PETE: What inspired you to write Olivia and the Little Way?
NANCY C. BELANGER: A lack of Catholic fiction for pre-teens and nudges from The Holy Spirit and St. Therese, I believe. I was just so tired of the dark, foreboding novels I was seeing for this age group in the bookstores. Black covers, stories about vampires and evil people. Such darkness! Our children deserve so much better.
LAURA: You founded Harvey House Publishing in 2008. What drove you to start your own publishing company and what do you hope to achieve?
NANCY C. BELANGER:Protestant publishers have literally hundreds of books available for this age group, and for Catholic children there are hardly any. Why? The publishers I looked at were saying they weren’t interested in publishing Catholic fiction for children. Can you imagine? As if they don’t count! The future of our Church has hardly any Catholic fiction to read. I decided I was going to start my own publishing company to get Catholic fiction out there. The mission of Harvey House Publishing is to provide exceptional reading for children that celebrates the Catholic Faith, modesty, the gift of life, and a wholesome childhood. All reading material is faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church and will never be watered down. I’ve had people ask me “how Catholic” the books are and I say they are unapologetically Catholic! My characters visit the Blessed Sacrament, go to Confession, pray for the intercession of the saints, and pray Catholic prayers. Through my books, I hope that readers will not only learn to live our Catholic faith, but to love and cherish it, too.
LAURA: In addition to Olivia and the Little Way, you’ve written other children books (Olivia’s Gift and The Gate) that have become invaluable additions to Catholic-school curricula. Many schools and CCD programs across the country have taught the pro-life, pro-modesty Christian values present in these middle-grade novels. In saying that, we know teachers love the books. What do you hear back from students or teachers in response to your books?
NANCY C. BELANGER:I’m pleased to say that they love the lessons that are taught in the books without preaching to them. I try very hard to have fun characters that learn lessons, but not in a preachy way. Teachers tell me the books are great springboards for discussion and they enjoy using the teacher discussion questions I have prepared for each book. I spoke at a Catholic school last week and afterward, a sweet little fourth-grade girl came up to me with her well-worn copy of Olivia and the Little Way and said “St. Therese is my favorite saint. I pray to her a lot in my room.” I said, “Oh really? That is wonderful! How did you hear about her?” She looked up at me and said, “Your book.” Well let me tell you, I was touched beyond belief. God is so good and I love what I do
LAURA: Can you share with us any future projects coming out of Harvey House Publishing
NANCY C. BELANGER:I always have ideas swirling around in my mind, and readers are requesting a third Olivia book. I always ask God to please tell me what He wants me to do, and I will be obedient. He lets me know in His own good time!
PETE: Time for my signature ending question. This is a blog about books. What is currently on your bookshelf to read?
NANCY C. BELANGER:A pile of books! Currently I am reading about the martyrs of Dachau. I am overwhelmed with love, gratitude, and fascination for the martyrs of the Church, especially these brave priests, prisoners themselves, who sacrificed their lives to give the faithful the Eucharist and Confession in the Nazi concentration camp. They secretly heard confessions, and one priest even had a secret Tabernacle inside a fir tree. Sometimes, after reading a passage about their bravery and love for God, I close the book and shut my eyes, thinking of how Christlike these men were and how we should never, ever take the Eucharist for granted. I also love books about Blessed Mother, Padre Pio, St. Therese, Fulton Sheen, St. Augustine, St. John Bosco, and other saints. I have a zillion novenas I want to pray as well! The Catholic Church has such a rich treasure trove of reading material. I want to read it all, don’t you?