The books that changed me the most are the ones I read when I was young. They were mainly fairy tales. Stories that spoke to me about the greatness of the human heart, the triumph of virtue over evil, and that goodness, beauty, and truth are eternal.
These stories changed me, and they changed me for the better.
That is why I get so annoyed when people say that books, movies, and music are solely for entertainment. Lots of things can entertain. Evil can entertain. Sex, drugs, and violence entertain. If they did not, they would not be so popular.
But people, particularly young people, are hungry for good stories. Stories that inspire, and stories that challenge us to be heroic.
My debut novel, The Golden Princess and the Moon, published by the Catholic press, Angelico Press, is a reimagining of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. It is for children 10+, though I have found that younger readers tear through the book if they are advanced enough. The book opens with the young Prince Erik crying in the woods because his mother has just died and his father is remarrying. An old woman named Ninny Nanny finds him, and although he is wary of her at first—because he has heard rumors that Ninny Nanny is mad—he lets her take him to her cottage where she tells him stories of the spoiled princess Rosamund (Rosa for short). He is disgusted by the princess at first, but Ninny Nanny tells him that Rosa will grow, and the reader then switches perspectives between Rosa and Erik and watches them both change and mature. Catholic artist Gwyneth Thompson-Briggs created the beautiful illustration for the cover.
At its core, my story is a story about the education of the princess and the prince in virtue—they are heroes because they try to be good when it is hard. My story is about faith, faith in a world that takes the unseen for granted, as well as faith in a world that doesn’t believe that the unseen exists.
I lived in England for three years, and England, for me and for many, I suspect, is the land of the Inklings, of C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I aspire to carry on their tradition in my writing. They wished to express the eternal through fantasy because that was the only way they felt they could speak the truth in a skeptical world. I believe they also found the fairy tale to be beautiful. But whatever the genre, stories are meant to make us look at reality afresh. Maybe that is why Christ spoke to the world through parables.
St. Paul said to the Romans, “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good” (Rom. 12:21). These words are a mission for all Christians, but these words are something that I carry in my heart especially as a Catholic Writer. My dream is that someday my stories may change the heart of a young person the way that the stories from my childhood changed me. And that the change is for the better.
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Copyright 2016 Anna Maria Mendel
About the Author: Anna Maria Mendell grew up climbing trees in the woods of New England. She studied Literature at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts and received her Master of Studies in English from Oxford University. While she lived abroad, she traveled far and wide and explored crumbling ruins and castles, secret caverns, and hushed forests—all these places make their way into the scribbles of her notebook. Visit her website at annamariamendell.com.