My book club had the pleasure of reading The Heavens Before , which tells the story of the Great Flood, for our March discussion. Author of The Genesis Trilogy, Kacy Barnett-Gramckow , graciously answered our questions in this interview. Here are Kacy’s fascinating thoughts:~
Please share some of your writing/publishing journey with us .
KACY: As a child, I had all the “symptoms” of becoming a writer—reading everything in sight, creating huge, endless plots and characters in my little brain, scribbling in journals, and studying people wherever I went. However, it simply never occurred to me that I should write. Writers, I believed, weren’t normal (and they wore scratchy turtleneck sweaters and glasses; I refused.) When my “normal” sister-in-law, Kathi Macias, became an editor/writer, I changed my mind. I forced her to read some of my scribbles and she retaliated by twisting my arm until I wrote devotionals for some of her anthologies. That was in 1986-87. I’ve been composing devotionals and novels ever since.
Who encouraged you or what made you decide to write a novel and seek its publication?
KACY: A fit of insanity? Actually, I began to write a novel for my own amusement—an historical medieval plot. I abandoned it when I felt the Lord leaning on me spiritually, urging me to write The Heavens Before. Despite this spiritual urging, I retreated, fearing the research would be too much. After my husband and my mother insisted that I must write about the “first world,” I gave in. I wrote the prologue within 15 minutes. Jerry, my husband, read it and said, “Keep going.” My sister-in-law read it the following day and demanded a chapter each week until the novel was finished six months later. Writing was the easy part: The difficult part has been patience, because The Heavens Before wasn’t published until six years after I had typed the final page.
Why Christian fiction?
KACY: So much of what I’ve read in secular fiction is excessively violent, and so near-pornographic that I detest reading it. (I’ve thrown some very expensive books into the garbage because I couldn’t finish reading them and I didn’t want to inflict them upon anyone else.) More important, however, Christian Fiction addresses the spiritual side of humanity and offers genuine hope in the love of our Lord.
What project or book are you working on now?
KACY: My teenager! We are home-schooling him and because I also have a “day job” there’s been very little time left in recent months for writing. I have written a few devotionals which have been accepted by editors recently, but nothing else.
Will we see more Biblical novels from you?
KACY: I finished a Biblical novel (Matthew 27:52) a year ago. My agent and I hope that it will find a home with the right publisher sometime this year. As the Lord wills.
How long does it take you to write a book?
KACY: Usually about six months. Once I start a book, I try to finish one chapter each week.
On The Heavens Before….
What made you first decide to write this book?
KACY: While my husband and I were researching the Evolution/Creationism debate with our sons, I became fascinated with the Genesis Flood and all the theories presented concerning the pre-flood world. My sons discussed living in a world with dinosaurs—typical boy talk—and I laughed at their imagination briefly. Then I wondered, “What WOULD it be like?” And, as I mentioned before, I could feel the Lord leaning upon me spiritually. He wouldn’t take “no” for an answer; He even enlisted my dear mother to sternly intercede—which she had never done with any of my previous writing projects.
What kinds of research did you undertake for the trilogy?
KACY: I researched goldsmithing, geology, human DNA for migration patterns, basket weaving, ancient foods, agriculture, flood myths from different cultures, ancient archaeology, ancient medicines, poisons, dinosaurs, Hebrew legends and histories, word origins . . . I know there’s more, but I’d have to start digging into my bookshelves and notes to remember them all.
I enjoyed the detail that you gave to their day to day lives, eg. the foods they ate. Was this part of the ‘fiction’ of the story, or did you research what the people would have eaten in those days?
KACY: I researched the various foods found by archaeologists in their “digs” at the earliest cities, also from Sumerian translations, and from the Bible. The secular sources agree very well with scripture, of course!
Most of the names mentioned in your book vary from the Bible. How did you come to the way they were either spelled, or the complete change of these names? /Did you make up all the character names and meanings or did you source them from somewhere?
KACY: With the exception of Iltani—which is an ancient Babylonian name that I found appealing—all the names in the Genesis Trilogy can be found in Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon. I loved using the lexicon as a resource. Each name is close to it’s Hebrew pronunciation, not our Anglo translations. “Noah” means pleasant in Hebrew, while “Noakh” is actually the word for comfort as Leh’-mek, Noakh’s father, decreed.
