Thursday 31 October 2019

Thomas Merton Faithful Visionary - Michael W. Higgins

Thomas Merton: Faithful Visionary
People of God Series
Michael W. Higgins
Liturgical Press
eISBN 9780814637319

This is the second book in the People Of God series that I have read and the tenth book by Michael W. Higgins. Most of those 10 were read between 1998 and 2006. At the time I was a mature student at St. Jerome’s University, at the University of Waterloo. And my first term I had the chance to be in one of Higgin’s last classes before he became president. Higgins has written extensively on Merton and is likely one of the foremost Merton scholars alive today. Having read many of his earlier works on Merton, and listened to many lectures and talk, I approached this book with a little concern that it might not live up to my high expectations. I was wrong, this book was not just a rehash of old material, yes Higgins draws from his earlier scholarship on Merton. But the book is also fresh and new. In many ways reading it was like being introduced to Merton all over again. 

Higgins looks as many different modes of Merton, the man, the monk, and the monastic. Higgins does not wear rose colored glasses. He presents a fairly clear and honest picture of a man who struggled to live up to his own ideas, and to what he felt was his calling. Merton took a while to find his vocation. Higgin’s does also not go into conspiracy theories about Merton’s untimely and unusual death. What is present is a monk unlike any other. A monk who was internationally famous after his book The Seven Story Mountain. A monk who was always looking for something more. And at times in the wrong places, and wrong ways. But also a monk who when push came to shove submitted to the authorities he had taken vows under, to his calling, and to his vocation. At times the book may stir scandal. Provide shock or surprise. There were a few indiscretions in this volume that I had not encountered in any of my earlier reading. 

I once heard Higgin’s state that Merton would never become a recognized saint. And I for the most part would agree with that opinion. But if we could be canonized for effort, for struggling, for striving, then maybe he should. And this book shows that more clearly than any of the other works about Merton I have read to date. 

I know some readers are not fond of this series, but I find these very honest biographies encouraging and personally challenging. There are a few other volumes I would like to check out, I just wish they were all available as eBooks. This particular book is very well written. And if you are open I am sure it will bless you to read it.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Michael W. Higgins:
Genius Born of Anguish: The Life & Legacy of Henri Nouwen
The Unquiet Monk: Thomas Merton's Questing Faith
Heretic Blood: The Spiritual Geography of Thomas Merton
Thomas Merton: Faithful Visionary
Jean Vanier: Logician of the Heart
Faith and Literature Matters
Power And Peril: The Catholic Church At The Crossroads
Stalking the Holy: The Pursuit of Saint Making
My Father's Business: A Biography Of His Eminence G. Emmett Cardinal Carter

Books with Douglas R. Letson:
Soundings: Conversations about Catholicism
The Jesuit Mystique

Contributed to:
Commonweal on Contemporary Theologians
Introducing John Moriarty In His Own Words
Vatican II: A Universal Call to Holiness
Impressively Free: Henri Nouwen as Model for a Reformed Priesthood (with Kevin Burns)
Suffer the Children Unto Me: An Open Inquiry into the Clerical Abuse Scandal (with Peter Kavanagh)


Related Posts:
Waterloo Loses A Good Man
Michael W. Higgins
Faith in the Media Conference 2006

People of God Series:
John XXIII - Massimo Faggioli
Oscar Romero - Kevin Clarke
Thomas Merton - Michael W. Higgins
Megan Rice - Dennis Coday
Francis - Michael Collins
Flannery O’Connor - Angela O’Donnell
Martin Sheen - Rose Pacatte
Jean Vanier - Michael W. Higgins
Dorothy Day - Patrick Jordan
Luis Antonio Tagle - Cindy Wooden
Georges and Pauline Vanier - Mary Francis Coadyn
Joseph Bernardin - Steven P. Millies
Corita Kent - Rose Pacatte
Daniel Rudd - Gary B. Agee
Helen Prejean - Joyce Duriga
Paul VI - Michael Collins
Thea Bowman - J. Nutt


Wednesday 30 October 2019

Essentials Plan - Team Body Project - Alex and Daniel Bartlett

Essentials Plan
Team Body Project
Alex and Daniel Bartlett

I have now completed 7 workout plans with TBP and as of the posting of this review worked out over 130 days straight using TBP videos. And the Essentials Plan is by far the hardest of the workouts I have done to date. This program is very different than any of the others I have done from TBP. With this program you have 5 workouts each of 2 weeks, each between 40-50 minutes with warm up and cool down.

