Congratulations to L.R. Hay for her publication of Joseph’s Boy!
Congratulations to L. R. Hay for her latest book release, Joseph’s Boy! I’m very excited to read this book. I really enjoyed the other book in the series, Jairus’s Girl (click HERE to read my review!) and I can’t wait to see how the author interprets the Christmas story for young readers.
About Joseph’s Boy by L.R. Hay
Funny, adventurous and moving kids’-eye take on the first Christmas – aimed at preteens, sneakily enjoyed by adults, too! Jamie had BIG dreams. He wanted to be a prince. He wanted his dad to marry a lovely young woman called Mary. He wanted an army of little brothers and sisters who would look up to him and think how clever and important he was.
But at *no point* did he expect one of them to be a long-awaited king, destined to reign forever. Nope. Not part of the plan…
JOSEPH’S BOY is the first part of The Young Testament, a fun, accessible series of full-length books on the Jesus story, from the viewpoint of the children and young people involved.
JOSEPH’S BOY covers the birth and childhood. JAIRUS’S GIRL follows the Galilee side of the grown-up Jesus. Next up will be THAT WOMAN’S GIRL, set in Samaria – an outsider’s take on Jesus.
About L. R. Hay
Lynn Robertson Hay has won an award from the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and is a quarterfinalist in the Academy’s prestigious Nicholl Fellowship. Her writing covers a number of episodes for BBC TV, plus film, radio and theatre. BRAVE THE DARK, a screenplay Lynn co-wrote, is due to go into production soon starring Jared Harris (CHERNOBYL, THE CROWN etc).
Lynn is an all around awesome person who writes Christian preteen children’s books as L R Hay. JAIRUS’S GIRL, her first, was released on community radio and as an audio cassette way back in 1994, but the print version only came out recently.
I had the opportunity to interview L.R. Hay, and I was particularly moved by the section of this interview where she shares about how she went the extra mile for a young reader with sight loss.
As an actor Lynn has played parts ranging from Lady Macbeth to Mole. Within the last two years she made her West End debut understudying Stockard Channing and going on in that amazing lead role 8 times, and appeared in crime drama UNFORGOTTEN for ITV. Lynn’s Bible-based one-woman show REDEEMING FEATURES has played a variety of venues in the UK, US and elsewhere.
Interview with L.R. Hay
To read my review of Jairus’s Girl by L.R. Hay, CLICK HERE!
Rev. Rebecca: I would just like to say that I was really captured by Tammy’s story. Your writing is sweet and full of delightful understated humor.
L.R. Hay: Thank you so much! It’s an incredible feeling when people connect with your work. Jairus’s Girl is my first book, and I’m thrilled at how it’s being received. I’m glad you picked up on the understated comedy; that’s definitely something I was aiming for!
Rebecca: I feel that both adults and children would really love this story. Tammy’s story is a great read for all ages, but how do you feel that writing for children is different from writing for adults? Is there a difference?
L.R. Hay: Oh my, I don’t feel qualified to answer that! I often have this feeling that there’s a secret school somewhere for writers where they tell you exactly how it should be done. But until I find the key (it’s big and rusty, I think – with a faded ribbon tied on by Arrietty Clock) I’m just writing the kind of thing I like, in the style I enjoyed when I was that age.
Of course, there are some obvious areas: don’t use too many long words, for instance. Not that I think there’s any harm in having to look something up or ask; it’s fine to pique a child’s curiosity to find out, but not for it to happen so often that they get discouraged or lose the thread. Hitting that ideal balance is not an exact science – it depends so much on the child – but I start sending the books out for feedback from my target age group when I’m partway through the first draft.
I also try to be sensitive dealing with upsetting issues. (*Spoiler alert*) It’s entirely deliberate in Jairus’s Girl, for instance, that I don’t relate the Crucifixion from right there at the cross. That will come in later books, when the reader is expecting it more, but I wanted to ease them in this first time we face it.
The best children’s writing works on several levels. C.S. Lewis, E. Nesbit – even A.A. Milne, writing for very young children – they all have bits I didn’t get when I first read them. It’s what makes them so rich and rewarding to come back to again and again. I love to re-read the Narnia books occasionally, and I’ve had the privilege of being hired to write stage adaptations of The Borrowers, Five Children and It and other superb books, which gave me a chance to relish them in depth.
That was a very long answer, given that I started by saying I don’t know! I suppose it’s because I’m trying to work it out as I go. Don’t tell anyone I didn’t find the secret writer school. 😉
Rebecca: Many of the scenes were so vivid that I felt as if I was there. I also loved how you managed to combine the biblical narrative with Tammy’s story. What research did you do in order to capture Tammy’s story? Have you ever visited the Holy Land?
L. R. Hay: No, I’ve never been but I’ve often wanted to. It’s a coincidence you should ask that now, as I was recently left some money by a much-loved uncle with a passion for travel, so I’m thinking it might be a fitting tribute to go.
My main research was the Bible itself: not just the story, but the culture and outlook, Old Testament as well as New. Then there was reading around the subject; I’ve come across some fascinating articles and books, including The Jesus Diary, which tries to work out from the Biblical and historical evidence exactly when each Gospel event happened. I watched documentaries and searched maps and photographs for the geographical detail. I talked to friends with a knowledge of the area or Jewish customs, and grabbed onto bits and pieces in sermons that shed light on the world I was exploring, or gave me more ideas.
