Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Olivia and The Little Way:" book interview

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a new author, Nancy Carabio Belanger about her very lovely book, Olivia and the Little Way.

Our discussion is below:

DONNA: Nancy, when and why did you decide to write this book?

NANCY: The one thing I've noticed about the Little Flower is that when she wants something done, she makes it happen! She is very powerful. I've always been a writer, but never fiction, mostly newspaper writing. I very shocked when I began to feel nudges from Heaven encouraging me to write a fiction book for children about a girl who tries to make friends in her new school and ends up becoming best friends with a saint. But I knew, deep down, that this was what God wanted me to do, so one day I sat down at the computer and began to type. I didn't even really know where I was going as I typed, only that God was leading me and Therese was helping me.

DONNA: Have you always liked St. Therese?

NANCY: I strongly believe that, by the time I felt an attraction to St. Therese, she'd already been praying for me for a while. I felt drawn to see the movie "Therese" when it came out. I left the theater with a strong sense of her presence. I knew at that moment that I had found someone special to me, a spiritual sister. I immediately read her autobiography, Story of a Soul, and was so inspired by her; I could hardly put it down. There was just this instant connection that continues to this day, and I pray it will always continue, because I love her dearly.

DONNA: What kind of research did you do to write this book?

NANCY: I reread Story of a Soul and some of Therese's letters to prepare for the writing of this book. I checked out every book I could find about her life. I researched all over the internet to find stories, little tidbits about her life to get to know her better. I prayed to her a lot to ask for her guidance throughout the project, and to ask her to pray for me.

DONNA: What age range is this book geared to?

NANCY: The main character is in fifth grade, but I think anyone ages 8-13 would feel especially connected to it. Although, I've had many adults tell me they are reading it and enjoying it, so I guess I can't really put an age to the book! I wrote the book for 'tweens especially, though, because it's such a hard age: you're beyond early childhood things and not quite into teenager stuff yet. It's an awkward time of trying to fit in, yet be yourself in the process. Olivia goes through that throughout the book.

My heart melts when I see children bringing me their worn, well-read copies to book signings. One time I saw a pair of girls seated, their noses in their books, happily swinging their legs as they read. I could've cried. So sweet. I just feel so blessed that I can provide this wholesome spirituality of St. Therese to children in fiction form of a girl named Olivia.

DONNA: What do you hope your reader will come away with?

NANCY: I would love for preteens to be entertained by the story of a fifth-grade girl who tries to follow the Little Way, of course, but mostly I would love for them to feel God calling them to a greater love for Him. Therese taught us that God loves us all, even with our many imperfections. Olivia had many and so do we all! God wants kids to talk to Him, to take their worries and concerns, joys and sorrows to Him. He also wants us to befriend the saints, who struggled as we do now.

DONNA: Can you tell us a little bit about the process of writing your book?

NANCY: The whole time I was writing it, I felt her working through my fingers at the keyboard, giving me ideas and direction with the storyline. My illustrator, Sandy Casali LewAllen, felt the exact same way as she sketched her beautiful drawings. We both felt Therese's and God's blessing on the project the entire time. There were many times I had doubts, and it was then I'd feel this incredible nudging telling me not to give up, that God wanted to see this book come to fruition, to be in the hands of children. It's amazing how, when I'd hit a dry spell, I'd feel hit over the head with a great idea for my story, and how it seemed to fit in so well. It happened so often that it made me start to laugh. I knew God and Therese would come through for me, and they always did. What a friend I have in Therese.

DONNA: Is there anything else that you would like us to know about your book?

NANCY: Making little sacrifices like Therese did, to show her love of God through her Little Way, is something anybody can do, young or old: not complaining when it's your turn to set the table, an offer to help someone when you're just not in the mood. These little sacrifices please God very much. It's the effort that counts. Don't worry if you fail; God doesn't expect you to be perfect when you do them. But in my opinion, I think He would love giving an "A" for effort!

Also, St. Therese is a wonderful and wholesome role model for kids because she believed in being childlike. Her very littleness is something kids can relate to: a little flower at God's feet. St. Therese is very approachable, very sweet and small, yet very tough in many ways, too. Kids are so bombarded with unhealthy messages from the media: be cool, be pretty, be sassy, disobey your parents, ignore God's laws. These messages take us further and further away from God and what He wants for us. Therese is such a good, moral example for kids to follow. She will listen to you and love you and take your concerns to God. My favorite quote of hers, is probably the most beautiful thing ever written, in my opinion: "...You will only have to tell me (them) in a whisper, and I shall hear you, and I shall carry your messages faithfully to the Lord...and I shall be near you, holding your hand." St. Therese will send you a shower of roses if you ask her.

St. Therese said that she wants to tell all little souls of the wonder of God's love. Through this book, my prayer is that, God willing, I do the very same thing! I am humbled and honored to have written this book for St. Therese and for God.

DONNA: Where can we buy your book?

NANCY: You can buy the book through my website, I accept PayPal and credit cards on the site. Or, you may send a check made out to Harvey House Publishing, P.O. Box 81841 Rochester, MI 48308. The book (non-Michigan residents) is $15.75, which includes postage for Priority Mail shipping. For MI residents, it is $16.70, which includes MI sales tax and postage for Priority Mail shipping. The book is also available at Catholic online stores and some Catholic bookstores nationwide; please ask if you would like them to order it.

DONNA: Nancy, thank you very much for your time and for telling us about Olivia and the Little Way! It sure seems like such an inspirational book. God bless you for writing it!

A few details about Nancy's book: The ISBN number is 978-0-923568-92-4. The book is 224 pages, softcover. The publisher is Harvey House Publishing.

This is really a lovely book, beautifully crafted with gorgeous illustrations. It's a book that children and adults will enjoy and maybe even together! I will be posting a review at some point in the future.

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