Have you wondered what it would be like living in Biblical Old Testament times?
So has author Barbara Britton. In fact, she digs into O.T. history to create story worlds from 1000s of years ago. Her wanderings start with map-making and music.
Last year I read the first book from her Tribes of Israel series: Providence: Hannah’s Journey, based on II Kings 5. I loved it! I felt like I was right with Hannah through the dangers of fleeing and getting captured by the enemy: Naaman, commander of the Syrian army–and plagued by leprosy.
This series has teenagers as the heroes and heroines. In Biblical times that would be equivalent to a twenty-something today. Thus, Barbara’s stories can be read as Young Adult (YA). Nevertheless, these books prove that the best YA fiction can be thoroughly enjoyed by adults, too.
The other two in the series are:
- Building Benjamin: Naomi’s Journey, based on Judges 19-21, set during the time of Israel’s war with the tribe of Benjamin.
- Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journey, based on Nehemiah 1-8, which recounts the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall after Israel’s captivity.
Today, Barbara shares a bit about her unconventional method for creating characters and story worlds.
I write Biblical fiction because God has the best story lines.
Barbara: My characters adventure through the times of Israel’s kings and Judges. I’d love to visit Israel, but the settings for some of my novels have changed over centuries. Today, they are different countries or war zones. So, how do I bring ancient characters and landscapes to life? I use skills I learned in art class.
How do you create? Say something about your creative process.
Barbara: I’m a visual learner. You can talk to me about a concept, but I like to see charts and diagrams. When I move my characters within a setting (city, state, or country), I draw maps with colored pencils. The artwork is placed above my desk, so I can easily see which direction my character is wandering and identify the terrain.
Here’s a picture I drew for “Building Benjamin.”
Do you know where all the tribes of Israel lived?
Barbara: I do now, but before I wrote the book, I was a novice.
Mapping my setting grounded me in my novel.
Since I haven’t been to Israel, I use YouTube videos or travel agency videos to show me what cities and landscapes look like in the present day. If friends have visited or live in the location of your novel, ask them for pictures or videos.
You’ll notice a photo of a man in the picture. I taped him there because I have a use for those annoying perfume advertisements that fall out of flyers and stink up my kitchen.
When I see a person who embodies my character,
I tape the picture above my desk.
This fellow reminded me of my character Eliab.
The look in this perfume ad captured
the ‘feel’ of my character.
Unfortunately, you may need to explain the faces on your office wall to visitors.
Music helps me get in the mood to write. I have theme songs for all my novels.
When I hear the song associated with each book,
I am transported to the world of my character,
or am surrounded by his/her emotional state.
You don’t need to have just one song per book. You can have a song per character. Or pull together songs with the intensity of the scene you are going to write.
The song I chose for Eliab in “Building Benjamin” was “So Far To Find You” by Casting Crowns. The emotion in the singing and words relates to the grief both my characters shared.
Any tips for others who want to write?
Barbara: Don’t forget to write down everything you do to further your writing career on a daily planner. I have a small planner on my desk that lets me keep track of all my business and creative pursuits. You can design one yourself or buy one with little squares.
The best advice I received as a new writer was to join a professional writing organization and to attend writing conferences. Publishing is a business best done in community. An author needs a lot of support to launch a book into the world, and a publishing journey can take time.
My journey took nine years.
Publishing is full of rejection.
I received over 200 rejection letters before I finally sold a book.
But I loved writing and every time I sat down to write,
I was excited about my story.
Writing buddies encouraged me through the difficult times. I belong to the American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Wisconsin Romance Writers, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. These organizations have been a tremendous help to me on my journey to becoming a published author.
I call aspiring authors “pre-published” authors.
Never give up on your dream.
Barbara M. Britton lives in Wisconsin and writes Christian Fiction for teens and adults. She has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Barb brings little known Bible characters to light in her Tribes of Israel series. You can find out about Barb’s books on her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Which Old Testament era or story most intrigues you?
I’d love to hear from you!
P.S. Next time: Hear how Barbara Britton and Liz Tolsma contend with the writing and revision process in their novels.