Cultivating Interview 11
In the introduction of Bandersnatch, you describe the long process you went through in researching The Company They Keep and how you discovered something of great importance that you really had not been looking for. Would you describe what you discovered and how it served as a kind of turning point in your research?
I started researching the friendship of Lewis and Tolkien because I was curious to see if I could discover a thread of influence that connected them. I was seeking to answer just two questions: What did Lewis and Tolkien say to each other? And what difference did these conversations make to the books they were writing?
As I gathered bits and pieces – collecting comments they made in diaries and searching out connections and changes in their manuscripts – I felt like a detective tracking a tangled web of connections. That’s the story I tell in The Company They Keep.
I read everything I could get my hands on. The evidence clearly showed that their conversations made a tremendous difference – it sparked ideas for new projects, it shaped the direction of their stories, it helped them to overcome discouragement and disappointment, and it inspired them to persist in their work. Practical help made writing possible, connections helped them get their work published, and reviews let others discover their books. In short, evidence of influence was everywhere. But then, I kept bumping into another issue altogether: how much they valued all this creative collaboration. I was surprised by this because much of my own early experience with collaboration hasn’t been very successful. I was reminded of science projects in middle school and class presentations in college, of committees at work and long, awkward business meetings. But it was clear to me that the Inklings had learned to make collaboration work for them; in fact, it was very clear that their collaboration made all the difference. Ultimately, I had to come to the grips with the fact that their understanding of collaboration was both broader and deeper than mine.
This question-and-answer is part of a larger interview conducted by Lancia Smith with Dr. Diana Glyer in January 2016 on “Cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.” To read the full interview and gain further insights into creative collaboration, click here.