My guest today is Connilyn Cossette.
She is the CBA-Bestselling author of the Out from Egypt Series from Bethany House Publishers. When she is not teaching homeschool or drinking copious amounts of coffee, there is not much she likes better than digging into the rich, ancient world of the Bible, discovering new gems of grace that point to Jesus, and weaving them into an immersive fiction experience. Connilyn lives with her husband of nearly twenty years and two precious kids near Dallas, Texas.
Connect with her at www.ConnilynCossette.com
After reading Shadow of the Storm, I had to get in touch with this amazing writer! She is the author of three incredibly written Biblical Historical Fictional Novels and I am so pleased she said yes and joined me on this blog 😀 (This blog contains affiliate links)
Let’s get on with the questions, shall we?
Melanie – A lot of Biblical Fiction is out there now, starting to take hold of the Christian Historical Fiction genre. Most of these focus on iconic roles women or other key characters roles actually in the Bible. I LOVE how you chose a slightly different path and paralleled your stories to events and people in the bible. What made you decide to write fictional stories, woven into biblical times, instead of about actual Biblical characters?
Connilyn – Well to be honest, I really did not plan it that way, the idea for Kiya’s story in Counted with the Stars just kind of came to me without a lot of forethought. I’d been studying Exodus and realized that the Bible says that “a mixed multitude went out with them so my question was: who were these people and why would they turn their backs on Egypt to follow Moses? I just became fascinated with the idea of telling the story from another side, especially from the perspective of a commoner who really is clueless as to the inner workings of what is happening between Moses and Pharaoh, or in the case of Shira in Shadow of the Storm, just one of the multitude who is getting second and third-hand information at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Bringing these fictional characters into being gave me a little more leeway to explore the background of the well-known stories and weave an immersive fiction experience that I hope draws readers back to the Bible in a fresh new way.
Melanie – What Biblical events were most important to highlight for you in your books and why?
Connilyn – Well of course the most exciting events were the plagues. I had such a fun time imagining how the Egyptians might have reacted to the strange and terrifying things happening in their country. And then I thought it was important to delve into the night of Passover, which must have been so frightening to everyone, both Hebrew and Egyptian and yet is such a beautiful picture of the way our Messiah Jesus ransomed us from death. I also wanted to write a Red Sea scene that challenged our “Hollywoodized” version of the account and based it on the original meaning of the language within the texts. It’s an interpretation that may be different than most, but I believe it’s important to read the Word for what it actually says and not what Cecil B. DeMille envisioned on the big screen. And finally, throughout my stories I want to continue to highlight the uniqueness of the nation of Israel and the eternal covenant that was gifted to them by the grace of God, and also to show the beauty of the Hebraic culture that was designed by God himself and which Jesus, our very Hebrew Messiah, was born into.
Melanie – Fiction is always loosely based on real events and the blessing of that is the freedom to use imagination. What was the balance of that for you when writing your Out From Egypt Series? And how important was the research involved to bring realism and accuracy, which I feel you accomplished incredibly well?
Connilyn – I have been, since as long as I can remember, an avid historical reader. I learned more about the Civil War and the attitudes of the Old South from Gone with the Wind than I ever learned from a schoolbook. Taking that responsibility into account, I feel it’s important to do my homework well. Especially when dealing with the Bible, which I believe to be God’s Word and historically accurate, I work very hard to keep my timelines as close as humanly possible to those provided in the text (although sometimes that is a guessing game and I am certain I have made mistakes) and I also work very hard to sift through as much cultural and historical information as I possibly can to create the appearance of realism in my work. But of course when it comes to archaeology and especially Biblical archaeology there are as many opinions as there are historians, so there comes a point where I just have to make my best guess and remember that none of us were there. I can only do my best to create verisimilitude (the appearance of reality) and leave the rest up to the reader. But of course I love research and spend copious amounts of time following rabbit trails and taking notes on ridiculously tiny details I’ll probably never even use.
