Friday, July 12, 2013

Attention Historical Fiction Writers

Last year I enjoyed reading the novel Asenath by Anna Patricio, a story constructed around Joseph’s wife. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about this woman, so Anna researched the relevant time period and invented her life while faithfully incorporating the biblical account of Joseph. It’s a fabulous book, painting an authentic picture of Egyptian culture and religion while focusing on human relations, emotions, blossoming romance and – most importantly – God’s guidance of Joseph’s life. Reading about the worship practices of ancient Egypt left me with the distinct impression that our contemporary worship of the one and only true God seems rather insipid by comparison. The creator of the universe deserves so much more!

More recently, our Bible study group discussed Abigail, the wife of Nabal and David. The Bible paints only one scene of her life in 1 Sam 25, and two later references indicate the existence of two sons. That's all. Yet despite knowing so little about her, we can learn much from Abigail's actions. She certainly was an impressive woman: beautiful and intelligent, wise and humble, perceptive, decisive and courageous.

Studying this chapter of the bible left me wondering about the rest of Abigail’s life. What kind of family did she come from? What was her childhood like? How did she come to marry such a surly, mean man? Why did she take the risk of opposing her husband? And what was it like being married to Nabal, then being his widow, and finally being married to David? I was intrigued, thinking that Abigail would make a fabulous heroine in a romance novel.

And so it occurred to me to encourage the historical fiction writers among you to focus more on the minor characters mentioned in the Bible (both Old and the New Testaments). They could easily become the heroes and heroines of romance, action, or even thriller stories. Novels along this line have great potential of reaching non-Christian audiences while introducing the God of the Bible in unexpected ways. Are you up to the challenge?

Thirty years ago, Margaret Lepke was converted by one of her clients. She became an avid Bible student, and her practice became her mission field. Now she is a well-known counsellor, naturopath, educator and speaker who is contacted by people from all over the world. She writes about educational and theological topics, and her website offers many resources.


  1. Hi Margaret. I've often thought the story of Abigail would make a great novel, but the whole idea of Biblical fiction seems a bit daunting to me. I can't imagine the workload of researching that time period!

  2. Hi Marg. Loved your challenging post. I believe an American author who belongs to ACFW wrote a series on the wives of David. I must look it up.
    As Amanda says the research would be tremendous, but would make a great women's talk also. Abigail sure lived a full and fascinating life, though I do feel for her in those years she spent with Nabal. Anyway, I'm sure the dashing David made up for it.

  3. Hi Margaret,
    The Bible is rich with very interesting minor characters who would come alive with a bit of insight and TLC from a sensitive author.
    I agree that delving into the background of the actual characters and writing a novel such as "Asenath" could be daunting. Another thing that could be done is an adaptation. Some may think that would a bit of a cop-out maybe, but I've loved these types of novels. After reading what Amanda and Rita have written above, I am sure either of those ladies could adapt the Abigail-Nabal-David triangle to a colonial Aussie setting.
    I'm thinking even a contemporary telling could be possible and fun.

  4. All of you have a point. Unless the writer LOVES ancient history as Anna does, minor biblical characters would probably not come to life in all their cultural glory. So maybe Paula's idea might strike a chord :) Thanks, ladies!

  5. Hi Margaret - Great food for thought there. I haven't written any stories about Biblical characters yet, but I've started a poetry series written from the perspectives of some Biblical characters. As with the stories you mentioned, there are very few details about some of their lives, so a lot has to be fictionalised. I love trying to work out how they may have felt in various situations. Have had some published from the perspectives of Rahab, Barabbas, the woman healed from the bleeding condition, and Sapphira, with a number of others in the works. I find that writing these pieces also helps me to look more deeply at the Biblical passage and I end up getting more out of it too. I'm not sure if I have the stamina to do a full-on historical novel about a Biblical character, but I hope someone takes up your challenge. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I agree Margaret. I read Asenath too and really enjoyed it. I think Paula's idea of adaption is also good, and would definitely be easier research. If it's set in the right time, the research would be a huge challenge. I've read a couple of unpublished ones that tried it and were not great.

  7. Nola, I find your poetry perspective intriguing and would love to read some of your work - where??? It's a similar idea, just a different focus (and much less research :) I totally agree that whenever we look more closely at a biblical character, he or she affects us in some way, and we are enriched through our involvement.

    Carol, I think you are right. Unless it's done well, this kind of novel could do more harm than good :)
    Would you be a candidate for Paula's adaptation idea? Just think about it... I have read a couple of your books and found the characters in their authentic historical settings very engaging.

  8. Hi Margaret - I've emailed some to the email address on your web site. Blessings, Nola