Episode 168: Dennis Conrad Interview and Starting Conversations about Salvation

In this episode we interview Dennis Conrad about his second book in the In God We Trust series and discuss how stories can help open up the most important conversations with our children, especially conversations about salvation. Learn how we can organically start those conversations.

Our Guest: Dennis Conrad

Show Notes

00:10 – Welcome and introduction
00:45 – Marcus and the Emperor’s Coin

01:57 – Opening Gospel conversations with our children

              The 2 Cent Piece

03:52 – Five more books to come!

04:20 – Coin Collecting and freebies

05:33 – DennisConradAuthor.com

05:40 – Courtney Smith, illustrator

07:18 – History for homeschoolers and other educators

09:40 – Audio book for Marcus and the Emperor’s Coin

10:27 – The 2 Cent Piece and audio book

13:30 – Different types of denarii

15:48 – Closing

              TerrieHellardBrown.com

Books Discussed in this Episode:

Transcript:

Terrie:

Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship every day, sparking important conversations with the children in our lives. Today we have a special guest with us, a returning guest. Dennis Conrad is here to talk about his second book. We interviewed him when his first book launched, and now we’re happy to talk with him about his second book. So Dennis, thank you for joining us today.

Dennis:

I’m glad to be here. I’m very excited about this opportunity.

Terrie:

Well, tell us about the new book.

Dennis:

Well, the story of Marcus and the Emperor’s Coin is about a young boy, and it’s a very exciting story taking place in ancient Rome at the time of Christ. And this young boy and his father are going to go on a mission for the emperor. Well, there’s this interaction that they have on the trip that involves a lot of different crises, and Marcus is a little clumsy. So he’s worried about jeopardizing the mission, but ultimately they have a chance to have Marcus make a coin. Now he’s a young boy, and this is an experience for him, but he ends up making a denarius, and maybe you’re familiar that. That is the coin called the tribute penny. He later sees Jesus hold up the coin and say, and I’ve got it simplified, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God, the things that are God’s.” That’s what the story is about. And Marcus’s reaction to that.

Terrie:

That’s great. I’ve read it, and I really love the story. I love how you told about the culture and what they did and just how he worries so much and his father just encourages him throughout the whole thing. It’s just really well written. I love it. I love also, in both of your books, how you weave in the Gospel story. Can you talk a little bit about that, how parents can use this to share the Gospel with their kids?

Dennis:

Yes, and I think a lot of times parents and grandparents want to have a discussion with their kids or their grandkids. The way I kind of put this is to allow them to have the salvation conversation with the next generation. And that can be a comment in the book that will allow them, for example, in The 2 Cent Piece, which is the first book, there are bible verses. There is an example of a young girl who’s the main character who prays, and there are interactions there that kind of allow for people to have an awareness that people come to faith. With regard to Marcus, he also has a questioning heart, but his father even gives him permission to ask questions. So there’s a discussion point that can happen as the book’s story unfolds. How would that feel for you? And even in the back matter of the book, I’ve gone ahead and put Bible verses there so people can actually see that there is context for this in scripture.

Terrie:

That’s great. Yes. And you include several scripture, and I love that they’re not just John 3:16, but you include some other scriptures that can open up some really good conversations. I think even just the one where Jesus is talking, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” What can we give God? And Marcus does ask that question, what do I have to give to God? And I think that’s a great question to talk about with our kids.

Dennis:

Well, I was sharing a part of the text with a friend of ours. Marcus asked “What?” And he said, “I’ve been asking that question too.”

Terrie:

That’s great. This is your second book in the series, and if I remember correctly, you have seven books that are going to be coming out in this series. Isn’t that correct?

Dennis:

That’s true. And I was really fortunate when my book was starting out, and I was coming up with several stories, my agent Sharon Norris Elliott was willing to go ahead and put them all together, and we put a package together that we submitted to Elk Lake Publishing, and I was surprised. She was excited, and we were all delighted that ultimately I got a seven book contract.

Terrie:

Cool. So all of them deal with coins. So tell us why you write about coins.

Dennis:

Well, I’ve been a coin collector for decades, and this had happened from like over a 50-year period, and I found that there was so much history and so much delight that I had from studying about coins that I wanted to make a series of children’s books available, because when I was a kid, I just devoured information about the history of coins and started finding coins and change and I started collecting them in books, and you can go ahead and do the same today. The interesting thing is, is that I kept learning all those decades and I learned that there are amazing things going on historically, factually about the coins minting process. I have now put together a package for young people that will be activity sheets. People go to my website, they’ll be able to get the activity sheets, and one will come out every month and it will keep the student involved not only from a maze or a crossword puzzle, but word power and also even a coin hunt, so they have to go on the hunt to try to find a couple of very easily accessible coins that’ll be fun for them.

