We are writing all about books this week including a couple of Author Interviews. It is going to be fun and lots to read – they aren’t called writers for nothing!!! So settle in and join us: The First Author is Taryn Hayes, a friend of ours who recently wrote her first novel. And we have a signed copy to GiveAway…
We liked this book – a lot!!! My middle kids romped through it in a sitting, they were not going to put it down… and I am busy reading it to my younger children, who are eager to hear more, more and more… This is the story set in a post-apartheid South Africa, writing about life during the apartheid era… We are transported along by a homeschooling family who are searching for the answers to a question they found in a Message in a Bottle that was thrown into the sea thirty years before.
Everything about this book makes it not your typical book. Firstly, I don’t think my children have ever read about a homeschooling family in the modern era – plenty of pioneers, but lets face it there are not many books were the lead characters are homeschoolers. And not just homeschoolers, but a homeschooling family, which is how homeschoolers tend to roll. The family is a normal family, in that there is no such thing as a normal family. Like most families they have their own pain that they are carrying in their hearts and that they have to deal with, within the covers of the book.
Then, it is a book set in Cape Town, our very own city – filled with landmarks that we know well and recognise. And this book talks about the murky cloud of South African History, the apartheid era. My children are interested in history but I have said it before and I will say it again – there is a gap in our local history that understandably for very painful reasons folk just don’t want to talk about. The Group Areas Act of the apartheid era was a viciously cruel machine that divided families and friendships and our children need to know about it… folks are so quick to blame troubles in our country on “the previous regime” but nobody really says what that is. It is really time to bring our murky past out of the closet, a forgotten history is one waiting to be repeated. Places like The District Six Museum, instrumental in the book, are doing a great job at bringing that history to life.
So, the oldest child in the homeschooling family, 12 year old Simon, discovers a bottle on the beach – you follow the children on their quest to discover who wrote the letter and why. The children dash through their bookwork so that they can work on their project. They use the internet and library resources and do a fabulous research project and discover the author of the letter. The meet him, but circumstances mean that they have to hear the writer of the bottled message’s story before they can reveal that they have found his letter – so many years later. This book is an emotional one, you feel the joys and the sadness along with the main players as you read along. It is a great read for chapter book readers and quite honestly we are looking forward to more like it!!!
Se7en + 1 Interview Questions… Asked and Answered
- Obviously you love writing, you wrote a whole book!!! Can you think of a childhood book that spoke to you and said, “I want to write my own book one day.”
- There aren’t many books written about modern day homeschooling families; or books that that address apartheid and post apartheid South Africa; or books that share the gospel… did you plan to interweave these topics or did the story drive itself?
- There seem to be two types of writer in the world – those who write by hand, copious notes in notebooks and then put it all together or those that hammer away from start to finish at a keyboard. How do you keep track of your thoughts while you are so busy doing other things?
- Tell us about your work style… are you a disciplined “same number of hours or words a day kind of writer” or inspired “when inspiration and or opportunity hits you dash off chunks.” Do you have any – a special spot, a special snack, a special pencil?
- You share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in your book, can you tell us briefly how you became a Christian?
- Do you have other research projects that you would like the Ward family to work on. Do you think you will write about the same era again or will you create a mystery from another period of history?
- We would like to know a little bit about you and your book. What was your favourite part about writing this book: searching it, reading it to your kids, celebrating when it was done!!!
- Inspiration: If you had one piece of inspiration for our readers and aspiring young writers… what would it be?
Growing up I had loads of inspiring authors whose books I got to enjoy: Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, CS Lewis, to name a few. They all made me want to create stories of my own. But, the children’s author that really inspired me is one I was introduced to only as an adult, and that is Patricia St John. Her amazing ability to tell biblical truths through the circumstances of her characters, all while telling a compelling story, made me want to write stories just like her.
I’ve always wanted to write meaningful stories. Stories that touch the heart and leave one thinking deeply. But that was for “another season of life” when the kids had grown up. But after reading Patricia St John’s books and when we kept encountering excellent living books through our homeschooling curriculum, Sonlight, I felt moved to create something for my own kids that was relevant to them. Relevant to their faith. Relevant to their history. Relevant to their lives. We had never encountered modern-day homeschooled kids in books, so, I thought, why not create them? And while I’m at it, perhaps I could create something that merged all three desire? So, yes, I did plan to interweave the topics, but the story – the plot – drove itself in a big way. What started as a spark of a story idea took off like a raging fire in no time. I am grateful to that, because it was only after I wrote it that I became aware that seasoned writers are of the opinion that the best stories don’t have an agenda driving them! With Seekers, the agenda frames it, for sure, but the story sustains it. God’s kindness to this newbie writer, methinks!
Do I have a style? I think I could answer this question better after having written a few books! I wrote this book in evening spurts when the kids were in bed – hammering away at my keyboard, as you say. When I was not typing away, I’d think about the storyline as I was drifting off to sleep, while exercising, while brushing my teeth, in discussion with my husband and even in traffic, while absent-mindedly tapping away at my steering wheel! I didn’t really need to keep track of my thoughts, because my thoughts kept track of me! It was as if the story was following me around like an eager puppy, not letting me forget that it was there! Thankfully, though, life is busy enough not to let the story plot take over. Marketing, however, is a difficult kettle of fish! I find that a whole lot more difficult to ignore!
