Before there was the novel, there were the stories...

by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at

Friday, May 8, 2009

How An Involuntary King Came To Be

Read the stories that went into making An Involuntary King: A Tale of Anglo Saxon England the rich, vibrant saga it is. Read a different story every day!

How It Came To Be

"The Story" was the name we gave what eventually became the novel "An Involuntary King" when we started writing it in the 1960s. "Christenlande" is, by the way, the name we gave to the kingdom back then.

My friend, who asked not to have her name on this site, and I met at the Methodist Camp in Southeast Alaska in 1963. I was from Juneau and she from Ketchikan. When we and a couple other girls first started to "pretend" -- my friend and I shared a passion for this wonderful pastime1 -- we were playing at Indian prince and princess. I was the prince. As a girl I always identified with the stronger, more active character in a story, i.e. the male. (I was "Brother" when playing "House". Boy was that ever to play with my beliefs about myself l after...) I don't remember how but somehow we switched over to King and Queen of a non-exist ant medieval country called "Christenlande" which was supposed to be in Eastern England. I had seen the movie Lawrence of Arabia and in love with the name "Lawrence" so that became the King's name. My friend kept the Indian princess's name for the Queen, namely "Sunshine". It was sometime later that the Queen's name was changed to "Josephine".

When the one week camp was over we determined to continue to pretend through letters. There are a few of these letters between the King and Queen left which you can see at The Letters. It got to be silly, the King and Queen having to be apart all the time so they would have to write letters. So we began to write what we called "scenes" or short chapters of an on-going tale. The scenes can be found in The Stories. We sent these stories back and forth through the mail until about the time I graduated from high school (in Chicago) in 1970. About that time my friend was living in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

One thing to note... we decided to set "The Story" -- which my friend named Faithful Forever, a fact that should amuse you once you have read several of the stories -- in the Dark Ages so that it would not conflict with known history. The stories all took place in the 760s and 770s. We always used the same date as it really was when we wrote the stories, only 1,200 years earlier. So when you see that a letter was written in July of 766 it was actually written in July, only in 1966.

My friend and I were quite opposite in how we approached writing the stories. When I received a letter from her, I tore it open and read the story immediately. Like as not I would then get right down to the next chapter and mail it as soon as I could. My friend was more ruminative. When I visited her in Ann Arbor in about 1968 I got to see this firsthand. She thought long and dreamily about the story and took her time writing it. It drove me to distraction. I lived, breathed, ate and slept the story. Frequently when you run into a new character there is some significance in our real lives. Mike Elerde was a boy my friend had a crush on in junior high, becoming "Elerde". When I saw The Fighting Prince of Donegal I went Ireland mad and created many of the Irish characters, notably Shannon O'Neill, and when I read a novel about County Tyrone I took that book's hero's name for Shannon's dearest friend, Rory McGinnis's.

I tended to drag every friend I could into the story. The most successful effort brought a new friend in Sacramento, California, Linda Laaksonen, into the story. She was a big James Bond fan, or more, yes, you guess it, a Sean Connery fan.. there Shannon's Scottish friend, Sean of Connery. It was the sixties and life got weird for both my friend and me. In 1970 she was 17 and I was 18. When we both went off to college the stories and letters stopped.

I used to dream that while I was riding the bus to school the characters from "The Story" would come and sit with me and talk to me. I still think of them when I hear the lyrics of my favorite song, The Ash Grove:

I only can brood on the past and its brightness
The dear ones I long for again gather here.
From every dark nook they press forward to meet me;
I lift up my eyes to the broad leafy dome,
And others are there, looking downward to greet me
The ash grove, the ash grove, again is my home.
[Traditional Welsh song\]

All this is now long, long ago. My husband, Jim, typed up all these stories for me (with some help.2) But I am grateful to my friend for being my writing partner, to Jim for bringing these stories back into my life again now that I am legally blind and cannot read the print copies (this was the best Christmas gift I ever received), and to Sir Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the web so I could share the tales with you. I dedicate this web site to my dear friend who wrote this with me and all the happy dreamers who scribble their adolescent tales and never let them go from their hearts. And to Lawrence D'Arnett, King of Christenlande, I say, "Back atcha, bro!"

A good place to start on The Story is the little history I wrote at some point. You can also see a map of the castle at Lawrenciium on the Stories index.

I would love to hear from you about what you think of these tales or to answer any questions. Just drop me a note at ..

I apologize for any frustration you may have as I try to get links set up to all the stories... it's a lot of work and I am working hard at it. The typos constitute a veritable epidemic.

One new comment added on March 9, 2006 - Hello, my good old friend whom I have recovered after a long search. I am glad to have been able to share that our stories have a place and go on =, although I know it must be a bit intimidating to read the words of the teenager you once were. But you will always mean a great deal to me. I can only hope you can come to enjoy our old friends again as I have.

1 I played Robin Hood every possible chance I had. Our backyard on B Street was perfect for it.

2 With the help of my good friend, Tara Yaranon and also an optical scanner and text conversion software called Abbyy Fine Reader.

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About the author

Nan Hawthorne now writes under the name Christopher Hawthorne Moss. You can contact Christopher at .