As the seventh program from Team body project that I have completed this year, this one pushed me out of my comfort zone. Each workout contains three segments, cardio, resistance and core. And these vary from about 10 minutes to 20 minutes across the workouts. This past summer I wrote a piece called Starting Over in Southwestern Ontario! A Fitness Update! What I started with was the workout videos from team Body Project, and specifically Real Start Just Move. You can watch that video on YouTube, or even workout with it. I had been a member of Team Body Project for three years now, but only just started the videos. I am in my 50th year, and I really needed to get back at it. And the TBP plans have been a great way to do that.

Team Body Project is a website, an app and a community. And the community is part of what makes this an excellent resource for your health and fitness. The private community on Facebook and the forums on the website are very supportive and encouraging. But what really helped me is that the workouts in the Real Start program are geared for anyone. Each video has three participants. Daniel and Alex lead the videos and Natasha and Lisa. Natasha usually works out at a harder pace, and Lisa at a modified level. But even when you go beyond those programs, they always offer a less intense version. And pressing pause is encouraged if you need it. 

The gear you will need:
Dumbbells (ideally a lighter and heavier weight)

The workouts are:
Week 1
Essentials Segments 
Essentials Segments 2
Essentials Segments 3
Essentials Segments 4
Essentials AvD

Week 2
Essentials Segments 5
Essentials Segments 6
Essentials Segments 7
Essentials Segments 8
Essentials AvD 2

You can access all five workouts in this plan via the TBP website, or through the TBP app. The pace of this workout is intense. Each day you do a quick warm up, followed by a cardio section. After the cardio is a resistance section, and then a core section, followed by a stretch. The days alternate between Alex or Daniel beginning and they alternate through the sections. It was also my introduction to an AvD - Alex vs Daniel workout. I had heard about them but never done one, and they are intense and fun, and occasionally funny. As they push each other and challenge us. 

The program has 10 workouts over 2 planned weeks. It took me over three weeks to complete it. A bout of illness, and very busy family schedule interrupted the schedule. But I managed to continue to press play every day, even if I did not have time for a 40-50 minute workout. 

This is a great program and excellent for pushing me outside my comfort zone. I upped my weights which I had not really done since beginning. And because of the core sections, spend a lot of time on the mat, which because of my knee injury was also leery of. But I paid attention to my body and made it through the whole program. 

And as I always conclude a TBP review, do not just take my word for it check out Kylie Young’s story or the other testimonials on the site. I can say that TBP is one of the best resources for health and fitness that I have ever come across. 

Another great program, especially wto work out and hit all the muscle groups, and cardio, resistance and core in each workout. Thank you yet again, Alex and Daniel. 

Tuesday 29 October 2019

Pretty City Murder - Robert E. Dunn

Pretty City Murder
Robert E. Dunn
ISBN 9781732379312
ISBN 9780692106549


This book was suggested to me by a friend on Facebook. When I went looking for it Found a different Robert E. Dunn and also books by an E. Robert Dunn. To the best of my knowledge this is the first and currently the only book by this Robert E. Dunn. The book has mixed reviews. People either seem to really like it or really not. Now I read well over 100 books a year and the last few years have read over 300. I tend to be a little gentler in reviewing the debut novel by authors. But did not need to extend much grace for this volume.

There were many things I liked about this book. It took me back about 20 years when I read a lot of Robert B. Parker and Andrew M. Greeley. And the settings in and around San Francisco remind me of the writings of Christopher Moore. In fact, I kept expecting the King of San Fran to make an appearance. It reminds me of the earlier mystery writers, in that it is a detailed procedural process investigation. Larry Leahy reminds me a lot of Spencer in the Spencer for Hire books and show. The religious, and specifically Catholic elements remind me of the fiction by Greeley.

The quick summary of this story about a priest, a policeman, and a hotel owner could be the beginning of a joke. But the story is anything but funny. Larry Leahy is an inspector up for a promotion. James O’Hare is a womanizing hotel owner, sole proprietor of the Greenwich Grand Hotel. Father Ralph MacKenzie SJ, is in an inappropriate relationship with a woman friend when his brother is murdered. The three friends’ have chosen diverse paths in life, but all remember their promise to look after the victim, who though a little slow had carved out a life for himself.