Terrie:

That’s cool. So they can find those on your website. Can you tell us what your website is?

Dennis:

Yes, it’s Dennis Conrad Author.com. DennisConradAuthor.com.

Terrie:

Alright. Yeah, check it out. It’s really cool. And Courtney Smith is the artist. Is she the artist for both of your books so far?

Dennis:

She is, and you can tell that they’re very different styles. Courtney is incredibly talented and when we started to approach this book, she really wanted to do some amazing things that were going to be a little bit different with the new designs that she was creating and everything. Some are very colorful. There’s even an example of Marcus being on a ship and there are dolphins that she’s drawn. There are images of different kinds of things that would really attract the kids.

Terrie:

That’s cool. She’s very interesting. I was reading her bio, and this is her hobby, it sounds like, on the side is illustrating books, and yet she does such a great job and her main job is teaching CPR and raising puppies.

Dennis:

Right, gosh.

Terrie:

Oh, and training U.S. Olympic hopefuls. So she sounds like she has nothing to do, very busy person.

Dennis:

Well, I definitely give her an A+ as a former professor. I just love her hard work, and I’ll tell you, we worked together to collaborate to offer something that was historically accurate. For example, I found examples of what the mine might look like. She was able to go ahead and take examples of research that I found on the internet to show the type of armor that would be worn and the clothing that would be worn by a soldier at the time of Christ. All of those kinds of research components, and even about the coins, she’s so accurate in her depiction of those coins, in terms of the illustrations that we wanted to make sure that it was historically as well as artistically accurate.

Terrie:

I think that’s wonderful, and especially for homeschoolers to use these materials in their homeschool for history, geography, and then to add a unit on coin collecting I think would be wonderful. In your notes, I noticed that you also put the historical map, but you then say what those countries are today, and I thought that was really helpful too, to show where this was taking place and what the places are today.

Dennis:

Right. We oftentimes think of the Mediterranean and we can see it, but there is the Massif Central, which is this area in France where they had mines. Then there is Lugdunon, which is modern day Lyon, France, where they actually minted the coins. I did a lot of research to find out exactly what was accurate with regard to the history of the Denarius. I’ll just say there were mints in ancient Israel, but they only minted copper and bronze coins, but they did not have the silver denarius, and the denarius was worth about a day’s wage in a field or a vineyard for a worker at that time. So it was a sum of money.

Terrie:

That’s amazing. Well, I love that, and I love how much good education and good theology that you put in your books, so I just really appreciate that. I’m looking forward to your other books. When will your next one probably come out?

Dennis:

Well, it’s been about a year and a couple of months here between these two, and I think that’s going to be the calendar I’ll be on. I’ll just let you know this book was ready to go in March of this year, then I got some feedback and we revised it completely and then we needed to wait on the illustrator because she was working on other projects, but here we are now and I’m very excited to say that we’re on the threshold of the publication.

Terrie:

That’s cool. So what’s the actual launch date for this one?

Dennis:

Okay, I had to kind of get the terminology down because I was talking about launch date, and publication date, and release date and- and then is it done? So I got a message from my editor one time after leaving her a phone message, and the book is actually going to be published on the 30th of October, but there is a launch activity that is going on that is going to be from the 6th of November to the 17th of November, so I have a launch team that’s going to be working with me on that project.

Terrie:

Oh, that’s cool, and can they pre-order the book on Amazon or anything now?

Dennis:

Well, I’ll tell you what, when this is aired, if it’s after the 30th, it’ll be up on Amazon. I will also add for you that we are going to have the audiobook up as well, and the audiobook is being narrated by a famous narrator. His name is James L. Rubart, and he is a Christy Hall of Fame author. He’s done some amazing things. He didn’t just win one Christy Award, which is a major publishing award for his books, but he’s now in the Hall of fame there, and I think that James, I call him Jim, he’s very comfortable and he’s excited to do this project because it’s about a boy and his father, so he can relate to that.

Terrie:

That’s awesome. Okay, let’s take a moment and remind people about your first book that has been available now for about a year. Tell us about that one again.

