Paul Kerensa Interview
19th June 2020
With his latest book soon to be published, Paul Kerensa is the main children's author featured in our July magazine. We thought we'd ask him a few questions to get a peek behind the scenes of writing fun biblically-based books.Why did you choose to include Deborah in your series of picture books? What was it about her story that inspired you?
Well it was certainly about time we told a female story! My daughter’s been crying out for one - and my son too. Deborah’s a great role model - encouraging, inspiring, leading the right way, and utterly godly. Her story is brief but fascinating and ought to be better known. It fits perfectly with the series of books, where we’re finding modern twists for old tales. As a biblical judge, she’s not so much like today's law court judges, but seemed more and more like a talent show judge the more I read it! She gives others the limelight - like Barak in this story - but she deserves to come out from the wings herself and take a bow.
Deborah's story isn't the most child-friendly from an initial look. How do you approach more difficult themes in a way that 3-5 year olds will understand?
The original’s a bit military! The Battle of the Bands idea seemed a nice way to make it fun and accessible. Young children might be (hopefully) less familiar with wars, but more and more know about talent shows, with even the most junior of schools hosting ‘[insert school name here]’s Got Talent’ events. I thought it a good way to tell a story with jeopardy, but without the peril factor. Keep it fun! Even Jael’s peg to the temple gets a passing reference, but we’ve completely changed the meaning! It seemed safest...
Can you tell us more about your creative process when writing children's books?
First up, I have to applaud the fab illustrators. The Pope twins do such brilliant work on this series, and it’s their imagery that leaps off the page. I try and come up with a nice idea that works for the publishers and the illustrators - something with a great biblical character, but that can have a fun modern twist. In this series, we’ve put Noah in a car park, Moses on the Exodus Express train, and Joseph missed his bus. Then it’s about staying true to the story, trying out some fun rhymes - and testing out version after version on my kids. Bedtime stories = my focus group!
What's been most rewarding for you in writing this picture book series?
As a comedian, I’m used to instant feedback: a laugh. With book-writing, it took a while to get used to the lack of that. But when months/years later someone says that they love a book, that’s just amazing. I blush! As lockdown started, presenter/pop star JB Gill shared an Instagram video where he’d selected a favourite of his family's books to read - and it was my book, Noah’s Car Park Ark. I’m glad if ANYONE shares that they’ve read it to their children - pop star or not! As a pop star from a talent show, I wonder what he’ll make of Judge Deb and the Battle of the Bands. Might bring back some memories.
Where would you like the series to go next?
Ah that’d be telling. When my brain tells me, I’ll let you know. It’ll include someone biblical and something modern. Maybe 'Abraham and iSaac' but I don’t think Apple would give us the rights…
Paul Kerensa's books can be found here, and Judge Deb is available now to pre-order: https://www.aslanchristianbooks.com/childrens/paul-kerensa/