Sr. Grace, you started on the other side of the desk: editing My Friend magazine and then adult books for Pauline Books and Media. How did you come to write the Gospel Time Trekkers fiction series for young readers?
I originally had the idea for this series when I was editor of My Friend magazine. I was reading a lot of easy-reader and middle grade fiction, and noticed that time travel was popular with kids, such as in the Magic Tree House series. It seemed to me that time travel would be a great way to combine an adventure story with stories of saints or biblical stories—to make the people and history more real to kids. While editor of the magazine, I worked with an author and illustrator on a time travel comic series, which was published serially in the magazine, and then in book form as Saints of Note. We didn’t use any biblical saints in the comic series because I already had (in 2003) the idea for a book series dealing with time travel to the time of Jesus, which I wanted to write. I didn’t get around to it, though, until 2009, when I did NaNoWriMo for the third time. NaNoWriMo, short for National Novel Writing Month, is an online challenge to write a 50,000 word draft of a novel in the month of November. I had heard about it from my sister Jennie, and we did it together. My 2009 NaNoWriMo novel was the first draft of the Gospel Time Trekkers, except for the fifth book, which was added during revision.
I hear you have 5 siblings and 22 nieces and nephews! How did your childhood and their childhoods now influence the writing of these books, which feature very loving siblings, Hannah, Caleb, and Noah?
Well, my siblings and I never had the chance to time travel when we were young! But there are a number of elements in the story inspired by my childhood. Growing up, I spent a lot of time playing with my siblings, so I like writing (and reading) sibling stories.
Some of the things I provide explanation for in the book are things I was confused about as a kid. For example, I never understood why we say that Jesus rose on the “third day.” Counting from Good Friday, Easter Sunday wastwo days later, and it was so early on Sunday that it seemed more like one and a half days. So, in the books, I use the phrase “on the third day” and work the explanation into the story.
My nieces and nephews inspired me to keep on working on my manuscripts, because they’re all great readers and I wanted to provide them with some Catholic stories to read. My sister Jennie periodically nagged me to get the books finished before they all grew up.