Dennis:

Well, the first book is about Young Anne, and she is a young girl living during the Civil War in 1864, and she happens to get some of the first coins with the words “In God We Trust,” and these coins become valuable to her and she wants to keep them, but she also realizes that her brothers are going away to fight in the Civil War, so she decides to give them one to encourage their faith, and she quotes scripture at that point. Now that story is what happens to the young boys when they come back and there’s a great message there, but only recently did the audiobook come out and the audiobook was by a lady, her name is Jen Pengelly, and she’s an incredible audiobook artist. What she did in her narration was so good that I’m getting rave reviews; the book [The Two-Cent Piece] ends up on Audible being the number one new release right now. I’m very excited about the prospect for that book to get wider circulation because of the interest that I’m getting.

Terrie:

That’s amazing. Congratulations. That’s awesome.

Dennis:

Thank you.

Terrie:

Okay, and the whole series, in case we didn’t mention that, is ‘In God We Trust’ series of books and eventually there will be seven, and I just really want to encourage homeschoolers especially, but Christian schools to put them in their library and have those available. I know as a kid too, I loved coin collecting. My dad has a coin collection. We just always loved that; even just looking at coins and seeing where they were minted and learning all of that was fun, and I loved it cause it was a way to connect with my dad too and to do things with him, so it’s something that parents and children can do together and enjoy together, and I just love the history of it all and everything. So I think this is amazing that you’re writing these books and putting them out there for us.

Dennis:

Well, I’ll be encouraged to say that your experience is a lot like mine. When I was a young boy, I wanted to know where they were minted. I wanted to know about the mint process, I wanted to know who was on the coin, I wanted to know the symbols and the words ‘in God we trust’ and different words that were on the coins. I just was very excited to continue to learn all of that and have that as part of my growth experience as a young person.

Terrie:

Yeah, we’ve traveled to so many places around the world and we always bring back coins and money and we keep it on purpose because we like to look at that. You see the other languages, you see the culture of what’s important, do they put their leaders on there? I think it’s interesting. We lived in Taiwan as missionaries for 15 years and on one of their bills, they have a type of deer that’s different from anything we have here in the United States, and that’s important to them cause that’s like one of their main mammals in their culture, so they have that on one of their bills rather than someone from the government or whatever, and I always thought that was kind of cool. You just see the values of the culture, you see who’s the leadership in the culture, and you learn the history of the culture just by looking at the many and researching who it is and what’s on it, so I think that’s cool.

Dennis:

That is neat. I’ll just say that there are many types of denarii, and the reason is, is because every time there was a new emperor, there would be a new image. That’s how they tell the dates and everything of those coins. They don’t have a date per se, but that’s what you see, and in the books, Marcus and the Emperor’s Coin, I actually showed the denarius from Tiberius Caesar.

Terrie:

That’s cool. I hadn’t thought about that, but yeah. All right, well, anything else you’d like to add?

Dennis:

Well, I’d just like to encourage you, I realize that you’ve been doing this for a while, and you have got a gift, and I would just add again that my books open the door to the salvation conversation and that discussion can be so important not only for the parents and the grandparents, but it can also make the next generation aware, and I would say that many of my friends who do write children’s Christian books are very intent in terms of trying to get the message out there. So thank you for doing that for me and for so many others.

Terrie:

Oh, thank you. Yes. That’s one of my passions because I came to the Lord when I was seven years old. I started asking questions, and my mom thought I was too young to understand at first. She didn’t even want to answer my questions. And I think if a child is four and five years old even, and they’re asking questions and the conversation is open, even if we’re just planting seeds because they’re not quite ready, that’s so vital and so important to help them then to be raised up and to follow Christ. I love books that really open that door. Your book is not really preaching at them, it’s offering an opportunity to just answer any questions the child has and to clearly explain the gospel if they’re ready to hear it, and I think it’s brilliant. So I love that, and that is so much my heart when I think of what I’m doing and what you’re doing. I want parents and caregivers and grandparents to be able to just answer those questions and help kids to find Christ. So that’s awesome.

Dennis:

I’m humbled by your comment. That’s amazing. Thank you.

Terrie:

Well, I love your books. Well, thank you for spending time with us today and I look forward to talking to you in the future with each of your books as they come out. And God bless you as you continue to work on these books.

Dennis:

And may God bless you and yours. Thanks.

Terrie:

Thank you.

Terrie:

Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share on social media so people know we are here and leave a review on one of the podcast host sites. We truly would appreciate that. If you would like to connect with me, you can join my mailing list or comment on TerrieHellardBrown.com. We love to hear from you, we respond to every comment and question, and most of all, we pray you feel empowered as a parent or caregiver to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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