I am honored to share with you an interview with Kristina Lahr, the author of Candle’s Great Feast, which Kristina self-published in March of this year, 2021. We cover:
- Her inspiration in Adoration
- A message of trusting in God’s love for children
- The heartwarming story behind Candle’s Great Feast
- Her self-publishing vs. traditional publishing decision process
- How she found her illustrator
- Where to find Kristina Lahr and her picture book!
Igniting Love for the Mass and the Eucharist with Kristina Lahr, author of Candle’s Great Feast
Theresa Kiser: Welcome Kristina. Thank you for joining us on the Catholic Kidlit Podcast! We are so excited to have you here. So I can’t wait to hear about Candle’s Great Feast and hear about what prompted this book about the Mass and the Eucharist for kids. So tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to write Candle’s Great Feast. What inspired you and who this book is for?
What inspired the book?
Kristina Lahr: Sure. Yeah. Excuse me. Um, yeah, my name is Kristina Lahr. I live in Fargo, North Dakota. I work for the diocese of Fargo in the communications office. So: Candle’s Great Feast. You had asked me where I got the idea from. Yeah, so I was actually in Adoration back in 2017.
There’s an adoration chapel in Fargo that is by the cathedral. It’s just really, it’s beautiful. It’s huge. I just, I love going in there. It’s so spacious and very peaceful. And so I went there pretty often.
At that point in my life, I was very discouraged about a lot of things. And so I like, should I stay with this job? Should I continue on with my writing? I just didn’t feel like I was getting a whole lot of success and the things that I was writing. I was writing, working on a novel and some short stories and a couple of kids books.
And I was like, I don’t, I don’t know if this is really going anywhere. And I just, I don’t want to waste my time if it’s not any good, all those sorts of stuff.
And so, I went in that particular day of adoration and I was very frustrated because I just really wanted to see the fruits of my work. Finally, at some point, I mean, I knew I needed to be patient, but like how patient do I need to be? And so, I was just reflecting on that and looking at the monstrance and there’s these four candles that are around monstrance and I had just thought like, oh wow, those candles they’re there. They’re just there with Jesus all the time. And that’s so great.
And even though I noticed for the first time that all the candles that you see at Mass are on the altar are all just very plain. They’re just white. You know, they’re not, there’s nothing really special about them, but they point to Jesus.
And I just thought how, how excellent that was. And so really I wrote the first draft of Candle’s Great Feast just there, because the candles kind of like, what, what is their story really? How did they get to where they are? So, it was all in adoration and I’m just very thankful that Jesus spoke to me in that way.
Theresa Kiser: So beautiful! That lifts my heart. Just hearing that story. It’s so beautiful.
I want to hear more about…what then?
After you had this idea for the candles, which is so clever…I feel like it is difficult to pull off inanimate objects or animals in Mass/religious book settings, because those kind of characters are so popular in secular books and they’re fun. They’re really fun, but it’s just hard to do. And I think you’ve found just such a beautiful way to accomplish that.
So tell us about the candle’s journey in the book.
Kristina Lahr: Sure. Yeah. You know, you, you’d mentioned about, it’s difficult to pull off those characters that aren’t human and I honestly never even thought about that.
Like to me, the candle was human in his own way. The general journey of the candle is that he’s in a candle shop and there’s all these fancy candles that are around him. And so he’s part of the bottom-shelf candles essentially. Cause he’s just the plain candles.
And so him and all of the candles around him see all the other candles being purchased and being praised by the people who come in and all the candles that are around him. The bottom shelf candles are very hopeless situation like, oh, you know, we’re not good enough. We’re never going to be purchased. We’re just going to be on this bottom shelf.
But this one candle is very hopeful. “I know one day we’re going to light a great feast is going to be for Kings and Queens and servants alike. And you know, it’s going to be great.” And you know, all the other candles are like, “Nah, you’re crazy.”
So lo and behold, one day a priest comes and he’s looking for candles and he buys candles on the bottom shelf. The candles are all very happy that they got purchased, but then they get put in a closet for awhile and the candles are all upset about it again, like, “oh, this is even worse now we’re just in a box and you know, we’re stuck here now.”
