Wednesday 29 July 2020

Author profile and Interview with Glynn MacNiven-Johnston

Author profile and Interview with Glynn MacNiven-Johnston

I have read several books by Glynn MacNiven-Johnston and have picked up a number of others to read. I reached out to her through The Catholic Truth Society, which has published all her works to date. When I reached out across the pond to see if she would do an interview, she made an off hand remark about not really being an author. But I have found the books of hers that I have read to be of great spiritual value. And Wished to proceed with the interview to highlight this woman and her works.

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

To be honest I never thought of becoming a writer, but I wrote a lot of letters when I was a child - to family, and to pen pals which was popular in those days.

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

The CTS encouraged me in that they commissioned me several times.

3. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

I was really influenced by being a teacher of English as a Foreign Language. 

I try to be clear and concise. Raymond Edwards (a real author) with whom I collaborated on some prayer books has always helped with editing my work and lamenting my horrible punctuation.

4. Your books are mainly in two genres, prayer books and biographies. What caused you to focus on those two types?

I was working as manager of the CTS Bookshop (a long story). The CTS had a work experience student doing a project who suggested a biography of Maria Goretti. The CTS asked me to write it. (Why me is another long story). I wasn’t too keen at first as I thought Maria Goretti really mushy but discovered that her story is not only inspiring but surprisingly modern. I was surprised at how helpful biographies were. 

So, I went on from there trying to make things relevant to a modern audience. Some I was asked to write. Some I chose. St Damien de Veuster is a hero of mine - for his good works and energy of course but also because he started out rough and impatient which is helpful to those of us who are not by nature saintly.

From there I saw the kind of books my customers were buying and thought the CTS could do better ones- the Infant of Prague for example. I also learned not to dismiss all the old devotions and tried to make them accessible to the less pious.

5. Writing is not your day job, what is it that keeps you busy when you are not writing? 

Last year I started work at Westminster Cathedral Shop but then lockdown happened. My day is taken up with Zoom meetings, praying on the phone etc.

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

I try to read everything I can about a person and then ask myself - Why should I care about this person? Then I do several drafts and hope it comes together. I have only written short booklets, so I try to keep to the main points. If I am writing a novena to a saint, I look at the problems and experiences they had in life and ask their intercession in those areas.

7. What is your favorite book that you have written and why?

Fr Damien. As I said he is a hero of mine. When I was about 4 years old my Presbyterian grandmother took me to church and in the children’s Sunday School, I saw a slide show of his life and I’ve been devoted ever since. Odd, I know, that I should meet him there, but Robert Louis Stevenson introduced him to the Scottish public.

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

I am not writing anything at the moment.

9. If you could write only one more book, what topic would you want to write on? 

I have nothing in mind.

10. You have written about several novena’s, what is your favorite novena?

I like A Handbook of Scriptural Novenas that Raymond Edwards and I wrote. I am happy we were able to pray using lives of biblical characters I think I like the novena to St Martha best though to be honest i can’t remember if it was me that wrote it!

11. Of all the devotions you have written about what is your favorite devotion?

As above.

12. If there was a single prayer you could recommend to my readers that they might not know what prayer would you recommend?

I pray the Jesus Prayer every day: 

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me a Sinner.

13. Some of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of eBooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?

The copyright of my work is retained by the Catholic Truth Society, so I leave it to them.

14. Some authors monitor torrent sites and contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?

See above.

15. What were some of your favorite books and authors when you were younger?

When I was a child, I read all the children’s and other classics - thanks to the local library endowed by Andrew Carnegie and to Blackie, a publisher who produced simplified forms of Dickens, the Brontes etc.

I was very fond of Anne of Green Gables and read the whole series several times. 

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

In my teens I read translations of foreign classics but also a lot of things about misery especially Thomas Hardy.

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

I like to relax by reading detective stories, but I prefer those where I learn something too but not ones with interminable opinions from the author. At the moment I am reading books by Jonathan Dunsky set in 1950’s Israel and Cay Rademacher set in 1940’s Berlin.

As for religious books I am very taken with Brand Pitre and Scott Hahn (despite the annoying puns). I have also found Caryl Houselander very inspiring.

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?

I am shocked by the shutting down of debate and the totalitarian persecution of dissent. I think students should learn to put ideas in context, think round them, see how they work in practice and only then decide whether they want to take a position.

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 am assuming we already have the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare. That’s usually in the rules.

I am not a patient person so I like short books but then I might have a lot of time on a desert island so long ones would be better! I certainly want to choose hopeful ones a mixture then of long, short, hopeful and helpful in no particular order.

1 Tolkein - Raymond Edwards
2 The Eternal Woman - Gertrud von le Fort
3 The Reed of God - Caryl Houselander
4 Grimms Fairytales 
5 The White Ram - Isaac Beshevis Singer
6 Poems and Fables - Robert Henryson
7 A Father who keeps his promises - Scott Hahn
8 Persuasion - Jane Austen
9 Enchanted April - Elizabeth Von Arnim
10 The Hidden Face - Ida Görres

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?

Decide why you are writing and then follow through.

There you have Glynn MacNiven-Johnston in her own words. If you have not read one of her biographies or her devotional booklets you owe it to yourself to check them out. 

Books by Glynn MacNiven-Johnston:
Maria Goretti Teenage Martyr
Pier Giorgio Frassati Inspiration for Students
Father Damien Apostle to the Lepers
Martin de Porres

Rita of Cascia 

Prayer Books:
Handbook of Novenas for Feasts and Seasons
Devotions to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
The Infant of Prague
Handbook of Novenas to the Saints: Short Prayers for Needs & Graces
Handbook of Scriptural Novenas: For Various Needs and Intentions
Devotion to St Jude: Patron of Hopeless Cases

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