The cast of characters in this tale is as diverse at the real-world San Francisco. And the story could be taken from tabloid or news headlines. The story travels all over the city from North Beach to Chinatown, to the iconic Golden gate Bridge. The mystery is written in fine details. And the characters are what really make the story. A reader cannot but hope to encounter Lahey, MacKenzie and Trang again in another story. The characters are what make this story so gripping. And some of them are struggling to do the best they can, others are just trying to hold on to their reputation, money, and status in society.

As a first novel it is very impressive, and I hope we are treated to more from Dunn’a pen. We just need to keep all the Dunn’s clear.

Note: this is a story by a Catholic novelist, and the story has Catholic elements, but you have a Priest kissing a woman. A man having multiple affairs. And other elements that not all readers would appreciate.

Monday 28 October 2019

Father William’s Daughter - Fiorella De Maria

Father William’s Daughter
Fiorella De Maria
Allied Publications
Progress Press Co. Ltd.
ISBN 9789990931082

This was the eighth book by Fiorella de Maria that I have read over the last few months. Her non-fiction is excellent. And her novels have all been page turners. This was the second novel she published, and to be honest if one of my favorites. It is currently out of print and hard to track down, but so worth the effort. Fiorella is a master wordsmith! Her stories are compelling, and addictive. I have one more to go to read all currently published, and already plan to circle back and reread them again. One of the great strengths of her books are the characters. They are incredibly well written. And with this being her second novel it is even more impressive. Another factor is the pull of Malta, and the sense of Maltese heritage often found in one or more character in her books. And finally, the plots, for the most part the stories could not be more different and yet they all have plots that draw a reader in and keep them turning the pages.

In this story we have Francesca Saliba. She is orphaned when her father dies in a car accident, and her mother had passed away a few years earlier from cancer. Within days of her father’s death she is whisked away from her beloved Malta to England, and deposited on the steps of Father William’s rectory, he is her uncle and now her legal guardian. Father William Arrowsmith at first things his being a guardian is one of the worst ideals ever, especially since his mother has just moved in with him. But soon he grows to depend upon and cherish his time with Francesca. Most chapters are written in two parts. The first is the story being told by Francesca in first person narrative. The second is called ‘The events Fr Arrowsmith would have included in his memories had he ever had the time to write them. (x)’ Where x is a number between 1 and 15. There are 18 numbered chapters and a final section called ‘Last Things’. Francesca is a scared girl. Form losing both her parents, losing her home, and even losing her nationality, at least legally. She is prone to overreacting, losing her temper, and being as stubborn as a mule. But she is also extremely passionate, caring and devoted. She is smart beyond her years, and it gets her in trouble as often as not. And she is a gifted musician. 

Francesca was refugee who was forced to start a new life. But there were pieces of her old life she could not forget and could not leave alone. Eventually the two return to Malta to confront the demons from her past. But the danger that chased her from the country 10 years earlier, returns with a vengeance. 

It is the story of family, a story about friendship, and the story of loyalty and courage. It was an incredibly hard book to put down. I read most of it on a long car ride, even reading late into the dusk and squinting at the pages because I could not put it down. While reading this book, I could see a train wreck coming. The story kept building and building. But I could never have guessed the ending.

A fantastic read by a gifted writer. If you can lay you hands on it, do give it a read. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan

Friday 25 October 2019

Get Back Jack - Diane Capri - Hunt For Reacher Book 2

Get Back Jack
Hunt For Reacher Book 2
Diane Capri
August Books
eISBN 9780988234697

This was the fourth of Diane Capri’s Jack books that I have read. And to date this one is by far my favorite! This one is more of a short story, or even chapter in the large Hunt for Reacher story. This one is almost four times the length of the two previous short stories in the series. It is something you can really sink your teeth into. I was hooked after reading the first story in this series and know I will be reading them all. I am trying to pace myself at about a book a week. I have already picked up the eBooks for all that are currently available. And plan on reviewing one a week until I have reviewed them all. In the six months before reading this series I read 29 Jack Reacher Novels and short stories by Lee Child. And somehow, I stumbled upon these books while preparing one of my reviews and recalled my dad having mentioned them. So, I decided to give one a try. And I am very thankful that I did. I typically read a couple hundred books a year, and the last few years have been over 300 a year. And at the pace I am going I will finish off this series un under a year from my first Reacher read. These stories are great reads for Reacher fans. But they are written well enough that they could be read on their own. But they really ought to be read in order, something I must admit that is something that I often do not do, but in this case am sticking to the order. Lee Child himself has even plugged these books in the Reacher Report. And they deserve the applause. 

