Welcome, J. A. What has drawn you to writing for children?
I wrote these books originally for my own four children! They were avid readers and I wanted them to have quality literature that reflected their world. I think that many of my own favorite books—books that really grasped the nuances of the essentials of our world (like CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien’s epics)—were aimed at young people. If you can put down a good story with meaning for 9-15 year olds, that gets at the core of human thought.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
If quirky is defined as unconventional, then I’d say leaving
24 years ago to move with an 8-month-old baby to a place with an unwritten language
and one other doctor for a couple hundred thousand people. We’ve lived in East
Africa ever since, through war and ebola, raised four kids of our own and been
deeply involved in the lives of a couple dozen more, practiced medicine on the
edge, climbed the three highest mountains on this continent and loved our life.
I have a dear friend and her husband who are missionaries in
. They’ve been in a
couple other African countries, too. When did you first discover that you were
a writer? Mozambique
I always had an inner drive to put ideas into words. In grade school and high school, I had encouraging English teachers, and my mom, who made me believe I could write things worth reading. After medical training when we moved to
I started writing letters to communicate our stories to others, which evolved
into a blog (http://paradoxuganda.blogspot.co.ke).
When people read and respond, then I suppose I feel like a writer.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I read a lot of fiction, and particularly enjoy books set in the medieval time period, which seems very relevant to where we live and work. My favorite genre in books and movies I call “dark and redemptive” which is how I see the world. Post-apocalyptic adventures, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy all interest me. I also read a fair bit of non-fiction on the theological and medical sides.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
There are four Rwendigo Tales; A Forest, A Flood, and an Unlikely Star is the third so there is one more that is not yet published. I hope readers will buy enough to inspire the publisher to continue through the series! I have one more humorous unpublished children’s book, and one very long true-story book of our first two decades in
that needs a lot of editing.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of, besides family?
Seeing the young doctors we teach and mentor learn to save lives, seeing patients healed, seeing resurrection in real-time over many years.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
My favorite is the Okapi, which is graceful and elusive and lives in the forests of
However it could be a little lonely, so my other favorite is the warthog which
pairs for life, raises the cutest little pigs, and always seems to be perkily
praying or eating.
What is your favorite food?
We have built wood-fired pizza ovens where we have lived (one in
Uganda, one in Kenya, and one in West Virginia) and I love making gourmet
pizzas outdoors. It’s a great way to host a large party.
Is it hard to break into the children’s market?
YES, it is hard to get out of the small circles of people I know and am connected to. My publisher is a small one as well. I believe in the quality and relevance of my books though, and as a 9-year-old fan who was visiting said to me this week, “Maybe your books will be more famous after you die.” Good point.
What advice would you give to an author wanting to break into that market?
I think I need the advice, rather than giving it. But I would say to keep living and writing and doing the best you can, and see where that takes you.
What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
This book introduces young readers to realities that are pervasive around our world, in a way that is hopeful and positive. It is important for kids to read a variety of stories to develop empathy and to have a framework and tools to make sense of what they will inevitably encounter. Plus it’s just a plain good, entertaining story.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My blog http://paradoxuganda.blogspot.co.ke/ tells about our life as doctors in
Thank you, J. A., for sharing this book with us. Two of our dear friends have helped establish and run a ministry to thrown-away teens in
. They’re in the States right
now, but are going back in December. Kenya
Readers, here’s a link to the book.A Forest, a Flood, and an Unlikely Star (Rwendigo Tales)
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