Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Biography of a Novel—Part 4


Last week, I shared with you the opinion of a professor of biblical studies at a local Roman Catholic college in St. Paul, Minnesota. He considered my manuscript, entitled The Jesus Interviews, to be inauthentic in its depiction of the people of first-century Palestine.

Just as as editor had given me helpful suggestions, so this professor provided me with a helpful reading list of thirty-six books by biblical scholars who would help me understanding first-century CE Jews and Romans.

Having retired in 2001, and I now began serious research. Never having been moderate, I immediately bought all thirty-six books and began to read them, highlighting as I read, and then, toward the end of the work day, taking copious notes from the highlighting.

During the next sixteen months, I read not only the thirty-six recommended books but also a number of other scholarly tomes referred to by the authors I was reading. The most helpful authors—for me—were Geza Vermes, John P. Meier, and E. P. Sanders.


From that research, I learned a fact that surprised me, given my reading of the Christian Testament: during the first-century, most Jews held the Pharisees in great esteem. That was totally different from what I’d learned in reading the four Christian Gospels.

Given that, I wanted Jonathan to be a Pharisee or a scribe who’d studied with the Pharisees and respected them greatly. This, I thought, would create reader interest. Also I wanted to use Jesus’ Hebrew name of Yeshua since that was more authentic.

Now I had a character: Jonathan, a scribe in Jericho. Next, I needed a plot. How to get him from Jericho to the Galilee? What would prompt him to leave home?

Answering that question led to my discovering many other characters who would play major roles in the novel: Chaviva, Jonathan’s wife; Davi, his daughter; Daniel and Yeshua, people he knew as a youth; Benjamin, a helper during the days of his journeying; John the Baptizer, the man who taught him silence; and most importantly, Hashem, the name Jews used daily for God.

As I began to plot the novel, I considered Jonathan’s personality and demeanor. Sorting my own experiences, I recalled that in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I’d gone through a virulent mid-life crisis. Then, in the late ‘90s, I’d experienced a crisis of faith that engaged me in vociferous arguments with Whoever was the Power beyond me—the Whoever I came to call “The Holy Oneness of All Creation of Which I Am a Part.” Accompanying my crisis of faith were many symbolic dreams. 

Thus, it was that I began to weave the story of a man who is going through a crisis of faith that is loosely based on my own. A man having dreams also loosely based on my own. A man trying to discover what or who is at the deep center of his being.

That weaving took from 2002 to 2019 as I wrote and discovered the need for new characters, new settings, new dialogue, new plotting, new suspense, new tension. I threw away many scenes that didn’t move the story forward as well as scenes lacking tension. I discarded paragraphs that reflected too much research and would lead readers away from the main story. Finally, just this past April, I discovered where to begin The Reluctant Spy.

It is done. For better or worse, I’ve done the best I can. I hope the book will touch the lives of its readers.

Peace.

Lithograph from Wikipedia


24 comments:

  1. Research is a wonderful thing (if you can avoid, as I often cannot being drawn down the rabbit holes.
    I am so glad that this book which has been not only a part of your life, but a part of you is done, and really look forward to reading it.

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    1. Dear Sue, during those 16 months of research, I did get drawn down the rabbit hole several times! And since then, as I've done more research after realizing I needed to know something, I've gotten lost in the rabbit warren again and again! I so hope that you enjoy it when you read the book. So much of my life experience is woven into it. Peace.

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  2. What a long and interesting journey you've been on! I wish you the best of luck with the book, but the pay off to all your hard work is already in your heart. Congratulations!

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    1. Dear Jean, thanks so much for noting that the pay off has come with the completion! You are right! But, still, writers want others to read their words, their story. For me, it's a real form of communication. So I'm hoping that the novel will have many readers. Peace.

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  3. I knew that the Jews had great respect for the Pharisees and the Pharisees used that as power and a weapon. That's why they hated Jesus. Hated Paul, who had been one of them, when he started teaching to the non-Jewish about a "kinder" God. The Pharisees believed they'd get to heaven by their works.
    Oh well, what do I know. I cannot wait to get your book!!! When it is printed and released, will you send out autographed copies to those of us who want a copy?

