Writing Esther was quite enjoyable, actually. Though I didn’t have a publisher-imposed deadline, I still gave myself one because I work better under pressure. The girl who optioned the novel as a screenplay had said something that resonated with me–she said that she saw Esther as a girl who’d grown up in a secular culture, just like many Christian girls today.
As a youth pastor’s wife and the mother of a (once) teenage girl, that struck a chord. My husband and I did everything we knew to do to make sure our children were raised in a Christian home, and yet the culture and society we lived in seemed to drown out everything we said. Time is still proving how many of our words and actions “stuck,” but I thought Esther might be the same sort of girl.
I have learned that a lot of godly people don’t like it when writers portray much-admired Bible characters as anything less than saintly. I ran into that problem with Mary Magdalene in Magdalene, I’m sure I’m going to encounter it with Esther and Bathsheba, too. Many people don’t want to admit or even realize that those saintly Bible characters were human, with flaws and sins aplenty. (I’m sure I’ll get the opposite reaction when I begin to write Delilah. Surely the woman had some virtues, no?)
Anyway, it wasn’t a stretch of the imagination to imagine Esther as a girl who was overly-impressed with Persian culture even while growing up in a devout Jewish family. She had Persian friends, her cousin Mordecai worked a secular job, and Persia was mightily impressive place, especially in Susa, one of the capital cities. Esther was like many a Christian girl I’ve known in my years of ministry–she loved God, but because she’d never really needed him, her love for the world was uppermost in her heart.
I chose to write Esther (all of the Dangerous Beauty books, actually) from only two points of views: the protagonist’s, and someone else who could be present in important scenes. In Esther, I chose Harbonah, a eunuch mentioned in Scripture and the king’s chamberlain, so he would have access to the king’s thoughts and actions. I was horrified when I read about the many eunuchs who worked in the palace–they were captured as boys, castrated, and put to work for the king because people thought that castrated men, like castrated horses and dogs and bulls, would be milder and more obedient. Horrifying and fascinating.
Anyway, Harbonah has a story of his own, and I enjoyed telling it. I also enjoyed writing the scenes featuring Xerxes (as seen through Harbonah’s eyes) because I don’t think any other Esther books really explore how insane this man really was. Whipping the sea? Shudder.
Tomorrow: the editing. 🙂