Thursday, March 7, 2013

An interview about The Telmaj!

The wonderfully talented blogger Larry D whose blog, Acts of the Apostasy, is one of the first I read every day (and, no, not just because my Google reader is alphabetized!) has done me the tremendous favor of interviewing me about my book, The TelmajThe interview is here.

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.


LarryD said...

That was fun! I hope you get to return the favor some day.

Red Cardigan said...

I hope so too, Larry! And it was fun. You're a terrific interviewer. :)

Sherry Antonetti said...

Just bought it for my kids. Looking forward to their reading it and me too.

Red Cardigan said...

Thank you, Sherry!

B et G said...

My children ARE WAITING.

I know you say 8-12 is your target but IMO not that it counts, it sure seems to me more like 8-14. My dd who will be 13 soon is a pretty mature reader (like she reads Chesterton for fun) but she loves the Telmaj, and shared it with her 14-year-old friend who also really enjoyed it.

So I think you must have been writing a little tongue-in-cheek when you were talking about how the 8-12 set aren't ready for all the sex and violence found on the shelves of the YA department. It is really trash and I don't think anyone is ever "ready" for it. I remember my mom innocently bought a book of "literature" for young adults at a bookstore (she asked the saleswoman to recommend something), and I was so appalled by what I read in the first few pages, I am still recovering from it. So thank you for not writing trash. It is a hard age, because there is a lot of great classic literature which they really aren't ready for, in the sense that it contains maybe a little more info than they need to know even though it is very good literature. Or it concerns topics which are not yet of great interest to them. I would love to see a list of your favorites for this age.

Red Cardigan said...

B et G (Rebecca, right?), please tell your children I have good news! Just got a huge amt. of feedback from advance readers and am planning to spend the week finalizing changes and getting ready to get proof copies going. I could have book 2 ready by mid to end of April, if all goes well!

And I sort of agree with you that many older teens will also like the book, esp. the ones who don't or won't read typical YA stuff. I'm encouraged that you've found that to be the case as well.

As to the YA thing: I would say that *most* YA books aren't really fit for anybody, but there are the odd few that are light on the bad stuff and have what I would term sufficient redeeming value to be not terribly horrible for much older teens (older than these books are marketed to, that's for sure!). Some families really got into the "Hunger Games" franchise, for instance, because they wanted their older teens to discuss the moral implications of the dystopian world of the books, even while recognizing that the heroine's own actions were morally problematic in many cases. Unfortunately my own reaction to the books was, "First-person narrative? Really? Yuck." There are books that do quite well as first-person narratives--epistolary novels come to mind--but adventure stories, not so much, in my opinion.

The real problem, though, is that by the time a teen is really mature enough to grapple with complex moral problems from authors whose moral vision is very far from the Church's, they're also old enough to read really good books, not the YA stuff--because even the best of it is often marred by pandering to teen angst and by lowest-common-denominator marketing efforts.

I like the idea of creating a list of great fiction for the 8-12 crowd! I know there are lists out there, but one more can't hurt, right? I'll work on that for an upcoming blog post.

B et G said...

Good points. My dd created an offshoot of my google account or something and so somehow I'm showing up as "B et G" and I'm not technologically savvy enough to know how to switch back. Anyway, yes, I'm Rebecca. So I guess my thing is this--I know so, so much good fiction for about 8-12, and it would take a good while to get through that. My difficulty is more like with the 12-14 age. My dd has read all the good literature I know for 8-12 and is in the beginning of adolescence with some knowledge of and interest in more adult things but not a lot. So she's ready for some adult literature but not quite ready to grapple with some of the moral situations in even good literature. She is ready to be dealing with more complex themes than the Oz series whereas those stories are perfect for eight or ten year-olds. It's this in-between age that is difficult for finding good books, so I'd love to have a better idea of good fiction and non-fiction for 12-14. It seems like there is an abundance of okay but insipid stuff for this age ("Ella Enchanted") but I'm looking for more solid things.

Red Cardigan said...

Duly noted, Rebecca! Actually, the dearth of books for the 12-14 crowd is what made me start writing in the first place! :)