Calling all C.S. Lewis fans who can’t wrap their heads around Till We Have Faces! Your guidebook has officially arrived.
Every month, Innovative Editing features a creative writer or non-fiction writer who caught its editorial eye. These authors can be self-published or traditionally published, Innovative Editing clients or outside recommendations.
But regardless, they stand out! (If you think you do too, reach out right here.)
That’s definitely true of Christine Norvell and her Till We Have Faces: A Reading Companion, which covers C.S. Lewis’ myth retold in a way that’s actually understandable.
This is Till We Have Faces explained and explained engagingly.
If you love C.S. Lewis but never really “got” this particular novel of his, today is your day for enlightenment.
June’s Author of the Month: Christine L. Norvell
Featured Title: Till We Have Faces: A Reading Companion
Age Appropriate: All
Bio: Christine Norvell is an educator, voracious reader, wife, and mother of three boys. A graduate of Faulkner University's Great Books program with a Masters in Humanities, she currently teaches high school literature at a classical Christian school in Oklahoma.
Whether she’s addressing her students, other educators, parents, or book lovers, Christine loves to equip and inspire. She believes that from ancient history to contemporary literature, the humanities reveal universal truths about faith, relationships, and the human experience. She’s passionate about examining these connections and discovering the God-given gifts that come to life through story – both in fiction and real life. Christine also regularly contributes to publications like The Imaginative Conservative, The Classical Thistle, and Poiema Press.
Jeannette: So, Christine, I found you on a Facebook writers group after asking for worthwhile reads. And I am so happy you responded to that post. I remember reading C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces as a teenager, which resulted in me both loving and hating it.
It’s got such a beautiful quality, but I couldn’t quite get through the seemingly contradictory messages he was sending. Were you by any chance thinking of me when you decided to analyze and explain Till We Have Faces?
Christine: More than anything, I have always hoped to make Lewis more appealing to regular, everyday readers – people who have confessed to me, an English teacher, that they “just didn’t get the book.”
Plus, the idea simply wouldn’t go away for two years straight. I wasn’t “toying with the idea” of it, as the saying goes. I truly felt impelled to write it.
Jeannette: I think I would have known you were an English teacher even if you didn’t say so just based on your use of “impelled.”
Since you teach Till We Have Faces to your class, what have you seen trip students – or adults – up the most while reading it?
Christine: I think most readers, including me, would simply prefer a helping hand: a place to discuss, listen, and learn. Classroom, book club, online fan group, Lewis seminar: When reading Till We Have Faces for the first time, anyone would read it for what it appears to be on the surface – a plot with character and conflict much like any other fiction.
Anyone can follow that by itself, but that may be the inherent problem because the story isn’t by itself. It’s just the first level of understanding. The secondary level is both spiritual and symbolic, and may not be as easy to see without some study or help.
Jeannette: Okay, I’ll accept that help in a heartbeat. Let's get right to the Till We Have Faces explained part. What do you think C.S. Lewis' main message was here?
Christine: This is the fun part! You can read lots of Lewis scholars for some wonderful insights on the subject, but I choose to simply believe that Orual represents me: a person who gets in the way of her own faith because she never experienced unselfish love. We are all in need of redemption. Jeannette: When you put it like that, it seems so very clear. Though it definitely helps how I read your whole Reading Companion and therefore got to follow each chapter step by step to reach that conclusion with you. But that’s just it: Reading Till We Have Faces by itself just didn’t seem clear.
Is it just the more introspective time period the book was written in that makes it confusing for so many of us? Christine: The novel’s writing style isn’t complicated. It might be that his reading audience anticipated an overtly Christian tale rather than one based on Greek myth. As such, you do have to work to understand it.
With that said, I think most new readers do sense the depth there and want to know more. Jeannette: I completely agree with you on that last thought. It’s very obviously a deep read in that sense.
That actually brings me right back to your Reading Companion specifically though. What would you say your favorite part about writing it was? Was there a particular chapter you really enjoyed delving into or a character you especially liked to analyze?
Christine: I completely identify with Orual and find her death vision in the final chapters extremely compelling and revealing. That she chose to finally shed her doubt and truly believe in the gods (God) allowed the God of love to reveal himself to her.
The moment Orual looks into the reflecting pool and sees herself beautiful and knows she is loved is incredible. Jeannette: The way you covered that part was beautiful too. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole reading process.
On your part, as the writer and marketer, what was the most difficult aspect of the publishing process? Christine: Oh goodness. The learning curve. I queried half a dozen publishing houses and even had a few contacts through other connections. But I was told that, unless I could guarantee sales as a professor, I was doomed!
So I hired a cousin to create the cover art and a formatter to help me with CreateSpace before self-publishing in May 2017.
Jeannette: I’m very happy you did! In fact, I’d love to know if you have any other plans to write more books going forward.
Christine: Yes! I do want to write more about great works, but my summer project is to finish a YA novel I started to write last fall. It’s in process now that the school year is done. Jeannette: Ooh! I could definitely use a good new YA novel to read. The last three I’ve picked up were extremely disappointing. Where can we get updates about your publishing process and you in general?
Christine: I blog about teaching and spiritual life, and list any speaking engagements on my website. The best ways to follow me would be:
2. Twitter: @thy_lyre
You might just find you've got Till We Have Faces explained.