In this part of the saga of FBI special agents Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar now trying to track down Jack Reacher via his old team the 100th. But most of them members are either dead or now missing. The one they do connect with is Frances Neagley and she does not prove very cooperative. This story really amps up the action and the drama. And in some ways it reads like a Reacher novel with out Reacher being in it. The elements involved are:

Missing women
Child hostages
A young man murdered
A shootout 
Travelling back and forth to Mexico and taking on a gang

Otto, Gaspar, and Neagley end up cleaning up the remnant from a mess that was left behind 5 years ago. This is a great story that was very hard to put down. 

Another great story in an excellent series, may favorite so far. 

Books by Diane Capri:
Hunt for Reacher Series:

1.0 Don’t Know Jack
1.1 Jack in a Box
1.2 Jack and Kill
2.0 Get Back Jack
2.5 Jack in the Green
3.0 Jack and Joe
4.0 Deep Cover Jack
5.0 Jack the Reaper
6.0 Black Jack
7.0 Ten Two Jack
8.0 Jack of Spades
9.0 Prepper Jack

10.0 Full Metal Jack
Justice Series:
1.0 Due Justice
2.0 Twisted Justice
3.0 Secret Justice
4.0 Wasted Justice
5.0 Raw Justice
5.5 Mistaken Justice
6.0 Cold Justice
6.1 False Justice
6.2 Fair Justice
6.3 True Justice
7.0 Hunt for Justice
8.0 Night Justice

Jess Kimball Series:
0.5 Fatal Enemy
1.0 Fatal Distraction
2.0 Fatal Demand
3.0 Fatal Error
4.0 Fatal Fall
4.5 Fatal Edge
5.0 Fatal Game
6.0 Fatal Bond
6.5 Fatal Past
7.0 Fatal Dawn

Heir Hunter Series:
1.0 Blood Trials
2.0 Trace Evidence

Jordan Fox Mysteries:
False Truth Part One
False Truth Part Two
False Truth Part Three
False Truth Part Four
False Truth Part Five
False Truth Part Six
False Truth Part Seven
False Truth Part Eight
False Truth Part Nine
False Truth Part Ten
False Truth Part Eleven

The Park Hotel Mysteries Series:
1.0 Reservation with Death
2.0 Early Check Out
3.0 Room with a Clue
4.0 Late Arrival

Other Books:
Angel of Music

Thursday 24 October 2019

Ungifted - Gordon Korman - Ungifted Book 1

Ungifted Book 1
Gordon Korman
eISBN 9781443119788

This was the third Gordon Korman novel we have read in as many weeks. After reading Restart, my son and I each picked two other books by him and picked up the eBooks. My son can read on his iPod and I can read on my phone during my commute to work. And we can share about our experiences with the story and have conversations around the books. Sometimes when we really get into one, we will also read it together in the evening. So you might be asking why 4 books by Korman, we each had preferences for which ones we wanted to read. I gave in a bit and we each got 4 and have a book to read each week for the next month together.

This second book was one of my my picks. I picked this and The Unteachables. My son picked Slacker, and Level 13. And we went with this one second because my son had picked Restart. And he was behind me at reading. It was an interesting jump to go from reading The Unteachable to reading this one that centers around a gifted program. And the story of this one is a great mash of the first two we read. Like some of the other stories by Korman this story if written in multiple first person narrative, and ach chapter title is a word beginning with ‘Un’ and the name of that narrator and their IQ. The chapters are:

Unearthed: Donovan Curtis, IQ: 112
Unidentified: Dr. Schultz, IQ: 127
Unexplained: Donovan Curtis, IQ: 112
Unarmed: Chloe Garfinkle, IQ: 159
Unknowing: Donovan Curtis, IQ: 112
Uncredited: Mr. Osborne, IQ: 132
Unrepaired: Donovan Curtis, IQ: 112
Unsurprised: Chloe Garfinkle, IQ: 159
Unfailing: Noah Youkilis, IQ: 206
Unpasteurized: Donovan Curtis, IQ: 112
Unsuccessful: Dr. Schultz, IQ: 127
Unrockin’: Chloe Garfinkle, IQ: 159
Untrustworthy: Donovan Curtis, IQ: 112
Unsorry: Noah Youkilis, IQ: 206
Untested: Donovan Curtis, IQ: 112
Unforgivable: Ms. Bevelaqua, IQ: 140
Unreal: Katie Patterson, IQ: 107
Unmasked: Dr. Schultz, IQ: 127
Unwelcome: Donovan Curtis, IQ: 112
Unbelievable: Chloe Garfinkle, IQ: 159
Unschooled: Donovan Curtis, IQ: 112
Unseen: Mr. Osborne, IQ: 132
Uncontrolled: Donovan Curtis, IQ: 112
Unexpected: Chloe Garfinkele, IQ: 159
Unburdened: Abigail Lee, IQ: 171
Unchallenged: Noah Youkilis, IQ: 206
Unlittered: Donovan Curtis, IQ: 112

