Introducing debut Christian (biblical) fiction author Connilyn Cossette…
When she is not homeschooling her two sweet kids (with a full pot of coffee at hand), Connilyn is scribbling notes on spare paper, mumbling about her imaginary friends, and reading obscure out-of-print history books. There is nothing she likes better than digging into the rich ancient world of the Bible and uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus. Although a Pacific Northwest native, she now lives near Dallas, Texas. Her debut novel Counted With the Stars will be releasing in April 2016 with Bethany House Publishers.
1. Have you always wanted to be a writer? When was it that you really knew God was leading you to write?
I was about thirteen years old. I had just read Gone with the Wind, which I devoured in one day (after being home sick from school) and decided that since Margaret Mitchell had died before writing a sequel, I would be the one to do it! I sat down with paper and pen and wrote a scene that I can still vividly remember. My passion for writing flared to life at that moment. Over the years a number of things hindered my dream of writing: college, marriage, adopting babies, lack of confidence, and I pushed it to the back of my mind. But in 2008 I was doing a personal study of Exodus and all of a sudden Kiya’s story bloomed in my mind and it would just not let go of me so I finally sat down and just wrote, even though I had no idea how to write a novel. I still am not sure how I did it; writing a book with two little ones and babysitting three other children while teaching music classes and art classes and playing in a band. It just goes to show you that when God gives you a passion and a calling he gives you the strength and tools necessary to complete that mission.
2. Counted With the Stars is your debut novel. Tell us about your publishing journey.
Although I began writing Kiya’s story in 2008, it came out in bits and pieces and there were long periods of time where I just pushed it to the side and decided that nothing would ever come of it. But then in 2010, my husband lost his job and we were forced to move from Texas to Seattle. It was one of the hardest years of my life. We were dead-broke, my kids were both under 5, and if you didn’t know—it rains in Seattle, a lot. It’s beautiful there and I love the mountains and the sea, but we were stuck inside with nothing much to do. Suddenly, Kiya starting bothering me again, insisting that I write her story! So I did, I wrote the bulk of it sitting next to the fireplace drinking copious amounts of Tully’s coffee (my favorite!) We moved back to Texas the next year and I kept working, kept learning, kept reading any writing craft book I could. I had a friend who encouraged me to look for an agent, which I knew nothing about, so I got connected with the ACFW and went to a conference in Indiana. Everything changed for me then. I was awarded the Frasier Award from My Book Therapy (Susan May Warren’s wonderful writing community) and met with Tamela Hancock Murray who came to be my agent six months later. By the time the next ACFW rolled around, I already had a three-book deal from Bethany House, my dream publisher! I was able to sign my contract in the lobby of the hotel at the conference. God has led me by the hand into this beautiful writing career and shown me that even when I was too afraid to ask for such opportunities, he is a loving Father who delights in giving his children good gifts.
3. What are some of the truths you hope readers will take away from this book?
The story of Kiya is really the story of all of us who are grafted into the family of God. Kiya begins as an enemy of God and his people—an Egyptian who worships false idols and scoffs at the notion that an all-powerful Creator God has any interest in the Hebrew slaves. But when she is befriended by a Hebrew girl, Shira, and told wonderful stories of Yahweh, her heart begins to soften. Yet even though she sees His power and might, she still struggles to accept that Yahweh cares anything for her and wrestles with letting go of the gods of Egypt. We, too, were once enemies of God. But he sent his son Jesus to redeem us from bondage to sin. Just as on Passover, a perfect lamb was slain and its blood spread on the doorposts to protect the Hebrews, so Jesus shed his blood to rescue us from death. Like Kiya, we all must struggle against the world, the flesh, and the Enemy to put aside our idols—those things that we worship and hold onto more than the Lord. It isn’t until we lay down those idols at the foot of the Cross and surrender our will to Yahweh, that we will truly experience the love that our faithful father is waiting to lavish on us, as Kiya herself discovers.
4. How do you organize your writing day? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
Because I am a homeschooling mom, my days can get pretty crazy, so I do not write until after the kids go to bed. I have always been a night owl, working on school papers until the wee hours (which drove my early-bird dad crazy!) but now more than ever I am glad of it, because those hours when my house is quiet is my most creative time. I usually write from about 9pm-2am most nights, and sometimes 3am or 4am if I am on a roll. I’ve even been known to pull an all-nighter. It’s a good thing we are homeschoolers, because my kids would be late to school on a regular basis—mornings are not my friend, but coffee is!
5. If you have found yourself in a creative slump where do you turn to find inspiration?
I am one of those people who enjoys anything artistic. I love to draw, paint, play the piano, and sing. When I am feeling blocked I like to indulge in one of those other creative outlets, and it usually helps me to get into the right mindset. Lately however, I have found that when I am stuck in a scene, the best thing to do is color! My nine-year-old daughter received a few adult coloring books for Christmas and they were so cool I bought one for myself. Coloring is the perfect activity during a writing session, it engages the creative areas of my brain while at the same time helping me to empty my mind of distractions so I can let my writer-brain wander around in my scenes. I have come up with some great ideas while coloring!