I am greatly intrigued on where you found the character Annah from and how you managed to relate the horrible treatment she received at the hands of her family.
KACY: Annah’s physical description is derived from a TIME magazine article I read many years ago. Scientists merged DNA traits from almost every nationality and the “Total DNA” result was portrayed as a lovely young woman with brown skin, brown eyes, and straight dark hair, who the scientists named Eve. I remembered “Eve” when I described Annah. As far as the horrible treatment Annah received at the hands of her family, I’ve never suffered physical abuse from anyone in my family, but I have heard others talk about their own experiences (which hurt just to hear them.) I also experienced a jaw so badly bruised and swollen from surgery that I couldn’t open my mouth—causing a young man to ask me, “Hey, girl, who chopped [struck] your jaw?” In addition, I have been thrown from a horse and a bicycle, I have had a knife held to my throat by a co-worker while I was quietly eating lunch, and I have suffered from my own clumsiness in general, so I was able to recall my own miseries. The emotional aspect of Annah’s abuse was more difficult. I had to keep reminding myself that all humans in that era were evil—ALL the time—according to scripture.
How close is the finished book to the original concept?
KACY: Amazingly, except for some trimming for manuscript length, the whole Trilogy is very close to what my imagination and my research suggested. I do praise the Lord for His insistence and inspiration. (I’m just a scribe.)
Why did you decide to make the three wives different in their belief of (faith in) ‘The Most High’ and ‘The Pen’?
KACY: I felt that each young woman in The Heavens Before should have her own perspective and a differing view of the Most High, and would, therefore, have differing levels of resistance to accepting the prophesied destruction, as well as the Lord’s promises. As Annah, Ghinnah, and Tirtsah each realized her own guilt in the fallen world, then the Lord’s love and mercy was portrayed more fully—a joy!
Where did you get your ‘ideas’ of what life might have been like pre-flood?
KACY: Many physical descriptions of the plants and animals in the first world are derived from the fossil record and from research by scientists—both secular and Christian. The pre-Flood sky, for example, has been written about by many different creationists with many different theories. I debated its appearance—and the presence of a “firmament” for weeks. I believe the sky was probably blue, as we see it today, but there were enough differing opinions that I felt comfortable with portraying an exotic otherworldly pink sky.
On Matters Personal….
Do you read Christian fiction yourself? If so, some favourite authors or books both Christian and/or secular?
KACY: Yes! In the past year I’ve read Liz Curtis Higgs, Donita K. Paul, Francine Rivers, Julie Carobini, and Karen Hancock. And Tracy Groot’s Madman.
What are you reading at the moment?
KACY: Psalms. (I confess, I’m always turning to Psalms before sleep.) I’m actually in between books right now. Last night I finished Heart Full of Lies by Ann Rule, which was depressing but a good character study. Tonight, I will probably search my shelves for something lighter. I love biographies! I am also looking forward to reading Karen Hancock’s Return of the Guardian King.
Where is your favourite place to read a book?
KACY: At night, in bed with a heap of pillows and my flowered quilt.
Who inspires you?
KACY: The Lord! And my family. (Imagine hearts drawn all over this answer.)
Please share some of your faith journey.
KACY: The day I was born (much too early) I had a Baptist chaplain praying for my life, and a Catholic priest baptizing me. I was raised in the Catholic church—and loved the faith of my childhood—but I committed myself to the Lord and became a Baptist in my twenties after much study and deliberation. About two years ago, my mother told me about the Baptist chaplain who had consoled her and stood outside the delivery room door until after I was born, then sent a telegram to my father who was at sea. I do wonder what that unknown chaplain prayed!
Any last words….
KACY: Thank you all for your time; I do wish I could be visiting with you now, answering your questions in person. Rel, thank you for inviting me—I’ve enjoyed this interview. Love and blessings.
Thank you Kacy for a glimpse into your world and for the effort required to write a novel based on a Biblical event. We do hope you write more exceptional novels just likeThe Genesis Trilogy!
Click on the following titles to learn more about The Heavens Before, He Who Lifts The Skies and A Crown in the Stars.