"Mayapple Books" is named after the house where I grew up in Frederick County, Maryland. We called it "Mayapple" because of the mayapple plants which carpeted the woods on our land. My brothers and sisters and I spent many happy hours playing, dreaming and creating in the woods and gardens surrounding our house. As my young soul was refreshed by the natural beauty surrounding me, I want the books published under the aegis of Mayapple to bring the same enchantment, refeshment and inspiration as the woods and hills of my home.
As Pope Benedict XVI said in 2009 in his Address to Artists: “Art, in all its forms, at the point where it encounters the great questions of our existence, the fundamental themes that give life its meaning, can take on a religious quality, thereby turning into a path of profound inner reflection and spirituality….”
The novel is certainly an art form. I write historical fiction under the pen name of "Elena Maria Vidal." I try to see my books as a window into the past, as paintings which come to life and bring history to life for the reader. As Pope John Paul II write in his 1999 “Letter to artists”:
Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colours, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery.
The Church has need especially of those who can do this on the literary and figurative level, using the endless possibilities of images and their symbolic force. Christ himself made extensive use of images in his preaching, fully in keeping with his willingness to become, in the Incarnation, the icon of the unseen God.
In this modern world we are surrounded by negative images, images which can seduce and disturb the soul, generating despair. As Pope Benedict said:
Too often, though, the beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy.
This is particularly true of novels and historical fiction, which often use false interpretations of history to attack not only the church, but to subvert morals and promote an anti-Christian agenda. I am thinking particularly of books which use bogus history to promote a false image of Christ and Christians. Such novels are now legion. The back lash of this is to write a Catholic novel where all the Catholics are saints and all the non-Catholics are horrible people. But that is not real either.
The Church has always been a hospital for sinners and the so-called “bad Catholics” have always been with us, and probably will be until the end of time. A genuine portrayal of the past will reflect that fact. One of the challenges of my novels is that they often show Catholics Behaving Badly. Should we gloss over historical truth? I think that if we stay faithful to the truths of our faith as well as being faithful to historical accuracy, the faith will shine through. In the darkest times, there were always saints, there were martyrs. As I wrote in the preface of TRIANON: "The darkness of the night makes the stars shine with an ever greater resplendence.”
I want to end with another quote from Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 Address to Artists:
Through your art, you yourselves are to be heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity! And do not be afraid to approach the first and last source of beauty, to enter into dialogue with believers, with those who, like yourselves, consider that they are pilgrims in this world and in history towards infinite Beauty! Faith takes nothing away from your genius or your art: on the contrary, it exalts them and nourishes them, it encourages them to cross the threshold and to contemplate with fascination and emotion the ultimate and definitive goal, the sun that does not set, the sun that illumines this present moment and makes it beautiful.
Mary-Eileen Russell, editor and publisher