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An interview with Nathan Sadasivan author of
Crown of the World—Knight of the Temple

For more information about this book, click here.

It's pretty amazing that you began writing Crown of the World when you were 15. What inspired you to write it?
I got the inspiration when I read the real life story of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Something about the story grabbed me, and grabbed me when I was young. In a history book full of depressing land wars, economic struggles, and vicious diseases, the struggle for the Kingdom of Jerusalem stands out as something more important, something higher and deeper. Oh, land wars, economics, and sickness all played their part even in this battle, but the story was clearly more than that. (Some pessimist historians want us to believe otherwise, but the pessimist historians are wrong.)
     Thus I knew from age fourteen or so that I was going to write an epic about the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Nothing else would suffice – dry historical accounts were not enough, and the previous attempts to chronicle this story just weren’t good enough. (People have been trying to tell a good story about the Kingdom for a long time. A Renaissance poet named Tasso wrote an epic about Godfrey de Bouillion: Gerusalemme Liberata. There’s also been some recent novels about the Kingdom. But no one reads Tasso any more – including me – and I wasn’t satisfied with any of the novels I could find.) So, captivated by the story, and dissatisfied by the attempts that had gone before, I started writing my own epic. And Crown of the World was born.

How many years were you homeschooled and what aspects of homeschooling helped you write the book?
I was homeschooled for eight years – from fifth grade through the end of high school. Homeschooling gave me a lot of flexibility in the curriculum, which is what allowed me to write the book in the first place. My mom saw that I was already writing on my own, so she spent less time on writing in the official curriculum and encouraged me to focus on writing the novel.

Was the book informed by your Catholic faith? If so, how?
The book was deeply influenced by my faith. After all, my faith molds everything in life: the way I understand the world, the way I understand good and evil, the way I understand human nature – and most of all the way I understand God. I’m proud of the Catholic faith, and what’s more, I really believe it, so it would be impossible for me to ‘get away from it.’ 
     As a rule, the things a writer believes about God will permeate his writing. Godfrey’s whole struggle, both interior and external, is a struggle informed by a Catholic understanding of the world. The climax (of this first book) is designed to be troubling, but I think it will be especially so to non-Christian readers. Of course, I should make it clear that my goal in writing this book was neither to teach the Catholic faith nor to defend it. These are noble aims, but they are best left to wiser men than me. I wanted to tell a gripping story with exciting, enduring characters, and if I failed in that then my writing has failed.

The book has a great deal of historical detail. How long did it take you to do all the research?
I did my research as I was writing. But considering it took me a good three years to write the book, that gave me plenty of time. I didn’t read any thick academic volumes; just popular histories. The stuff that any layman can get his hands on. I studied by absorbing and assimilating the Kingdom of Jerusalem, not by spending an intensive period of time on heavy research. Maybe the most valuable part of my research was reading a lot of children’s books about Saladin and Baldwin – you can find lots of stories about them old hero books from the fifties. While I did learn the facts of history from the paperback pocket histories, I think I learned the most important things from the children’s books.

How does your book compare to the 2005 film, Kingdom of Heaven which was panned by many Crusades historians as historically inaccurate and "Osama bin Laden's version of history"?
The theme that Kingdom of Heaven and Crown of the World have in common is knighthood. Ridley Scott did knighthood very, very well – the whole scene where Balian knights the commoners is both excellent and historically accurate. The elevation of the warrior code to fight for a higher ideal is central to Crown of the World. But Kingdom of Heaven was deeply flawed as well. The story scrupulously avoided taking either the Christian or Muslim side – and in order to accomplish this it took the fatuous modern view that the battle for Jerusalem was a completely meaningless one. This is an insult to both Christians and Muslims, and this kind of apathy is more dangerous to good men than the most provocative preacher of jihad could ever be.
     Perhaps nowhere is the contrast between Crown of the World and Kingdom of Heaven more clear than in one of the movie’s deleted scenes. In this scene, Princess Sybilla discovers that her young son has contracted leprosy. She promptly poisons him to relieve him of his pain, with the implicit belief that the life of a leper is not worth living. Anyone who reads Crown of the World will find a very different view.

Are there any incidents or characters in the book that evoke events or people in our modern world?
The characters of Crown of the World are people I think everyone can recognize in real life. Not the ones you see on the news, but the people you see every day. Godfrey’s struggle is one that everyone has shared in some degree. But there’s a wrong way of looking at that. I don’t want readers see our world in Godfrey’s – if all they do is remark on how similar certain characters are to people they know, then the book has failed. I want readers to see Godfrey’s world in ours. A lot of people today, thinking that the modern world is drab and unexciting, condemn the passion and glamor of adventure stories as ‘escapist.’ But that’s not true. The drudges who paint the world as boring are the true escapists. I want people to see that the adventure is here, that there are vile, false knights, Andronicuses and De Ridfords, who must be fought, and that there is a Holy City to be defended from enemies both without and within. That is the connection I hope readers make when they read the book.

Do you plan to take up writing as a career?
No, I do not plan to take up writing as a career. I do plan to write all my life. But if I made writing my career, I would be constantly tempted to live vicariously, to live my life in a different world. I want to tell stories about heroes and adventures, but I also want to have those adventures myself and be the hero I write about. So my career will definitely be something else. And moreover, writing requires inspiration – hard work isn’t enough on its own. If I need to write in order to pay the bills, I’ll start writing the first drivel that comes to my mind. I want the luxury of writing only when I have something worth writing.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In ten years? Who knows. Wherever the Spirit leads. Maybe politics, maybe teaching Latin and Greek, maybe collecting garbage. We’ll see.

For more information about this book or to place an order, click here.

Posted November 23, 2009.

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