I’m participating in the Virtual Book Tour for A Channel of Your Peace by Veronica Smallhorn. Today, I have an interview with the author!
This is your first novel. What inspired you to write a Catholic novel?
When I was ten, I wrote a story for my school’s ‘Book Week’ writing competition. I worked hard on it, and remember feeling quite thrilled and exhilarated when I finished it. I handwrote the title page before stapling it together — putting my story title, name, and a copyright symbol for good measure, and decided that one day I wanted to be published for real!
But as for writing something specifically Catholic, your own books, Ellen, were what inspired me. I always thought it would be unlikely I could ever publish the type of fiction I wanted to write. I didn’t realise it was possible to publish Catholic stories in our day and age. The first of your own books that I read were Emily’s Hope and In Name Only, and it wasn’t until then that the idea to write a Catholic story – one that focused on the Church’s teachings on marriage and family – started to form.
Tell us about A Channel of Your Peace in two sentences.
A Channel of Your Peace is a story about love — not only the love that can exist between a man and a woman, but also, and more importantly, the love of God for each and every one of us. It is also about that wonderful virtue of hope; hope that God can, and will, draw good from evil if we put our trust in Him.
How much of you and your husband are in the characters of Katrina and Emilio (Erin’s sister and brother-in-law)?
While I didn’t base Katrina and Emilio on myself and my husband Pablo, I did draw a bit on the experience of our life together which made them easier for me to write — it’s something that I know. When I was in the early planning stages of the story, I knew Erin would need some convincing to make a long flight to Mexico. Having her family help her along seemed like a good way to get her there.
I really didn’t base Katrina on myself, but when I was choosing a profession for Emilio, I did draw on Pablo’s expertise – he has a PhD in philosophy. It was fun to give Emilio a position as a university lecturer in philosophy!
Your description of the Cathedral in Mexico and the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe are very well done. Have you been there before and, if so, what has been your experience?
Thank you! Yes, I’ve been to the basilica four times, back when Pablo and I lived in Mexico when we were first married. We were very blessed to live only about three hours’ drive from Mexico City, so we used to make our own little pilgrimages. While I never experienced anything as obviously miraculous as Erin did, I can honestly say that each time we went the experience was most touching. Notwithstanding the crowds and tourists (on weekends and feast days it’s standing room only!) I always experienced a wonderful peace and joy in the basilica and found myself drawn irresistibly to the image of Our Lady. She really is present there. I always wanted to get as close as I could, so I would go back and forth on those travelators again and again.
It’s true that even the authentic replicas don’t quite do the original image justice. Seeing the real tilma is really quite an experience in itself, if you have faith. I think that’s what draws so many people there every year. In addition, I’ve always found it fascinating that this Marian apparition site is unique among her other apparition sites. At Guadalupe, Our Lady left something of herself behind on Saint Juan Diego’s tilma; that piece of fabric made from a cactus plant which shouldn’t have lasted more than a few years. And yet, here it still is, almost 500 years later. Extraordinary!
How would you describe the target audience for your book?
When I started writing the novel, I set out with young women in mind as my target audience, more or less around the age of my lead character Erin, who is about 27. It’s a love story, in large part, and we girls love a good romance! Although, it’s my hope the book may reach a wider audience. I was surprised at the positive reaction I received from the men who read the manuscript prior to publication, ranging in age between 30 and 80. The story carries a strong theme about the freedom we experience on embracing God’s teaching, which is essentially for everyone, even if the book may not be everyone’s preferred genre.
Tell us more about yourself and your family.
My husband Pablo and I have been married for 14 years. Pablo is Mexican, and we lived in Mexico for three years when we were first married and had our first child there. We now live in Canberra, Australia (my home city) and have three children; two boys and a girl. Pablo is an academic – he has a number of degrees and completed his PhD by way of multiple publications which appeared in journals all over the world. In terms of formal education, I’m the exact opposite to him as I never attended university. But our joint love of writing, albeit different forms of writing, is something that has been a lovely common ground in our marriage. I’m sure I would never have finished my novel if he hadn’t been cheering me on.
Our family life is pretty busy — anyone who has raised a family, or is in the midst of raising one, knows how intense a job this is! It seems to get more intense with each passing year as the kids move further along in their studies and interests. We have a fairly interesting, culturally-mixed family life and all our children are bilingual. I still don’t speak Spanish, but I do understand a lot of what I hear around the house; enough to be able to join an exclusively Spanish conversation – speaking in English, of course. It makes for entertaining listening (downright hilarious, actually, if I misunderstand something!) Pablo and I combined the names of our countries early in our marriage and often refer to our home as ‘Mextralia’!
The one thing that transcends all the cultural intricacies and differences is our faith. Weekly, or more-than-weekly Mass, regular Confession and the daily Rosary are pillars in our family life. Pablo and I try to present to the children the perfect example of the Holy Family of Nazareth as the one we should all be striving to imitate each day – though some days are definitely better than others! We’re just muddling through the best we can, just like everyone else. Which is all any of us can do, I think.
Download or purchase the book at this link.