Wednesday 17 January 2024

Author Profile and Interview with Jean Olwen Maynard

Author Profile and Interview with Jean Olwen Maynard

Jean Olwen Maynard December 2023

Jean Olwen Maynard is an author who focuses on hagiography in her works for the Catholic Truth Society. She has published numerous volumes for the Catholic Truth Society and also has a number of other works mostly published privately. I have read ten of her volumes and can easily recommend them. I reached out and Olwen took some time from her schedule to answer 20 questions for the readers here at Books Reviews and More.

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

Since forever.

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

I can’t honestly remember anyone being particularly supportive. I think the message I absorbed from people was that writing was a great thing to do, but nobody was likely to be interested in anything I could write.

3. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

Here again I can’t remember, though it makes sense that I must have been influenced by what I read.  It just sort of happened by osmosis and I wasn’t consciously aware of being influenced.

4. You have written a lot about martyrs. Outside of your own books, what volumes would you recommend for someone who wants to read more?

Really satisfying books about martyrs as such are relatively rare, especially in English. I’ve often had to make use of foreign-language publications or unpublished material (for my CTS booklet on Bl Isidore Bakanja I used the files of the devil’s advocate which are kept in a microfilmed archive at a university in Antwerp). There’s also the problem that a lot of people won’t read books, and certainly won’t read long or difficult ones. I’ve quite often recommended to people a recent book about the Penal Times in England because it’s so readable: ‘God’s Secret Agents’, by Alice Hogge.  I also tend to recommend films: the English version of ‘Of Gods and Men’ is available on DVD. Also you can get ‘Un Dios Prohibido’ on DVD with English sub-titles:  Full-length (but not over-long) books which I’ve found impressive would be African Holocaust: The Story of the Uganda Martyrs’ by John F Faupel, and James Brockman’s life of St Oscar Romero.  

5. What of your books is your favorite and why?

I like them all in in different ways.  The list you’ve got isn’t quite correct.  I’ve not written a history of the Sisters of Mercy as a congregation, but rather three community histories about important historic Convents of Mercy in UK (together with any daughter houses): Elgin, Bristol and Commercial Road.  I’ve put a revised list at the end.  

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

I don’t really have a process. I suppose I start with an idea of what I want to do or how it will work, but that’s not something I could put into words, and then I just get on with it and it gradually comes together.

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

What’s a playlist?  If I really need to concentrate I don’t play music as I’d find it distracting. For less focused stuff that’s actually a bit boring I generally play Gilbert and Sullivan to keep my spirits up.

8. What current projects are you working on?

A study about Catholics in London in the first half of the nineteenth century.

9. What are some of your favorite contemporary religious authors to read?

I’ve read a number of books by Scott Hahn and George Weigel that I thought were really good.

10. If you could only recommend 10 books to a reader looking to be a well-rounded Catholic what books would you suggest?

Can’t come up with ten.  (I read a lot of books but – with some exceptions – I don’t have a very good memory for specific titles/ authors.)  I’d definitely recommend Chesterton’s ‘Orthodoxy’ and Ratzinger’s ‘Introduction to Christianity’.

11. What advice do you wish a writer had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?

I’ll have to pass on this one because I know myself too well: if I’d been offered advice I’d not have taken it.  

12. Have you ever considered writing fiction? If so is it a project we might see in the near future?

I did write a novel as a teenager.  Sent it off to a publisher but of course got a rejection slip.  That was at a time when I think publishers were rejecting everything without even looking at it unless it came via a literary agent, but it probably wasn’t much good anyway.  Can’t see myself trying again.

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?

I enjoy reading novels on kindle but for non-fiction I prefer a proper book.  I’d never thought about it but suppose it would be quite easy to distribute e-books illegally, and I suppose it must cause quite a serious problem.  

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

I have no idea what a torrent is.  

15. Some of your earlier books are currently out of print, have you thought of rereleasing them as ebooks?

I think CTS has, and it would be a good idea.

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

I read everything I could get hold of by C S Lewis – including stuff I was too young to understand.

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

I like Michael Burleigh.

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?

Definitely I think it should be to learn to think.  

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 don’t re-read books much so sounds like my worst nightmare: I’ve no idea how I’d cope.

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

Just go ahead and write.  (But please learn to use grammar properly, and use words correctly.)

I want to thank Jean for taking the time to answer the questions and interact with the readers here at Book Reviews and More. Her revised list of her works has left me with many more to try and track down. If you have not read anything by her, I highly recommend her books from the CTS. 

Published work by Jean Olwen Maynard:
Privately published by religious orders/parishes:
Greyfriars Convent, Elgin (2006)
A History of St Mary and St Michael’s Parish, Commercial Road, East London (2007)
Sisters of Mercy Bristol (2008)
150 Years of Mercy: A History of the Sisters of Mercy Commercial Road East London (2009)
The Saint of Hoxton (2011)
Saint Monica’s Church Hoxton Square (2018) 
150th anniversary history brochure for Parish of Guardian Angels, Mile End (2018)
150th anniversary history brochure for Parish of Our Lady and St Catherine of Sienna, Bow (2020) 
Immaculate Heart of Mary and St Dominic, Homerton 1873-2023 – 150 Years: A History of the Parish (2023)

CTS Booklets:
Isidore Bakanja 
Joseph Vaz

Between Christendom and Islam, The Martyr Mystic Christian de Chergé and the Atlas Cistercians in Algeria, in: Catholic in Religious Dialogue: Monasticism, Theology and Spirituality, ed Anthony O’Mahoney and Peter Bowe OSB, Gracewing, 2006
Campaign for the Catholic Workhouse Children, in: British Catholic History, Vol 31: Issue 4 Oct 2015

Jean Olwen Maynard Books from CTS

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