Thanks very much for inviting me onto your blog to discuss The Swords of Faith. The essence of the story? Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, two iconic warrior-rulers from the Middle Ages, clash over which religion will rule Jerusalem. The true story is so compelling that I stay with the history, taking some scenes straight from the chronicles. With two fictional characters, a Christian knight and a Muslim trader, I explore the idea of whether good people of different faiths can thrive during times of polarizing conflict. And there is a little romance in the tale—the historically based story of Richard the Lionheart choosing between two potential queens and marrying his choice on the way to battle Saladin, and the fictional story of a mysterious young woman of mixed blood whose story blends with the stories of the knight and the trader.
2. You’ve chosen a very interesting title. What inspired the title? What inspired the book?
The title was originally Richard and Saladin. Not as flashy—accurate, descriptive, but without much energy—kind of dull! The Swords of Faith seems to relay, in four words, how this story refers to a bloody fight over religion; the title has an internal dissonance to it, as we should expect when thinking about a “bloody fight over religion.”
What inspired me to write the book? I discuss this at length at my blog (http://creativeeccentric.wordpress.com), June 16th post—Nine-Eleven inspired me to pursue this story, a story that had been in the back of my mind for a long time, but that became compelling for me after the attack on my homeland by Muslim fanatics.
3. What makes this book special to you?
The book is special to me because of the way these two men resolve this conflict. I hesitate to say too much, not wanting to give away the story. But your readers who know the history will understand what I mean. Because of the way the real story resolved, I avoided the temptation to add dramatic flourishes. It would have been tempting to have Richard and Saladin meet at the end to seal the resolution. But history is more nuanced. And to me, the profound lesson is that when these men were the most fanatic about their religions, they were the least successful in reaching their personal goals.
4. What makes this a book that people MUST read and WHY?
The “Crusades” are in the news a lot, sometimes used as propoganda by Muslim fanatics. (I discuss how current Western activities in the Middle East are not the Crusades in my essay, “No, It’s Not The Crusades!”— http://www.richardwarrenfield.com/essaycrusades.htm.) The Swords of Faith is offered as an entertaining, true-to-history portrayal of the “Third Crusade,” the highest profile crusade for those who have a passing familiarity with the subject.
5. What sparks your creativity? Any tips to help others spark their own creativity?
A passionate rush of something to say. From there, it’s a matter of filling it out. I am also a musician, and the process works the same for pieces of music or songs. The rush of something to say then gives way to fleshing it out. The best creative offerings from me come in this way. Suggestions to others? Keep looking at the world, thinking, searching for fresh angles. Then let the “passionate rush” come.
6. What has been the biggest stumbling block in your writing? Can you share some tips to help others get past similar problems?
Stumbling block—taking the time, having the patience, to develop craft. If a writer is only writing for himself (herself), then learning craft is less important. But when a writer steps into the arena, there are expectations among professionals with respect to craft. A good example is point-of-view. Literature from fifty to a hundred years ago was not so concerned with precise control of point-of-view. But today’s gatekeepers—publishers, agents, editors—expect to read good control of point-of-view, and if they don’t, they assume they are reading the work of an amateur, and onto the reject pile that manuscript goes. So craft is important to get into the arena; writers should absorb the basic conventions through books on the subject, critique groups/contacts with other writers, and by reading what’s out there in the arena.
7. Tell me about the most unusual things you have done to promote your book?
My fact-check article for the movie “Kingdom of Heaven” (http://www.richardwarrenfield.com/essay029.htm) brought me thank-you(s) from all over the world, and interest in The Swords of Faith well before it was scheduled for publication. I am offering similar information on the movie “Robin Hood”—a review and synopsis at my website (http://www.richardwarrenfield.com/essayrobinhoodmoviereview.htm) and a comment about the movie’s treatment of Richard the Lionheart at my blog (http://creativeeccentric.wordpress.com/), June 11th post.
8. Each author is different in the way they create a work of fiction. Please describe for us how you plan or plot a story.
For The Swords of Faith, the process was different than some of my other work because it is a historical novel, and I decided to stay close to history. I read forty books on the subject, including three biographies of Saladin, two biographies of Richard the Lionheart, and two books about both of them. I also read a number of books about the Crusades and the period. I then developed a historically accurate timeline and built the story around it.
9. Authors are very unique in the way they write, the tools they use, when they write, etc. Please describe a typical writing day for you? How do you organize your day?
I am mainly “old-school” when it comes to the initial stages of the writing process. I write out the first draft in pencil on lined paper. I type that into the computer, editing slightly as I go. After the first draft is complete, I print it and then stay away from it for at least a month. After that, I read it with a fresh view and set it up for the first major revision. I repeat this process until I am satisfied the book is completed.
10. What is your current work in progress?
I am working on the sequel to The Swords of Faith—The Sultan and the Khan. It is set about sixty years after The Swords of Faith, and has a thin thread linking the two books, a child born during The Swords of Faith who is an elderly man with a complicated past in The Sultan and the Khan. The Sultan and the Khan dramatizes events surrounding one of the most important battles of history that rarely gets mentioned in western history classes, the Battle of Ayn Jalut, in 1260. In this battle, the Mongols finally suffered a major defeat. The momentum of the Genghis Khan dynasty toward world domination, momentum with the potential to carry the Mongols through the Middle East and North Africa, maybe even up through Spain into Western Europe, ends at that battle, in the late summer of 1260. Surrounding this battle are exotic mixes of Christians, east and west, factions of Muslims, and a dilemma for more than one character over whether to choose an alliance with evil in the pursuit of a perceived greater good.
I have also co-written with a chiropractor friend of mine a novel called Dying to Heal (http://www.richardwarrenfield.com/DyingtoHeal.htm).
11. Can you tell us where to find more information about you and your books and how readers can reach you?
There is a lot of information about me and all my various creative projects:
12. What would you like our readers to know about you and your writing?
I love to be astounded by new ideas, by exotic stories and dramatic events taking place in out-of-the-ordinary settings. And I love to astound people by offering new ideas, exotic stories and dramatic events taking place in out-of-the-ordinary settings. I doubt I will have the time to bring to fruition every creative idea I have, but it will be fun to try!
Fascinating interview, Richard. Thank you for taking the time to speak to us about yourself and your work! You are definitely one of my favourite authors.