And so the candle’s, like, “no, just wait, it’ll be okay.” But he’s also at the same time, like, “is this it?” too. And eventually he does get chosen to go onto the altar. And so he experiences being lit for the first time.
I always imagined that this would be very special for a candle. Especially if he’s on the bottom shelf. He’s in the dark and then he’s in the box, he’s in the dark, but his purpose is for a light.
And so for that one moment where he’s finally gets to, you know, be what he was made for would be a big moment. So then he’s at Mass and he sees what goes on at Mass. He sees the priest proclaiming the Gospel and the homily. And then finally, during the Eucharistic prayer, he sees Jesus in the Real Presence and has this experience with Jesus too.
Theresa Kiser: I love that. I never thought I would relate so much to a candle. That’s touching hearing your summary of it and of course that isn’t even the words that you decided to put with it and the illustrations, which tell the story. So that’s really beautiful.
The Little Flower
It reminds me of the little flower analogy of St. Therese, which is a dear analogy to my heart because I love Saint Therese. I’m Theresa. And it also reminds me a little bit of The Legend of the Three Trees that are used. And I love this because it relates it to the Mass. I love so much about this.
I’m so glad that you made this book. And you had to, not only… I’m really inspired by the fact that not only did it start at a point of frustration and God said, “No, here’s this inspiration,” but also you ran with it. Because it is a huge undertaking, not only to write a picture book, but also to self-publish it and launch it into the world with you as the spearhead, without editors and ateam of people in the traditional route.
Let’s talk about self-publishing
So tell a little bit about how you decided to do that and what gave you the daring… What gave you that confidence and what made you know that this was so important for children to read?
Kristina Lahr: Yeah. I mean, at first, so it was 2017 when I had that first draft and then it kind of just sat in my computer for two years.
Theresa Kiser: Like the candles and the box, huh?
Kristina Lahr: Pretty much. Yeah. So I was like, oh, that was fun. I’m glad that I had that experience of writing this. Sure. Whatever. But then whenever I would go to that particular adoration chapel–if I went anywhere else, I wouldn’t think about it–every time I went there, I just kind of had this prompting of like, what about, what about that story? What about it? It’s still in my computer. It’s still not doing anything. Jesus, I’m sorry.
So eventually it was like: okay, I need to at least take the next step and see where that leads because there was still that question of: is this good enough? Is it just going to be a waste of time?
I showed it to a couple of friends and family and they said it was really great. And so okay. But I think anytime you show family and friends your writing, they always say it’s great. They don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want to make you to feel bad. And it’s like, I get it. I get it.
So I found a children’s book writers group in Fargo. What they did is that they would bring a children’s book and print copies for everybody, and then everybody would read them out loud. So I was like, okay, I don’t know any of these people, so I’ll bring it here.
And so actually I used a different book first–one I was less attached to–just to feel out the group a little bit. I loved my candle book, and I didn’t want them to rip it apart.
And so with that first book, it was really good. Cause they’re like, “oh yeah, You know, it’s…it’s…it’s okay. There’s good things about it, but it’s not quite there yet.”
I’m like, okay, I’m glad that you’re honest with me. Like, okay, great.
So then, I brought the candle book and I was super nervous about it because it’s Catholic and I don’t really know these people and I had just a really great experience with them. Someone cried. I was done and I was like, oh, wow.
I’m glad I got to experienced that because she wasn’t Catholic, but there was still something there. She appreciated how you saw Jesus’s love for the candle and for the community through the book.
And I was like, okay, great. I think there’s something here. They also gave me a couple of ways to polish up the book too. And so that was very helpful to receive that kind of feedback.
Then from there, I really did want to traditionally publish. That was my goal. So I sent it to a couple of Catholic publishers. And I think in hindsight, I could have submitted to a couple other publishers as well.
But I wanted to make sure the illustrations were…that whoever was doing it was also really invested in the project. And also just kind of knew like, this is where the tabernacle is, this is how a church is supposed to look, and whatever.
And so from there, I did, you know, submit to a couple of publishers. Didn’t work out that way. But I think like I could have submitted to more and at some point I just got the sense, like: “I don’t really want that, even though I feel like, I do, I don’t think it’s right.”
So I’m like, okay: we’ll do this self publishing route, which is sort of just this…I dunno…big void.