My son was the one who noticed all the ‘Un’ chapter titles I had not put it together yet. The story follows Donovan, who is often in trouble, and whose actions often outpace his brain. After being put in detention and missing the school’s basketball game, he sneaks out and ends up giving a statue of Atlas a wack with a big stick. Unfortunately, only a single old corroded bolt was hold the world up, and it fell from Atlas’s shoulders and was heading down hill towards the car park. Donovan tried to catch it and did give it a nudge, and instead it plowed through the gum doors and caused havoc at the game. He was apprehended by Dr. Schultz the school district supervisor. But by some confusion instead of being punished he was sent to the school for gifted children. Donovan the class clown is hiding out. But something happens. He ends up developing friendships with the brainiacs. And he gets into their fever for the robot competition. And soon Donovan who is known for causing havoc is actually the one trying to prevent it. To see all the issues and how they get resolved you will need to read this excellent story.

This story left me desperate to read the sequel Supergifted but the next book is my sons pick so we are reading Slacker next. But either way I am sure we are in for a great read. This story was a fantastic and I am very excited to find out what will happen with the characters in the next volume. 

Another fantastic read from the pen of Gordon Korman. Fun for readers of all ages. 

Books by Gordon Korman:
MacDonald Hall Series:
The Wizzle War (1982)
         (formerly The War With Mr. Wizzle)
The Zucchini Warriors (1988)
Light’s Camera, Disaster (1991)
          (aka Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood)
The Jokes on Us (1995)
          (formerly Something Fishy at Macdonald Hall)

Bugs Potter Series:

Jeremy Bloom Series:
The D−Poems of Jeremy Bloom (1992)
The Last-Place Sports Poems of Jeremy Bloom (1996)

Monday Night Football Series:
The Quarterback Exchange (1997)
Running Back Conversion (1997)
Super Bowl Switch (1997)
Heavy Artillery (1997)
Ultimate Scoring Machine (1998)
NFL Rules! Bloopers, Pranks, Upsets, and Touchdowns (1998)

Masterminds Series:

Slapshots Series:
The Stars From Mars (1999)
All-Mars All-Stars/The Dream Team (1999)
The Face-off Phony (2000)
Cup Crazy (2000)
Ouch I got slapped (2023)
4-in-1 Slapshots: The Complete Collection (2008)

Nose Pickers Series:
Nose Pickers from Outer Space! (1999)
Planet of the Nose Pickers (2000)
Your Mummy Is a Nose Picker (2000)
Invasion of the Nose Pickers (2001)
4-in-1 The Ultimate Nose-Picker Collection (2006)

Island Series:
Shipwreck (2001)
Survival (2001)
Escape (2001)
3-in-1 Island Trilogy Collection (2006)

Son of the Mob Series:
Son of the Mob 2: Hollywood Hustle (2004)

Everest Series:
The Contest (2002)
The Climb (2002)
The Summit (2002)
Everest Trilogy Box Set (2002)

Dive Series:
The Discovery (2003)
The Deep (2003)
The Danger (2003)

On the Run Series:
Now You See Them, Now You Don't (2005)
The Stowaway Solution (2005)
Public Enemies (2005)
Hunting the Hunter (2006)

Kidnapped Series:
The Search (2006)
The Rescue (2006)

Swindle Series:
Swindle (2008)
Zoobreak (2009)
Framed (2010)
Showoff (2012)
Hideout (2013)
Jackpot (2014)
Unleashed (2015)
Jingle (2016)

Titanic Series:
Unsinkable (2011)
Collision Course (2011)
S.O.S (2011)

The 39 Clues Series:
Vespers Rising (2011)
The Medusa Plot (2011)
Flashpoint (2014)

Hypnotists Series:
The Hypnotists (2013)
Memory Maze (2014)
The Dragonfly Effect (2015)

Ungifted Series:
Ungifted (2012)
Supergifted (2018)

