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 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.

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

Trials are par for the course

Trials come in relationships

Par for the course… why? If we are trying to live by faith why do we have trials?  

On this subject, I came across a video clip on the site of someone who followed my older blog. It was an interesting song. ‘Before the morning’ (I will link to the clip at the end.)

It begins with questions about why ‘you’ are suffering if there is a loving God Who cares. Questions like this are quite common.

rose garden

Remember the old song “I never promised you a rose garden’? Well God does not promise us a life without pain and trials if we accept the sacrifice His Son made for us.

Trials never end – while we are alive.

As it was in the beginning of our faith…

  • In Hold the Faith, book one of the Apostle John series, Benjamin faced a faith-testing trial. Ours trials are different to those of the fictional characters, but some of ours are ‘faith-testing’ too.
  • In The Light of Truth, book three, I wrote about the trials of a background character who has moved to the foreground. Then someone who left in book two, Grow in Grace, made a re-entry in this third book.
    Here things are moving toward another arrest of the Apostle John.
  • In book four, Keep the Flame, one of my favorite characters dies.
  • Book 5, Hell Shall Not Prevail, completes the series, and it was not the end of trials.

The books are fiction but the trials and challenges are similar to those we face.

Apostle John series, all 5 cover images

So why am I talking about these books? Why mention the song? Because, although my book series is fiction, my primary resource book has been the Bible, and in writing this series I have learnt a great deal about why things happen.

Take for example Jesus’ words...

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Many people are told that because Jesus said “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world’, that He has done it all for us. Not so.

Trials did not stop with Jesus’ resurrection

Look at the lives of those first disciples… only John survived into old age. The others, according to legend, were all martyred. Also, according to legend, John was put in boiling oil. That does not sound like ‘Jesus did it all’ to me.

And what about these scriptures...

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
James 1:2

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials
1Peter 1:6

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12

These writers, who were Apostles, make it clear that we will have trials, and as we plod through them, our faith and trust in our Saviour grows.

Have you read this one?

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
James 1: 3, 4

The trust in His Father that Jesus had to exercise must have been enormous, and another scripture says that He learned obedience through the things He suffered. (Heb 5: 8)

Jesus was schemed against all throughout His ministry. He must have been one of the loneliest, most lied about, most misunderstood person who ever lived. Not to mention the most cruelly punished. He was scourged, mocked and crucified.

plotting against Jesus

Our trials

never leave you quote

Although what Jesus and the early Christians went through makes what we go through seem ‘mild’ by comparison, our trials are horrendous to us.

Sometimes all we can do is ask God for help…

and try to recognise the help when it is given.

You might enjoy this song if you are going through a painful trial…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=New8i_eX3x8

Just thinking again,

Susan

Hell Shall Not Prevail is finished… but

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

As often happens a minor waking in the night, becomes the end of sleeping.

Why?

Because my brain wakes up and clicks into gear.

Hell Shall Not Prevail is finished - but...

at four am it occurred to me there were more stories waiting to be told.

Although Hell Shall Not Prevail is finished, not edited yet, but finished… I could think of three ‘novella’ type stories rising out of this last book in the Apostle John Series.

Therefore, rather than start the new series (on a different subject) just yet, I am thinking of picking up the stories of three of the characters and giving them a life beyond the final book in the Apostle John series.

Although I did not like ALL of the characters… 

  • Each served a purpose
  • Each was necessary
  • I ‘lived in the skin’ of each of them for a while.

 

Hell Shall Not Prevail cover option 1

I know the possibilities of their lives after Hell Shall Not Prevail. 

However, their lives went in different directions and it was not possible to continue this in Hell Shall Not Prevail.

 

Look out for more in the Apostle John series

So, look out for news on these novellas…

  1. Esther’s story – which involves some of the other characters but focuses on her future.
  2. Giannis’ story. Is there hope for him? Will there be a new love?
  3. Naomi. (Cannot say where this goes without it being a ‘spoiler’ for events in Hell Shall Not Prevail.)

All these characters have had a role in the series since book 1 Hold the Faith… but deserve a life after

Must not say anymore for the present.

 

Btw – Did you know the eBook version of Hold the Faith is free on Amazon? 

Use the link on the book page. Scroll down and click the ‘Buy on Amazon link
https://www.susanprestonauthor.com/series-overview/hold-the-faith/

Just sharing ….

Susan

P.S

If you want to be first to know about these new novellas, sign up for the VIP Reader’s group

Christian Historical Fiction Author, Carol Ashby

Carol Ashby website image
Carol Ashby, author

This week please welcome Carol Ashby to the blog.

Welcome Carol, and thank you for agreeing to tell us about Carol Ashby, author. It might interest readers to know that the ‘featured image’ on this blog is from Carol’s website and provided by Walters Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

Carol’s novels are set in the time of the Roman Empire. A little later in time than the Apostle John series, but about people living with the challenge of death for their faith.

A little of my history will put how I write in perspective.

