Meet Erin McCole Cupp, fellow writer, Catholic mother, Pennsylvanian, and Catholic Writers Guild member. (We also share the same publisher, Full Quiver Publishing.) Working Mother and Don’t You Forget About Me are two highly different works, but both worth your time. Working Mother is her latest, and you can find it on Amazon along with my review as well.
We know so little about the Holy Family from the Bible. We read the infancy of Jesus, mention of his being lost in the temple, and then we jump ahead to his public ministry. Where did you get the idea for Working Mother, which takes place during those hidden years?
I actually wrote “Working Mother” about seven years ago. Our family took some financial hits, and my freelance writing income was scanty and unreliable. I had to go back to working outside the home. I remember the day I told my kids that I’d be going back to work, and my middle child said, “But Mommy, I thought you were a writer!” I don’t remember how I replied, but I do remember being glad that I was driving at the time and the kids in the back seat couldn’t see me cry. I had to lay aside what I was pretty sure were good, holy desires–staying home with my kids and leading them to the Lord–and I could not see the sense in it. Why wasn’t God helping us enough that I could go back to working from home, doing what I loved for His glory? Every Catholic I knew advised me, “Go to Mary. She understands.” I would snicker and say, “Yeah, well, Mary never had to get a job.” Finally, it was like I heard a voice in my heart ask back, “Are you sure about that?” Over lunch breaks and after bedtimes, “Working Mother” was written.
I may be a bit of an anomaly because I never really “got” the so-called “mommy wars.” I worked from home for about a year after my oldest was born before quitting. I never heard a negative comment about either decision – to be employed outside the home or not. Sometimes the “war” mothers face is more an internal one. A mother wants to be with her children full-time but for financial reasons cannot or maybe is financially able, but feels called to be employed. Can you share your experience?
I also never quite got the whole “mommy wars,” at least as far as looking up to/down on other moms for doing what they need to do. However, I guess for me the internal war was less about working or not working but about working at doing what delights me (writing) or working at what needs to be done to keep our family fed, clothed and housed (desk jobs mentioned above). Seven years ago, I had to deny myself delight and take up my desk-shaped cross. Nowadays I face the tension between giving of my time to homeschooling my kids (which for our family right now is just this side of a downright need) and denying myself the time I’d frankly rather be spending on writing. That’s when it’s easy to ask for the intercession of St. Gianna, who could have stopped working but kept practicing medicine. She is quoted, “Physicians have opportunities that a priest does not have, for our mission does not end when medicine is no longer of help.” It’s pretty clear to me that she’s a mom who understands the tension between the vocation of motherhood and a professional calling.
How difficult and/or time consuming is it to do historical research from the dawn of Christianity? What kind of historical research was required?
This is a corny answer, but “A lifetime of research!” I kind of had to cull all the bits and pieces of history I’ve gathered over the years and piece them together to paint a picture. The Bible gives us the general location and time period of the Holy Family. I had the idea to choose Alexandria for their exile because the legacy of the library there drew and then maintained a large population of Jewish scholars. Because of Jewish purity customs of the time (outlined in any number of web sites and then illustrated by my youngest daughter’s godfather, a convert from Judiasm), there initially and probably would have been work for Jewish teknon(“handyman”) there, making their settling in Alexandria not implausible. It was a city ruled by Gentiles, so there would have been a lot of room for conflict between the peoples.
Your novel Don’t You Forget About Me [Check out her awesome book trailer] may be the first of its kind in the genre Theology of the Body murder mystery. One of its hallmarks is its chapter titles named for popular ’80s songs. How do you think of the ’80s when you look back?
I read Don’t You Forget About Me long before we “met” online or in person. I remember reading through the acknowledgments thinking, “I know these people!” We’ve shared the same ob/gyn medical practice at Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill, PA. How did the holistic care they provide tie into Mary Catherine’s experience and Gene’s occupation in the story?
Small world, right? My experience as an endometriosis patient with NaPro Technology treatments at Holy Spirit gave me a total contrast with the typical treatment my endo sisters get, even fictional ones like Cate. Before Holy Spirit, I’d been to at least seven different “traditional” OB/GYN practices. Seriously, it was like none of them even knew what the word “help” meant: they could try to get me pregnant, or they could try to make sure I never got pregnant. Nobody could find the causes of my issues. Nobody even wanted to try, and that meant nobody wanted me to get better. No wonder our culture overall is so jaded and defensive, especially we women; it’s every girl for herself out there. The restoratative approach taken by NaPro docs doesn’t see the female body as a problem but as a good creation—the best. I had never been treated that way by the medical profession before. Letting Cate receive that kind of respect, especially from the Catholic quadrant, the quadrant she’d written off ages ago as useless and silly, is a delightful thing to write. Tricky but delightful.
I understand you’re working on a sequel. What can we look forward to from Gene and Mary Catherine?
Well, I have a trilogy in mind, in which Cate goes back to resolve the unresolved issues of her past. DYFAM focused on grade school. Now she has to go back to her beloved high school, where everything was just fine… or was it? Keep in mind, I was raised on Star Wars IV-VI. This one is the Act II of the whole story, so expect some Empire Strikes Back levels of drama.
Any other projects we can look forward to reading?
I’m also working with my kids on writing a series of nonfiction books called First Disciples, through which girls ages 8-15 and their moms can learn some of the primitive skills that the Blessed Mother would have known in her daily life as a young girl in Herodian Israel. Meanwhile, I do blog at least once a week over at Will Write for Tomato Pie, so check there for updates. I also show up at Catholic Mom pretty regularly as well, at least once a month for a meatless Friday recipe. Do check in! Thanks, Carolyn, for having me over.