We recently had the opportunity to interview Claudia Cangilla McAdam, author of the new book Awakening published by Sophia Institute Press – one of our favorite Catholic publishers.
Are you looking for a new book for a young adult in your life? This young adult novel is perfect reading for the Lenten season.
Our interview with Claudia:
Can you give our readers/customers some information about your background?
The oldest of eight children, I am a cradle Catholic who was educated in a Catholic elementary school. I have known since age 10 that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. My parents and a very special teacher at All Souls School in Englewood, Colorado encouraged my passion, and I’m happy to say that I’ve realized that dream. I obtained my college degree in English, and I have been writing professionally for more than three decades. My faith life deepened significantly when I spent four years studying Scripture through the Denver Catholic Biblical School. I am now pursuing a master’s degree in Biblical Theology at the Augustine Institute, a Catholic graduate school in Denver.
With regards to your new book, tell us about your motivation to write the book and why a young adult novel? Is this your first book?
Interestingly enough, this was never a book I saw myself writing. I truly think I was being nudged by the Holy Spirit to incorporate what I’ve learned through my study of Scripture in a work of historical fiction that would hopefully captivate the reader in a story that was entertaining and informative. While this is a young adult novel, its readership isn’t limited to that age group. So many people struggle with their faith; many question the “why” behind things. I know I did. As I’ve delved deeper into the Word, I have come to understand so much more about our beautiful faith, and I’ve tried to pass along some of those insights in this work. Awakening is my twelfth published book, but my first novel.
What can you tell parents, who are often concerned about what their children are reading, about the content of Awakening?
First of all, I would encourage them to read this book with their children (or before, if they feel more comfortable). I do a lot of speaking and teaching in conjunction with book club groups or school classes who are reading the book, and I find that children even as young as sixth grade are enjoying the book and increasing their understanding of Jesus’ Passion and death. I love being invited to speak to groups who are reading this book, and I encourage people to visit my web site, www.ClaudiaMcAdam.com where they can email me to ask specific questions or to obtain readers’ guides and discussion questions that families or schools may want to use in conjunction with reading Awakening.
Tell us a bit about the storyline in your new novel and about the “time travel” aspect of it.
My main character is Ronni, a twenty-first century American teenage girl whose faith life is suffering following the deaths of her father and brother, both of whom died as they were trying to help another person. She doesn’t understand the concept of sacrifice—“Nothing’s worth dying for,” she says—and that feeling extends to Jesus’ death on the cross. She says that if she’d been present at the time of Jesus, she would have tried to stop his death. When she takes seriously ill, she awakens in Jerusalem two days before the crucifixion, and when she realizes that she knows what’s going to happen to Jesus, while no one else around her sees it coming, she decides to try to stop his death. She does everything she can think of, from attempting to keep Barabbas from being arrested so Pilate won’t be able to offer him as an exchange for Jesus, to trying to reason with Judas, to imploring Peter to aid the Lord, to actually pleading with Christ Himself. The “time travel” aspect presents Ronni with some interesting situations, given that she has no idea about how people of that time think or act. She finds it a comfort and an oddity that the people who surround her in first century Jerusalem are the same people she knows in twenty-first century America. To quote her, she says, “I was not only out of place, I was lost in time, but in a time that was somehow still mine.”
I understand there is a Lenten theme to the new book. Can you tell us a bit about that?
It covers a very short period in time, from the day before the Last Supper to Easter morning. It’s really the story of one girl’s faith journey, and by extension, the faith journey of the reader as well. That theme of conversion is one each of us should experience during this holy Lenten time of year.
Tell us a bit about the main character, Ronni. Is she a character that both young women and young men can relate to?
In many ways, Ronni is a typical American teen—she plays soccer, she has a crush on the boy next door, she has dreams for the future, she wants to have fun with friends, and she doesn’t always get along with her mother. She’s engaged in her faith life only on a superficial level, and that’s something that a lot of people today, both young and old, may experience. I know for sure that people of all ages can relate to her, because I’ve had readers tell me so—readers ranging from eleven-year-old girls and boys to grandparents in their 70s.
Initially Ronni tries to stop the Crucifixion. Tell us how you decided to use that intriguing idea to drive the story and the suspense.
I myself always wondered why Jesus had to actually die in order to win our salvation. It was probably the one question regarding our faith that I had never had answered in a way that made sense to me. When I finally did come to learn the beautiful underpinnings of how the Lord’s death put an end to the Old Covenant and inaugurated the New Covenant, it was a real changing point in my life. That was the genesis (pun intended) of the story for Awakening.
What are some ways in which the book reinforces the Catholic faith of its readers and what are some of the ways it succeeds in getting young readers to think more about their faith?
Some definitely “Catholic” aspects of the book include portrayal of the Blessed Mother as an intercessor for us with her Son, the use of the Catholic sacramental of blessing oneself with the Sign of the Cross, the role of altar servers, and the depiction of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, among other things. It gives credence to those practices that we Catholics so deeply embrace. I hope that young readers (and older ones as well) put themselves into the storyline, experience what the main character experiences, and reflect on seeing from this vantage point how the story of Christ’s sacrifice impacts them personally.
With so many choices for young adult readers out there today, why do you think they should read your new book?
While my answers to your previous questions may make people think that my book is academic or just “too deep,” it isn’t that at all. Think of why you like to read fiction: it’s an opportunity to go somewhere else, to experience something different, and to enjoy the ride. I’ve tried to present just that type of story. There’s tension, suspense, humor, sadness, joy, and a bit of romance. But more than that, it’s a fictional story about searching for the Truth—a story that can make a real difference in the reader’s spiritual life. While there are a lot of great books out there, including ones telling tales of realistic fantasy, Awakening tells a story of fantastic reality.
We'd like to thank Claudia for her time and the great insight into her new book! – the Staff at Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.
Purchase or read more about Claudia Cangilla McAdam's new book right here.