I’m so thrilled and honored to have Connilyn Cossette join us for a candid interview about her amazing journey to publication. I connected with Connilyn in many aspects and hope you are blessed by hearing her story as well.
Thanks for joining us today, Connilyn! Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and when you discovered you wanted to write novels?
Although it took me until I was nearly 35 before I actually began to write my first novel, it has been a long-held dream of mine. When I was thirteen years old I read Gone with the Wind. I read the entire book, in one day, when I was home sick from school. I still remember the sun coming up and the birds welcoming the dawn as I turned that last page. Gone with the Wind awakened my curiosity for history, as well as a passion for historical fiction. In fact, I was so inspired that when I found out Margaret Mitchell had died before writing the sequel, I pulled notebook paper out of my Trapper-Keeper (which dates me), uncapped a green pen, and started writing it for her. I can still see that first scene in my mind—Scarlett sitting on the porch at Tara with her head in Mammy’s lap, bemoaning the loss of Rhett. Although it took many more years and quite a few detours before I realized my dream of becoming an author, I consider that first page (which I dearly wish I still had) the beginning of my writing career.
How long did it take to complete your first novel?
I would say from start to finish about five years, give or take. There was a long time when I put it aside, thinking no one would every want to read my scribblings, but the Lord wouldn’t leave me alone about it and it became a matter of disobedience if I didn’t write. I was also spending this time learning how to write, so it took much longer than it does now.
Tell us about your debut novel, Counted with the Stars? What inspired it?
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” journeying with the Hebrews.
Intriguing! Why did you choose 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 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.
You’re a home-schooling mother of two, with a husband whose job keeps him away from home much of the time. With young children in the household, how do you carve out enough time to write full-length novels?
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.
That’s using your creative time wisely! Can you share a bit about your work in progress and what we can expect to see from you in the future?
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. I hope to continue writing stories that give readers a fresh perspective on the Word of God and display God’s timeless from, from Genesis to Revelation.
They all sound wonderful! What advice would you give to those of us who are aspiring writers, but not yet published?
I would say my best advice is to not get too bound up in “rules”. There are so many wonderful, helpful tips and classes and craft books out there that guided me and continue to help me hone my skills. But there were times when I found myself paralyzed by what I should or shouldn’t do, to the point that it stifled my creativity a great deal. I think the trick is to study the craft, use the techniques that work best for your learning/writing style and then just write what brings you joy. And along those lines, don’t get bound up in comparing your writing to anyone else’s, only you can write the story from your heart. Write it, give it to the Lord, and let Him do with it what He will.
Great advice! Thanks for sharing your story, Connilyn. May the Lord continue to bless your writing career.
Counted with the Stars - Releasing April 2016
Shadow of the Storm - Releasing October 2016
Check out more of Cynthia's writing at: http://puttingonthenew.com/
Or, view her full website at: http://cynthiaroemer.weebly.com/