Today is an exciting day, everyone! It’s the release day for Bethany House debut author Connilyn Cossette’s novel COUNTED WITH THE STARS! I’m thrilled for her, and decided to give you all an interview with Connilyn to kick off the day. (Not to mention, she has a GIVEAWAY happening on her blog as we speak!)
Sold into slavery by her father and forsaken by the man she was supposed to marry, young Egyptian Kiya must serve a mistress who takes pleasure in her humiliation.
When terrifying plagues strike Egypt, Kiya is in the middle of it all.To save her older brother and escape the bonds of slavery, Kiya flees with the Hebrews during the Great Exodus.
She finds herself utterly dependent on a fearsome God she’s only just beginning to learn about, and in love with a man who despises her people. With everything she’s ever known swept away, will Kiya turn back toward Egypt or surrender her life and her future to Yahweh?
Interview with Connilyn Cossette
What inspired you to write Counted with the Stars?
Counted with the Stars was inspired by a study I was doing on my own into Exodus and the roots of my faith. I ran across the verse in Exodus 12:38 that said “a mixed multitude went up with them.” I thought to myself—who were these people that went with the Hebrews on the Exodus? I wondered whether some of them might be Egyptian and what would have inspired them to follow an invisible God into the wilderness when all they had ever known were the gods of Egypt? Kiya’s story began as a product of my own curiosity about the motivations by those we would call “Gentiles” who journeyed with the Hebrews.
What is your writing style?
When I first started writing a few years ago, I had absolutely no clue how to write a book. So I wrote the story as it came to me—no outline, no pre-plotting, just pure “seat-of-the-pants” writing. My process has transformed a bit over time. I now develop a general outline that I organize in Scrivener before adding scenes and details—I am still a bit of a “pantser” but more in layers. I tend to edit as I go, because I am a perfectionist, but then go back and layer in sensory details, body language and metaphors etc. I also use a process called mind-mapping, where I take a blank piece of paper, write an idea or a character in the center and then just brainstorm scenes or backstory or whatever comes to mind. It’s been an invaluable tool that allows my creative-brain to take over without being chained to structure. Oh, and coloring. Adult coloring books help me to engage my creative mind while zoning out. I’ve come up with some great ideas this way. I keep a coloring book and pencils near my laptop at all times.
What makes Counted with the Stars different from others of the Biblical Fiction genre?
Kiya’s story spilled onto the page in a first person point of view. Since the majority of historical fiction and biblical fiction novels are written in third person, this makes it different from most. Although I struggled over the decision to change the POV, I decided that I really wanted readers to immerse themselves in Kiya’s story, to feel as though they are actually going along this journey from slavery to freedom with her. I think that we have a tendency to look at the Old Testament through the filter of our modern Western lenses and relegate it to dusty old stories that have little meaning to us. But the Bible is a vibrant account of the foundations of our faith in Jesus and without an understanding of the front of the book, the back of the book has little meaning. The people who lived out the stories on its pages were not flannel-board characters; they were living, breathing people and if we understand the Bible for what it is, a record of not only the past but of the future, then we too are living between Genesis and Revelations. I want the reader to understand how the Exodus and its lessons and prophecies are absolutely relevant to our lives today.
What do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?
I am a voracious reader. I tend to read at least one or two books a week, and even more when I am not against a deadline. Historical fiction tends to be my go-to genre, but I will read pretty much anything if it is written well and keeps my attention. Since becoming a writer I’ve gotten to be much more picky about what I read, so if a book can keep me up all night, you know its a good one. My all-time favorites are Jane Eyre and Anne of Green Gables, but I am a great fan of Liz Curtis Higgs, especially her Scottish stories based on the story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel from the Bible as well as Francine Rivers for her Mark of the Lion series which inspired me greatly as I began to write Counted with the Stars.
How do you balance writing with homeschooling your two children?
It has been a learning process over the past few years, and I am still working to perfect this balance. My kids are at the ages now where they are more independent in much of their work, so we have a two hour “together” time where we discuss history, read books together and work on any other subjects that require Mom directly teaching, and then they are free to finish their independent work on their own schedules. “The faster you finish the more playtime you have” is a common phrase during our school time. This affords me time during the day to work on the business aspect of my writing career, along with blogs and interviews. But I always write at night. I have attempted to flip on my creative switch during the day, but it just doesn’t work, I am a writer who really needs silence to work best and I have always been a night owl. So as soon as the kids are in bed, I am in my closet/office writing away in happy solitude. I write between 9:30-2am most nights. And yes, this means we don’t start school until 10am, when the “Mombie” (as the kids call me) is finally vertical, and caffeinated, but it works for us.
How does the Out from Egypt series continue after Counted with the Stars?
The next book in the Out from Egypt series is Shadow of the Storm, which is a continuation of the Exodus journey, but from the point of view of Kiya’s Hebrew friend Shira. As I wrote Counted with the Stars. Shira became one of my favorite characters and I was eager to discover more about her, and her journey in the wilderness. Shira will be forced to deal with the wounds of her past and take steps toward an uncertain future, while learning about who she is and who God created her to be. The third book in the series, Wings of the Wind, brings us forward in time to the year before the Hebrews enter the Promised Land. This book is from the point of view of Alanah, a Canaanite woman, who is determined to avenge the family killed by the Hebrew invaders by stepping onto the battlefield herself. When she is captured by a Hebrew warrior and her deepest fears become real, Yahweh will reveal himself and his plan for her life in a mighty way—a way that will affect not only the Hebrew conquest of the Promised Land, but the very bloodline of the coming Messiah.
Why did you decide to write biblical fiction?
I grew up reading some wonderful and inspiring Biblical fiction but it was not a conscious decision to write in this genre. Kiya’s story simply came out of my own personal study into Exodus and the foundations of my faith in the Hebrew Messiah. As I began to dig into the historical and cultural settings of the Exodus story, I found myself wondering about the “mixed multitude” in Exodus 12:38 and imagining what would make an Egyptian chose to go with the Hebrews. Kiya’s story began with an image in my mind of an Egyptian woman standing on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, waiting to enter the Promised Land. Kiya would not leave me alone until I told the story of how she turned away from the gods of Egypt to follow Yahweh to that place.
Check out the book from multiple sources. Here are a few places:
When she is not homeschooling her two sweet kiddos (with a full pot of coffee at hand), Connilyn is scribbling notes on scraps of paper, mumbling about her imaginary friends, and reading obscure out-of-print history books. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in Texas where she loves the people but misses mountains, tall trees and barefoot-soft green grass. She blogs at JoyComesInTheMorning.com and LearnHowToWriteANovel.com.
Connilyn was the winner of the 2013 My Book Therapy Frasier Contest and an ACFW 2013 Genesis Semi-Finalist. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars, releases from Bethany House Publishers in Spring of 2016. Connect with her at www.ConnilynCossette.com