Chatting Biblical Fiction with Lynn Austin

On the blog this week, I’m joined by the wonderful Lynn Austin!

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For more from Lynn, visit lynnaustin.org.

If you struggle with living out your faith in this culture, if you wonder about what all the buzz is about with recent and upcoming adaptations of Bible stories, if you (let’s be honest) have a hard time getting through the prophets without falling asleep, there’s something here for you. Pull up a chair, sip of cup of coffee, and listen in as we chat about ancient times, Sunday School stories, and stained glass windows.

Amy: What made you decide to write your series THE RESTORATION CHRONICLES?

I believe there is so much we can learn from studying Scripture, and that its truths have a great deal of relevance to our modern lives. In talking about Israel’s history, the apostle Paul wrote, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us” (1 Cor. 10:11). I’ve heard many people say that they find the Bible difficult to read, so it’s my prayer that Keepers of the Covenant and the other books in the series will bring the Bible to life for those readers. I hope they’ll begin to see that the men and women in scripture were very much like us, and that they will be inspired by the walk of faith of biblical people like Ezra.

Amy: Absolutely. I felt that way reading Keepers of the Covenant, especially since it deals with a lesser-known character from a less-preached-on portion of the Bible. But I’m not the only one paying attention to the Old Testament these days. There seems to be a lot of interest in Bible stories and times right now (The Bible miniseries, various recent movies, etc). Why do you think even people who aren’t Christians are still interested in stories from the Bible?

Lynn: I think there are a lot of people who have a basic knowledge of the “classic” Bible stories such as Noah or Jonah—maybe from bedtime stories or from attending Sunday school or vacation Bible School—so they are curious about seeing them dramatized. I also believe there is a deep longing for God in all our hearts, and for knowledge of the unseen spiritual realm. Maybe it’s this longing that is drawing them.

Pictures from Lynn's trip to Israel.

Pictures from Lynn’s trip to Israel.

Amy: Let me just play devil’s advocate here for a moment: regarding biblical fiction in general, what would you say to someone who worried that fictional accounts of Bible stories might be reading too much into scripture or even distorting it?

Lynn: I would tell them that I understand their concern and assure them that I do extensive research before I begin writing. My goal is to stay as close to the scriptural text as possible and not add to it, but merely to fill in some of the historical and cultural background. I hope that my novels will bring the Bible to life and not only help readers visualize the stories, but also to see biblical characters as real flesh-and-blood people. I don’t want to replace scripture with a novel, but to draw readers back to the Bible so they will read it for themselves and maybe understand it a bit better.

Keepers of the Covenant

Keepers of the Covenant releases in October. Read more about it here.

Amy: Keepers of the Covenant focuses on the scholar-turned-leader Ezra. Which of Ezra’s many challenges do you think readers will relate to the most?

Lynn: I think all of us struggle to find the balance between being a productive member of our society and culture, yet not compromising our faith or God’s principles. We’re taught to have “the mind of Christ,” yet we face so many competing voices, telling us what’s right and what’s wrong, what we should believe and how we should live. One of Ezra’s biggest challenges was confronting the mixed marriages, which were a threat to the Jewish community. We also face this “mixture” whenever we’re tempted to let the culture determine our choices instead of God’s Word.

Amy: If you could meet the real Ezra, what’s one question you’d like to ask him?

Lynn: I would ask him to describe his reaction when he first heard the King’s edict that all the Jews in the empire would be annihilated in a single day. What did that news do to his faith in God? Was he angry with God for allowing such a thing or did he continue to trust, no matter what? And if his faith did hold strong, how did he acquire such faith?

Amy: Wow. Those are great questions. (I wish we could get Ezra to guest post on the blog now, too.) Do you have any tips for readers who are inspired to study books like Ezra or Nehemiah after reading THE RESTORATION CHRONICLES?

Lynn: I really enjoy using a study Bible as I read scripture to help me understand the historical background and customs. For instance, I’ve used the NIV Study Bible, the ESV Study Bible, and the Archaeological Study Bible. When I read the Bible each day, I also keep a journal where I record what’s going on in my life and what I learned from scripture that particular day and how it applies to me.

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Amy: Finally, just for fun: if you had a stained glass window depicting one scene from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament that have been meaningful to you, which would they be?

Lynn: From the Old Testament, I would choose the story of Abraham offering his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. It’s such a clear picture to me of how we need to obey God’s word even when we don’t understand it or agree with it, trusting God for the outcome. From the New Testament, I would choose the boy who gave his loaves and fishes to Jesus. It would remind me to faithfully give what I have to Christ, even if it doesn’t seem like much, trusting that He is able to multiply my meager efforts to bless others.

Thanks so much, Lynn, for your thoughtful answers! And, readers, now I’ll put that last question to you: if you had a stained glass window depicting one scene from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament that have been meaningful to you, which would they be and why?

Judging a Book By Its Cover: Fall 2014 Releases

One of the most common questions I see during our Book Banter events is, “How much say does the author have about what the cover looks like?” or “How are covers designed?” Because of this, every season, I’ll post our upcoming book covers, along with a “sneak peak” inside Bethany House’s cover design process.