I hugely enjoyed the element of weaving the Bible narrative in with my characters’ lives. Sometimes it was easy, since we know from the Gospels who else lived in Capernaum, along with Jairus and his daughter (Tammie, in my book). The faith-filled centurion who donated money for a synagogue building must have been giving it to the actual one where Jairus was leader. Several of the disciples would have worshipped there, too; the town was too small to make two synagogues likely. They really did all know each other!
Other times it provided a fun challenge. How exactly was I going to get Tammie and her friends to witness Jesus walking on water, since they weren’t in the boat?
In practical terms I also had an eye on what needed to go into this book, because it would fit better here than in others of the series.
Rebecca: The great thing about your writing was that I really felt as if it helped me to reflect on my own faith and that reading this story brought me closer to God. Your book even helped me get some ideas for a sermon that I was working on while reading it! Did you learn anything while you were writing Tammy’s story? How did it impact your own faith and your own spiritual journey?
L.R. Hay: For it to draw someone closer to God has to be the most important thing it could achieve! And yes, writing it drew me closer too.
I didn’t want it to be a skim-through of the stories. It was important to me that it should bring out truths in a way we might not have seen, for all the fun, jokey tone that runs through much of it and the fact that it’s aimed at children. I think there’s something very powerful about a truth simply told. So to achieve that, I had to go through that process myself.
I tried to imagine myself there, of course, but I also asked God to show me things. I kept thinking back to ways the Old Testament points to Jesus. I spotted a theme that seemed important to the way I was telling the story in this particular book (how sin had separated us from God, like a barrier) then I tried to dig into anything that related to that.
I’m now going through that process of being touched by it once more as I write Joseph’s Boy, about the birth and childhood of Jesus. Describing Mary’s slowly-growing bump and imagining a child’s excitement to be there, witnessing it all – whispering to the baby through her tummy, or hoping to feel him kick – has powerfully brought the Christmas story home to me all over again. That the creator of all things would choose to take on our vulnerable humanity so fully as to become a tiny embryo! A little while ago I finally got to the point where he is born; writing that was an incredible experience.
This whole series feels so much more than I’m capable of – which is always a good place to be, as it makes you aware that you have to rely on God.
Rebecca: What was it like to write about Jesus as a character? How did you manage to reflect Him?
L.R. Hay: It was a scary responsibility! Not so much when I was following the Bible narrative, as I could rely on what he said and did – but the whole point of these books is that they are the Gospels from the children’s point of view. I didn’t feel it was enough to fill in lots of unimportant, made-up events and characters around the edges; if Tammie was going to become a follower and friend of Jesus, I needed to fictionalise conversations between the two of them. I began with the real material and fleshed out the rest by taking inspiration from Bible themes and his known attitudes. We know he liked children to come to him, so that’s a good starting point!
Rebecca: I saw on Twitter that you created a large print copy of Jairus’s Girl to share with a young reader who had sight loss. Would you be willing to share that picture and tell a little bit about that experience? As a person with low vision, I think it’s wonderful that you went the extra mile to share your work with that reader.
Image Description: Images show a homemade teal binder that contains large print text for the book Jairus’s Girl by L.R. Hay
L. R. Hay: A primary school in the UK tweeted that they were struggling to keep up with one of their keen readers. Her sight loss was such that the font had to be 48 point Arial – bigger than an ebook can handle well. They had been printing books out for her, but it was prohibitively expensive in paper and ink. They asked if any authors would be willing to donate a large printout of their book.
L.R. Hay: The story grabbed me. Reading is so important, and any young person who is keen should be encouraged. Thinking of how much I loved it as a child, I can’t imagine what it would be like not having that easy access.
I checked that a Bible-based book would be acceptable; they were happy, so I went ahead. I had to edit it down, as it wouldn’t have fitted in a folder. I squeezed the margins to the edges too, and I often replaced ‘and’ with & (not straightforward, as of course my computer kept wanting to give me words like s& or underst&). I kept guilt-tripping myself as it took months, doing it occasionally in my spare time, but I got there.
When I sent it, I stressed that I didn’t want them to waste their money posting it back – just to recycle the paper if she didn’t want to keep it once she’d read it – but I got a beautiful email saying she was thrilled and would love to keep it as her own book, so it was well worth it.
Rebecca: I see that you have another book coming out entitled Joseph’s Boy. Could you please share a little bit about this upcoming project? Do you have any other projects that you are working on right now?
L. R. Hay: The overall title is ‘The Young Testament’ and the vision is for 5 books eventually, telling the story of Jesus, but with the children and young people as the main characters. I’m balancing all the books at once – weaving strands together, planting things in one book I intend to pay off in another and so on. Some characters’ journeys will take all 5 books to complete. Part of this overview is very planned and detailed, and other connections take me by surprise and explode in my mind as new possibilities. I’m having a great time with it!
It’s quite a logistical task, too. Joseph’s Boy is a respite, comparatively, as the action it covers will only happen in this one book. But once I get back to the adult Jesus I may have to get a spreadsheet going, to make sure I get in as many Gospel events as I possibly can! I’m only half joking.
With regard to other projects – yes, I always have things on the go. I haven’t had much acting work for a while, but there’s interest bubbling in my TV writing. And a very exciting development on the screenwriting front: Jared Harris is to star in a film I’ve co-written! Brave The Dark – a powerful true story set in Pennsylvania in the 1970s/80s. His involvement was announced at the Cannes Film Festival in May, then within weeks Chernobyl started screening and people were talking about it wherever I went. The film industry is notoriously unpredictable, but Brave The Dark is a great project and Jared is of course superb; I’m really praying for it to go ahead. But first on my agenda is Joseph’s Boy!
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