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    1. Dear Judy, my understanding of the Pharisees now differs from yours. One of my postings in September will be about what I learned. Of course, in the book, I've tried to present what I learned about the Pharisees through the actions of Jonathan.

      As to the autographed copies, I haven't thought about that. Like you, I get my books from Amazon. I suppose I could order a number of copies from Amazon, autograph them, and then sell them to whoever would like a copy. Would you like me to do that? Let me know. Peace.

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  4. Oh, Dee, I do not see it in book format. I don't do Kindle. When will it be a book?

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    1. Dear Joanne, if all goes well, it will be available from Amazon in paperback next Sunday. I'm keeping my fingers crosses. I'm so pleased that you want to read it. Thank you. Peace.

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  5. Dear Dee i cannot not stop myself to say that you are one of the most strong and devoted person i have ever seen

    right after your retirement the way you start to work hard on your mission it surely will bring you prosperity and peace of mind my friend

    i can feel the power of book even from here

    this is inspiring how after reading all book s you changed the plot and characters for better

    wish you great success!

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    1. Dear Baili, you are such a dear to read my blog postings and be so encouraging. Thank you for your good wishes. Have a joyous day. Peace.

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  6. I will be checking your site on Amazon. I think I've read all of your work, and I look forward to this one very much. Thank you for the backstory of all the devotion you poured into this book. Peace to you, dear friend.

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    1. Dear DJan, the ebook is already available, but the paperback won't be available until this coming weekend (I think). I'm going to announce its availability in my next posting. Thanks so much for your support, DJan. Peace.

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  7. This has been facinating how your character developed and how much research you had to do to be true to the times. Like Djan, I will be checking your site on Amazon. I love that you have given us an inside story.

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    1. Dear Patti, I'm glad you enjoyed the "inside story." Last night, I ordered my own copy of the ebook. I was the first to order a book and that seemed so right: 22 years ago the idea came as I walked in that cemetery and now all these years later I am reading the words I spoke then. Patti, I am so happy. Peace.

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  8. Dee, you have put so much of yourself in getting this book published and you should be so happy with yourself with this accomplishment.

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    1. Dear Arleen, I am so happy. I having a feeling of real accomplishment because there were so many times I could have stopped and just given up on the dream, but I didn't and now thee's a paperback (by this coming weekend) and an ebook!!!!! Peace.

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  9. Most fascinating. I'm loving learning abou process though my dreams are more along the line of documentary. Perhaps about Dementia land...

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    1. Dear Troutbirder, thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you are enjoying the process series. My dreams now are mostly peopled by those who have touched my life with goodness. Hope all is well. Peace.

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  10. You really are building our excitement to read your novel! Interesting about the Christians and Pharisees.

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    1. Dear Cynthia, I just got the proof of the paperback. It's long--nearly 630 pages--but I so hope that it will absorb the interest of its readers! I'll have more to say about Christian and Pharisees in a future posting. Peace.

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  11. "John the Baptizer, the man who taught him silence"

    Is this John the Baptist? I am curious about the silence!

    This is just fascinating.

    By the way, I don't think you can call yourself retired! :) Ha ha

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    1. Dear Sandi, Yes, they are one and the same! The silence becomes important in the book. I hope that if you decide to read it you will find it "fascinating!" What a lovely word.

      I think of myself as retired from having to earn a living and pay a mortgage. I am so grateful for social security and for paying off my home before I retired. Life is good and having a passion for writing makes everything even better. I hope never to "retire" from writing! However, I've really slowed down and so I've retired from long hours of writing. If I get in a hour or two a day now, I am content. Hope all is well. Peace.

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  12. I am also looking forward to seeing your book!

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    1. Dear Susan, thanks for stopping by. I so hope that if you decide to read "The Reluctant Spy," you will enjoy it. Peace.

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