Author Calls Children the Inspiration Behind Fantasy Series THE FIVE TOWERS
By Cooper Dowd, Movieguide® Staff
In the 1950s, young readers were introduced to two of the most imaginative worlds to date, J.R.R. Tolkien’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS and C.S. Lewis’ THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA.
The two stories, while different in tone, scope, and purpose, captivated children and parents alike with their well-written characters and obvious moral, biblical worldviews that showed good conquering evil, light dispelling darkness, and faith overcoming fear.
Since Lewis and Tolkien, no series has come close in worldwide popularity. While J.K. Rowlings’s HARRY POTTER series had tremendous and unique success among readers, very few would argue that it was cut from different cloth.
Today, author J.B. Simmons hopes his series, THE FIVE TOWERS, celebrates the same moral themes of Lewis and Tolkien’s iconic classics, while also having the accessibility of Rowling’s widely known series.
“The tagline is ‘the magic of Harry Potter with the message of Narnia,’” Simmons told Movieguide® in a recent interview. “I hope that both of those points resonate, because Harry Potter has been a cultural phenomenon for a number of years now, but there were concerns about what’s the message here, what’s the underlying motivation?”
“I’ve always been inspired by C.S. Lewis,” he added. “He was a huge figure in terms of influence for me, and so his Narnia tales, as I’ve read them as a child and then also read them to my own children, really gripped me in terms of how much they can say through story. I wanted to take a lot of the modern magic that you see and feel, and that people enjoy about the Harry Potter series, and then use it with the same kind of meaning and message that folks are accustomed to reading C.S. Lewis.”
So, J.B. Simmons wrote THE FIVE TOWERS, a book series that starts with THE BLUE TOWER. Inspired by his childhood and hearing NARNIA read to him, Simmons thought: ‘Who better than his own children to test out his own stories?’
“The first person to hear the Blue Tower story was my eight-year-old son at the time, and I read the manuscript with a red pen in my hand before anyone else had seen it,” he recalled. If there was a word he did not understand or a concept that was too difficult, I tried to adapt it to his level. So it’s a wonderful read aloud story for a parent and an eight-year-old, but it’s a bit like a Pixar movie, in the sense that there are often two layers of meaning, one that even an eight-year-old can love and understand, and then another level that any age will love and understand.”
Just like NARNIA, Simmons tackles the age-old battle between light and dark, and good and evil.
“I’ll give two layers,” he said. “The first is the classic struggle of light versus darkness, that is very clear in The Five Towers, in part because they are also an exploration of literally colors, like the science of colors, which are facets of light. Black is the absence of color. So there’s this true light versus darkness element to the story. The other is one of redemption and hope. Why this message has resonated with so many readers is that when people make mistakes, there is still hope, there is still redemption. So the characters in this story, from all different times and places, have made mistakes, and they all have this opportunity of redemption and hope.”
“This story explores what that looks like,” he added. “How do people actually change? How does redemption play out in someone’s life?”
Simmons hopes that THE FIVE TOWERS will offer children and parents a new adventure that they can embark on together, as a family. Simmons noted that options are not only growing less in quantity, but also in quality.
“As a father of young readers, I had the same feeling looking around thinking, ‘There should be more great stories with great messages for young readers,’” he explained. “As I saw the types of books that are in public school libraries right now, some of that was a bit disturbing to me. You can criticize that, but I have a different answer, which is to try to make something better.”
“In a way, creating a story that my kids would love was a huge motivation,” he added.
In order, THE FIVE TOWERS series goes THE BLUE TOWER, THE RED TOWER, THE GREEN TOWER, THE YELLOW TOWER, and THE BLACK TOWER.
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