Last summer at the Catholic Writers Guild conference, I met two dynamic young Catholic women, M.S. Ocampo and A.R.K. Watson, who had just started up a new service, CatholicReads.com. This website features a FREE email service that spotlights Catholic books (often, but not exclusively, by indie authors) and even tells you when those books are on sale. It’s my privilege to interview A.R.K. Watson about the team behind this unique and very helpful service. I’m a subscriber, and if you love to read, this free service is for you. Sign up today!
Tell us your story! What was your inspiration for starting this service?
We started Catholic Reads because as readers of fiction and genre books like sci-fi, fantasy, and horror we were tired of reading books where people of faith were poked fun at. As we began to find books by Catholic authors that explored our favorite themes and genres we had the natural book-nerd desire to share these stories and bring some much-deserved attention to the literary geniuses in our own age. Too often do people decry the current state of Catholic literature, longing for the glory days of Tolkien and Flannery O’Connor when they fail to realize that those never ended. People are still writing creative Catholic literature. Today it is just harder to find because those authors are often published through small presses or independently. We seek to correct that imbalance.
Who’s involved? Tell us about your team.
M.S. Ocampocovers our romance & YA books. If you want an explanation of the communion of Saints using almost entirely Marvel Superhero analogies you’ve got to read her blog.
S.Leigh Hall is a photographer and covers our memoir, nonfiction and children’s book categories. As a former teacher, she has a passion for making sure our church and school libraries have content for everyone, from the grade school student to the Ph.D. theologian.
Lori Wilson covers our fantasy genre and has an unusually strong intelligence for dissecting a book’s themes and symbolism.
Eric Postma is a recent addition to our team. He is a professional editor at gingermaneditorial.com and even edited one of the books that earned our Best of 2017 Award, Comet Dust. He covers our horror genre specifically but reads a wide range of books.
And then there is me. ARK Watson. At a writer’s conference in an Ivy League campus, I was told that I could not have priests on my Martian landscape doing things like scientific research. Ever since I’ve been driven to change the rhetoric. I cover the sci-fi genre specifically.
Are your team members geographically close or is this a remote-team effort?
Catholic Reads grew out of the local Catholic Writer’s Guild here in Houston Texas and three of us are still located here but being an online business we have grown to include editors across the United States.
What genres/age group(s) does your service focus on?
Our group promotes books of all types, though we have a particular love for genre books like sci-fi, fantasy, YA, and horror. Too often these genres are decried as not literary enough but some of Catholic literature’s best books come from these. We also seek to correct an imbalance we see in the Catholic publishing world. Catholicism is a minority religion in America, so it makes sense that Catholic publishers would want to focus on theology, apologetics, and education, but this makes it hard for Catholic creative writers to find a platform. And often when bigger Catholic publishing houses publish fiction books they don’t always seem to know how to market them since much of their efforts are geared towards promoted nonfiction. Again, this is a good and positive thing, but we would like to help fill the cracks on this issue.
Is your service free of charge?
Our services are free of charge at the moment. We do not feel it is fair to charge authors until we have garnered enough subscribers to make their sales with us a more reliable investment. However, we are trying to find other avenues of income. We have joined Amazon associates, so any books bought through our website earns us a very very small commission. All of us have day jobs and are doing this simply because we love our faith and we love books and we want to give Catholic authors an advantage they sorely lack in the world.
How can readers sign up to find out about the deals?
Readers can sign up by going to catholicreads.com and clicking the “subscribe” button at the top. We send out emails no more than once a week, each with a book that is marked down at least 50% off to free. It’s a cheap way to find great books and support Catholic authors.
What else would you like readers to know?
I would like your readers to know that they can be as nerdy as they like and still invest their life in Catholic culture and imagination. We might be a minority community but we still have a vibrant growing culture and there are practical affordable ways to support Catholic artists who do as much to change our culture as Catholic apologists. You can argue with someone until you’re blue in the face trying to prove that the Catholic Church is fair to women for instance but it’s much easier, much less preachy, to give them an adventure book about Rescue Sisters in Space and challenge them to come up with a book that breaks the Bechdel Test better than that. (That’s Discovery by Karina Fabian if you’re interested.)