Biblical Novelists

Biblical novelists tell the stories of the Bible

With permission I have re-blogged this post by Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt. Having stumbled across her post I loved her comments about Biblical novelists. This is just a section of it. The link to the original is at the end. (Confession: I have re-formatted it slightly and added some images but the text is as the original.)

Angela Hunt, one of the Biblical novelists

She asks…

Why do novelists write the stories of the Bible and call them “fiction?” I can give you several reasons

First, the Bible is a big collection of books, and the biblical authors were not novelists. They wrote facts, events, and dates from their perspective as they were moved by the Spirit of God. When they recounted events, however, they tended to write sparely, rather like an artist who does a pencil sketch. They relied on nouns and verbs, using few adjective and sometimes using few names.  Very rarely do they mention supporting characters, and even more rarely do they mention supporting women. We shouldn’t be surprised–they came from patriarchal societies.

Bible. One book, many stories

Biblical Novelists

What a trustworthy biblical novelist does is take the scripture and bring it to realistic life with layers of color and texture and sensory details. We research the historical time period and read dozens of works written in that time period whenever possible, so we can get a feel for how people actually wrote, lived, and spoke. When we encounter conflicting expert opinions, we choose the most logical. We consider human nature, which does not change. People still get angry, frustrated, and depressed. Even biblical characters make awful mistakes, and if the Bible doesn’t avoid recording them, why should a novelist?   Most of all, we keep the scriptural account as our touchstone, taking care not to violate it.  But the parts that spring from our imagination, we freely admit are fiction.

Based on real life

Part of being true to Scripture involves not always crafting the perfect ending. Not every biblical story has an “HEA” (happily ever after) conclusion. I know readers love them, but biblical stories are based on real life, and real life often leaves us sadder, but wiser . . . yet always filled with hope. Because our hope is found in God, who never changes or fails.

Biblical novelists bring the stories to life

Why not forget fiction and read only the Bible? Because the human spirit resonates to STORY.  When I was a little girl, before they had invented children’s church, I had to go into the adult service with my parents. As a four-, five-, and six-year-old, I tended to fidget and often put my head in my mother’s lap to sleep. But whenever the preacher said, “Reminds me of the time when . . .” I sat up, all ears and wide awake.  Why? Because those words signaled the beginning of a STORY, and I loved story. Nearly everyone does.

Jesus used stories to teach His followers–that’s what the parables were.  Through the work of the Spirit, some people caught the true meaning of Jesus’ stories, and others didn’t.

Most of my stories–even the contemporary, non-biblically based novels–are parables. Like onions, there’s an outer layer and several inner layers, and readers will take from it what they were ready to receive.  Some grasp the deeper meaning, others do not. But that’s okay. Their understanding depends on the Spirit.

So why read fiction based on biblical events?

  1. Because a trustworthy author will not violate Scripture.
  2. Because the fictional elements should be logical and based on historical facts.
  3. Because human nature is consistent over time. We often think our problems are unique, and we’re relieved to discover that we aren’t alone. Others have been in similar situations.
  4. Because historical fiction helps us better understand the culture and history of familiar story events.
  5. Because we learn from the lives of other people.
  6. Because God Himself recorded stories, and Jesus taught with them since humans are hard-wired to appreciate story. Who would know that better than the God who created us?

God gave us Scripture, and the doctrine of biblical sufficiency states that the Bible gives us all we need to know about God. But it does not give us all we want to know, and our quest for knowledge is a God-given gift. We yearn to know more, and well-written biblical, historical, and contemporary fiction can meet that need.

So don’t hesitate to open your heart and mind to a well-written biblical novel. You may be surprised to learn a truth you had never before considered.
(Angela Hunt)

I am grateful to Angela Hunt for permission to repost (part of) her post. She has given such great, clear reason for reading Biblical fiction. 

Original post

https://www.angelahuntbooks.com/2018/02/why-biblical-fiction/?fbclid=IwAR0IAVsMdv8rLyoVf5TETruSwjqcDIgXu65KwNX6BGgQtM54v7lXBJc4jYw

 

When I finish the book I am currently reading, I look forward to reading Angela Hunt’s novel, ‘Judah’s Wife’ – you see, not only do I write in this genre, I love reading it too.

Have a wonderful week ahead,

Susan

Where do the books, and novellas come from?

Books

Books and novellas come from the writers’ minds.  I can only tell you about my books and the process of writing them.

If you arrived here via the ‘welcome’ page you would have seen the cover and part of the blurb for the latest novella – ‘No Evil Shall Befall You.’ I change the page for each of the new books and novellas I publish. There is a third novella coming. (Stay tuned.)

My books and writing

Apostle John series, all 5 cover images

I have been asked before about how I write, but that was a long time ago, and now there are more. The Apostle John Series is complete, five books in all. Originally, they were inspired by a detailed series of Bible studies that set me wondering… and researching. Then, as I have seen other authors mention, the characters take over, so, I have to ask if I will ‘allow’ that, or if it takes the book in a different direction. Writers are often asked if they are ‘plotters’ or ‘pantsers.’ In other words, is each book plotted out chapter by chapter, or written by the ‘seat of the author’s pants?’

Mine are a mixture. I know what will happen, and key points on the way to the end, but the bits in between are the result of inspiration, research and sometimes a bit of correction. (The characters have to remain consistent over the book series, and in the case of the first novella, to the way they were in the books in the series.)

Please allow me to explain

After the Thirty Days, by Susan M B Preston

After the Thirty Days is the completing of Esther’s story. This novella picks up some threads from the middle of Hell Shall Not Prevail (before we join John on Patmos.) Her cousin, Judah, heir to their grandfather, ‘Old Simon,’ and the workers in ‘Old Simon’s’ shop are also carry-overs from the series to this novella. All of them needed to be consistent with where they appeared in the books in the series.