Slacker Series:
Slacker (2016)
Level 13 (2019)

Non Series Books:
Son of Interflux (1986)
Radio 5th Grade (1989)
Losing Joe's Place (1990)
The Twinkie Squad (1992)
The Toilet Paper Tigers (1993)
Why Did the Underwear Cross the Road (1994)
The Chicken Doesn't Skate (1996)
No More Dead Dogs (2000)
Maxx Comedy: The Funniest Kid in America (2003)
Jake, Reinvented (2003)
Born To Rock (2006)
Schooled (2007)
Pop (2009)
Restart (2017)
Notorious (2019)
War Stories (2020)
Game On (contains The Chicken Doesn’t Skate and The Toilet Paper Tigers (2021)
Unplugged (2021)
Linked (2021)
The Fort (2022)

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Author Profile and Interview with Fiorella de Maria

Author Profile and Interview with Fiorella de Maria 

Fiorella de Maria AKA Fiorella Nash instantly became one of my favorite authors, after I finished reading a first book. After finishing that first one by her I purchased all that were in print, and worked towards tracking down the others. I have now read 7 of 10 and have greatly appreciated them all. She was born of Maltese parents in Italy, and her Maltese heritage and culture comes through in many of her novels. The more of her works I read the more I felt she was a Maltese James Joyce. She has written one biography of a saint, several novels and one other non-fiction work. She has both a BA and MA in literature. And she recently took some time to answer 20 questions for the readers here at Book Reviews and More. So in her own words Fiorella:

1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How are you nurturing that dream?

I have wanted to be a writer since I was about seven, but I would pay good money not to see anything I wrote as a child! Everything I wrote at the time was some kind of reflection of whatever I was reading – the Narnia stories, Alice in Wonderland, the Magic Faraway Tree. At boarding school, I told bedtime stories to my friends to relax them or cheer them up. I feel very privileged now to do a job I love so much and to be able to write every day. 

2. Who were some of the biggest supporters of your writing?

I think my parents had rather conflicting feelings about me pursuing writing as a career, since it is such a hard way to earn a living, but they were always very supportive and I had some fantastic English teachers, who really encouraged me. When I was around eleven, I was very unhappy at school and my academic standards were slipping. I had this teacher called Mr. Quest and he really encouraged me to take more risks with my writing and just to let my imagination run riot. I feel like I owe his early intervention into my education not only for giving me the hope that I could be a writer but for pulling me out of a downward spiral in my studies. 

3. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

Gosh, that’s a big question! Well, I suppose a lot of the writers who influenced me as a teenager have had an impact on my writing style (see below)). I have also very much reacted against the current trend in period drama to create characters who are basically modern men and women in period costume. Huge efforts are made to get the fine details right – the hair styles, the patterns on teacups – but the attitudes of the characters never fit the time in which they are supposed to be living. A gritty 1920s police constable will give a weeping homosexual a hug and say it’s all fine, it’s all about love and happiness, isn’t it? A Georgian housemaid will start ranting about her lack of educational opportunities. I’ve always felt that we have no right to patronize the past like this. When I write a historical novel, I try as far as possible to make the characters psychologically plausible and period-appropriate, even if it is challenging to readers at times. 

4. What books are currently in progress for you? Writing, researching, planning or even just ideas that you would like to work on?

I have finally started writing a book I have been promising my children for ages!  I don’t normally write YA novels but I am making an exception for them. I am also researching a novel set in Italy and have another couple of ideas on file. I like, if possible, to have one book at the final edit stage, to be writing another and to have a third at the research stage.  

5. Could you see yourself writing more lives of saints? Your volume on Robert Southwell part of the CTS Saints of the Isles series, is one of the best in the series. 

Thank you! Unfortunately, that book is now out of print (understandably, CTS can only have a certain number of titles ‘live’ at any one time and have to give new authors a chance) However, I have just completed a YA book about the life of Maximilian Kolbe and I would love to have the opportunity to write more. There is something amazing about getting to know a great saint like that, they leave a mark on your soul. Since researching the Maximillian Kolbe book, I have found myself thinking a lot about the incredible sacrifice he made and the life of holiness that led him to that moment.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

I don’t really have a particular process. An idea will come to me and start taking root in my imagination. If it persists, I will start sketching out the major characters and the central plot, but apart from my crime fiction series, I never write out detailed plans for my novels. I usually write the first chapter and the climactic chapter (not necessarily the last chapter) so that I will have some idea in my mind as to where the story is going. Beyond that, I like to be part of the adventure the reader enjoys, of not knowing quite how the plot will develop. I nearly always have to rewrite the climactic scene, because the story will progress in a way I did not entirely intend. For example, in 'Fr William’s Daughter', I initially envisaged that the traitor would break down and apologise when uncovered by the heroine, but as the character developed, it became obvious to me that this was psychologically implausible and I had to rewrite the scene without him showing any remorse whatsoever. With crime, it is always different because a plan is necessary to ensure that the clues are revealed in the correct order. 

