Chaz Harris & Adam Reynolds
ADAM REYNOLDS is a filmmaker and writer from Wellington, New Zealand. In 2014, he directed the acclaimed short film Home and has since worked as an Editor on award-winning web series End of Term and Lesbian web series Pot Luck. He is currently working as an Editor on an animated children’s television series and on the forthcoming second season of Pot Luck.
CHAZ HARRIS is an award-winning filmmaker and writer originally from the UK where he worked in the development team at Miramax Films before moving to New Zealand in 2006. He is creator of award-winning web shows 101 Dates and End of Term as well as being writer/director of the acclaimed short films The Shoe Box and Broken Glass. He is also Producer on forthcoming anthology feature film Encounters, currently in post-production.
Written by Adam Reynolds & Chaz Harris
Illustrated by Christine Luiten & Bo Moore
What motivated you to write a book(s) that is specifically inclusive of LGBTQ families/issues?
AR: I grew up without any stories that showed me that ‘Happily Ever After’ was possible if I was gay. 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 or a problem to be solved. Our hope is that young people growing up and struggling with their sexuality can look at the characters in our book and see themselves or their parents represented in a positive way. We also hope it may contribute to early acceptance from young people ahead of the time when they may encounter LGBTQ classmates, friends or relatives later in their lives.
CH: When Adam first mentioned the concept to me, I was reminded of a story on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2008 about a gay teenager called Lawrence King who was shot by another boy in his class after asking him to be his Valentine. That story really stayed with me. At the time, I remember feeling so helpless about how to even begin to change the message for young people so that something like wouldn’t happen again. When this project came up, I knew that telling this kind of story was important because it felt like the answer to that question. People talk a lot about the importance of visibility for LGBTQ youth, but it is still sorely lacking in children’s literature and we believe if you don’t see yourself in stories, you don’t see yourself in the world.
What do you personally feel makes a family?
CH: Personally, I feel that family has many different meanings for our community beyond just having kids. There are many of us who cannot find the unconditional love and acceptance we all need from our own blood relatives. However, it is still possible to find that elsewhere. I believe your family are the people in your life who love and accept you unconditionally, and you don’t always need to share the same DNA.
What does ‘equality’ look like to you?
AR: The Kingdom of Valéria, the setting of our story, is a place where all are treated as equal no matter what they look like or who they love.
CH: Since the dictionary definition of ‘Promised Land’ is a place or situation in which someone expects to find ultimate happiness, we imagined that to be a place where all are considered equal. Perhaps something aspirational for the world we currently live in to strive to be more like.
Whose books do you admire and why?
AR: I read a lot of Roald Dahl (Matilda, The BFG and James and the Giant Peach) when I was younger. I also remember at a young age having a large collection of Beatrix Potter books (like The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, Two Bad Mice etc).
CH: We also both love J.K. Rowling’s writing because she engaged a whole generation of young people to read more. We certainly kept that in mind when writing this book as we believe kids are smart and reading with children is more fun if the text is expressive and doesn’t talk down to them. We also knew there would be young adults or teens who need to see representation like this, so we wanted the story to be enjoyable for them as well as children and their parents. My favorite children’s picture book I vividly remember was Benje The Squirrel Who Lost His Tail by Elizabeth Rice. It was a very moving little story about overcoming adversity, I cried every time.
What’s coming up next for you?
CH: We’re also developing a new story we’d like to tell depending on how well this first book does, so watch this space (and spread the word!).
Promised Land is available now in Paperback, e-book and audiobook formats at www.promisedlandstore.com