Interview with Author L R Hay
L R Hay
I am thrilled to have interviewed author L R Hay, who shared with us details of her writing life, her book ‘Joseph’s Boy‘, which was released on 11th December 2019, and answered a few fun questions. This post contains affiliate links.
Lynn Robertson Hay (L R Hay) has a passion for storytelling – acting and writing since she was a child, and now professionally for over thirty years. Her writing covers TV, film, audio and theatre, winning an award from the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain with one script.
As an actor Lynn has played parts ranging from Lady Macbeth to Mole and Puck to Miss Prism. Within the last few years she’s been seen wielding a rolling pin as Flo Capp in ANDY CAPP – THE MUSICAL, made her West End debut understudying the mighty Stockard Channing in APOLOGIA and appeared in crime drama UNFORGOTTEN for ITV.
1) Where did the inspiration for your book come from?
Way WAY back, when I started writing Jairus’s Girl in the late 80s, I intended the series to be 2 books about the adult life of Jesus from the point of view of the kids who were there, and a final one taking my child protagonists into young adulthood, showing what happened next. But even then, I had a feeling that I could also have a prequel, covering the birth of Jesus from a child’s perspective, if I made his brother James an older stepbrother.
When I eventually came to publish, someone suggested I should write a book about the outsiders and Jesus. It hit me that this would make 4 books about the life of Jesus – like the 4 Gospels in the Bible – and then the later book, like Acts. And so the idea behind the Young Testament series was complete.
Having young Jamie as main character works brilliantly as an arc, since when grown up he opposed Jesus and didn’t believe in him – yet ended up leading the Jerusalem church! That’s quite a turnaround. It gave me scope to make him pretty grumpy as a child – though people find him endearing too!
2) How did you plan out the plot?
It was in my head. Makes for quite a crowded space! Especially as I also have a view to the rest of the series. I had the basic structure of the New Testament Christmas narrative, of course, but that’s only a few pages. It was great fun fleshing out the details and weaving it all together. How can I get the kids to witness various events? Who would be the most appropriate character(s) to fill Jamie in on the backstory of prophecies and expectations? What characters will I need later in the series, who I could seed in here? (A little girl we meet in Joseph’s Boy will be the parent in the title of book 4 – and 2 lads will also grow up to have their significant Bible moment).
Lots of research, too, about history, geography, culture etc. And, above all, how can I make it fun and accessible to everybody?
3) When did you choose the title for your book?
Right from the start, I had thought of calling the first book I wrote Jairus’s Girl – because we always think of that person as Jairus’s daughter, so it gives an informal, modern twist. I also like that it subverts expectations. We’re used to thinking of the adults in the stories, but when we get into the story, they are only supporting roles.
So the format of the titles was clear. This book is Joseph’s Boy because, to begin with, it’s only Jamie and his dad, Joseph. It doesn’t take too long for them to meet a lovely young woman called Mary, though – and Jamie thinks it would be very good to get his dad to marry her.
4) How did you come up with the names for your characters?
Some names are in the Bible account already but I still had plenty of scope! The little girl turns up later in the Bible as another Mary, but there are way too many Bible Mary’s, so I called her the Hebrew version – Miriam.
For the rest, I have a little tradition of naming characters after my support team: graphic designers, editors and proof readers, IT support and those who read and give me feedback from early on – including quite a few children.
Some modern names are tricky to fit into an ancient context, so I made a joke of pretending they were the names of Jesus’s sisters!
I even managed, tongue-in-cheek, to reference a person called LaToyah, because someone asked me to name a character after their cat (and, yes, I actually said that in the text!)
5) Can you give us a hint to any sections that you removed?
I always edit a lot, but there’s very little of importance I actually dropped. I did originally have Jamie present in the Temple for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, but it felt too similar to other scenes. I decided to keep that back and cover it with the main character of book 4. More balanced that way, I think.
6) What made you choose this genre?
I’ve always loved children’s books, especially for the 8-12 age group. I still read them today – old favourites and unfamiliar, new books. I write many genres with my screen, audio and theatre plays, but this is my natural fit for books.
7) How long did it take you to complete your book?
Four years! Heck. And That Woman’s Girl, which is coming out very soon, took four years too.
I am trying to be quicker, honest. There’s just so much else to be done, including writing commissions with their deadlines. Plus the research takes some time. Research is a fascinating but notorious rabbit hole to fall down, but a fair amount is useful for the other books. Trivial info is never wasted!
8) Can you describe your book in three words?
Adventurous First Christmas
9) What’s the hardest part of being a writer?
It’s frustrating, having all these stories I want to tell and not being able to get them out there. I have scripts going back 30 years, which I care about passionately and would love to share – but, for all my efforts, I can’t get a producer. Even with my books, which do exist in a form people can access, it’s hard to get the word out.
But I’m very lucky that so much of my work has been produced. I’ve had over 30 professional productions of my theatre adaptations, plus 6 episodes of DOCTORS for BBC1. And a co-written screenplay has been filmed with Jared Harris and Nicholas Hamilton. I’m hoping it will be released before too long! There’s nothing like it, that feeling when others read or watch your story.
10) Why should our readers pick your book up?
I hope they’d find it fun, with a rollercoaster of emotions – laughter, excitement, danger, wonder and a few tears. And it’s Christmas!!! Who doesn’t want smelly shepherds, snooty camels and a sky full of angels?
Publisher – Salted Lightly
Pages – 219
Release Date – 11th December 2019
ISBN 13 – 978-1916077027
Format – ebook, paperback
Inspiring, adventurous, funny and moving kids’-eye view of the first Christmas – aimed at 8-12s, sneakily enjoyed by adults!
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 book of The Young Testament, a fun, accessible series of Middle Grade novels on the Jesus story, with the children as the main characters.
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1) Do you have a writing buddy (i.e. a pet)?
Sadly not. I wish our lovely African Grey, Jinty, was still alive. A parrot is a perfect writing companion – no walking on the keyboard, and he could perhaps have supplied the odd word or phrase 😉
2) Do you have any writing quirks?
I like to reward myself with little treats when I’ve been writing for a while – cherries, blueberries, raspberries, coffee (iced, if it’s hot) or biscuits. Sometimes I reward myself in advance – big mistake, as I then want another reward after 2 or 3 hours of writing!
3) Where do you write?
I find a desktop computer the most comfortable place to work, but I love to take my laptop and write outside when I can. Even on my tiny balcony – but even more so in beautiful surroundings. It’s another treat.
I remember writing the scene in Joseph’s Boy where the sky rips open and fiery angels flood through, filling the sky, at the moment when Jesus is born. Hard to imagine anything more Christmassy – and I was sitting on the café terrace of a stately home, in blazing August sunshine!
4) Your book has been made into a movie, you’ve been offered a cameo role, what will you be doing?
I’d love to play the flustered Bethlehem innkeeper. She’s comedically over-talkative and overwhelmed by the huge influx of guests, as her grandad gets swamped under a heap of travellers’ cloaks. When I did lockdown Zoom readings, the children demanded that we had a party for the last session, with a quiz about the books and everyone dressing up as a character from them. Naturally, I was the innkeeper!
5) A talking owl has just finished reading your book, what’s the first thing he says to you?
“Toooo hoooo hooooooooo many wise men in this Christmas story. Where are the wise birds??”
A big thank you to L R Hay for sharing her writing life with us and for a wonderful interview.