Q&A Interview with Mesu Andrews
I discovered Mesu Andrews at the Christy awards banquet last year. I fell in love with her biblical novel Miriam—so much that I contacted her and asked if she would be open to doing an interview for my blog. She graciously agreed. I hope you enjoy getting to know Mesu as much as I have.
When did you first discover an interest in biblical fiction?
This question makes me laugh! The truth is, I started writing biblical fiction when I couldn’t get my nonfiction published. I was a speaker and Bible teacher, and many people kept asking me to put the content I taught into book form that they could take home.
Inspired by their requests, I attempted to write a nonfiction work—which was actually a mix of fiction and nonfiction, compiled into an untidy attempt. While my nonfiction work was going nowhere fast, a friend challenged me to write a novel. I was offended!
“I’m a serious Bible student. Why would I write stories?”
My friend replied, “Oh, I’m sorry. Are you a better teacher than Jesus?”
That comment smacked me upside the head with the truth and inspired me to pursue fiction writing.
I attended the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and learned a great deal from Gayle Roper’s fiction mentoring track. [Side note: I took Gayle’s fiction mentoring track myself years ago and found it tremendously beneficial.]
At that conference, Revell’s executive editor, Vicki Crumpton, was looking for biblical fiction. She met with me, and even though my novel needed of a lot of refining and tightening, Vicki saw that this speaker with a heart for spreading a love of biblical truth could tell a story well.
That meeting at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference led to my signing a contract with Revell for my first novel. Since then, I have written many other novels and won several awards.
From the very beginning, I have known this was all God. He took my little project that I wasn’t even sure how to complete well, and humbled me by showing me what He could do through my uncertainties. In fact, in every project I’ve done, there comes a point when I throw my hands up and say, “I can’t do this!” But God always pulls me through. This humbling process reminds me who I’m truly writing for—and why.
What biblical women have you written about, and which ones did you most resonate with?
I love writing about the less well-known women of the Bible. I have written stories about Solomon’s first love, Job’s wife, Gomer, Queen Athaliah, Pharaoh’s daughter, and Isaiah’s daughter. The one I most resonated with was Gomer. You see, I was a Gomer, and my husband was Hosea.
My husband found me living a life of pain and self-destruction, and I witnessed the change the Lord made in him from the time we’d known each other as children. He went off to college to play basketball, and he found Jesus down there in that big ol’ state of Texas. When he came back to Indiana with Jesus in his heart, I was amazed by the change in him. He guided me toward the Jesus who could mend a broken soul.
Even the smallest things can touch a life. When you’re writing a book, you have no idea what page is going to turn someone’s life around, what phrase, what chapter.
What is your favorite part of the research process?
All of it!
If I could just research and not write, that would be fine with me. This was especially true when I began writing. Recently I have fallen in love with the writing aspect of storytelling. However, the research has always been my first love.
My favorite part is taking a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, entering the characters’ names across the top columns and the dates in the side rows. Then I place the major events of the story in the appropriate boxes. As I do this, the story begins to come alive. I can see how the characters would have interacted with these events and how they overlapped. I also get to see the characters’ ages in each life event. (For example, did you know that Daniel was eighty years old when he was thrown into the lion’s den?) Suddenly I see the stories in a totally different light. The lives and struggles of these biblical men and women come to life across my screen.
How do you balance fiction and fact when writing stories about characters, events, and places that actually existed?
My process comes together in three layers. I start with a foundation of biblical truth. I jot down the Scripture reference at the top of my spreadsheet. After that, I turn to historical facts. Although records can conflict, I do my best to lean on the most reliable sources and scholars and find that golden thread of majority agreement. Finally, I use fiction as the mortar that holds everything else together.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a novel about Daniel’s wife, Abigail, who was taken as a slave to serve the Judean princes taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. Through my fictionalized tale, I show Daniel’s younger life as well as his older years when Persia invaded Babylon and he’s thrown into the lion’s den for his unwavering faith.
I also have a novella called By the Waters of Babylon, based on Psalm 137, that I’m going to release before the novel about Daniel’s wife. That novella is part of a series I’m doing with several other authors, all inspired by the Psalms.
What advice would you give to new writers interested in crafting biblical fiction?
Make sure that you’re willing and ready to do good, solid research. Number one reason: you’re handling God’s Word. Number two: you’re going to get questions from readers who will challenge some of your theology and some of your facts. Make sure you keep good records of your research so you can kindly and faithfully answer those challenges.
I never want to shy away from these kinds of questions. I respect people who defend God’s Word. I appreciate their kindness and their persistence in keeping me diligent.
Share one of your most rewarding moments connected to your writing.
My most rewarding moment was when my mother called me in tears after she received the rough draft of Miriam in the mail and discovered that I had dedicated the book to her. Miriam reminded me of my mother’s fiery spirit and strength.
Another favorite moment was when my recently married daughter helped me hear the flow of Love’s Sacred Song by reading it out loud to me. I loved hearing how the scenes resonated with a newlywed.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Seriously, I could sit in my recliner and watch movies for the rest of my life! Old movies, new movies, it doesn’t matter. I just love watching stories played across a screen.
I have a special love for Gladiator and Braveheart—epic stories that are sweeping and emotional. The contrast of love and war.
It doesn’t surprise me that Mesu Andrews enjoys watching sweeping tales of love and war. After all, those are the kinds of passionate stories she writes. The kind that leave a lasting mark on readers. After enjoying Miriam, I ordered several more of Mesu’s novels and can’t wait to read them all!
Mesu Andrews’s deep understanding of and love for God’s Word brings the biblical world alive for her readers. She and her husband, Roy, live in a log cabin snuggled into the beautiful Appalachian Mountains with their dog, Zeke. The Andrewses have two married daughters and a small tribe of grandkids. Mesu loves movies, football, waterfalls, and travel.
Biblical fiction is her favorite genre to read and write. Her first novel, Love Amid the Ashes (Revell, 2011), tells the story of Job and won the 2012 ECPA Book of the Year for a Debut Author. Love’s Sacred Song (Revell, 2012) relates the poetic Song of Solomon in story form, and Love in a Broken Vessel (Revell, 2013) sets the story of Hosea and Gomer in biblical Israel. The Shadow of Jezebel (Revell, 2014) displays God’s sovereignty over Jezebel’s daughter, Queen Athaliah. The Pharaoh’s Daughter (WaterBrook/Multnomah, 2015), the first in the Treasures of the Nile series, unveils Moses’s early years through the eyes of his Egyptian mother, and Miriam (WaterBrook/Multnomah, 2016), the second book in the series, introduces Yahweh’s prophetess during the ten plagues and the Exodus as she struggles to trust this God she doesn’t understand. Scheduled to release in January 2018, Isaiah’s Daughter: A Novel of Prophets and Kings (WaterBrook/Multnomah) reveals the little-known personal life of the prophet Isaiah and introduces readers to his captivating daughter.