Catholic Creative: A Catholic Fiction Author
An interview with Theresa Linden
“Creativity is an amazing gift from God, and the fruits of creativity have the power to accomplish unique things.”
Katie Warner interviews Catholic artists and artisans about their crafts, asking how their art impacts the Church and their faith impacts their work.
Tell me a little about who you are and about your craft.
I grew up in a military family and moved every couple of years, living in California, Guam and Hawaii. As a result, I developed a strong patriotism and a sense of adventure. Now, my faith inspires the belief that there is no greater adventure than the reality we can’t see, the spiritual side of life. So I write Catholic fiction, weaving the natural with the supernatural in every story. I have 10 published novels, two short stories in Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body (Full Quiver Publishing), and a short story in Secrets: Visible & Invisible (CatholicTeenBooks.com). I hold a Catechetical Diploma from Catholic Distance University and am a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and the International Writers Society. A wife, homeschooling mom, and Secular Franciscan, I live in northeast Ohio with my husband and three teenage boys.
When did you start writing? What inspired you to do this as a career, part-time work, ministry, or hobby?
My love for writing began in grade school. My sister and I took turns writing chapters of an ongoing story with a mishmash of our favorite characters from TV, movies, and books. This went on for years. As a teen, the zeal and faith of my parish youth group leader set my faith on fire. So as a young woman, I felt inspired to use my gifts (the faith) and my talents (writing) to create stories that might ignite or deepen faith in others. I began slowly, lacking confidence that I would ever succeed. Over the years, I wrote several stories, read books on writing, and—the hardest but most effective thing—learned how to give and receive critiques. Many years later, I finally published my first book, and I’ve been writing and publishing ever since.
How does your faith influence your writing? How does your writing impact your faith?
The Catholic faith is exciting, life-changing, and beautiful, especially the unique aspects of it: the Eucharist, miracles, the Communion of Saints, sacraments and sacramentals, and God’s amazing mercy shown to us in so many ways through the Church. The more I studied the faith, the more I fell in love with it. It’s truly life-changing and has the answers to all our life’s problems and can help bring us to true happiness. Wanting to share this treasure with others, I bring various elements of the faith to life in my stories and hope to leave readers longing for more. Each story brings the Catholic faith to the challenges we face every day in our dark culture.
As a writer, I think about storylines and characters often—even during homilies at Mass! I try to pay attention, honest. But sometimes a homily (or a meditation or even God’s work in my life) is so profound that I want to find a way to share the ideas with others. So I think even longer about it, sometimes jotting down notes and contemplating days later as I try to develop ways to show the theme through a story.
Another way being a writer impacts my faith is that I find myself often asking God if He still wants me to write. I enjoy it tremendously, but I spend a lot time writing, editing, and promoting, and I only want to do what pleases Him. So in many ways, it deepens my prayer life by inspiring me to surrender my will to the will of God again and again. And God answers this prayer in many ways. I’ll share one: One day I received an email from a teen who won my books at a dance. She was glad she won until she realized they were Christian fiction—she was an atheist. A year later, at a low point in her life, she decided to give the books a try. Her email told me how through the first two books in my West Brothers series she regained her faith in God and His love and in the power of prayer.
Can you pick a favorite work you’ve done recently? Tell me a little about it.
My first supernatural thriller, Tortured Soul, came out May 12. While most of my books are written for young adults, this story is geared toward adults. Set in modern times and upstate New York, it is inspired by the apparitions of souls in purgatory to modern-day mystic Eugenie von der Leyen (1867-1929, Germany). I wrote this story because I believe that few in our day pray for the souls in purgatory, some because they don’t believe in purgatory, others because they don’t think about it. Through this story, I hope to remind people about these souls and to increase the awareness that we can help them with our prayers. They can also help us!
Why do you think Catholic art has such an important role to play in the Church?
Some in our culture might see the fruits of creativity as a waste of time. Art, literature, shrines, and beautiful architecture like the Notre Dame Cathedral are things of the past, they might say; today is for technology (cell phones, social media, etc.). I believe creativity is an amazing gift from God, and the fruits of creativity have the power to accomplish unique things.
Catholic art can remind us of the spiritual realities that we cannot grasp through our five senses. A faith-filled story, poem, song, photograph, piece of jewelry, or architecture can give glory to God and be a sign of faith with the potential to open hearts to God’s love. They can remind us that we are the creations of God. We are His handiwork and He has given us gifts and talents so that we can be more like Him.
Some have challenged those who want to help restore the Notre Dame Cathedral to give the money to the poor rather than rebuild. They don’t seem to realize that once the money is gone, the poor would still be with us. But if it’s not rebuilt, we won’t have that beautiful cathedral to give glory to God and to point countless generations to heaven through the art, architecture and spires. It would not be there to remind us that we were made for so much more than this world can offer.
We need to rebuild the Cathedral. We need more Cathedrals, photographs, paintings, poems, and stories created by people with supernatural faith to remind us all of what we struggle to believe. God is real. God is with us. God longs for each of us to be with Him forever in heaven.
To whom do you turn for inspiration?
As a Secular Franciscan, I read about and find inspiration from many Franciscan saints. Their holy lives, courageous witness to the faith, and unique ways of bringing the Gospel to life never cease to stir my heart. And some of them—like Saint Conrad of Parzham and Saint Francis of Assisi—even show up in my stories. I am also inspired by Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen and Pope Saint John Paul II—both Catholic writers who had an amazing way with words. I turn to them daily in prayer.
As for earthly advisers, several members of the Catholic Writers Guild and CatholicTeenBooks.com have provided guidance, encouragement, and inspiration in so many ways. These faith-filled writers help me to persevere in my vocation as a writer. A few specific authors have helped me along the way at every stage of the writing, publishing, and promoting process. Their faith shines through in their own writing, and their lives are holy examples of what it means to be a Catholic and a part of the new evangelization.
Name one piece of advice/wisdom that has had a great influence on your work.
The best advice I’ve received on writing in general is to write strong—avoid weak verbs and repetition—and to write from a close perspective so that readers can more deeply experience the story through one character's perspective at a time.
Writing faith-filled fiction, the advice that has influenced my work the most can be summed up in this line from Saint John Paul II’s Letter to Artists (April 1999): “I wish to remind each of you that, beyond functional considerations, the close alliance that has always existed between the Gospel and art means that you are invited to use your creative intuition to enter into the heart of the mystery of the Incarnate God and at the same time into the mystery of man.”
Prayer is key to creating faith-filled fiction. God has given me the gift and the desire to write, so I find it imperative to seek His inspiration throughout my work so that I can more effectively delve into the mystery of man (our hopes, dream, trials and challenges) and bring to light something of the mystery of God (His love, gifts, forgiveness, and mercy).
If people want to explore your work in more detail, where can they look?
Visit my website: www.theresalinden.com
My books can also be found here: www.CatholicTeenBooks.com
Follow my blog: https://catholicbooksblog.wordpress.com/
Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theresalindenauthor/