7. Do you use a playlist when writing? If so certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?

I don’t have specific music that I listen to when writing, it depends very much on what I am working on. For example, when I wrote 'We’ll Never Tell Them', I wanted to immerse myself as much as possible in the world of the First World War and that included listening to First World War songs practically on a loop. I don’t usually listen to music as I’m writing but if I am struggling to get going with a piece of writing or need a bit of assistance with the mood/atmosphere, I will usually listen to something appropriate. 

8. One of the greatest strengths in your books are the characters, they are so solid and believable. The characters you create, are they reflections of people you know, composites of different people you know or entirely your creations?

I might get sued for answering this question! Inevitably I think, writers always draw on people they know for their writing. I rarely base a character completely on a living person because I don’t think it’s very fair on the person, even if the character is positive, but real people always inspire my characters. For example, the QC in Do No Harm was inspired by a professor from my Cambridge days. Sometimes a person will simply give me an idea for a character trait. My son is autistic and I probably wouldn’t have thought to create an autistic protagonist for my latest book if it hadn’t been for my son.

9. Which of your characters if your favourite and why?

Oh dear, that’s like asking the name of my favourite child! I have to admit, I have particular affection for Judy and probably enjoyed creating and developing her character more than any of the others. It was partly because her autism makes her both vulnerable and quirky at the same time and I felt that I got closer to my son writing the book, just trying to learn more about the way his mind works and what makes him tick. I also enjoyed recreating the world of 1940 and the whole community of the boarding school – the teachers, the pupils, the Matron. 

10. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated, "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

Oh yes, I think that is very common among writers. I was once confiding to a friend that I was very worried about Warda because something absolutely horrible was about to happen to her and I felt a bit responsible. She said, ‘sweetheart, could we get a handle on this? You don’t have to worry about little Warda’s safety, because she doesn’t exist! She is real only in your twisted little mind!” In a way, it is absolutely crazy getting so emotionally involved with fictional characters, but if they are not completely real to the writer, they will not be convincing to the reader either. So much of the success of a story hinges on the characters, how convincing they are and how much they touch a reader’s emotions. No reader is going to keep turning the pages for a two-dimensional caricature or even a believable character who is completely unrelatable. 

11. If you could have any of your characters as a guest for a dinner party, whom would you invite and why?

Some of the more polite ones probably! The ones who would be most likely to get along with one another and not cause a scene – Lily and Dr Hampton, Fr Gabriel but only with Brother Gerard to keep him on his toes, Maria because I think she would start some interesting conversations, no one from Poor Banished Children, the dinner party would turn into a therapy session….perhaps Kristjana as she appears in two of my novels and would get on well with Maria. 

12. Is it possible that your two older out of print tiles, The Cassandra Curse and Father William's Daughter, might be republished as eBooks?

That depends on the publisher. Those novels were published by a different publisher to the rest of my books and – to date – they have expressed no interested in an e-edition. 

13. Are there any plans for translated editions of your book? I am asking for a friend who would dearly love to read your works in Spanish. 

Unfortunately, I don’t have much control over translations, it all hinges upon whether a foreign language publisher decides to buy the rights to a particular book. Poor Banished Children has been translated into Polish and a Brazilian publisher recently got in touch with me about producing a Portuguese edition of Abolition of Woman, but the whole process is quite haphazard. 

14. You have books published under the names: Fiorella Sultana De Maria, Fiorella De Maria, and Fiorella Nash. Are there any other names you have published under that I have missed? (I want to make sure I track all your books down to read and review.)

No, the reason I have published under three names is that I was not married when I published my CTS booklet, hence why I use the surname Sultana De Maria. When I published 'The Cassandra Curse', the publisher somewhat awkwardly asked if I would mind shortening my name to make it easier for readers and I became Fiorella De Maria. When I married and became Fiorella Nash, I kept writing under the name of Fiorella De Maria because that was by then the name I was known by. However, when I published my non-fiction work Abolition of Woman, I was advised to use my married name as that is the name I am best known by in bioethics circles. 

