I am so excited to share my interview with Mesu Andrews with you!! If you have not read my reviews of Love in a Broken Vessel or Love’s Sacred Song please check them out! They were two books I loved. I finished Love in a Broken Vessel about a week ago and I still miss the characters. I passed it on to a friend to read and I almost want to ask her what they are up to – I know weird! But I loved them and connected with them more than I usually do!
Anyway, I was able to send a few questions through email to Mesu and she was so dear to reply. Hope you enjoy all the great answers, I certainly did!!
First a bit about Mesu Andrews:
Mesu Andrews and her husband, Roy, enjoyed fourteen years of pastoral ministry before moving to the Pacific Northwest to pursue the next step in God’s calling. They have two married daughters and live in Washington, where Mesu writes full time. The Andrews’ have a Rottweiler-pitbull named Bouzer, who keeps Mesu company while she enjoys her fireplace and hot coffee on rainy Northwest days. She loves movies, waterfalls, and travel.
Biblical fiction is her favorite genre to read and write. Her first novel, Love Amid the Ashes (Revell, 2011), won the 2012 ECPA Book of the Year in the Debut Author Category. Love’s Sacred Song (Revell, 2012), the Song of Solomon story, received a 4 ½ star rating from RT Reviews. And Love in a Broken Vessel (Revell), the story of Hosea and Gomer, is available now and received a 4 ½ star TOP PICK rating from RT Reviews. The Shadow of Jezebel is scheduled for release in March 2014.
And now, some words from her! Hope you enjoy!!
What made you decide to write Biblical Fiction verses Christian romance?
This always sounds a little silly, but I never really planned to be a writer. I was a pastor’s wife and active Bible teacher, when I felt the Lord calling me to begin speaking at women’s retreats and conferences in 1998. In 2001, I attended a writer’s conference, but it was simply to get my speaking topic published into Bible study form. My idealistic bubble was worse that burst—more like blasted with an atomic editor-critique-bomb. So, I planned to keep speaking and never write again! But in 2002, an unexplained health crash landed me in bed for six months, and God’s Word nearly burned a hole inside me. Writing became my voice. I started writing Bible studies, but no one was lining up to publish work from a pastor’s wife without formal training or degrees. One especially helpful editor—and a nagging best friend—suggested I write my Bible studies as novels. Teach through story—like a parable—they said. My passion for God’s Word is what drives me. Even for my leisure reading, I read mostly biblical novels. What can I say? I’m smitten with the Eternal Bridegroom!
How do you take the information you have researched and add real voices to the stories? How do you fill in all the missing details?
Oh my! Lots of layers! I write and rewrite…and then rewrite some more. The first draft is usually pretty dry, just the characters and their story with little emotion or lessons learned. It seems I have to write through the story the first time to get to know the characters before I can really begin to give them life and breath and a relationship with each other and with the LORD. I have fabulous critique partners. Two gals who are gut-level honest with me about what they’re reading, how they feel when they read it, and what’s missing. One is gifted in big picture plotline, and the other is my “Grammar Nazi.” My husband is a college professor and gives my rough draft the final “red pen edit” before it goes to my senior editor. The senior editor tells me which characters work and which don’t, where the plot lags, and where I might need to check my biblical facts. She has a PhD in theology, so she’s a wonderful gatekeeper of the Word! I trust her implicitly. When I’ve made all her suggested edits, it goes on to a copy editor and proof readers. It truly takes a village to publish a book, and I’m so thankful for Revell and the team of amazing folks I’ve been blessed to work with.
When you write these stories, do you finish your research before putting pen to paper? Do you get away and write? Or do you write a little as you go along?
I usually do a solid 2-3 months of research before I write the first page. I use a Microsoft program called OneNote to organize and file all my research data and character files. Writers generally fall into two categories “pantzers” or “plotters.” I’m somewhere in between. Pantzers fly by the seat of their pants, writing whatever story comes to them, never knowing exactly where the story will take them or how it will end. The nature of biblical fiction gives me an outline of a plot because of the Scriptural record, but I can “pantz” my way through some of the fiction. Plotters map out every scene in every chapter, building the story with precision to a formulated climax and end. With Love in a Broken Vessel I did a little of both. I plotted the parts of the story I felt were revealed in Scripture and filled in with historical date (i.e. Assyria’s northern campaign, Israel’s military movements, etc.), but when it came to weaving the characters’ lives together, that needed to be organic. When I’m writing new storyline, I need to “go deep” and have long periods of uninterrupted concentration. I’m talking days. For that, I usually do a hotel stay. Once I get the main story written, I can edit anywhere, anytime. And research continues throughout the writing process. I may want to have a character brush her hair—and then wonder, did they have brushes in that century? Back to research!
How do you remain true to the story the Bible tells us, true to the time of these stories, and true to the characters?
It ain’t easy! ha! If your readers have seen other interviews, they’ve seen this recurring theme in my answers. Biblical novels are tough to make believable because we serve a miraculous God! Sometimes telling the Truth of Scripture means making our characters a little more REAL than we learned about them in Sunday school. Let’s face it, how could a righteous man like Hosea forgive an adulterous wife repeatedly? It’s unbelievable—but it’s Truth. So the novel must show Hosea’s doubt—that’s the believable part—and then show God’s miraculous work in his heart—also believable when it’s mixed with hope for the reader. My editor helps a TON in this respect because sometimes I go a little overboard on the humanness of some of the biblical characters. In Love’s Sacred Song, I was pretty hard on Solomon, and my editor had to remind me that Yahweh named him Jedidiah—Loved by the LORD. So I had to ease up on the poor guy and find a way to make him fallible but likeable. See what I mean—it ain’t easy! J
Do you know your next project? Can you tell us what it is?
I’d love to tell you! The Shadow of Jezebel will release March 2014 (Revell). Here’s a sneak peek:
Princess Jehosheba (Sheba) wants nothing more than to please her Baal-worshiping abba, Judah’s King, and his first wife Queen Atalyah, the daughter of notorious Queen Jezebel. But when a mysterious letter from the dead prophet Elijah predicts doom for the king’s household, Sheba realizes her dark skills as Baal’s priestess reach beyond the world of earthly governments. When both light and darkness align, forcing her to marry Yahweh’s high priest, Sheba enters the unknown world of Yahweh’s Temple. Her husband shows her Yahweh’s truth and a love beyond hope, but can Sheba overcome Jezebel’s lingering torment? Can Yahweh use a fallen priestess to shine the unquenchable light of His love to faithless Judah? The Shadow of Jezebel—Meet the woman who saved a king, delivered a nation, and preserved the Light of the World.
If there is one theme you would want all your stories to tell, or one message you could share with everyone, what would that one message be?
You’re wise to ask this question because I think most authors have a life-message or a life-theme that runs like a golden thread through all their work. Mine is undoubtedly God’s unfailing love. I hold onto that love as the one, unquestionable, unflappable Truth that no matter what happens to me or to anyone I love—God’s love never changes. It never fails. It never wavers or fades. He cannot love me more than He does at this moment and will never love me less. I have His all, His everything. He’s given His completeness to me—through His Son and then through His indwelling Spirit to sustain me. No matter how real my circumstances become, my miraculous God is real-er.
I hope after learning more about Mesu’s heart you will get your hands on a copy of one of her books and join me in loving her books!! I cannot wait to read her next book : The Shadow of Jezebel – I am looking forward to another great cast of characters with a great story to tell!!
Thanks for reading, and please check out Mesu Andrew’s blog to read more about her and her books!!