With the release of The Fragmented Kingdom, I thought it would be fun to share with my readers some tidbits about The Forgotten King that you may not know. I’m always fascinated by the thought processes behind the books, films, and shows I love. These background morsels help me view the piece in a different way. Of course, ultimately, not even the author’s unwritten ideas can get between a book and a reader. Each reader will find their own meaning and connect with a work in their own way. If you’ve found meanings that not even I have considered, I would love for you to share them!
I’ve done my best to avoid sharing spoilers for those who are new to the book and haven’t finished it yet.
Back in 2002-03, I read every C.S. Lewis theological book I could get. I started with Mere Christianity. His straightforward, practical style was refreshing and I ended up reading that book more than once. In one chapter, “Making and Begetting,” Lewis explores two different types of life, which he calls Zoe and Bios. Zoe applies to spiritual life while Bios refers to the physical.
I still remember clearly where the words explaining these two lives are positioned on the page because of the inspiration they gave me. In my mind, I saw a woman and a man walking through a field of long, yellow grass. The image prompted questions. Who are they? Where are they going? What are they doing?
The Forgotten King was born out of the answers to these questions.
Zoe & Brian vs. Helen & Neil
These writings of C.S. Lewis didn’t just inspire the book, they inspired the original names of my main characters. Zoe is a common girl’s name and I didn’t hesitate to lift it straight from the pages of Mere Christianity into my own book. But Bios… Who’s ever heard of a man named Bios? That’s just weird. I wanted something that perhaps had a similar sound or a similar meaning. I didn’t like any of the names I found. Finally, though, I settled on the name Brian, from the name of an ancient Irish king (despite the fact that I have an ex-boyfriend named Brian whom I never had any desire of naming a character after).
After a few drafts and rewrites, though, I just wasn’t feeling these names anymore. They no longer felt right. Plus, Zoe had a resurgence in popularity and, as far as I can tell, Brian has never been unpopular. I decided I wanted to find new names for these characters.
Fun fact: Helen is the only nickname I have ever had in my life, and the number of people allowed to call me “Helen” is less than five. It was a joke name from my stage crew days in high school—but that’s a completely different story.
I settled on Helen for my female lead because it means “light.” Based on her personality, it seemed fitting.
Once again, I struggled to find a name for the male lead. I considered quite a few, but none of them seemed to fit. I’ve always liked the name Neil and I liked the imagery of a person kneeling in humility. Plus, it also happens to be a name with Irish origins. I decided on Neil and told myself to stop questioning that decision.
A large part of the plot of The Forgotten King is Helen and Neil searching for keys in the form of gemstones. In earlier drafts, I named the actual gemstones, like sapphire, emerald, fire opal, etc. I tried to choose stones with particular meanings, too. Pearls symbolize wisdom, opals symbolize hope, sapphires bring clarity. But I also chose them because I like the way they look.
I like to consider what my characters will and won’t know when I tell their stories, and I realized that Helen and Neil might not know all these gemstones if they had never seen them before. I replaced the names of the stones with their colors. I’m sure it doesn’t change how my readers picture them.
I made the conscious choice to never call Neil’s grandfather by name. It never felt necessary. And it leaves a little bit of intrigue in the story. That doesn’t mean I never asked myself what his name is, and it doesn’t mean that I never answered the question for myself.
His name is Neil.