Instead of my ramblings, this week on the blog I am pleased to invite a new writer friend of mine, Susan Sutherland, to guest blog about how she came to write her book. If you love Biblical fiction you will love her book ‘Leaving Bethany‘, an imagination based around the story of Martha of Bethany.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU START!
“You should write the story from Lazarus’s point of view!”
This comment was in response to me writing Leaving Bethany from Martha’s point of view rather than her brother’s. When I asked why, I was told it would be more interesting.
Let’s rewind a bit.
It was five years ago, when I can only say, I received the call to write a novel about Martha of Bethany. The over worked woman whose story Luke told us in chapter 10 of his gospel. Having only written non-fiction articles which found their way into education and nursery journals before, I found the prospect of writing fiction daunting. Just one short story, well I thought I can cope with that. Then what about a short novella? That would not take too much time surely. Before long it was the length of a novel. Then before I know it, I’m on with the sequel, with a third in a trilogy taking shape in my brain.
The message of this is to be very careful what you start, you don’t know where it will lead! The other message is to take whatever help you can get. I knew nothing about creative writing, except that I was an avid reader from being a child. The daughter of a reading mother, who I knew read my Christmas books before wrapping them and took me to the library every week. I met with poets and authors, googled “how to write a novel”, and took it all on board.
DON’T TAKE ON EVERY PIECE OF ADVICE
Oh, another message to take from this, is don’t take on every piece of advice. I knew the story had to be Martha’s, and not that of her brother, Lazarus. The story of Jesus’s female disciples is not often told, and I wanted to redress that imbalance. Read the gospels and Acts of the Apostles slowly and you will find them, some hidden away and others on full view.
Martha, the overworked and overwrought sister of the devout and spiritual one. That is just a cliché I want to dispel. Women in the Bible were as real and complex as women today, and how we have been throughout history. But perhaps their stories are not as often told or diminished into neatly boxed clichés. It was time to open the box and let Martha and Mary out. I hope and pray that I do them justice, and their brother Lazarus along the way too.
MEETING JESUS: THE PIVOTAL POINT
Martha says of meeting Jesus. “This was to be the pivotal point in my life. There was my life before that moment and now there is life after that moment.” (She may not have actually said these exact words, but these are the words I have given her.)
Leaving Bethany is the story of Martha and how she became a teacher in the new faith and worked at the heart of the group of believers who followed Jesus after his death and resurrection. But those who killed Jesus were still looking for ways to prevent his message of love from spreading, and would stop at nothing, including murder. It would not be long before persecution knocked at Martha’s gate.
To find out what happened next, you will have to read Leaving Bethany and follow Martha’s journey through danger, betrayal and finding a friend and ally in an unlikely place.
Susan Sutherland is the author of Leaving Bethany. For details on how to buy her novel go to her website https://leavingbethany.com/buy/
Aemilia Metella is Susan’s fictional first century female journalist who zips around the Roman world interviewing women found within the pages of the New Testament. Read her interviews on the website blog page. https://leavingbethany.com/blog/