Like, I don’t know what that means. I don’t really know anybody who’s done that. Where did you even start? So I just started with researching online, just endless: how do you self-publish? How do you…There’s articles all over the place. And, eventually…it’s a lot.
And I think you, you hear different things: you should do A, you should do B; make sure you look at this or that. And it just got so overwhelming. I just need to do something, I don’t know.
Finding an Illustrator
But one of the first things is you have to have your own illustrations. So looking for an illustrator was my biggest thing.
And so Virginia. I met her through the Catholic Illustrators Guild and she was just delightful and I really enjoyed working with her. But I think one of the hardest things was really like making that commitment because it’s a financial commitment to pay the illustrator.
And so, I don’t know who you are. We’ve had some good conversations and after I spoke to her in person, it was better, but still just nervous, like: okay, are you going to send me illustrations? Or are you going to take the money and run? I don’t know. But overall it worked out and it was really delightful.
I think that was really the hardest part of the whole thing was just making that first commitment. Once I put some money down, that’s it. There’s no, there’s no backing out. So that was the first step was doing the illustrations. And then I found a self publisher company Luminarae Press, which basically they do all the little nitpicky stuff, getting an ISBN number for you; putting the text with the illustrations; just making your book look nice. All those sorts of things. I worked with them and then setting up a website. That was a thing too.
Theresa Kiser: Your website looks great and the cover looks great. It all came together really well. And I’m so excited that now children can read it. What age of children is this best for?
Who is this book for?
Kristina Lahr: I have it for like 3 to 7/8. But really it’s hard for me to have an answer for that.
Theresa Kiser: Up to adult, right?
Kristina Lahr: You can read it to your infant…
Theresa Kiser: Put it in the Mass bag.
Kristina Lahr: I also think it’s good for First Communion, because you are learning: what is the Real Presence? What does that mean? In a different sort of way.
Theresa Kiser: So what do you hope that your readers, your children readers, who open this book and read it and finish it? What are they going to come away with?
What do you want your readers to know?
Kristina Lahr: Well, first of all: that God loves you. That he has a plan for you. And if you feel discouraged in whatever is going on, in your family or at school, that it’s going to get better. And you know, just don’t be afraid to trust that God is going to be there for you.
Cause I think that is a hard thing. Like, “I don’t want to be disappointed if God doesn’t come through for me.” But it is so good to be hopeful and so good to be trusting and to have that faith. So don’t be afraid.
Theresa Kiser: That is such a beautiful message and so important, I think for our times. Maybe for every time, but I’m feeling it now, especially.
Kristina Lahr: Exactly.
Where to find Candle’s Great Feast
Theresa Kiser: So where can work and listeners find your book, Candle’s Great Feast? Where can they find it?
Theresa Kiser: Awesome. And Kristina has generously decided to offer a one lucky listener, a signed, free copy of Candle’s Great Feast. So take a look in the show notes for information on how to join that Rafflecopter giveaway and try to get your copy.
And also, if you have been inspired by Kristina’s story, if you have ever thought about self publishing YOUR Catholic children’s book, if there’s a manuscript in a box in your office that you just keep on coming back to and you want to learn more about self-publishing, Kristina has some tips and some more experience to share with us over in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club.
So, join the writer’s club. It’s specific for writing good books for Catholic children. Come and join us over there and unlock access to the rest of Kristina’s interview as well as community support; potential manuscripts swaps; information about self-publishing, traditional publishing, writing good-quality Catholic children’s books. So find out more at www.CatholicKidlit.com.
Kristina, thank you so much for being with us today. And we will look out for your book Candle’s Great Feast. Thank you so much.
Kristina Lahr: Thank you.a Rafflecopter giveaway
What inspires you in adoration? What books are your favorite for introducing children to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?
Let me know in the comments!
I’m Theresa Kiser, speaker and award-winning children’s book author of the picture books Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server (OSV, Coming Spring 2022), Seven Gifts of Baptism (Holy Heroes, coming 2022), and Liturgical Colors (Holy Heroes, 2019), as well as the fantasy adventure series The Manakor Chronicles. Find more about my books at theresakiser.com and engage with me to write better Catholic kidlit in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club!