Today, I am thrilled to welcome Connilyn Cossette to Interviews & Reviews once again! Connilyn is our book of the month winner for August, for Voice of the Ancient. Known for her captivating biblical fiction novels, Connilyn successfully carved out her own space in the genre by fictionalizing characters and storylines that take place against the backdrop of major biblical events mentioned in scripture. Launching a new series marked by impeccable research and stellar writing, Connilyn brings to life the first years of King Saul’s reign in Voice of the Ancient, book one in THE KING’S MEN series, which fans of Tessa Ashfar, Angela Hunt, and Jill Eileen Smith won’t want to miss.
Today's interview comes to us via Bethany House and I'm thrilled that I can share it with you here. And since Voice of the Ancient was I & R's August book of the month, we are giving away one print copy to someone in Canada and one print copy to someone in the States!
Welcome to I & R Connilyn!
Can you tell us a little about your new novel Voice of the Ancient, book one in THE KING’S MEN series?
This first book in the series is a spin-off of Between the Wild Branches, from the COVENANT HOUSE series, and opens at the very beginning of the reign of King Saul. We journey along with Avidan, one of four young cousins who run away from home to fight for
the newly crowned king. Not only is Avidan not yet of military age, but he is also a Levite and therefore forbidden from serving as a soldier. When disaster befalls the four cousins and one of them goes missing during a battle, Avi refuses to believe his cousin is dead and stays behind to search for him instead of traveling on with the others. He crosses paths with Keziah, a young woman who has also run away from home, because she is being forced to marry a dangerous man decades older than her. Dressed as a boy, she flees with her beloved horse, Sarru, and finds a traveling partner in Avidan. They make a pact to journey south together, searching for Avi’s cousin and Keziah’s family, and together they discover who the true king of Israel is and why he deserves their full allegiance.
How are your books distinctly different from other biblical fiction novels in the genre?
Even as a kid, I used to wonder about the people “behind the scenes” who interacted with Moses and David and Rahab and Jesus—the villagers or servants in the palaces and the nameless faces in the crowds—and so that is who I like to write about. I love to wonder what I would have done if I came face to face with the pillar of fire in the wilderness or had to collect manna every day or felt the ground shaking under me at Jericho. So that’s why my desire has been to write from the perspective of fictional characters who witness those biblical events and how those well-known happenings pointed “everyday people” to Yahweh’s goodness and His beautiful grace long before He sent His Son to earth in human flesh. It sets me apart in the genre a little bit, but it also gives me some really fascinating white space to peer between the lines of scripture and wonder “what if . . . ?”
What led you to write your own brand of biblical fiction?
I really didn’t set out to write biblical fiction, nor did I consider that my spin on it was a little different than the rest. I was fascinated with the historical context and culture surrounding the biblical narrative, especially the Old Testament time period, and found myself dreaming up a cast of characters that led me on that first journey out from Egypt in Counted With the Stars.
Once I found that biblical-era fiction was my passion, the stories began to flow and now I can’t keep up with all the ideas I want to write! I may explore other genres in the future, but for now, I feel like the Lord is constantly bringing me fresh inspiration for books that illuminate the ancient world of the Bible.
What do you think readers gain by diving into the history of their faith?
Just like the Renaissance painters who depicted Jesus and his disciples wearing current-era clothing and hairstyles among European settings like their own, we westerners tend to look at the Bible through the lens of our own culture, experiences, and worldview. The more I have learned about ancient Hebraic culture, language, and customs, the more I appreciate some of the deeper meanings found in scripture that have been obscured or even ignored over time. I think it’s not only enriching for Christians to dig deeper into the roots of our faith and understand the historic context of the Bible and the world in which its authors lived, but it’s also imperative to understand more fully the nature of the Hebrew Messiah we worship, the culture in which he lived, and how to better align our distorted worldview with his perfect one.
How is this series different from other biblically based novels you’ve written?
First of all, these books are primarily hero-based stories, since four young men are at the center (although their heroines have strong roles and voices through each book). I’ve written male voices before, which I enjoy doing, but this series is really the journey of four young men who start out from a place of strong friendship. Through tragic circumstances, they are forced to find their own way apart from the cousins they’d always relied on and instead lean into Yahweh for direction and growth. There’s also a bit of a mystery throughout the series, since it’ll be a good long while before we know what happened to that missing cousin, so that’s been fun to develop and weave into these books. I’ve also now moved from the Judges period of the Bible into Kings, which was such a time of transition and upheaval for the people of Israel.