I am definitely not disciplined! The first few chapters spilled out onto my keyboard simply because I could not contain the ideas in my head any more. Then, things slowed down a bit with the busyness of life taking over. But, once I started up again, it was like picking up with an old friend. I couldn’t wait to visit the Ward family and create the next chapter in their lives. It wasn’t difficult to set aside evening hours to write simply because I felt driven to write until it was finished. As for a special spot… my physiotherapist and osteopath friends would be alarmed to know that my favourite typing spot is in bed with my lap top on my knees!
The first few years of my life were in a non-Christian family. My dad was not interested and my mom was backslidden. When we moved to Cape Town when I was 5, my family started going to St James Church at the invitation of my uncle. My mom and brother both committed their lives to Jesus and started attending regularly, and somehow the rest of the family kept going too. By the time I was 6, I had heard the gospel story a few times over at kids’ club (Livewires, in those days!) and Sunday School. The message only really hit home, though, one late afternoon while I was playing on the front lawn of our home with the dogs. I remember lying on the sweet, dewy grass staring up at the clouds and thinking, “I want to pray and ask Jesus to come live in my heart.” So I did. I experienced the most amazing feeling of warmth flood my being, from my chest moving down to my stomach, like a wave. I was so excited I ran straight into the house to tell me mother. But, two years later, as an 8 year old who was very aware of her own sin, I began to believe that I couldn’t be a Christian any more. It really bothered me, but I never told anyone about it. Then, while on a children’s camp, our leader, Aunty Laura, shared the gospel again, but this time she invited children who felt that they were no longer a Christian to the front to chat. I knew I had to find out whether I was or not, so I went to talk with one of the leaders, Uncle Noel. He explained to me that once we ask Jesus into our hearts, we have to ask Him to leave if we do not want Him to be our Saviour and Lord. He explained that even though we are saved from the punishment of sin, we are still living in a sinful world and so we would still sin, but the aim is to try glorify God in what we do because we are grateful to Him for saving us and because He is God. With that knowledge, I gratefully rededicated my life to Jesus. It’s not been an easy path, but I am still grateful to this day for the saving grace of God, and for his faithful servants, Aunty Laura and Uncle Noel.
The idea and hope is to create a series where the family have another great adventure, experience a little more history and learn a lot more about the Bible. My goal is a lofty one, but I hope (and pray!) that I can create more books with gripping story lines, yet also explain deep theological truths in a way that will sink deep into the hearts of children and adults alike.
Oh, I have so many favourite parts! Writing the exciting parts filled me with the same sense of anticipation that I feel when reading a page-turner. Except, I got to experience the feeling for a lot longer, as writing a page takes a lot longer than reading it! My favourite, and most difficult, passages to write were the gospel chapters. At one point, I had to stop and just pray. The privilege of sharing the gospel with others in this way seemed so weighty, I felt like I was a child playing with a valuable gift, terrified I would drop it or mishandle it. I’m not ashamed to say that those passages made me shed tears just at the enormity of what Jesus has done for us.
I also loved reading it aloud to our homeschool co-op group, the Lunch Bunch. Their shouts of “please read another chapter!” were so rewarding. Nowadays, I absolutely love hearing what parts resonated with readers. When I get feedback, I feel like Seekers is part of a huge, growing family with each person having ownership in some way or another. Their experiences, their reactions, somehow make the story richer and my joy bigger.
And the Se7en + 1th Question…
It would be something that I first heard from our pastor, Mervyn Eloff, but can be attributed to GK Chesterton: “anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” We are so used to hearing “if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well” but the truth is that if there is something worth doing, it’s simply worth doing. Full stop. Period. Too often we are hindered by our false belief that something is only worth doing if it’s certain to be done well. I had no idea if I could write this story well. I just knew that there were no books that I knew of that fulfilled my idea of a great story with homeschooled characters. I felt that it was a job worth doing, so I did it. Not because I think I’m great. Not because I think I have skills. In fact, I’ve never written even a short creative story since high school! I did it because it was a job worth doing. So, to your readers and young writers, I’d say, like the famous shoe brand, “just do it!”
Meanwhile, we have a signed copy of Seekers of the Lost Boy by Taryn Hayes to GiveAway. This GiveAway works in the usual way, comment before the end of this coming Sunday, 19 May 2013, and we will draw and publish the winners the following week.
I won’t respond to your comments as I do on our other posts because I don’t want to be included in our own giveaway. Our GiveAways are open to everyone, that is worldwide. If you have won a GiveAway before never fear – enter away. If you live on the far side of the world – enter away. Postage takes forever from here but eventually it should get to you! Good luck and happy commenting!!!
I would like to say a huge thank you to Taryn Hayes, who gave us a copy of the book to review and another copy to give-away. She also answered all our interview questions in record time. As usual we were not paid to write this post and any opinions expressed are entirely our own. I should add that while the book is available at all leading stores the best price is available from our Sunday Snippet Book Donor, Christian Book Discounters.