Inspired by the A to Z Blogging Challenge this past April, I have decided to blog about books for the month of June. I will be sharing tidbits about my own books and the other books on the Catholic Teen Books website.
Earlier this month, I asked author Susan Peek to tell readers why she wrote her first novel, A Soldier Surrenders: The Conversion of St. Camillus de Lellis. In this post, I asked her to share the story behind her second book, Crusader King: A Novel of Baldwin IV and the Crusades.
About the Book:
A new historical novel about the unusual life of King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, the leper crusader king who – despite ascending to the throne at only 13, his early death at 24 and his debilitating disease – performed great and heroic deeds in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Teenagers and avid readers of all ages will be amazed at this story and be inspired by a faith that accomplished the impossible!
Here is why Susan Peek chose this saint to write about:
A Soldier Surrenders was received with such enthusiasm that I realized with shock that I wasn’t the only person on the planet who was bored with long-winded, dull saint biographies containing lots of names, dates and facts, but with little – or no – excitement and action. So I made up my mind, then and there, to write more books. After my experience with Saint Camillus, I felt deeply drawn to researching and writing about heroes whom no one (or almost no one) had heard of. I also wanted to write stories that readers would find fun. An idea formed in my mind to focus on lives of little-known saints who had lived exciting lives.
Okay, so technically Baldwin isn’t a saint. At least not a canonized one (although he is considered Blessed in France, where many boys are named after him). But his life certainly was exciting, so he qualified on that point. I have always loved the Crusades and was searching for a crusading saint to write about. I considered the obvious, Saint Louis. Nah, didn’t work. I toyed with the monumental Godfrey de Bouillon, and gave some thought to Raymond of Toulouse. Neither of them worked either. Somehow none of those giant knights grabbed me by the throat with their steel gauntlets and shoved a sword against my neck, threatening me to write their story or else! No, they just meandered away, remounted their warhorses, and left me alone with no crusader to write about. Where was the knight whose story I HAD to tell? Who was he? Would he ever show up? I had no idea.
Then, like with Saint Camillus, Baldwin zapped me. I happened to run across a few pages in an out-of-print history text that mentioned him. I was immediately struck by this obscure saintly prince who not only ascended the throne of the crusading Kingdom of Jerusalem at age thirteen, but also happened to catch, of all things, the horrid disease of leprosy. Talk about a shocking twist in a story! Talk about a hero! Wow!
Amazingly, at first it didn’t even cross my mind to write a book about him. Instead, I spent many months looking for a book about him. I couldn’t find one anywhere. After awhile, I stopped hunting and forgot all about King Baldwin altogether.
Then, one evening in our church, I stopped to light a candle at my favorite side altar – one with the image of Our Lord’s Face from the Holy Shroud. My intention with the candle was to ask God to please let me know which book, if any, He desired me to write. As soon as I knelt before the Holy Face, a line from scripture jumped unbidden into my mind: “We have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted.” (Isaias 53:4) The text prophesied Christ’s Passion, of course, but in that instant I thought of Baldwin, the young leper prince, who hadn’t crossed my mind in months. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that God was inspiring me to write his story.
I rushed home and, as I had done with Saint Camillus, snatched up pen and paper right there on the spot and started writing. Over the weeks, the story fell into place almost effortlessly. Research and ideas flowed at every turn. I completed the rough draft in six weeks of excitement, adrenaline, and not a few burnt meals. (My family teased me that all our meals were “Jerusalem food” since I spent all my time lost in the Holy Land instead of the kitchen, where a normal mom would be. The joke still stands to this day whenever I forget to take something out of the oven in time.) Although there remained many months of hard work ahead of me after that first draft, Crusader King was by far my easiest book to write.
With two books now published, my dream of being a real author was actually coming true. There was only one thing left for me to do. Write a third book.
But that is another blog post. 🙂
Here is a review from a teen boy’s perspective:
This review is from my 14-year-old son. “I really like Susan Peek’s writing style. I read the book in one day, then read it several times over the next few weeks. The way Baldwin perseveres despite his illness and struggles makes me want to imitate his example. This was an intriguing novel that I just couldn’t put down.”
Visit Susan Peek and learn more about her and her books:
Thanks for stopping by my blog! Have you stumbled upon a favorite book this summer? Tell me about it in the comments. Feel free to share a link.