I have a Ph.D. in chemistry and worked in research for many years. You could say I’ve been a professional writer almost all my life since being a scientist means writing many technical journal articles about your research. That background makes me obsessive for getting the details of my time period correct. It also equips me to pull information from books by history professors and use it to make my stories as historically accurate as I possibly can.

Most historical fiction writers try hard to get their history right, but some time periods are easier than others. Fortunately, the Roman Empire has been a popular topic for a long time, and there’s lots of information available. I now have more than six dozen books by experts in Roman history. (Yes, I’m a bookaholic, but what writer isn’t?)

To make my characters behave like “real” people true to their own time, I study everyday things like normal household activities, food preparation, clothing and uniforms, and medical practice in the Roman world. It can be very dangerous to be in my novels, and I actually use the translation of the 8 volumes on Roman medicine written by Celsus during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius.

Sketch of Roman man in toga

We history buffs love sharing the details of our favorite eras. I’ve turned my research into a Roman history website. You will find the link at the end of the post.

 I try to add something new every week. Some topics include slavery, adoption, and why you’d really want to be a Roman citizen if you were charged with a crime. I’m working on an article on medicine right now.

Did you know the Romans did cataract surgery?

Books by Carol Ashby

The novels of the Light in the Empire series are set in different provinces of the Roman empire at its peak, between AD 114 and 122.

Two are published now, and four more will be releasing during the next two years.

The first, Forgiven, is set in Judea where a family of Messianic Jews whose son was killed by a Roman soldier care for an injured Roman officer after his own brother tries to murder him to inherit more of the family fortune

The second, Blind Ambition, is set in Germania where a German Christian risks having her whole family executed for their faith when she finds a Roman officer left for dead by robbers and takes her enemy home to care for him.

These stories are about people who struggle to live out their love for Jesus when the desires of their hearts or the demands of their culture are pulling them in another direction. Sound like a contemporary problem?

If your own experience is anything like mine, I bet you’ve experienced that struggle yourself.

But there’s nothing more exhilarating than seeing a friend you care about who didn’t even have God on her/his radar begin to ask questions about life and eternity. That’s a unifying theme in all my novels. Each one is a story of hope about human love and spiritual transformation, a story about how our faithfulness can inspire another to open his or her heart to God.

What got me started writing Roman?

From the safety of living the US, I’ve been watching and praying for my Christian brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who risk everything and sometimes pay the ultimate price when they stay true to the faith. I couldn’t miss the parallel between their lives and those of early Christians during the time of Roman persecution. A few months before I retired, God put it on my heart to start writing stories about people living their faith in dangerous times.

As a follower of Jesus working as a scientist, I’ve had many opportunities to share with my friends why I believe. It’s those years of honest conversation with friends and colleagues that guide how my characters approach their lives. The believers know why they believe, and it isn’t just because they grew up in a culture influenced by Christian teaching. My characters who are not Christians at the beginning of each story ask the same questions I’ve been asked by friends. They wrestle with the intellectual and emotional questions that confront them when they see how a genuine believer lives out what Jesus taught in a time when that might get them executed by the Roman state.

When I talk with someone about my faith, it has nothing to do with trying to prove I’m right and they’re wrong. It’s because I want to share the most wonderful thing any human can experience. It’s because I’ve seen how God loves me more than I can even imagine, even though I can never be good enough on my own to earn the right to be in the presence of all that’s perfect and holy. He loves me enough to take human form and be tortured to death on a Roman cross for my sin to give me an escape route from the death I deserve to life with Him.

God isn’t some fairytale figure made up to comfort or scare us.

If that were the case, my scientific training would have “cured” me of belief before I even got my undergraduate degree. But it was my first biochemistry class that guaranteed I would believe in God, whether it was culturally popular or not.

Paper and pencil cartoon

Give me 5 minutes with paper and pencil, and I can show you some simple facts of molecular biology and the easy math that lets you calculate the probability of getting heads or tails when you flip a coin. That’s all I need to prove it’s statistically impossible for life to have accidentally started. Once the math and science convince you there was a designer, how could a person not start asking questions about who that designer is, does he want you to know him, and what is he willing to do so you can?

My stories are about selfish ambition, envy, greed, hatred, love, painful loss, and world-view transformation set in the Roman world at the peak of the Empire. But nothing has really changed between then and now except our technology. God still loves us and wants a loving relationship with each of us. The mental and emotional struggle that can keep someone from accepting that hasn’t changed one bit in 2000 years.

I love writing stories where someone struggles through the swamp in the valley to reach the bright sunshine of the mountaintop beyond. The beauty of writing historical fiction is having a setting that’s enough different from our own daily experience that it’s easier to set aside our cultural conditioning to consider what we believe and how we might want to live as we enjoy a compelling story

Carol, thank you so much for sharing your writing, and yourself.

It has been an honor and a privilege to hear from you.

Now… if you want to explore Carol’s website and enjoy the benefit of her research here is the link to get there. (You will find links to buy her books there also.)

http://www.carolashby.com

Enjoy,

Susan