Once you’ve written one historical novel about a biblical character, a great deal of the research is done–after that, it’s just a matter of refreshing your memory and digging into story particulars. Because I’ve written biblical historical fiction before (Dreamers, Brothers, Journey, The Shadow Women, The Nativity Story, Magdalene, Esther, and Delilah), the “big picture” research wasn’t too involved. (Plus, I use a wonderful program that allows me to word-search several hundred reference books, so I can usually find what I need with a few clicks of the keyboard).
Bathsheba’s story is in scripture, but we aren’t given too many details–and she speaks only once, when she sends a message to tell David she’s pregnant. But David’s story is quite detailed, and if you read between the lines, you can discover all sorts of relationships–the fact that Bathsheba was Ahithophel’s granddaughter, and Ahithophel was David’s chief counselor. A counselor who took Absalom’s side in the attempted coup of David’s later years. Hmm. Maybe he was harboring a secret desire for revenge for the way David had treated his granddaughter?
Scripture gives us LOTS of information if we only take the time to look. But I don’t write these books using only Scripture–I read all kinds of books for insights.
One book about David pointed out something I’d never considered before. When the prophet Samuel went to Jesse’s home to anoint the future king, Jesse called in all of his sons and presented them to Samuel. “They’re all here!” But they weren’t. David was missing, and Jesse had to send for him because he was out in the fields keeping watch over the sheep.
Would you notice if one of YOUR children was missing?
The author I read said that an often-overlooked son would not know how to be a father himself–and he would resort to deeds of derring-do in order to get this father’s attention. Does that not fit David to a T? The one who challenged a giant? The one who danced in the streets? The one who cut off twice as many Philistine foreskins as Saul required?
I became convinced that David was the man he was because he had been overlooked by his father, and that changed the course of Israel’s history. Fascinating stuff. 🙂
Tomorrow: The writing.