Have you ever finished a book and had all the questions for the author? Well unfortunately J. R. R. Tolkien is a little out of my grasp, but I was recently able to talk books with Tea with Tolkien’s Kaitlyn Facista. Kaitlyn just released her new work: The Two Towers Companion Journal (enter for your chance to win a copy here), and sat down with me to talk about her writing process, faith, and all things bookish (with a liberal dash of Tolkien). Kaitlyn is a sweet soul who has a gift of putting people at ease, and I found myself relating to much of what she said. (Especially balancing parenting and work!)
An Interview With Kaitlyn Facista: Author and Founder of Tea with Tolkien
- What inspired you to write The Two Towers reflection journal? Explain your writing process. Where did you come up with the prompts for each chapter?
As our book club was reading through The Fellowship of the Ring, I began writing different prompts for reflection and discussion as we worked through each chapter of the book. My goal was to encourage our community to really take Tolkien’s themes and philosophy to heart, and to challenge ourselves to grow to become more “hobbitish” as we read. When we were about halfway through The Fellowship, it suddenly occurred to me that I should be compiling all of the reflections into one journal! I spent most of April and May completely immersed in The Two Towers, spending any free moments reading and writing. I tried to write up short summaries and reflections based on the themes, characters, or quotes that stood out to me from each chapter.
- Where did the idea for Tea with Tolkien come from? How do you see the group growing in the future? What is your favorite cup of tea to enjoy?
For the past couple of years, I had been running a handmade shop and blog called Lily and Mama, inspired by motherhood and faith. I loved being able to help support my family through Lily and Mama, but also began to feel a little boxed in with what I was able to write. I had actually published several essays and ramblings on Tolkien and my faith that it seems like my readers couldn’t really care less about (because it was so far outside of my ‘mom blog’ niche), that I started to wonder what it would look like to build an entire community of fellow Tolkien fans.
I started on a total whim in the middle of February and have been constantly surprised and humbled by how quickly we’ve been growing! As we continue to grow, I have so many dreams for Tea with Tolkien… Aside from writing companion journals for more of Tolkien’s works, I’d love to somehow create regional Tea with Tolkien groups for people to connect in person, as well as plan some kind of yearly large-scale Hobbit celebration! I also secretly hope to open a Tea with Tolkien cafe and book shop someday, in the distant future.
And as for tea, it really depends on the weather for me! If it’s warm outside, I love a fruity iced tea. If it’s chilly out, then I love Earl Grey with a little cream.
- If you could ask Tolkien just one question, what would it be and why?
“What role did marriage and fatherhood play in your life?” I often wonder about the kind of father and husband he was. His writings are so expansive, I can’t imagine he had much time for his family, but at the same time his children do seem to have good memories of him. I just wonder how he balanced it all.
- You converted to Catholicism. Were you drawn to the church first, or Tolkien’s works? Did one have an influence on the other?
My husband and I had been studying the Church for several months before I learned that Tolkien had been Catholic. It was a turning point for me, and I remember joking with my husband, “if it’s good enough for Tolkien, it’s good enough for me.” I had been incredibly inspired by Tolkien for many years and really looked to him as someone who had a understanding of Christian truth, so it really surprised me to realize he was Catholic! In many ways, Tolkien was my first experience with Catholicism, but he was so subtle about it that I didn’t even realize it until years later (which is one of the things I love about Tolkien).
- What character from Middle Earth do you most relate to?
I think in a lot of ways I relate most to Rosie Cotton, wife to Samwise and mother to Elanor the Fair. She reminds me so much of St. Zelie Martin, the mother of Therese of Lisieux. While I may not be a great warrior or heroine myself, I see my vocation as one of nurturing those around me and helping them pursue their own vocations.
- Outside of Tolkien: name the piece of literature that has most influenced your life. What is it about that particular one?
Aside from Tolkien, a few of my favorite books are The Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451, and the Harry Potter series. I haven’t spent nearly as much time reflecting on why I love them so much as I have with Tolkien, but they’ve definitely been inspirational to me. Holden Caulfield just means so much to me and I always seem to find myself in his character, in kind of a strange way.
- What other authors do you enjoy reading and what is on your shelf now?
If I’m not reading Tolkien, I’m usually reading something about Tolkien. I’ve been enjoying Tolkien’s Requiem by John Carswell and the Philosophy of Tolkien by Peter Kreeft. But as for something totally different, I recently started reading Anne of Green Gables with my daughter.
Question of the Day
What book has been most influential in your life? For me it was K.A. Applegate’s Animorph series: I started reading the Young Adult sci-fi series when I was eight and they were the first books that really made me realize my love of reading.