Can you share a snapshot of the beginning of King Saul’s reign, the period in history in which this novel and series take place?
Before Saul became king, the tribes had their own elder-run legacy leadership and some of them had even lived far across the Jordan River, separated from the center of religious life, for hundreds of years. But after being harassed and oppressed by the nations around them, Israel was desperate to have a human king to rule over them, give them some standing in the world, and protect them from their enemies. They didn’t care that Yahweh had already promised his
divine protection and blessings or that he had warned them a human king would eventually become corrupt and self-serving. They wanted a good-looking tall guy to represent them and make those enemies shake in their boots. So, the Lord graciously gave them exactly what they asked for. And, as prophesied, things did not go well. Saul may have started out as the embodiment of all the people wanted in a good king, but it was not long before it became about
him and his own glory. My series explores this time of transition and the struggle to understand what it means to pledge our full allegiance to the Eternal King, regardless of what the culture around us looks like. It’s a lesson I think all of us who follow the true Anointed One must learn, especially in the time of upheaval and uncertainty in which we now live.
What inspired the idea behind a series set during this famous biblical king’s reign?
Honestly, I just had such a fun time getting to know the family in the COVENANT HOUSE series that I wasn’t ready to leave them behind. I was excited to explore a new era but also wanted to continue on with the next generation. Therefore, the idea of using a group of four
young cousins who showed up at the end of Between the Wild Branches came to life in my mind. The era of King Saul’s reign tends to, in my opinion, get skimmed over a little bit when we are reading through the Bible, so I thought it would be great to slow down and explore what it must have been like for a group of tribes to change from elder-led government to a united monarchy, especially after being so independent for hundreds of years (longer than America has been under the Constitution). There was always strife between the sons of Jacob, and it is obvious from the contentious split after Solomon’s reign that nothing ever really changed. With humankind, there is never full consensus on anything—let alone politics and religion! Therefore, all that strife between people and nations gives me lots of juicy drama to play with in this series.
What lessons can the lives of your main characters Avidan and Keziah teach modern Christians today?
Avidan and Keziah come from vastly different backgrounds. Avi grew up in a Levitical family, in a community where Samuel the Prophet himself taught the Torah to his students. He knows the stories of the Israelites and knows much about Yahweh, yet he struggles to see his
own place in those stories and understand his role in the larger picture. Learning to listen to and obey the voice of the Ancient One by laying down one’s own desires and following His will is an ongoing process for all who are called by His name. On the other hand, Keziah grew up in a place far away from the center of worship, in a community that had largely forgotten their heritage and had allowed pagan practices to mix with worship of the True God. Her journey is one of discovering who Yahweh is, of separating truth from fiction, and bowing her knee to the One True King of Israel for the first time. And don’t we all need to examine our hearts and
determine whether we are holding onto false idols as well?
What are you working on next?
I am writing Book Two of THE KING’S MEN series and having so much fun exploring the story of yet another of the cousins who run off to fight for King Saul and the feisty woman he meets who wants nothing to do with one of Saul’s warriors. I’m going to keep the rest of the details on this one close to my chest for now, but I will say that I’ve had this book percolating in my head for over two years now and I am dying to get it on paper! And yes, I do mean paper,
because I write all of my manuscripts entirely by hand now and would never go back to my old way of drafting. There’s just something magical about scribbling away with a physical pen on
real paper that sparks my imagination and gets my creative juices flowing!
How can readers connect with you?
The best way to find me is at my website, ConnilynCossette.com where readers can sign up for my periodic newsletter and keep up with all my writerly news.
But I can also be found on instagram.com/connilyncossetteauthor and facebook.com/connilyncossette. I also have a special Facebook group page (Connilyn’s Bibliophiles) where readers can get the inside scoop and interact with me personally from time to time. Come find us, we’d love for you to join in the conversation!
Thank you to Bethany House for sharing this interview with us today. Now, if you are in Canada or the U.S. you can win a print copy of Voice of the Ancient. Just fill out the form below!
RULES: This giveaway runs until Wednesday, September 13, 2023. Winners will be notified by email and announced here and on Facebook. Failure to respond to our emails within one week will result in someone else being chosen.
Winners have been chose for this giveaway.