The History of Faith and Authorship

I’d like to give credit to my wife for coming up with the idea for this one. She made a comment recently after reading another batch of reviews that there are subtle themes that tend to repeat in the reactions of my readers. Some love the elements of faith and history that exist in my books. Others, though they enjoy my writing style, can’t imagine a world ruled by faith and so find my writing good but morally objectionable. She was quick to point out that it shouldn’t surprise people to learn that notions of faith would infiltrate the writings of a devout man any more than if she wrote a book, one would find elements of her Hispanic background in her writing.


Which brings me to my theme for this posting. Bernard of Chartres once said that we are like dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants (nanos gigantum humeris insidentes). I’ve always loved that quote. Isaac Newton put it this way, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulder of giants.” Every author I know has been inspired by someone who came before him. Every scientist makes the same claim too.


Terry Brooks said in a recent TED talk that he was inspired more by William Faulkner than by Tolkien. When I studied Shakespeare’s life, I came to learn that he was inspired by the Roman writer Ovid, which prompted me to read Ovid’s work and I began to see some of the themes and ideas which Shakespeare borrowed from him. One of my heroes is CS Lewis and I learned recently that he was inspired by George MacDonald. I downloaded The Princess of the Goblin for free on my Kindle and was amazed to see some striking similarities to Narnia.


My readers know that I love to collect quotes and Lewis has many which I enjoy. He once said: “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” Amen to that! So many aspects of my books have been borrowed from other sources, yet woven together in such a way as to make them feel original. I make no claims to having an original thought. I merely try to write the kind of books and stories that I like to read.


Lewis also said: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” It is so true, and I have found many of my inspirations from history, faith, and other authors who could combine them all in such a way as to kindle my imagination.


When I first read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, I was amazed at how he sewed together themes of faith and science and metaphysics. While he may profess to be an agnostic and an atheist, I still found his writing enjoyable and intellectually stimulating. Just because his religious views don’t match my own doesn’t mean I can’t learn something from him. We should not be afraid of thinking new thoughts or challenging assumptions we hold dear. But CS Lewis put it better: “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.”
So take it from me, a dwarf standing on the shoulder of giants. An author only brings part of the lunch to the picnic. We bring half of the sandwich. You, the reader, provide the other half (and no, I did not make up this analogy either…another nod to Terry Brooks’ TED talk). I’ve read comments that said my books were too much like Star Wars, too religious, too boring, too fast-paced, too reliant of a higher power, too short, too long, too predictable, too mysterious, and my personal favorite…too addicting. Guilty as charged on all counts! And that’s okay. Thank you for bringing your half of the sandwich with you when you read. I will always bring you my best ingredients.


To close with CS Lewis one last time, one of the many giants who I’m proud to have my work compared with, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.”


Jeff Wheeler

Jeff Wheeler

Wall Street Journal bestselling author of over forty epic fantasy novels.

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  • Kris says:

    Where it comes to the topic of writing techniques and content, this was affirming, inspiring and comforting all at the same time. Thanks for put your thoughts down onto “paper” (of sorts) for the rest of us.


    ~ Kris 🙂

  • Karenof4 says:

    Excellent post. I’ve read somewhere that there are only 4 original story lines and that all stories are based on at least one of them. It’s how the borrowed elements are combined that make the story original.

    Love your books, especially the religious/magical undertones of Muirwood.

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