Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Elves and the Bible? Interview with Author Stephanie Landsem

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Mara is a desperate Samaritan girl struggling to keep her family alive in the face of starvation and the threat of exile from their strict village. When a mysterious Jewish teacher transforms her mother at Jacob’s well, Mara hopes for a better life—until her mother’s past sins lead to a brutal stoning.

Only Mara can save her dying mother, but she’ll have the help of an unlikely friend: Shem, a hot-tempered young man on the run from the Romans. Shem risks capture to help Mara search for the man that Samaritans call the Taheb, the Restorer. Together, they travel dangerous roads into the hostile territory of Galilee. Their journey to the Taheb brings them burgeoning faith, unexpected love, and unimaginable heartbreak.


Stephanie Landsem writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she's explored ancient ruins, medieval castles, and majestic cathedrals around the world. 
Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband, four children, and three fat cats. When she's not writing, she's feeding the ravenous horde, avoiding housework, and dreaming about her next adventure - whether it be in person or on the page. 
For more information about Stephanie, visit her website here.

Ten Questions with Stephanie Landsem
What should readers know about your latest release? Does it differ from your past books, offer a new perspective on a familiar topic, or shed light on a unique situation?
The Well takes the familiar story of the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at Jacob’s well, and tells it from the perspective of her daughter, Mara. I hope that the reader can put themselves into the pages of the Bible and experience what it must have been like to live in those times, and imagine what meeting the Son of God might have felt like.
What was the main inspiration for the new book? Had the idea been on your mind for a while or just popped into it one day?
It really just popped into my mind one Sunday as I was listening to the Gospel account in John of the Samaritan woman at the well. As with so many Biblical accounts, there is so much left out. We hear that she had five husbands, but why? And why was she alone at the well during the hottest part of the day? Was her life better after she met Jesus, or perhaps she was punished from bringing him into her village? As I thought about it, the story of her daughter, Mara, came to me, and I knew that was a story that I wanted to write.
Why do you feel compelled to write—in your genre or at all?
I knew that I wanted to write historical fiction. The research is the part that I love the most and where I find the most interesting parts of the story. But I hadn’t really planned on writing Biblical fiction.
As I started writing Mara’s story, I found the intertwining of the Bible, my research, and my imagination to be exactly what I needed to keep a story fresh and exciting for me, and hopefully for my readers. The Bible has an infinite number of stories in it, and they all tell us something about ourselves and about God.
How has travel been involved in your writing and/or research? What’s been your most memorable research experience?
Even though I’ve never been to the Holy Land, my travels have influenced not only the way I write, but the way I look at the world. When you travel, history comes alive and the people you meet open your mind and heart to other cultures and languages.
Travel leaves an indelible mark on you for the rest of your life. For example, I love meeting people when I travel, and some of their character traits invariably make it into my writing.
Who has inspired you the most on your writing journey—a loved one, fellow author, favorite teacher?
My children inspire me. Years ago, my oldest daughter asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I didn’t know. She said, “What would you be if you could be anything?”
I didn’t even have to think about that. I said, “I’d write historical fiction.”
“Why don’t you do it then?”
I said, “I don’t know how,” and she looked at me like I was crazy. “Then learn how!”
Kids are great — they try new things, jump into something completely new with enthusiasm and a positive attitude and they expect me to do the same.
What surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself?
I think the process of writing is the most surprising thing for me. Some days, I really don’t think that I can write a particular scene. I’m sure it will be terrible, but I sit down and do it anyway. When I’m done, I can see that I was right. It’s terrible.
But the next day, when I sit down to look at it again, it’s not nearly so bad. After a brutal editing, I actually have something that I’m proud of. It’s happened over and over again, and it still surprises me!
If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?
Trust. Trust in God. Trust in yourself. Just do your best and keep at it and don’t worry. Of course, that pretty much applies to everything you take on, so it’s good for me to remember each day.
Now to have some fun with travel…
What’s your favorite place you have visited?
That is very tough. I suppose I’d have to say my favorite place is Rome. Rome is ancient and modern, beautiful and messy. It has such an amazing history that you can’t walk a block without seeing something awe-inspiring. And the food is incredible.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Or would you return to somewhere you’ve already been?
I think I would go on a month long tour of Australia and New Zealand. My family and I are huge Tolkien fans and would love to see the gorgeous views from the movies. Also we love the ocean and I’ve always wanted to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef.
And now a fun tidbit—if there was one special travel destination just for writers and you were the founder of it, what would the name be and would it be located?
That’s easy. Like Bilbo Baggins, I’d go to Rivendell, the perfect place to get away from busy life in the Shire (and those pesky Sackville-Bagginses). As Bilbo says in The Fellowship of the Ring: “I want to see the mountains again . . . And then find somewhere quiet where I can finish my book.”
Yes, a yearly retreat to the home of the elves would be just perfect. Anyone is welcome to join me, just bring your manuscript, your quill and ink, and leave the One Ring at home.

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