Murder Mystery with a
Author Interview with Kathryn Lively,
Pray For Us Sinners
by Lisa M. Hendey
you love a good murder mystery, treat yourself to the latest from Catholic
author and new mother Kathryn Lively. Lively’s
Pray For Us Sinners (Wings Press, 2005,
paperback, 243 pages) is a murder mystery with Catholic flavor. In a day
when many of the books featuring our Catholic faith do so from a negative
perception, it’s a treat to find an author like Kathryn Lively who allows
her spiritual perspective to permeate her writing in a positive fashion.
What I find attractive about Kathryn’s work is that
her sharing of the faith is essentially seamless. As a reader, you find
yourself so wrapped up in the “can’t put it down” story line and the cast
of characters that the Catholicism present in the book becomes just
another natural element of the book’s setting. Lively’s work features all
types of characters, from all types of backgrounds. Some of these
characters happen to be Catholics, doing things Catholics do like praying,
attending Eucharistic Adoration, and discussing their faith with others.
Kathryn Lively’s books celebrate our faith in an optimistic light. These
are the types of books you’d want to share with friends who are not
Catholic, and whose only exposure to Catholicism in fiction might have
been The DaVinci Code.
Pray For Us Sinners has added appeal: it’s a gripping book,
with an original mystery that’s tough to crack. Lively tackles some
delicate relationship issues in this book – her characters are Catholics
living in the “real world”. One character deals with a struggle to remain
committed to her values prior to marriage. Another pursues a secret
relationship with someone of another faith background, fearing her
family’s reaction. A particularly religious character, harboring an old
grudge, refuses to speak with a close family member. All the while, a
mystery is unfolding with a Catholic woman begrudgingly placed in a
position to investigate what may or may not be a murder.
I recently took time to interview Kathryn Lively
Pray For Us Sinners, her writing, and her prognosis for the
future of Catholic fiction.
Kathryn Lively, author of
Pray For Us Sinners,
congratulations on this great book! I think there's been a big
development in your family since the last time I interviewed you...can you
share with us about the new addition to your family?
A: That would be Geneva, our little girl. She was
born last October and is now crawling and able to pull herself to a
standing position! I still can't believe it, it seems like only a month
ago she was barely able to roll to one side...now we can't keep up with
her. And she eats like a fiend, but we can't tell from which side of the
family she gets that.
Pray For Us Sinners
is the second book of your Ash Lake
Mystery series. For those who may not have read the first book, could you
give us a brief introduction to the characters and the setting?
A: These books (Saints Preserve Us and
Pray For Us Sinners, so far) are set in fictional Ash Lake,
located north of Jacksonville, a bit inland from Fernandina, if you're
familiar with the area. I am from Jacksonville originally, and had always
wanted to use the area as a setting, but the way these stories are written
a small-town feel is important. So Ash Lake was created as a place within
Duval County, where Jacksonville is easily accessible, yet there's a
strongly knit community perfect for the story's background.
Ronnie Lord and Gina Hayes, the two sisters descended
from Ash Lake's soon to be Saint Lorena, are the main characters of the
series. Both are somewhat based upon my sister and myself, and other
characters in the book have some traits of family and friends. I wanted to
write a story with a strong family connection, and for this purpose I
created a family descended from the brother of a young girl about to be
canonized. Saint Lorena's story is similar to that of Saint Maria Goretti.
Q: From following your blog
and reading some of your other books, I see elements of your personality
sprinkled through this book - which one of your characters would you say
your most closely resemble? Are any of the other characters based in
A: I'd say I resemble Ronnie Lord of the Ash Lake
books more than anyone else. She has my same outlook on life, sarcastic
sense of humor, same tastes...she is a teacher, as I used to be. Only
difference is that she begins the series widowed, while I am married.
I have a few characters based on real people.
Pithed's Andy Farmer is based on my father, who gave me the idea
for the story. Like Dad, Andy is a high school biology teacher, dealing
with various bureaucratic headaches in the school system, dealing with the
headaches of older children who have left the nest but don't act like it,
and leave behind things like dogs for him to care for.
Q: Do you set out to write
Catholic fiction, or does your Catholicity just shine through based on who
you are as a person and a writer?
A: My first novel, Little Flowers
(currently out of print, but coming back) was intended to be Catholic
fiction, to suit the story. The mysteries, I don't really consider
Catholic fiction the way Little Flowers is, but more mystery
with a Catholic flavor. I try my best not to beat readers over the head
with the Faith, but I like to make it visible enough that it becomes a
seamless part of the story and positive trait in my characters, so when
readers see these books they hopefully will become endeared to the story
and all the players.
Q: I respected the way that
you handled the relationship issues in this book, and particularly the
struggles of Ronnie and Lew. Is it difficult to incorporate morals and
values into a book that deals with romantic relationships?
A: I don't think it is difficult. Inspirational
romance has a strong audience, and it is possible to show intimacy and
love with characters who remain clothed, LOL. The key is to introduce the
necessary tension and dialogue without making the scenes appear preachy
and trite. For Ronnie and Lew, there are outside forces that affect their
promising relationship, and basically I pictured in my mind what I wanted
to happen, and let my pen take it from there.
Q: Where do you come up
with your story ideas and what is your creative process in pulling a book
like this together?
A: I get ideas from all sorts of places - family,
real life experiences, things I see on the news...
The idea for Pithed was my father's
entirely, he came up with the idea of a teacher suspected of murdering his
principal, and I took the story from there to include some background on
The idea for Saints Preserve Us was
inspired by the cause for Mother Teresa's canonization and the story of
Charlie Chaplin's grave robbing (his body had been stolen for ransom). I
took parts of each story to make one about a young blessed being taken for
The idea for
Pray For Us Sinners was inspired partially by a college
acquaintance who went on to become a television celebrity. In Pray,
Ronnie and Gina have a childhood, now a famous actress, who dies under
mysterious circumstances. Fortunately, the woman who inspired Allayne Witt
is alive and well.
Q: I'd love to hear your
prognosis for the future of Catholic fiction. What can readers do to
support and encourage Catholic fiction authors and publishers?
A: Buy the books, buy the books, buy the books. Tell
people to buy the books, ask your Catholic bookstore to stock the
books. Catholic fiction will never take off unless people buy the books,
and unless the Catholic media supports these books. I see Catholic media
bemoaning The DaVinci Code and the like, complaining that people
are eating this stuff up and believing it's real. Whereas I ask a Catholic
paper or magazine to review my book, and I get turned down because they
don't consider fiction! Do you see the problem here? Publishers complain
Catholic fiction doesn't sell...maybe it would sell if you PROMOTED these
works, told readers it existed. You remain silent, the books go unread,
and eventually future projects will go unwritten. A great way to kill a
book is to remain silent.
Q: After reading Pithed,
I was anxious for more Andy Farmer, but now I've fallen for Ronnie and
Gina, the heroines of Ash Lake. What are your plans for future projects?
A: Definitely, a sequel to Pithed is
in the works. I hope to get started on it soon. The baby has altered my
schedule a bit. As for Ash Lake, I have one more book in me, maybe two.
Right now, though, I plan to revise Little Flowers before
its re-release, and I have a number of booksignings in the works.
For more information on
Pray For Us Sinners visit
Visit Kathryn Lively at
Also by Kathryn Lively:
Pithed: An Andy Farmer Mystery
CatholicMom.com Book Club
Additional Catholic Book Spotlights