5 Questions: Promised Land Authors Adam Reynolds & Chaz Harris

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5 Quesitons is a series by Steve Duffy –

PROMISED LAND is an LGBT themed children’s book written by Adam Reynolds & Chaz Harris.The authors gained global media attention through a successful Kickstarter campaign to cover the cost of illustrating and printing the first edition.

In Promised Land, a young Prince and a farm boy meet in the forest and their newfound friendship blossoms into love. However, when the Queen re-marries, her sinister new husband seeks control of the Enchanted Forest and the land the farm boy’s family are responsible for protecting.

In a Kingdom where all are considered equal regardless of what they look like or who they love, Promised Land is a brand new fairytale about friendship, responsibility, adventure and love. 

 

SD: Where did the idea come from?

AR: I wanted to tell the type of story I never got to see or read myself growing up. I told Chaz my thoughts and early ideas and we arranged a session to sit down and brainstorm to see if we could come up with a story worth telling. We had it all laid out in post-its in about four hours.

CH: We’ve both come from a background as writers and filmmakers working in short forms like web series and short film. That’s what brought us to the picture book format really because we’re both visual storytellers which I think was a helpful transition to working in this medium.

 

SD: Why did you both want to create this book?

CH: When Adam first mentioned the concept, I was reminded of a story on the Ellen DeGeneres show in 2008 about a gay teenager called Larry King who was shot by another boy in his class after he asked him to be his Valentine. At the time, I remembered feeling so helpless about how you could even begin to change the message so something like that would never happen again. I knew telling this kind of story was important because it was part of the answer to that question. Sadly, the need for it got reinforced with the tragic attack on our community in Orlando and the similar violence and intolerance we’ve seen during the fallout of the 2016 U.S. election. We’ve dedicated the book to the memory of ‘The Pulse 49’ because it happened right in the middle of us working on it.

AR: We wanted to create a story where the sexuality of the characters was not the focus and one where their relationship was not an issue. Our hope is that young people growing up and struggling with their sexuality can look at the characters in our book and see themselves represented. We also hope it may be able to contribute to early acceptance from young people ahead of the time when they may encounter LGBTQ classmates, friends, or relatives later on in their lives.

 

SD: What do you think is the biggest obstacle in the way of LGBTQ equality?

CH: People. People choosing fear and hate, to not value all human beings equally instead of choosing love and acceptance. I think that’s what it comes down to in any case of human inequality, isn’t it?

AR: We’ve had marriage equality for over three years and I think a lot of people believed that meant the battle was over. The truth is that there is still a lot of work to be done and the various reactions to our book highlighted the need for more stories like it.

 

SD: What has been the biggest obstacle in getting the book created?

CH: Money is always the biggest obstacle in any creative pursuit. There’s also prejudice or distorted perceptions though. My favorite is people saying “sex education is not for kids!”. This story is about love, not sex. There is also fear. Fear that a kid’s book about being gay will somehow influence their sexuality. I grew up reading and watching 99.9% heterosexual media and guess what? Still gay. And I live in hope of seeing the day nobody is afraid of it.

 

SD: How do you think your book will help promote acceptance?

CH: I saw a couple of posts on social media during our fundraising campaign that said it all in a sentence really: “I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if a book like this had existed when I was a kid”. I used to watch episodes of Oprah when I was home from school and it was only through seeing LGBTQ people featured on her show that I knew people were gay and what that even was. If you can see yourself represented in media, on a talk show, in a film, on TV, or in a book, it gives you hope, understanding and in some cases, a role model to look up to. When those characters or people have a happy or positive story instead of one that is associated with tragedy, then even better.

AR: Visibility is one of the most important factors in promoting acceptance. Having LGBTQ people and relationships out in the open can help lead to greater acceptance. Allowing children to see LGBTQ people in a loving relationship which is treated and shown in the same way as all the other heterosexual fairytale relationships can hopefully help open the minds of future generations.

 

SD: Why is a book that features LGBTQ characters important for children to be exposed to?

CH: So much of what we see through the media and our parents when we are children forms our opinions and attitudes towards others and, more importantly, our attitudes towards ourselves. I think that lack of representation created intolerance in my peers and meant I’ve not felt that comfortable about being gay. Through a project like this, it sort of feels like trying to fix that younger version of me and be part of a solution that may ensure others won’t have to experience what I did in future.

AR: We felt a story like this where the sexuality of the characters is not the focus would help contribute to that early acceptance from young people ahead of the time when they may encounter LGBTQ classmates, friends or relatives later on their lives.

 

For more information on authors Adam Reynolds & Chaz Harris or to order “Promised Land” visit www.promisedlandstore.com.


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