Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette #Review and #Interview

From the Back Cover: 
The daughter of a pagan high priest, Sofea finds solace from her troubles in the freedom of the ocean. But when marauders attack her village on the island of Sicily, she and her cousin are taken across the sea to the shores of Canaan.
Eitan has lived in Kedesh, a City of Refuge, for the last eleven years, haunted by a tragedy in his childhood and chafing at the boundaries placed on him. He is immediately captivated by Sofea, but revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing her into the danger of his past.
As threats from outside the walls loom and traitors are uncovered within, Sofea and Eitan are plunged into the midst of a murder plot. Will they break free from the shackles of the past in time to uncover the betrayal and save their lives and the lives of those they love?
My Thoughts:
 I'll try to keep it short and sweet, since we have interview questions to follow. This novel flew by. I couldn't put it down. How sweet to revisit well-loved characters and meet new ones! From exotic ocean-bound villages to sea marauders to the heart-warming inn at Kedesh, the settings and new characters are unique, unpredictable, and gripping. Plot twists, y'all! I was on the edge of my seat wondering how things would turn out, how these characters could possibly heal, and how in the world their romance could settle into happily-together-after? Beautifully described imagery, character emotions, family dynamics, and spiritual questions. On a side note, this book made me want to go swimming! Ocean-lovers will take special delight in this tale, as well as anyone who loves an ancient twist on a good pirate story! I'm looking forward to Until the Mountains Fall!

Check out the Pinterest board for Shelter of the Most High:

Conni has graciously answered some fun interview questions, and I'm so excited to share them here:
1. Is Sofea and Eitan’s story finished, or will we see more of them?
The next book, Until the Mountains Fall, opens about 8 years after Shelter of the Most High, so you will definitely see what Eitan and Sofea are up to. I won’t spoil anything about their appearances but I will say that it made me so happy to revisit them and to “see” their love story through the eyes of a grown-up Malakhi (the hero of UTMF).
2. How did you make these characters come to life?
I fell in love with Eitan as a child so I found it a fun challenge to figure out who he would be as a man and how the events from A Light on the Hill might have effected him over the years. It took me almost half of the draft before I came to understand his motivations and then went back and layered in some more personality detail. It is usually about that point in the process where the character becomes “real” to me in my head and I feel like I am getting into their shoes (or sandals, as it were…) I think it’s a little bit like acting because the goal there is to “become” the character and that’s a little what happens to me as I write, I start to feel as if I am experiencing the story through their eyes. Sofea was fairly simple, from the opening scene I just knew who she was and why she was driven to her goals. My writing partner Nicole kept comparing her to Moana for her love of the sea, so she’s got a little bit Disney princess in her too. The villain of this story (no spoilers) was a little more difficult, but eventually I figured that person out as well, but not until the entire first draft was complete. I don’t like to write villains that have no real reason for being “evil” so it usually takes me a bit longer to figure out why they do the bad things they do!
3. What do you munch on while you’re writing / researching / editing?
Mostly I just drink coffee or Diet Dr. Pepper because when I am focused on writing or editing I am usually too absorbed to snack much and if I do I get carried away and graze mindlessly so that can be dangerous. That being said, I do keep a bag of Werther’s Coffee Caramel Hard Candies in a drawer to pop in my mouth when I get a craving for something sweet. Not that there haven’t been various stashes of chocolate around my office, because where else am I going to hide that stuff from my kids??

