Monday, August 22, 2011

Looking Back - and Forward

The idea for my series of Christian Biographies for Young Readers came a few years ago, in 2008, just before Calvin's 500th anniversary, when I was burdened by the lack of serious Christian biographies for children under 12 years of age. The books on the market (for that age bracket) were mostly hagiographies, historical fiction with an emphasis on fiction, and a few other oversimplified accounts. Not much (if any) on theologians, because most doctrine seemed to be out of children's reach. On the other hand, my children were reading biographies of presidents, world-changers, artists, and musicians, many of them quite sophisticated in contents. Meeting that need was my primary motive, and John Calvin, first volume in my series, was published. I tried to be simple without being simplistic and to add photos and illustrations to provide both a sense of reality and context and vehicles to excite the imagination.

Then came the second volume, Augustine of Hippo. This time simplicity became a greater challenge, as it's difficult to reduce Augustine's life and thought into a few pages. The third volume, John Owen, was a little simpler, because his life and thought were quite straight-forward. The greatest challenge so far has been the fourth volume, Athanasius, with all the complexity of 4th century controversies. The fifth volume, Lady Jane Grey, still underway, is not proving to be any easier.

In between all this, I was asked to write a historical novel for young girls and I tried my hand at that too. I chose Olympia Morata because I am Italian and I believe the Italian Reformation has been largely ignored. Weight of a Flame, the Passion of Olympia Morata is now scheduled to be published next month. While this is historical fiction, it is based on thorough research.

In all these books, I have been trying to be as objective as possible. If my first goal was simply to fill a need for informative accounts, my second goal was to avoid turning these books into hagiographies. Some people have commented that I portrayed Roman Catholic authorities very positively in my novel, and I took that as a compliment.

It was also encouraging to see my book on John Owen nominated as finalist in the 2010 San Diego Awards. The book is now in the San Diego County Library and the San Diego Public Library (a separate entity) is considering it for inclusion in their catalog. This has prompted a new line of thought in my mind. Why don't we have this type of books in public school libraries? Are my books objective enough to be included? Then I read an interesting quote by Dr. Diarmaid MacCullogh, professor of the History of the Church at Oxford and author of several books on the history of Christianity and on the Reformation. "It seems to me that the history of Christianity is absolutely essential to talk about because there is so much bad history about it, and arrogance, conceit, dogmatism are all based on bad history. [...] I hope to give other people a sense of balance by complicating the story because all stories are very complicated."

I am now more convinced than ever that accurate books on the history of Christianity are a must for children in all types of schools. We all know how difficult it is to remain absolutely objective when writing history, but I think Dr. MacCullogh hit the nail on the head. Christian biographies (or other history books) for children as well as adults must communicate the natural complexity of history in simple words. Can it be done? Historically, this type of books has been oversimplified, but today's children are exposed to much more information and I believe they are ready to understand the idea of complexity. This has now become my third goal.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Book Blog Tour

Athanasius, by Simonetta Carr
4th title in the series of Christian Biographies for Young Readers

The book is scheduled to be published by the end of August. I am giving everyone time to receive it and read it, then the tour will start! Thank you everyone who agreed to host the tour!
Wednesday, September 14
Book Moms
Friday, September 16
Christian Book Notes

Tuesday, September 20
The Reformed Reader
Thursday, September 22

Saturday, September 24

Monday, September 26

Wednesday, September 28

Thursday, September 29

Thursday, September 29

Saturday, October 1
Wednesday, November 9

Wednesday, December 7

Monday, January 2 2012

September 2012

Most of these blogs will also host a giveaway, so stay tuned for a chance to get a free copy of the book!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Latest News

Since my website is down for a while, here are the latest news regarding my books.

1. Athanasius, fourth title in the series Christian Biographies for Young Readers, published by Reformation Heritage Books, will be out at the end of August. I am excited about this book! I think it will bring the Nicene Creed to life for children of all ages, raising relevant questions on the divinity of Christ and the importance of creeds and confessions. As in my last book, masterful oil illustrations keep the imagination alive while maps and photos confirm the historical facts.

2. Weight of a Flame, the Passion of Olympia Morata, is my first historical novel (aimed mostly at young girls), and the fifth title in the series Chosen Daughters by P&R. It will be out on September 20th. In the story, Olympia Morata, a young Italian scholar (arguably the most prolific woman writer of the Reformation), learns to overcome the pain of rejection, religious persecution, exile, illness, poverty, and war by resting her hope on God's promises. Although her circumstances may be exceptional, her responses and feelings are universal, and young girls will easily identify with her. It's a true story - dramatic, but also poetic and inspiring.

3. Lady Jane Grey, fifth title in the series Christian Biographies for Young Readers, published by Reformation Heritage Books, is under way! Matt has just started sketching the illustrations and I will be taking photos of our models in the next few weeks. I am also in the process of re-checking my manuscript. Professor Eric Ives, Emeritus Professor of English History at the University of Birmingham and author of Lady Jane Grey, a Tudor Mystery (arguably the most authoritative book on the subject), has graciously agreed to check my final manuscript. Dr. Diarmaid MacCullough, Professor of History of the Church at the University of Oxford, has also kindly answered my questions on the intriguing time of English history when Lady Jane lived. I could never thank them enough!

4. I am also working on a bite-sized biography of Renée of France for Evangelical Press. This is part of a series of books directed by Dr. Michael Haykin, Professor of Church History at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The deadline for the manuscript is January 2012. Emanuele Fiume, expert on Church history and author of several books, has graciously agreed to write an introduction.

5. Besides these projects (and my normal workload as mother), I am also hoping to continue my series of articles on parenting for the Outlook, and I am trying to finish a Study Guide for my book on John Owen.

6. Upcoming interviews. An interview with White Horse Inn will be included in their September CD, which is sent out to their supporters. Another recent interview with the staff at Westminster Seminary of California bookstore will be posted on their website and other places on the web soon.

7. Book talks. I am scheduling book talks for my upcoming book, Weight of a Flame. The first talk will be held at the Mission Valley Public Library in San Diego. I will update this post when I receive the exact date.

8. Blog Book Tour. I am organizing a Blog Book Tour for my upcoming books. Details will be published soon.

9. Other Book Tours. I have been invited to speak about my books and about Christian books for children in general (and about the importance of teaching theology to children) in Indonesia! The tour will take me to Jakarta, Surabaya, and Bali. My gracious host is Rev. Sutjipto Subeno, pastor of Gereja Reformed Injili Church in Surabaya and head of Momentum Christian Books I will be leaving on October 23 and returning on November 8. The hero at this time will be my husband Tom who will be filling both his and my shoes!

I think this is all. On paper, it looks daunting. In reality, I am not doing much more than before. I am still driving my kids to practice, trying to come up with something original but not too strange for dinner, keeping the house somewhat decent, teaching Italian classes, and translating. Sunday is the highlight of my week, a day of refreshing in God's house, feeding on the means of grace.