6. When is your next book due out and what can you tell us about it?
I am very excited that my next book, Shadow of the Storm, comes out in October of this year! This book is the next in the Out from Egypt series and tells the story of Shira, Kiya’s Hebrew friend. Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mt. Sinai, upon which rests the fiery glowing Cloud containing the shekinah glory of God. When the people disobey Yahweh and build a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to learn the arts of midwifery. Although her mother wishes for her to continue in the family weaving trade, Shira’s gifts shine brightest when she assists with deliveries. In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart’s calling to become an apprentice midwife. When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira’s people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. Shira is one of my favorite characters and although Shadow of the Storm was a more difficult book to write (I didn’t have any plagues to work with!) I feel like the extra struggle added a deeper layer of meaning that I hope will touch reader’s hearts.
7. Since we are also sharing the cover reveal of Shadow of the Storm (Book #2 – Releasing Oct 2016) — Be Honest — Do you judge books by their covers?
I must say. I do. It’s hard not to, isn’t it, with all the millions of books out there vying for our attention? I am a very visual person anyhow, so the cover is usually what catches my attention first. I prayed and prayed over my cover, since I have little input into the design, and when my editor sent me the file (after hyperventilating) I opened it and cried happy tears for the next few hours. Bethany House always does lovely covers, but the designer has truly captured the ambience and emotion of these books and I could not be more pleased. I am so excited to see what they come up with for Wings of the Wind (Book #3) whose heroine is a feisty red-headed Canaanite woman!
8. If we were to walk into Starbucks together what drink would you order?
Oh, that’s an easy question. I would love to get coffee with you Amanda, I am sure we could talk books for hours! (Although I would much prefer a coffee date at Tullys…) My drink of choice is a Venti Sugar-Free Cinnamon Dolce. But I did love that new Holiday Spice flat white they had out this year, it tasted like Christmas.
9. I love Pinterest storyboards because I feel they give me a sneak peek into the creative mind of the author. You’ve created storyboards for your next three novels. Who do you think they benefit more you or your readers?
I have had such fun creating my novel Pin-boards. They are a great place for me to gather research and visuals to inspire me. I even have a few secret boards where I am collecting pins for future projects. I hope they will be beneficial to readers to get a sense of the settings, characters, and some of the ancient archeology that sparks my imagination. Pinterest is a fun way to travel to far away lands without a passport. I’ll be continuing to add to all three novel boards, so please come find me there. (pinterest.com/connicossette)
10. What do you think is significant about biblical fiction?
I’ll be honest, I did not set out to write “Biblical Fiction” it was just the story that came to my heart. I had read Biblical Fiction over the years, Francine Rivers’ Lineage of Grace, Gilbert Morris’s Lions of Judah series and many more, but it was not my absolute favorite genre. But as I began to dig into the history and culture of the Bible, both in my own personal bible study, and to research Counted with the Stars, I became passionate about writing a book that adhered to the biblical narrative, delving into overlooked Hebraic cultural aspects, and highlighting the story of grace that fills the Word, cover to cover. One of the reasons I chose to write CWTS in first person was that I want readers to get the sense that they are inside the Bible; that they are walking with Kiya and experiencing the events with their own eyes. The Bible is not some dusty old tome that has no relevance to our lives, it is living and dynamic—it is the love story of a God to his people, and the people between its pages were living, breathing human beings, with hurts and joys and passion just like us. Above all else, I hope that when someone reads one of my stories, they will be inspired to dig into the Word like never before and see it with a fresh perspective.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog today Amanda and for revealing my beautiful new cover! I welcome any questions your readers might have!
Connilyn, on behalf of my readers — Thank you for sharing your life and publishing journey with us.
Readers, it’s cover reveal time! Scroll down to see the gorgeous cover art Bethany House has created for Shadow of the Storm.
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In the Depth of the Storm’s Shadow, Only Truth Can Light Her Way
Having escaped Egypt with the other Hebrews during the Exodus, Shira is now living in freedom at the foot of Mt. Sinai, upon which rests the fiery glowing Cloud containing the shekinah glory of God. When the people disobey Yahweh and build a golden idol, the ensuing chaos gives Shira an unexpected opportunity to learn the arts of midwifery. Although her mother wishes for her to continue in the family weaving trade, Shira’s gifts shine brightest when she assists with deliveries. In defiance of her mother, Shira pursues her heart’s calling to become an apprentice midwife.
When a delivery goes horribly wrong, Shira finds herself bound to a man who betrayed her, the caretaker of three young children, and the target of a vengeful woman whose husband was killed by Shira’s people, the Levites. As contention between the Hebrew tribes and the foreigners fans the flames of another dangerous rebellion, Shira will come face-to-face with the heartbreak of her past that she has kept hidden for so long. How can she let go of all that has defined her to accept the love she’s denied herself and embrace who she truly is?
Add it to your Goodreads to-read list.
Read my review of Counted With the Stars here.