Check out what she had to say!
What inspired you to write books about Israel?
I’ve always been fascinated by Israel, my grandmother was a huge supporter of the Jewish people, but it wasn’t until I began studying the roots of my faith and digging into the history and culture of the Old Testament that I really got excited about writing stories that take place in the Promised Land.
Why are your books based on the Old Testament rather than the New? It’s refreshing to see a fresh take on the stories of the Old Testament and to read the correct usage of God’s names!
Mostly because I feel that the Old Testament has a bad rap. I think many Christians grew up with either the flannel-graph, sanitized version of these ancient stories that have disconnected them from their foundational importance, or erroneous teaching that the all-righteous and terrifyingly holy God of the Old Testament is different from the loving, graceful, merciful God of the New Testament. Through my stories, I hope that readers can see that God of the Bible is as much holy and just as He is loving and merciful and that our Messiah is between the lines on every single page, from Genesis to Revelations. And yes, that His name is YHVH and that the Bible is a Hebrew document, through and through.
How long does it take you to research the facts before you start writing your books?
When I first started Counted with the Stars I did a lot of research before I started, but now that I have a base of knowledge to draw from I tend to do the Biblical research before, but the bulk of discovery as I go along. For instance, if I decide I am writing about a bronze-smith (next book!), I head over to YouTube and watch videos about how to make a bronze dagger in a mud-brick forge and then scour the internet for any pertinent information about ancient metalsmithing and weapons. Research is one of the coolest parts of my job as a historical writer—although I do sometimes spend waste hours following rabbit trails that will never end up in my books just because I get curious about some random detail!
What is your writing process like? How long does it usually take you to write a book?
It takes me anywhere between 6-8 months to write a book now (the first one took 5 years!). I usually start out with a general outline based on a loose story-structure that works for me and then write chronologically. I am a super visual person, so I see the “movie” scene in my mind as I write and then usually go back and close my eyes to get deeper into the sensory detail and layer that in as I edit.
As a writer myself, I was wondering when you knew that you were meant to become a writer? Was it a difficult decision to make?
I always wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl, but I did not realize that I had the talent or ambition to do so until I was 35. To be honest, I was actually pretty surprised that I even finished the first manuscript since I did not have confidence in my skills at all. But God has just led me by the hand, walked me through the valley of the shadow of discouragement and rejection, and paved my path in ways I still cannot believe. Of course, working toward publishing was scary and I fought my self-doubts every step of the way, but was it a difficult decision to write as a career? Not at all. I’m in heaven.
I’ve always questioned what it takes to become a published author. How did you get to be with the publisher you’re with, today?
I began by forcing myself to finish my manuscript and then entered contests with the ACFW and My Book Therapy. After winning the Frasier Award at my first ACFW conference, I met with agents and was asked for submissions. It took a few more months on the rollercoaster of hope and discouragement before I was signed by my agent and then she submitted my manuscript to publishers. I’m amazingly blessed that it was Bethany House that offered little-ol’-me a three book contract a couple of months later! Looking back I am still astonished by all of it!
I saw that you recently made a trip to Israel. How was your experience here? Did touring inspire your latest book, A Light on the Hill?
I did!! My experience was just fantastic. It was an intensive seven-day tour and I still kinda feel like I am processing all I saw as I look through pictures but it was an invaluable time for me, not only to experience the Land for the purpose of research but to make the Bible come alive for me in a way that cannot be paralleled. A Light on the Hill had already been written and edited when I went, but it certainly has helped me edit Shelter of the Most High and is inspiring all sorts of ideas as I write Book 3 of the Cities of Refuge Series!
I’ve lived in Israel for over six years, and every time I think I’ve seen it all, there’s more to uncover! This small country has so much history to explore! What was one of your favorite places that you visited while you were here?
Oh goodness, you are going to make me choose? I’d have to say that Megiddo was pretty special for me since it features prominently in A Light on the Hill. I could practically see my characters walking around that ancient city and looking over the Jezreel Valley toward Mt. Gilboa. I even got to walk down a million-billion stairs into the very heart of the city and see the ancient tunnel down to the spring beneath which was a pretty cool experience! Another cool moment was looking over the Hula Valley toward the place where many believe Kedesh, the City of Refuge once stood. I could almost “see” one lone oil lamp there flickering in the night, beckoning the manslayer to safety.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers whom one day dream to become published?
Keep writing. Read everything. And write the story that you would like to read. Find people that encourage your goals but that are honest with you about what your weaknesses might be. And have a teachable spirit so that when you receive that helpful criticism, you can learn from it instead of getting discouraged.
And last but not least, what author’s or books inspired you, growing up?
I have always been a voracious reader, so thousands of books have inspired me along the way, but those that pop into my head first are Anne of Green Gables—because I wanted to be Anne and have her way with words, Jane Eyre—because it’s a masterpiece of literature that I get more out of every time I read it, and the Chronicles of Narnia—because within those deceivingly simple children stories C.S. Lewis showed us a brilliant picture of our Messiah and created characters that timelessly live and breathe in readers minds.