The Big Idea: Christian Klaver
In today’s Big Idea, author Christian Klaver invites us to take a look into the magical world he created for his book-loving daughter. Come along as he explains the inspiration behind Shadows Over London.
The Big Idea: We needed more Narnia.
Shadows Over London was born out of reading to my daughter before bedtime. Katie was five or six at that time, and destined to become a voracious reader. (She’s just this month finished her Masters in Library Science.) I was just getting divorced at the time and had Katie every weekend, but not during the week, so we did chapter one of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe or “The Lucy Book,” as she dubbed it, the first night. Then chapter two the second, but then she had to wait five days to get chapters three and four.
She loved the first and second installments, but this had a very short duration for two reasons: Reason #1: It was really only the first three books. Try explaining to a child that age that the “Lucy Books” didn’t have Lucy in them after book three! She wanted to know why and I had no answer that didn’t fall flat. Even the second book: Prince Caspian has a long stretch without the main characters. (Don’t even get me started about the alternate order for these! That just makes it worse, in terms of storytelling.) Reason #2: while we were still in books 1-3, of which we had copies at both her mother’s house and mine, she couldn’t resist and read by herself during the week, so we finished those first three that first month.
So, the first chapter of Shadows Over London, complete with serene, crunchy snow and a Faerie King waiting underneath moonbeams slanting through darkened trees, all came from trying to write something that felt as magical as Narnia did. The beginning has remained pretty much unchanged but I tinkered with what happened next for quite a few years. While this went on, Katie kept growing up and the nature and nuance of the book and ideas grew with it. Justice, the main character started getting older and older, more capable, while her Father developed a dark, shameful past rooted in the world of Faerie. The other characters – a mishmash of family, mostly – developed, most of them with secrets and agendas of their own. At the same time, Justice also developed a love and penchant for all things nautical, the main skill she’d need to organize a defence against the Faerie. (Justice the Pirate!)
The Faerie took some very dark and sinister turns as the book progressed, too, culminating with a Faerie invasion into England that succeeds. Mostly because I found myself captivated with the idea of Justice struggling to free a Faerie-occupied London. It was the idea of life after a Faerie invasion, with the denizens living in the shadow of the Faerie, that felt new and exciting. As both Justice and the world grew larger and more sinister, I put a lot more onto poor Justice’s shoulders: The Faerie invasion, saving England (and the rest of the world), a homicidal mother, murderous siblings, darker and darker secrets for Father, a fleet that needed organizing and the ultimate, rag-tag Faerie crew, to name a few.
It’s a lot, but I think she’s up for it.