I recently had the blessing of interviewing Mireille Mishriky, author of the Christian children’s book Philo and the Superholies! If you’ve ever tried to write a book, you know the quicksand that you have to endure to get all the way to the end. Mireille (pronounced Me-ray), with the grace of God, battled all her doubts to write Philo and the Superholies, get it illustrated, and self-publish it on Amazon in just two years!! Here’s my account of our interview!
On a bleary-eyed Monday morning, Mireille and I find ourselves face-to-face through the magic of Skype despite living about 1,300 miles (~2,100 km) apart. Her tendency towards laughter, her sarcastic wit, and a startling knowledge of literature help us get through the awkward getting to know you phase in record time. We dived right into the interview (my additions in brackets).
LAURA, HOST: Tell us a little bit about yourself, Mireille.
MIREILLE, AUTHOR: I’ve been married for 14 years. My husband and I live in Montreal with our miracle baby, our son Philopateer (more about that later). I was born in Egypt and attended the Armenian Catholic school until I was ten. [Now for my readers who aren’t familiar, this is a wonderful school conducted entirely in English, and–you won’t believe this–I went to the Armenian Catholic school for kindergarten!]
Then my family and I moved to Montreal, Canada, where we have lived for the past 26 years.
L: So, have you always wanted to be an author?
M: Well, you know how God refines us by fire? It was like that. I wanted to be a history professor. But–having Egyptian parents–they couldn’t make sense of that career choice. Instead, I studied liberal arts and majored in journalism and political science. However, I have always loved writing; my imagination takes over despite my best intentions! Upon graduation , and despite my mom’s predictions, I did not find work in Journalism nor did I dethrone Christiane Amanpour at CNN. I had to find a job and quick.
Numbers and I are not friends. I hate numbers, but wouldn’t you believe it? I found myself working at a bank. But don’t worry–I don’t handle anyone’s investments. Nobody worry [she laughs].
L: Now how did you come up with the idea for Philo and the Superholies?
M: Well, the story of that actually starts many, many years ago when my husband and I were trying to conceive. We tried for seven years with prayers and tears. Then, someone mentioned to me that St. Marina the Martyr was a great patron saint for those who are longing for children. I asked my sister-in-law (shout out to my beloved Mona Nessim) to go to the church of St. Marina in Egypt and put the phone up to the relics.
And she did. She called me and put the phone up so I could pray. And I cried and prayed and asked St. Marina to help us [conceive].
Two more years passed, and our prayers remained unanswered. On a visit to Egypt. I made the trip to the Convent of St. Theodore the Prince (El-Amir Tadros) where the relics of St. Marina are kept . And I cried and said–“You promised! You promised that whoever would visit your church and ask for your intercession would be granted their request! I sent you a messenger on my behalf and now I am here in person to ask for your intercession!” I found out that I was pregnant 2 months after my visit! And Philopateer was born.
This book is my first fruits to God, as a thank you. God gave me Philo and the gift of writing (not to be confused with being a “gifted” writer, I am far from that). I knew that if I was going to be writing, my first book should be a Christian book. The funny thing is that my mom always knew I would write a book, so when I published this one I thought, There! I’ve paid my dues to my parents. But, of course, she said, “No! I meant a book for adults!'”
L: Haha… Of course this doesn’t count! Well, I did notice that Philo’s relationship with his grandmother, with his teta, is a central part of the book. Was that deliberate?
M: Yes! You know, in many ways, our grandmothers are really important to our spiritual development. They often lead us to God and teach us about Him. I was close to my maternal grandmother because I would stay with her while mom and dad worked and she taught me the traditional Coptic Hymns and Bible stories. So, it was important to me to put a grandmother in the book.
I also think that’s a really big part of our Christian culture. Family is really important. I wanted to show the generations interacting. I hope in future books, God willing, to show Philo interacting with other family members as well, bringing in more characters.
L: Tell us a little bit more about Philo the character.
M: I wanted Philo to be as generic as possible. I wanted him, you know, to stand in for any Christian child.
The idea came to me for the book when I was thinking about my son and his love of superheroes. I said to my husband, I wish Philopateer understood that he already has superpowers as a Christian child that are WAY more useful than a cloak of invisibility! So that’s where the idea of the Superholies came from.
In many ways, the characters–or the powers–of the Superholies are more central to the book than Philo himself. Learning about the powers of the fruit of the Spirit.
L: The central struggle that Philo faces really seems to be a struggle even an adult could have. Without giving too much away, Philo has trouble with someone being mean to him. As I was reading the book to my kids, I felt like I could apply that advice to situations I’ve faced as an adult, people who were unpleasant to me. I feel like the book’s message grows with the child–it’s not just for childhood, but for life.
M: Oh! I am so glad to hear you say that! That was what I wanted, and it makes me happy to know it came across like I intended!
L: Going back to the idea that you wanted Philo to stand in for any Christian, I did notice that the imagery in the book was Catholic–you know, it was just one page. But that did catch my attention.
M: Yes! And that was something I had to talk through with my illustrator. I really wanted to include as many Christian denominations as possible, make it accessible to them. But of course the image [of an infant baptism] already excludes all Protestant denominations that don’t baptize babies. You have to remember that my school background is Catholic, and half my family is Catholic. So the image is a nod to that, while also being as inclusive as possible.
L: So what are you working on now? We are all eagerly waiting Book 2!
M: Yes, I’m starting to work on Philo’s next adventure! God willing, we would like to start the illustration process by this Fall. I am also working on another series for children (different age group), and the theme revolves around guardian angels–you get the scoop before anyone else!
L: Where can people learn more about you and where can they purchase Philo and the Superholies?
M: The book is available on Amazon in English and French and Spanish. I have a Facebook page here. I also have a blog. Any church bookstore that wants to place bulk orders can do so by e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be able to give them a little bit of a discount.
L: We just had a new baby born in our church named Philopateer, and I can’t wait to give them a copy of the book! My kids already adore theirs.
I mentioned the book to the sister in charge of the bookstore of the St. Mary and St. Demiana Convent in Atlanta. And I hope we will be carrying it in our little church library soon as well!
Thank you so much, Mireille, for writing the book, for putting it out there, and for agreeing to this interview! It was a pleasure getting to know you!