LAURA: First I’d like to commend you on your wonderful book. You have done a great service to Catholic families everywhere. Thank you. Like my own family, you homeschool your children, and you are a mother of six who has also founded Nativity Press. Did this book lead you to found Nativity Press or was there something else that prompted it? And what was your inspiration for writing this book?
JULIE KELLY: Thank you, Laura. Yes, this book led to the founding of Nativity Press because as a self-publisher I wished to have a company name that would point to Jesus Christ; the Nativity has always captivated my heart and imagination and whispered to me of the depth of His love. The inspiration for writing Clare’s Costly Cookie was a desire to help my strong-willed young daughter better understand the way of love and self-surrender. It began as a handful of entertaining stories, with a young girl like herself as the main character. Enter Clare – a nine year old thunderbolt in pigtails and the main character who makes a surprising discovery: up to this point her relationship with God has been on her terms, and limited by her selfish way of relating to everything and everyone. She begins to see things clearly for the first time in her young life, and she is humbled by God’s love for her. Things that used to be boring for her take on new meaning and depth: prayer, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, Eucharistic adoration, praying the family Rosary, and Confession. They now give her the much needed strength she needs to deny herself, take up her cross daily and follow Jesus faithfully. The stories spoke to my daughter’s heart (as well as my other children) and helped her to draw closer to Jesus in quiet prayer.
LAURA: Many times we felt this book was written about our own family!! (My kids just replaced their names for the ones in the story!) Clare’s troubles are so common and I assume this book was written from your first hand experiences with your own children. Can you share anything about that with us?
JULIE KELLY: I hear similar comments from parents – one asked if I had set up a surveillance camera in their home! My children and the daily challenges they face striving to walk the narrow road inspired the entire book: charity to siblings, honesty, obedience, self-surrender, and prayer from the heart. I wove them into engaging stories, praying for insight and guidance, asking Mary and the Holy Spirit to speak to their hearts through the book. Because my daughter has a strong will, this character needed to be REAL, with faults and failings, and with a strong will that proved difficult to subdue. I wanted the main character to meet Jesus – to get to know Him personally – and to offer Him her heart at any cost. Parents have shared with me that their children are spending time in mental prayer and opening their hearts to Jesus in a special way. I can only thank Jesus and Mary for the blessing this book has been to parents and their young readers.
LAURA: As I finished reading this book, I couldn’t help but think how important it is also that parents pray for their children. I’ve seen the power of prayer in my own family as I prayed for my children and also when my children began praying for themselves. Do you have any advice for parents as they use your book to strengthen their children’s spiritual life?
JULIE KELLY: A father shared with me that after he finished reading the book to his five year old daughter she declared, “I want to be like Clare!” I think the book speaks to young hearts in a unique way, gently inviting young readers to draw near to Jesus with confidence and joy, to experience His love and mercy. If I could share anything with parents, I would encourage them to live a liturgical and sacramental life with the Eucharist at the center, and to trust in Mary’s constant and unfailing protection and intercession. Because the book gently leads children to follow this path, I would suggest to parents that they read a chapter together, then invite their young readers to share their ideas for living the message of the chapter in their daily lives.
LAURA: There are so many wonderful reviews on this book. After reading it, I now know why! Like many others, I look forward to your next book. Are you currently working on another or have plans to write another children’s book?
JULIE KELLY: Thank you, Laura – I appreciate it. Yes, I have finished the prep work on a second Clare book and am waiting to finish my curriculum planning and organization of our next school year before I begin writing the actual book. The second book will find Clare drawing closer to Jesus through her relationship with Mary. Using the Rosary as a framework (with Saint John Paul’s Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae as inspiration), Clare will explore the depth and mystery of the life of Christ, and find therein a wellspring of grace and strength to continue her journey of self-surrender and holiness.
PETE: Time for my signature ending question. This is a blog about books. What is currently on your bookshelf to read?
JULIE KELLY: Currently I am reading Christ: The Ideal of the Priest by Blessed Columbia Marmion, and Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life by Joseph Pearce.