Melanie – My first reaction to your writing was to stop and dwell in awe. Truly! Each line felt crafted to perfection and impregnated with words to bring so much more to the reader. For example, “The fibres snagged against my thirsty palms.” So much is given to visualize this in one small sentence. Does writing come natural to you?
Connilyn – Aw, thank you so much, that makes my writer’s heart go pitty-pat. I love words. I’ve loved the interplay of rhythm and rhyme and symbolism and cadence since I was a little girl, so to me playing with words all day (and night) is a dream come true. Since I am a highly visual person many times those turns of phrase come naturally from within my minds-eye and other times I feel like beating my head on the desk because I can’t think of anything at all intelligent to write. But usually those pretty words don’t come to me during the first draft, I’d say 85% of the time editing is where the magic happens.
Melanie – Some hard issues are brought up in Shadow of a Storm. I am referring to what happened to Shira in her past. How hard is it for you to write scenes that might go against your instincts in any of your books?
Connilyn – Oh goodness, I can’t tell you how difficult it is to hurt characters that I love, or even worse to kill them! I struggled long and hard with Shira’s backstory, but knew that the reality that the Hebrew women lived with under slavery in Egypt was probably exponentially worse. And in Counted with the Stars there is a character who was killed that I actually had not even planned to do away with until I was in the scene, and it made me cry as I typed the words. In my upcoming book, Wings of the Wind, I was forced to wound a character I adore (no spoilers!) and it was so painful to write that it took me nearly a month to get it down on paper—but that decision was the right one since my next series is dependent on that very wound (Of course my lips are sealed on who and what and when…I am a tease aren’t I?)
YES! You are lol!
Melanie – I know that you probably don’t have much say in the covers as they are designed for you, but how happy were you to receive such gorgeous covers?
Connilyn – There is not a word for how delighted I am that the talented Jennifer Parker at Bethany House has created three covers that I absolutely adore. Each time she outdoes herself. All three times I opened those emails I just sat there and cried, feeling as though she crawled inside my head and captured exactly the ambience and emotion of the stories. I am dying to see what my next book cover will be!
Melanie – Can we expect any more Biblical Historical Fiction for 2017?
Connilyn – Wings of the Wind, the third book in the Out from Egypt series releases on May 2nd and then my next book, the first in a three-book spin-off of this series, will release in Spring of 2018. The next series will focus on the Levitical Cities of Refuge set aside for those accused of accidental killing to run to safety from those determined to avenge loved ones. We’ll be exploring the time between the Conquest and the Judges within those stories.
Melanie – Are you planning on venturing out and writing for a different Genre?
Connilyn – At the moment these Biblical stories are where I am finding the most inspiration, but there are lots of seeds of stories in this chaotic mind of mine, and a few not within the biblical genre, so who knows what will bubble to the surface and demand to be written in the future.
Melanie – What is your favorite scripture and how does it encourage you in your writing or walk with God?
Connilyn – When I was an acne-prone, brace-faced, four-eyed, book/band nerd thirteen-year-old girl I was at a summer camp where I was being bullied for all of the above. I had a sweet counselor, whose name I cannot remember, that gently took me to Psalm 139 as a reminder that my identity was not found in others but only in the One who created me and knew me before time began. Whenever I am feeling discouraged and lose sight of that God-given identity that passage is where I turn. How can we do anything but praise the God who knit our billions of cells together in the womb? The One who knows our thoughts before we think them, and our words before we say them? He knew I would be a writer from the foundations of the earth, He knows every word in every story I will ever write and I get the pleasure and privilege of creating with the Creator who imagined me, delights in me, and who rejoices over me with singing (Zeph 3:17)—there is nothing more spectacular than that!
What a true blessing that was! Thank you Connilyn for encouraging us and giving us such wonderful literature ❤
Check out Connilyn’s next book releasing soon!
Happy Reading bookies 😀