15. Many contemporary authors are a brand unto themselves, with webpages, Instagram, Facebook pages, Twitter and more. And yet your Web presence is very limited. Is there a reason for this?

I have to admit that I’m quite shy and find self-promotion difficult. I don’t do Twitter because I find it such a hellhole when it comes to online abuse, but I am on Facebook and Goodreads, I have an author page on the Ignatius Press website and my books are listed on Amazon. My publisher has just coaxed me onto another online site called BookBub and I am about to launch a book on Audible. I really feel that audiobooks are the way ahead, more and more people are engaging with literature through platforms like Audible and I want to have a presence there.

16. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

I was (and am) an avid reader, so I was shaped by quite a few very fine writers. Solzhenitsyn made a huge impression on me as a teenager. I remember reading One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and longing to be able to write so vividly and movingly. I admired his deceptively simple and effortless style and his passionate desire to expose the horrors of the Soviet system to the West. Tennyson’s poetry expressed much of my own confusion and uncertainty as a teenager. I read the majority of Graham Greene’s novels (no surprises there, I suspect) and was very much influenced by his storytelling. There are many more, Salman Rushdie (though I never did get round to reading the infamous Satanic Verses), Virginia Woolf…I thought very hard about becoming a playwright when I was a teenager and I read hundreds of plays as well as novels, but I have only just written my first full-length play for publication.  Reading plays will certainly have helped in terms of writing naturalistic dialogue, which many writers find difficult.

17. What are some of your favourite books and authors now?

I am planning a book set in wartime Italy and have read many novels set during the same period over the past year. The two that stood out for me were 'A Thread of Grace' and 'Beneath a Scarlet Sky', both I gather, based on true stories. At the other end of the spectrum in terms of seriousness, I fell in love with Elizabeth Edmonson’s Selchester mysteries. They are light-hearted, entertaining reads, but tragically, the author died before completing the third book and her son decided against expanding the series himself. 

18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

Higher education should be part of an intellectual journey lasting a lifetime – a significant part but only one part. Should it teach us to think? Certainly. It should teach one to think, to take intellectual risks, to learn to analyse and absorb information, to recognize and challenge the status quo, to be an intellectual rebel in the genuine sense of the word. And those lessons when learnt at University, should form part of one’s learning across the decades. I am still studying and learning, I will not stop until the day I die. 

19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

I think I’d want some inspiring and also some humorous books to read whilst waiting for my rescue ship to arrive, so, in no particular order and subject to change…

1) Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning
2) Francis de Salle’s Devout Life
3) The Bible
4) Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables
5) Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
6) P.G.Wodehouse The Jeeves Collection (the entire series would keep me laughing for a while)
7) John Mortimer The Rumpole Omnibus (his style has had me laughing explosively on the train, much to the alarm of other passengers)
8) H.E. Bates The Darling Buds of May
9) Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows (It’s my children’s favourite book and will always remind me of them)
10) Am I allowed to say, a massive pad of paper and a big box of pens so that I could work on a book or two to pass the time? 

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists particularly those looking to have their art reflect their faith?

First and foremost, be a storyteller, be a compelling artist. If you set out to promote the Faith you will write propaganda and propaganda does not make for good art or literature. Be the finest artist or writer you can be, write engaging stories, create flesh-and-blood characters and taut plots. If you live your life within the Catholic moral universe, the beauty of the Faith will permeate everything you create. Writing is a solitary activity, but you are not alone. When you write, you do so as part of a fine literary tradition. 

Thank you Fiorella for taking some time to answer the questions.  If you have not read any of her works you owe it to yourself to do so. All seven that I have read have garnered 5/5 stars and have already been placed back in my to be read pile to be reread again.

Books by Fiorella De Maria:
The Cassandra Curse
Father William's Daughter
Poor Banished Children
Do No Harm
We'll Never Tell Them
A Most Dangerous Innocence
I Am Margaret The Play

Father Gabriel Mysteries:
The Sleeping Witness
The Vanishing Woman
See No Evil

Death of a Scholar

Skaters Series:
The Second Skater of the Apocalypse

Robert Southwell – CTS Saints of the Isles

Books as Fiorella Nash:
The Abolition of Woman: How Radical Feminism Is Betraying Women

Author Profile and Interview with Fiorella de Maria.