printed Letter Bookshop, is a collective journey of women friendship and the joy of books, it is also a pointer to the idea that living in the past (that long-ago time when all seemed perfect) or imagining a too distant future (one in which you finally realize your goals) can only trip us and keep us from the real life, love, and blessings of our now — our present. 

In my next book, I returned to Lewis again — as I always do — but not for a perspective on time, but simply for perspective. For The London House, which will publish in November, I delved into his famous Mere Christianity. We know it as a book, but my WWII character Caroline Waite experiences it as a series of fifteen-minute BBC radio talks given between 1941 and 1944. 

Lewis was invited on air to talk to the British people and boost their morale during the fearsome days of WWII. Caroline listens to the first talk, originally titled “Common Decency”, which aired on August 6, 1941. It was his profound insight into human nature delivered within that talk that opened for me the well-spring beneath The London House — the conflict between perception and truth, sacrifice and safety, secrets and lies, all during a time when it must have felt the world was ending. 

Today I have shared about Lewis’s influence on my thoughts and writings — my chase for the “deeper magic.” But the chase doesn’t end there — the Inklings themselves possessed a “deeper magic”that would be powerful if found today among a group of readers, writers, and friends. Warren Lewis described it best: “Properly speaking, the Inklings was neither a club nor a literary society, though it partook of the nature of both. There were no rules, officers, agenda, or formal elections.” Again — it was camaraderie, creative discussions, intellectual freedom, and friendship. All things well worth chasing! 

Thank you for spending a moment with me here today and I hope you enjoy all the posts and fun this week offers.

All the best to you, 

Katherine 

2 thoughts on “Still Chasing the Inklings: Guest Post by Katherine Reay”

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