No Evil Shall Befall You follows After the Thirty Days – loosely. Simon, son of ‘Old Simon’ returns to Egypt where he has lived for many years to an unpleasant situation he must deal with before he can act on his plans.

No Evil Shall Befall you

In the third, and final, novella, Simon returns to Ephesus.

(Any more at this point would be a ‘spoiler’ and although it is written in my head, it is just over halfway in the manuscript.)

I check everything from the start each time I write.

Making the books authentic

book research

It takes a great deal of research to make the books true to the times. Someone once commented that it would have been better if there had been a kiss in one of the books in the Apostle John Series between a couple whose betrothal was being planned. This would have been totally inaccurate to the time and culture… unless the young woman had been a different ‘type’ of person.

 

I knew this type of information because of extensive research, but my readers do not necessarily have these facts.

This is why I have added ‘Marriage in the 1st Century, AD’ to the ‘Starter pack’ of background information for VIP Readers.

For current VIP Readers a link to download this new PDF will be in the next newsletter, together with ‘Death and Mourning in the 1st Century, AD.’ There is another planned – background to the Egyptian aspects in the second novella. ‘No Evil Shall Befall You.’

Biblical Fiction Books

All the books in the Apostle John Series, as well as the novellas are Biblical fiction. (Spoiler alert – the characters in the novellas are not Christian, but the fiction is Biblical.)

My aim with all of them was, and is, to tell the story of the times. I have been told that through the characters I succeeded and I am grateful to my readers for their feedback.

Remember, you can always ‘pay it forward’ and leave a short review where you bought the book and help other readers make up their minds if it is for them.

Hope you enjoyed the ‘peep behind the scenes’

Till next time,

Susan

Blessing of Christian Historical Fiction

Potter and the clay

Whether Biblical Fiction or Christian Historical fiction is an ‘Ugly Truth’ or a ‘Blessing’ is up to each reader to decide. It is a personal choice.

The title of this weeks post in the series is ‘The Blessing…’

I have been greatly encouraged by the response of the named authors in last week’s post on Christian, Historical fiction. As I mentioned in the first post in this series, some of the writers on my list are more in the category of Biblical fiction, than Christian Historical Fiction. Still, I wonder how many of us – without deep study are aware of how much ‘New Testament’ principles are in what we refer to as the ‘Old Testament.’

Biblical Fiction or Christian Fiction?

Bible. One book, many stories

I am inclined to believe that the Bible is one book with two testaments as some of my studies revealed. This seems to be confirmed by Jesus Himself.

“You pore over the Scriptures because you presume that by them you possess eternal life. These are the very words that testify about Me,” 
John 5:39 Berean Study Bible.

 

For myself, I learn a lot from Biblical fiction writers such as Lynn Austin, Mesu Andrews and Jill Eileen Smith… mainly because the encourage me to see people or events in the Old Testament through different eyes… fresh eyes. I will never forget living through the construction of what is known as ‘Hezekiah’s tunnel’ – something that is easily read over in Scripture.
But I cannot just focus on the books of the aforementioned authors – all the writers who are skilled, and work hard with their research really do open the Bible to being more than stories… but being about people, the culture and the times.

Biblical fiction bears fruit

Present and past -

Last Friday I had the pleasure of speaking to a very welcoming church group. It was an enjoyable experience… and also illuminating. Another speaker, a member of their congregation shared his experience of living in Holland under Nazi rule. What he said was not fiction… but given that he was talking of events 73 years ago, it was historical. As I listened to his tale of living without electricity, gas, transport other than walking – my mind wandered to the number of times writing my book series where I had wished Naomi had a ‘proper’ cooker, or some of the key characters had even a landline telephone. The ‘perils’ of writing historical fiction, be it Christian or non-Christian remain the same… the lives of the characters, and their language was different to ours today.

The male speaker I referred to earlier certainly had the setting correct… well, he should, he lived through it. He talked about the culture of evening soirees where people visited each other and had musical evenings. I have seen this type of culture in good quality films of the period. This man was a walking historical experience.

An 'ugly' bit...

I recently gave up on a ‘Christian, Historical Fiction’ book because the main character seemed to have been plucked from modern times, stuck in a Biblical setting… and was so out-of-character with the mores of the time and culture… I could read no further.

Ugly bit over!

The gifted ones.

The authors I mentioned… and the others I read… clearly did not live through the events they write about. However, they have the gifting and determination to use the gifts to help the rest of us to ‘see’ the events – and people they write about.

These are the ones who open a window – or a door to Biblical fiction and help us discover the people.

Thank YOU!

Many thanks to those of you who completed the survey. Interestingly, there seems to be a fairly even split between readers who like Old Testament fiction and Christian Historical Fiction. The survey closes on the 5th July, so there is still time to have your say. Remember, it is anonymous, has six short questions, most of them multi-choice so if you like more than one item you can tick (check) more than one… or them all.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CFGD7KV

I will share the results with you, naturally.

Next week's guest...

Next week we have the privilege of hearing from Carol Ashby… who is a Christian, Historical Fiction writer. Not to be confused with the English actress Carol Ashby… this Carol Ashby is a retired scientist, with a passion for getting the details right.

Her novel, Forgiven, explores… well, I will leave it to you to find out next week. (I am often upbraided for giving ‘spoilers’ – so I am turning over a new leaf.)

Not a spoiler but – it is a fascinating story

Cover of Forgiven

As for this week’s featured image…
‘I am the potter, you are the clay’ seems appropriate to Christian/Biblical Historical Fiction writers. (Based on Isaiah 64:8)

Tread softly…

Susan

PS
Another link to the survey
                               https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CFGD7KV