Interview between authors, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle and Patti Maguire Armstrong, author of Dear God, I don’t get it.
Donna-Marie: Patti, thanks for taking the time out for this interview. Your book looks lovely and as I said in my endorsement, it is “simply delightful!” I loved reading the manuscript and felt that even though it is written for third to sixth-graders it is engaging and also relatable to parents as well. Hopefully, it will be a book shared and discussed between them. I have a feeling you know something about growing boys! After all, you have 8 of them, right? You have ten children, don’t you? Do you think you could tell us why you wrote this book in the first place?
Patti: “Why” is a funny question for a writer, as I’m sure you know. It’s all about inspiration. When I started writing, I never could have told you where the story was going or how it was going to end. It seemed to unfold as I wrote. That being said, there was also a personal desire on my part to explore the questions and confusion related to prayer. People that lose their faith, often do so either because they stopped praying or because they felt their prayers went unanswered. Parents tell their children that God hears our prayers, but it is a much tougher lesson to teach that we don’t always get what we want when we pray.
Donna-Marie: I’m glad that you wove your exploration of prayer within your book to help the young understand the power of prayer as well as to demystify it for them. I’m sure that you have experienced both joys and challenges in raising a large family. Would you like to share any of your experiences with us? Perhaps something that may have inspired you to write this book in the first place?
Patti: Yes, raising a large family does affect your view of the world. Life is busy, full of activities and full of questions as you try to explain life to your kids and model it in a Godly way to them. Even though the story is fiction, it was also very much a slice of my life.
Donna-Marie: I thought so. Do you see big differences in your boys growing up versus your girls?
Patti: Oh, yes. My boys seem to never stop moving. They are always up to something too, which makes parenting a challenge. When I just had four boys, a complete stranger once came up to me and said with a chuckle: “Don’t worry, when they are teenagers, boys are much easier than girls.” My girls are 16 and 13 now. They actually are pretty good kids although once in a while we will butt heads. After I had 4 boys, I felt so blessed to also have the experience of dresses and dolls. But then getting 2 more boys has once again infused our home with a second chapter of fun and activity (and broken things!)
Donna-Marie: God has certainly blessed you! I know you have other books too. But, did you enjoy the writing process of this book, Patti? You said this book is very much “a slice of your life.” Did it perhaps come naturally from any real life experiences within your own family when you were growing up or from your family now that you may want to talk about?
Patti: I wrote the first draft of this book 15 years ago. My three oldest boys served as the models for the characters. I always knew how my characters would act because I pinned their personalities on my own kids. They absolutely loved reading it back then as it came along because they felt it was a story about them. Now, my oldest are 26, 24, and 22. They loved reading it again when I pulled it out and brushed it up. My son, Luke who co-authored the Amazing Grace for Survivors with me, went over it and offered suggestions. I had to laugh when he wrote about one line: “Put in an exclamation point there. I would have said that with an exclamation point.”
Donna-Marie: What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
Patti: I hope they will live the story. It’s an example of praying even when you don’t understand where God is taking you. It’s also an example of living the Christian life with prayer and trust, or at least trying to trust when it’s hard. Amid disappointments, confusion, the challenge of wanting to belong and wanting to feel important, bad choices, hard choices, and coming to grips with what is really important — these are all issues that are explored and I hope the reader will find guidance through the story.
Donna-Marie: How about the parents? Do you hope to reach them too in some way?
Patti: This is a fun read-out-loud book with your kids. I often read to my kids at bedtime long after they are old enough to read themselves. Sharing a book together always lends itself to a shared experience and encourages conversations about these topics. Even if the parents don’t also read it with their children, they can trust that it’s a book that reflect their own values and be one more tool to reinforce the lessons they are trying to pass on.
Donna-Marie: Is there something else you’d like to share with readers that I haven’t touched upon?
Patti: Yes, although the book can just be an enjoyable read, I’ve also put vocabulary and discussion questions for each chapter at the back of the book so it can be used in the classroom and for the homeschool.
Donna-Marie: Could you please tell us a bit more about that?
Patti: My thinking was that this gives the book the additional quality of being well-suited for school use either in the classroom or at home. Even if it’s just a parent reading it with a child or a child reading it alone, the questions can be used to open up dialogue with kids on aspects of life and faith. As for the vocabulary, most of the words are frequently used among adults but teachers usually discover that kids don’t often have a grasp on words that we take for granted as being understood.
Donna-Marie Finally, Patti, how can we get your book?
Patti: The book sells for $9.99. You can ask your local bookstore to order it or you can go to the Bezalel Website at http://www.bezalelbooks.com/ . Bulk orders for classroom use are also available by emailing the publisher Cheryl Dickow <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Donna-Marie: Thank you very much for your thoughts, Patti. I pray that your book does well and helps to inspire countless families!
Patti: Thanks Donna for doing this interview. We once both shared with each other what a blessing it is to be writing Catholic books. It’s part work, part mission and very rewarding and fun as well.
Donna-Marie: Yes, it is such a blessing, very rewarding and fun too! Patti, it’s been enjoyable hearing about your writing process and learning more about your book. Thanks again. God bless you!