If I could have parents read just one section of the interview, it would be this one:
LarryD: You mentioned you wanted to make the story exciting but leave out the graphic violence and sex that seems to inundate kids’ lit these days. But there’s more to it than just that, right?
EM: Oh, yes. I initially thought about getting The Telmaj published by a Catholic fiction publisher because even though the book is not overtly Catholic I wanted to tell a story full of good and evil, right and wrong, and the kinds of virtues and values that seem to be sadly lacking in many children’s books these days. But the publisher I sent it to, while thinking it was very publishable, explained that she couldn’t publish anything but overtly Catholic fiction–that is, fiction that would show Catholic characters going to Catholic schools and Mass on Sunday, that sort of thing.
While I understood that, I think we’re reaching a point where even trying to tell a story in which characters struggle to do the right thing and have no trouble identifying certain evils really is writing Catholic fiction of a type. So many books, even for children, rely on a kind of “situational ethics” where whatever the characters we like do is good, and whatever the characters we don’t like are doing must be bad (unless they, too, are just the victims in all this). Sort of like how we view political parties these days.
I’m old-fashioned enough to think that for children, the reinforcement of the ideas of good and evil is a good thing to do–not in a cartoonishly simple way, but in a way that helps them ponder these kinds of questions.
LarryD: I thought you weaved those virtues into the story very well – they were evident without being preachy, and the characters reacted and acted in real ways. And at an appropriate level, for your audience.
Moms and dads of great readers: if you have children aged 9-12 (or even a bit younger; I know some 8-year-olds have read my book) and you're not letting them have access to the over-sexualized stuff on the young adult shelf, please consider my book for your kids! I'd be most grateful.