4. What does "a day in the life of Connilyn Cossette" look like?
Well, I am a night owl. So my day doesn’t usually get rolling until about 9am and my brain doesn’t truly kick in until around 10am and the coffee has hit my bloodstream. So yes, coffee first and then I usually spend a while getting my kids settled into their school day. We homeschool, but now that they are older they are a little more independent so I organize their weekly/daily schedule on Google Sheets so we can all keep track in real time and they are responsible to complete those lists each day. My daughter is pretty self-motivated so she usually whips through fairly quickly, but my son is more like me, a day-dreamer and a procrastinator, so much of my day is reminding him to hurry up and get done or suffer the wrath of extra household chores… During this time I am also dealing with social media stuff, marketing plans, emails, blogs, editing, plotting etc. Then in the early afternoon I try to get some writing done but am most productive at night when everyone is asleep and I can have silence. I usually grab a power-nap around 4:30 or so, I’ve trained my brain to fall asleep to podcasts in my headphones so I can usually snooze for about 30 minutes and then I’m set to go until 1 or 2 am. Evening consists of getting dinner ready for hubby to come home (although I am not a great cook, I’m much too impatient and day-dreamy and I have a weird aversion to measuring precisely—so pray for my family). Once things settle down in the evening and the kids are tucked into beds reading their own books, I enter my story world and have a great time talking with my imaginary friends. Most nights I text back and forth with Nicole Deese, my writing partner, into the wee hours as we work on scenes and talk about our imaginary friends with each other. So, there you have it—my glamorous and exciting life as an author in a nutshell!
5. On top of being a writer you are also a homeschooling mom, what prompted you to want to home educate your children and how do you balance both?
There were a few factors that went into our decision. I didn’t set out to homeschool, and in fact went to college to be a public school teacher but God just had other plans. By the time my son started kindergarten we’d already done a lot of learning at home and he was academically way beyond Kindergarten but nowhere near mature enough to head into first grade so it just made better sense at the time. And then I just fell in love with teaching my kids and watching them have lightbulb moments as they learned to read and write. We have a great time learning history together in particular. We’ve had lots of struggles over the years (usually with math…because, well, I’m a writer not a math-er) but it is so rewarding and I can’t even imagine not doing it now. Thankfully we have great resources to help with the balance and now that they are older they are much more independent. And this year both kids attend classes on Wednesdays and Thursdays so I have two uninterrupted days of productivity, which has been awesome for all three of us. One of the best things about homeschooling is that I don’t have to get up early and sit in a car line so we start school later in the day and I can write late and sleep in. Yay for school in jammies! I am so grateful we live in a country that gives us all the freedom to do what is best for our own families and situations.
6. How do you know you've chosen the right story-length goal for your characters and setting? Does it come from research or character development? And does it ever morph into something else as you write, or do you have a pretty firm outline from the get-go?
I would say that their story goals mostly come from developing the characters and understanding what makes them react the way they do in each situation and why. The trick for me is to really understand each person’s wounds, be they hero or villain or secondary character. If a writer can dig into past hurts and what lies a character is telling themselves, then getting them to a place of healing and/or truth becomes that much easier. I even wrote a blog post a couple of years ago about how to use wounds as you write—not only the character’s wounds but also the author’s and the reader’s as well. Here is a link to that article: https://www.acfw.com/blog/the-magic-triangle-exploring-wounds-for-deeper-fiction/. As for changes along the way, my storylines and characters tend to be fairly fluid during the first draft. I am a blend between a pantser and a plotter. I do a general outline and sketch out scenes but I allow for lots of movement as I write and many times characters surprise the heck out me and do things I did not expect at all!
7. At what point in the writing process do you decide which character you are going to use in the next book?
I think that comes at different points along the way. Usually it’s when I get a flash of “story idea” from a certain character’s perspective. For some reason I could just envision Eitan as a man from the beginning so I knew I had to explore his story more. Now with Moriyah I did not decide to use her as a heroine until after Wings of the Wind was finished, so I actually had to go back in an tweak some things in editing (including the scar!) to make it all work together. And boy did I struggle over giving poor Moriyah that awful, painful brand! Since the Cities of Refuge Series had now stretched into a family saga, I’ve just chosen a new child of Moriyah and Darek each time and just love watching the family grow and change over the years.

Connilyn Cossette is the Christy Award Nominated and CBA-Bestselling author of the Out from Egypt Series from Bethany House Publishers. There's not much she enjoys more 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. Connect with her at www.ConnilynCossette.com
The first book in the Cities of Refuge series, A Light On the Hill (Pictured Right), is $2.99 on Kindle and Nook and other ebook sites. Sale current as of 10.4.18.

Comment fodder:
Have you ever read any books by Connilyn Cossette?
What are some of your favorite Bible stories?
Have you ever heard much about the Biblical Cities of Refuge?

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