I love Hood. I’m not talking about my neighborhood—which is fine. I’m referring to my recent reading experience with Stephen Lawhead’s Hood, the first book in the King Raven Trilogy which is just releasing into the marketplace. This novel takes a fresh look at a familiar story—the legend of Robin Hood. In the opening pages, the reader meets the impulsive Bran ap Brychan, Prince of Elfael. Throughout the reading experience you know the book is hooked to Robin Hood but it’s crystal clear in this quotation over on page 414: where a count talking with a knight about a phantom figure which rises in the forest and has frightened the locals. “The folk of Elfael call it Rhi Bran the Hud,” he said. Waving his hand dismissively, he added, “I am sick of hearing about it.”
For many years, I’ve known Steve Lawhead and admired his work. To be honest, I’ve not read any of his books in at least ten years since the last book in the Pendragon Cycle. It was like meeting an old friend to slip into the pages of Hood. Lawhead is a brilliant writer with amazing storytelling skills. He is a great storyteller and practiced his craft in the early days in the magazine business and as a magazine editor. I interviewed Stephen a number of years ago and it’s one of the more challenging interviews that I’ve had with book authors. Why? Lawhead is constantly thinking during your conversation—not just about the conversation but about how you are going to use this conversation when eventually you craft your article for the magazine. At several points during my interview, Stephen pulled me up short saying, “And why are we talking about this? Your reader doesn’t care anything about this.” Young and inexperienced, I permitted Stephen to pull me up short (something I wouldn’t allow today) so I switched to a different area of my planned questions. In some ways it was like interviewing a chess master who is not only planning his current move but planning his strategic strategy for all of the moves to win the game. For me, it was almost an unmatched level of complexity rather than a simple conversation with the writer about his craft and books. Here’s where you can read my profile about Lawhead—who is a brilliant writer.
In the August 28th issue of Publisher’s Weekly I was fascinated to read the steps publisher Allen Arnold made to get Lawhead’s attention and from what I know about Stephen, Allen’s move was a pure stroke of genius. This little snippet also shows the competitive nature of this business for some of these top authors. Here’s a bit of it (if you want to read the entire excellent profile by Kimberly Winston, then follow the link (scroll down)):
“When WestBow Press wanted to be the U.S. publisher for Stephen Lawhead’s newest trilogy, the company hunted the author down with a bow and arrow. In what has to be either the brainiest or the battiest move in the history of acquisitions, Allen Arnold, WestBow’s publisher, sent Lawhead a replica of an 11th-century wooden box containing a medieval archery set, courtesy of a Hollywood prop man. On top was the company’s proposal—printed on parchment, bound in leather and sealed with wax. “The only way I knew how to break through the clutter of publishers was to do something radical,” says Arnold, the brain behind the scheme.”
I recommend Hood as a fresh look at a legend that many people will know. It’s well worth the reading experience.