I am excited to introduce you to Rivers Houseal, a talented young author, who has quite a gift for writing! I read her book, Of Nature and Kings, with my 9 and 11-year-old kids this past summer. The book was very intriguing and keeps the readers in suspense for a good while before the secrets start to unfold! I appreciated the positive character examples and her Biblical themes weaved into the story-line. As an added bonus, the rich vocabulary she used throughout the book was helpful for expanding my kids lexicon! I have asked Rivers some questions so you can learn more about this wonderful author, as well as her new book, Hidden in the Hymns!
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Tell us a little about yourself.
Being the oldest in a family of six children, I frequently introduce myself as a Professional Oldest Child. I was homeschooled K-12, and I’ve never had a day of college. I’m really quite introverted, but if you ever want to get me talking, simply bring up theology, Church history, or 19th century literature.
I’ve been fascinated by words and languages since I first began to read. When I talk to people about my writing and say “I’ve wanted to do this all my life,” I mean that literally. But perhaps the truest statement is that I have been writing all of my life.
How did your family encourage you in your faith and desire to follow in God’s ways?
By following Him themselves. At a young age I started spending each morning in the Word because I saw my parents and grandparents doing it. I was not allowed to be a passive bystander in church; I was taught to participate in worship to the best of my ability. My family has held me to a standard, but importantly, they taught me why we held that standard in our house—and Whose standard it truly was. How many times I heard my father say, “These are not my rules—they’re God’s rules.”
What inspired you to write the book Of Nature and Kings?
I’ve been fiddling around with words since I first could write them down. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer, and I started probably half-a-dozen books before I turned ten (all of which were magnificent duds). Then my parents gave me The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. It was my first encounter with fiction-fantasy—and I loved it. I already knew that I wanted to write, but those books showed me what I wanted to write.
Share with us a little about the process of writing the book and its theme.
When I started Of Nature and Kings I was barely twelve and on a tent camping trip with my dad. Per my habit, I’d brought along a notebook and pencil. I had a mental snapshot of a boy standing beside a well, so I wrote it down. Then someone walked up behind the boy and called him back to his house, and I followed him…I kept following him, and eventually I had a book called Of Nature and Kings. I had started so many stories before, but I was fourteen when I got to type The End for the first time.
It turned out to be a story of reconciliation. But I didn’t write it with any particular moral in mind (other than simply wanting it to honor God). The “theme” of the story snuck up on me piece by piece, as the story itself did.
What was the process like publishing your first book?
By publishing my work so young, I was (and still am) putting myself in line for hard lessons on patience and realistic expectations. But they grew me (and still are).
My family helped me print Of Nature and Kings for the first time when I was fifteen, and I sat with it at booths at a couple of local festivals. It sold about 30 copies…mainly to family and friends. When I was seventeen I heavily revised the book and reprinted it, with much the same results as the first printing. For that season of life, though, dabbling was sufficient—I was testing the water.
But in summer 2020, I felt that it was time to up the stakes. I shopped around for a publisher for some time before I decided, with my family, to do things the hard way. We founded our own publishing house, Nogginnose Press, and I re-revised and republished Of Nature and Kings. My book abruptly went from ten copies in a box under my bed to being globally available from major online retailers, and I’m still catching my breath.
In the time since, we have continued to promote Of Nature and Kings and build out Nogginnose Press. At this moment, we’re preparing to release two more books in October, 2021. We started off minuscule, but God has blessed our steps. We’re still small, but bigger than we were a year ago, and we eagerly await whatever plans the Lord has for Nogginnose.
What do you want children to learn from this book?
There are a few issues dealt with in the story that I hope make children think.
- Reliance on Father Above (as God is named in the story) in all moments, trusting that however blind we are, He sees.
- The destructive consequences of sorcery, witchcraft, etc.
- The worth of reconciliation. This accidentally turned out to be the theme of the entire book.
All these lessons were unplanned aspects of Of Nature and Kings, but I am grateful that God chose to stealthily weave them into this story He gave me to tell—without me even noticing until later!
You have another exciting book that is about to launch, Hidden in the Hymns. Can you tell us a little about that book and how it will encourage kids spiritually?
Gladly! Hidden in the Hymns is a celebration of old hymns. It grieves me that this music of the Church’s heritage is being tossed aside as outdated and archaic. There is far too much richness and beauty in the old hymns, and it’s to our detriment if we let ourselves forget them.
But it’s also true that some of the archaic wording is tricky for modern ears. Phrases like “let angels prostrate fall; bring forth the royal diadem” and “round it has cast like a mantle the sea” are hard for children to appreciate.
That is why I wrote Hidden in the Hymns. I handpicked eighty classic hymns and paraphrased them stanza by stanza into words that a middle-grader can easily understand. My paraphrase and the original hymn lyrics are presented side-by-side, so that children can understand what the hymn is saying, and then appreciate that meaning in the rich original wording.
Hidden in the Hymns releases October 29, 2021 from Nogginnose Press! If anyone wants to be kept updated, they can join Nogginnose’ email list at nogginnose.com, or find both Nogginnose and me on Instagram and Facebook.
Thank you, Rivers, for sharing your story with us! It is inspiring to see how God used your parents’ and grandparents’ strong faith to shape your writing and who you are today! I love how you are using the gift of writing God has given you to encourage children in their faith and character. May God continue to bless these books to further His kingdom here on earth!
To purchase Of Nature and Kings, you can find it on Amazon here.
Find out more information about Rivers and her books at: