Author Interview: “A Nagging Desire to Share God’s Grace…” – An Interview with Catholic Novelist T.M. Gaouette

Following is an author interview by Catholic Check it out! Why do you write?

T. M. Gaouette: It’s inevitable. Hemingway famously stated that, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” He wasn’t kidding. Writing is as much thrilling as it is draining, and there have been times when I’ve been so disheartened that I’ve contemplated giving it up. But I can’t imagine not writing. I have stories to tell and a nagging desire to share God’s amazing grace within each one. So, I’ll plug away and pray that God gives me the words and the aspiration to continue on. At least until I’m no longer consumed with stories to tell.

CF: What first inspired you to become a writer?

TMG: I don’t recall that first moment, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write, whether it was my own thoughts in a diary as a child or short stories and poems.

CF: If you were a critic writing about your own books, how would you describe the defining characteristic of your writing style?

TMG: Deep, descriptive, and refreshingly pastoral.

CF: Is there a favorite place you have to write?

TMG: I’d love to share some romantic image of myself gazing out at an idyllic afternoon scene as I blissfully tap the keys of my laptop, but the reality is that I write late at night when my four children are asleep. I’m usually sitting on my couch with my laptop burning my lap. I do have a more attractive schedule that seemed feasible at the time of its conception, but parenting, home-schooling, working, gardening, canning, farming, cooking, and cleaning have since extended beyond their allocated timeframes and pushed my writing into the wee hours.

CF: What is your cure for writer’s block?

TMG: Read the work I’m writing or focus on another novel. I always have a few books on the backburner and sometimes writer’s block is an opportunity to take time away from the current novel and work on another. When I’m ready, I’ll return my focus to the current novel with a fresh approach.

CF: What is your cure for procrastination?

TMG: I don’t get much time to write, so when I’m at the computer, I just get down to it.

CF: Describe in your own words what the “Catholic imagination” is – or alternatively, what it means to be a “Catholic writer.”

TMG: When it comes to writing my novels, I have a desire to write about God-loving people in a tainted world. I feel that my need to write is my God-given gift, and all gifts should be used to glorify Him. And so as a writer, I present the world, with its messy and complicated and destructive nature, and then I introduce the characters, some of whom know Christ and some who don’t. And then they meet. The rest is…well, you have to read my novels to find out the rest!

CF: What three writers – alive or dead – would you like to invite to dinner? Why?

TMG: Undoubtedly, Tolkien, Lewis, and Chesterton, and for numerous reasons. But primarily for the conversation. Such an interaction would be awe-inspiring. We’d talk about writing and faith. I’d have loved to hear Tolkien’s compelling arguments with Lewis that caused the latter to convert.

CF: What is the “best thing” about being a writer?

TMG: Clearly, the best thing is when my readers are inspired by my novels. When they find comfort in them. I honestly see my work as a ministry and when the final product brings someone closer to Christ, that’s an awesome feeling.

CF: What is your latest book about?

TMG: Freeing Tanner Rose is about a Hollywood teen diva who is uprooted from her celebrity lifestyle, as a result of her destructive vices, and sent to the boonies to stay with her mother’s friend who’s a devoted Catholic and mom to a gorgeous and Godly, Kung-fu loving teenaged son.

CF: What inspired you to write this story in the first place? Where did the story line come from?

TMG: Our pop culture prompted me to write about the immorality of Hollywood, as well as the desire to introduce young, attractive characters who are beautifully Catholic. I feel as if Hollywood, and its sexualized nature, has taken such a hold on our young people. I’m disturbed that it’s so appealing, and Hollywood entices our children with everything immoral. And so, I wrote Freeing Tanner Rose to demonstrate that God and His way are so much more appealing, and in essence, we are all imprisoned without Him. This is the first of four novels that will touch upon issues that our teens and young adults have to deal with today.

CF: Did you hold onto the idea for a long time before giving it shape, or did it come together in a flash?

TMG: All my ideas are written down immediately in a notebook or flashcard so that I don’t forget them. And then the plot develops over time. I continue to write down my thoughts, but when the story begins to take shape with a plot and characters, that’s when I write down a layout and synopsis. Freeing Tanner Rose took a few years to take shape.

CF: All fiction comes from a mix of past influences and impressions –things we’ve lived, seen, imagined, or read. Can you talk about some of the elements that came together to shape this particular fiction?

TMG: It was a culmination of things lived, seen, and imagined. I’ve studied Kung-fu, so I’m familiar with the art. My own personal voyage toward a more devout existence also influenced the novel’s journey of faith. And the destructive nature of our pop culture inspired me to write about what would happen if Hollywood was stuck in a small town.

CF: How does this book differ from either a) previous books you’ve written or b) other writing work you’ve accomplished?

TMG: I have been told by some readers that Freeing Tanner Rose differs greatly from The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch. I believe that primarily it’s the dynamics of the relationships that make a difference. In the former, there is more focus on Tanner and Gabriel’s developing relationship.

CF: What was the most challenging aspect – a character, a plot point, etc. – of writing this book?

TMG: The biggest challenge, when it comes to writing in general, is in creating a work with both plot and characters that are appealing to the youth of today. And when their usual literary intake is comprised of bad boys corrupting good girls or gorgeous vampires in compromising positions, all set in a godless world, it makes the challenge all the more difficult for authors seeking to offer edifying novels that glorify the Almighty. However that’s a challenge I accept willingly.

CF: Which characters in this book did you find most challenging to work with, and what was it like to write with them? Conversely, do you have any characters that came particularly easily to you?

TMG: I knew my characters before introducing them. Knowing them came easier than describing them in words in some cases. When it came to Tanner Rose, I wanted my readers to gradually change their feelings for her as the story and her faith journey progressed. And the transition that she experiences had to be realistic. Gabriel was equally challenging. He had to be an authentic character. He had to be pure in his beliefs and actions, even though he wasn’t perfect. And he had to be unruffled in his demeanor and unapologetic in his piety.

Read the whole interview at Catholic

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Do You Carry the Burdens of Your Past Like Benedict?

The sun was still hot, wearing him down. But the breeze was intoxicating and he used it to pull him onward like a soldier crossing the desert. While he couldn’t remember a time when he was free of worry, he had never experienced this level of anxiety and it scared him. He stopped and gazed up at the blue sky, begging for relief. (The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch)

Have you ever felt an anxiety this strong? Poor Benedict. He’s the main character in my novel, The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch. From such a young age, Benedict carried the burdens of his past. He constantly looked back and couldn’t bring himself to to be positive about his future. It’s the life of the average foster child. Moved from one home to another, without any sense of stability. Until eventually, a home is just a unattainable dream.

This is the essence of the book. How do we deal with past adversity? All the Credence foster children have experienced some form of past adversity. But it’s how they deal with it that makes the difference.

Philippians 4:13 is the crux of this novel. “I can do all things,” Paul writes, “through Christ who strengthens me.” And that’s the foundation of our faith and the faith that the Credence family members must adhere to in order to cope with and overcome their adversity. With Jesus we can do anything, regardless of the circumstances that we are dealing with at the time.

Oftentimes, adversity occurs when we are children, but we take it with us into adulthood. For Benedict, it becomes consuming until the ache is just unbearable. I don’t want to ruin the story for you, but I will definitely like to come back to this subject.

Well, my story is told, and you can find out what happens to Benedict and his foster siblings. After reading the book, come back and tell me why you think Benedict struggled with his past.

Do you have a past adversity that’s been difficult to overcome? Has your faith helped you move on?

Image: Maggie Smith /