This Season’s Topic: Photoshoots

Here’s a little bit of “insider” background on how we get the images for our book covers. Most of our books are created by doing a photoshoot with models who fit descriptions given to the designers by the authors. They try to find people who look like the characters both physically and who display the kind of personality the author wants to get across as well. Each book has a file in our creative director’s office filled with a synopsis of the book, photos of the time period or setting, and ideas for what the cover might look like.

Some of the backgrounds are the actual location of the photoshoot: for example, the lovely garden in A Beauty So Rare was really the Como Park Conservatory in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Others are landscapes from other sources that our talented designers blend seamlessly into the scene. (I’m sure our designers would love to take a field trip to Alaska for Dani Pettrey’s current series, but apparently that’s just not in the budget.)

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Props can sometimes also play a part, and for the most part, we rent them for a one-time use. I feel a personal connection to the cover for Keepers of the Covenant because I found the weapons used for it sitting around at work one day. (We didn’t end up using the version of the cover with the spear, but it’s still extremely cool to find ancient weaponry in your office coat closet.)

Weapons1 Continue reading

Share a Book Contest

**UPDATE**: Thanks to everyone who shared about their friends and family members–it was so fun to read about them! I have randomly chosen three winners…their comments are below. Winners, please email me, Amy, at agreen@bethanyhouse.com with your address (and your friend’s address if you’d like the book to be mailed to her separately–otherwise I’ll send you both books).

ShareabookWinnersCoca-Cola brought back a fun promotion this summer where it sent out thousands of Coke bottles with names on them. Not all names, of course. But many of the more common ones made their debut on labels that read, “Share a Coke with…”

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That got me thinking—why not try “Share a book with…”? There’s something fun about reading a book where the character shares our name. I mean, I got excited when Miracle in a Dry Season featured a doll with my name, Amy, for goodness’ sake. (So take note if you’re looking for birthday presents—every reader I know would love to get a book with their namesake as the main character.)

Just for fun, here are the female protagonists of the Bethany House books that have released so far this year. (Why not the men, you ask? Because it would have taken me a really long time to type out both protagonists’ names. Sorry!) Look at the list, and if you see the name of one of your friends, comment with the name of your friend and one thing you appreciate about her. Only one comment/entry per person, please! Enter until midnight on August 17. I’ll chose three random comments and send the commenter two copies of the book—one to keep, and one to share with the namesake friend! Check back on this post on August 18 to see if you won.

Remember, this is “Share a book,” so choose a book featuring a friend’s name, not your own name. Also, really close names count. (Julie for Julia, Annie for Anne, Catie for Kate, etc. We’re pretty lenient.)

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  • Daylily—Lily will also count (from Shadow Hand by Anne Elisabeth Stengl)
  • Adora—Dora or Doreen will also count (from A Draw of Kings by Patrick W. Carr)
  • Hadassah/Stella—Esther will also count (from For Such a Time by Kate Breslin)
  • Kayden (from Silenced by Dani Pettrey)

 

A Life of Purpose: August Bethany House Books

At first glance, the two Bethany House books releasing in August seem to be very different. One is set in small town 1950s Appalachia, the other is a medical drama set in turn-of-the-century Washington D.C. Miracle in a Dry Season focuses on grace and forgiveness within a community, while With Every Breath is more about an individual’s fear of death and losing loved ones. Still, one lesson they share is this: Do what God made you to do.
Miracle in a Dry Season

 “Casewell sat and looked at his work. Satisfaction spread through him. This was the kind of thing he had been made to do. Playing music pleased him, and most any work he could do with his hands satisfied, but this shaping of wood into useful and beautiful objects—this was what God intended for him to do.”

“Transforming raw ingredients into something delicious and life sustaining was the closest Perla got to happy. No, Perla realized, not happy. She was happy when Sadie laughed or cuddled close. What she felt when she cooked was a deep, abiding peace.”

To learn more about Sarah and her books, visit ,a href=

To learn more about Sarah and her books, visit sarahloudinthomas.com.

If you’ve ever created something, you understand what Casewell and Perla felt here. That time you play the sonata just right. When the child’s eyes light up at your encouraging words. The rush of victory that cuts through your exhaustion after you’ve worked hard to meet a challenging goal. The full basket of produce from your garden, the crayon drawing on the refrigerator, the laughter that trails behind the campfire stories. We were meant to enjoy what God has made us to do.

Olympic runner Eric Liddell once famously explained how normal, mundane activities can be worship when he said, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” Continue reading

Prayer for Authors: August 2014

Since it’s the first Sunday of the month, we’ll be continuing the Bethany House Fiction tradition of taking time to pray for authors who have new releases coming out this month. I’m Amy Green, the fiction publicist here, and I’m thankful for all of the readers who show their support for our authors in the way that matters most: by praying for them. To read more about the reasons behind this time of prayer, go to this post.

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Authors with Books Releasing in August:

Sarah Loudin Thomas
Elizabeth Camden

Verse of the Month: Feel free to use the text of this verse to guide your prayers for these authors, as well as other people in your life who you want to remember in prayer today.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13, NIV

General Suggestions for Prayer:

  • For joy and peace even in the midst of the hard times (or hectic times, or mundane times) of life for these authors.
  • For a fresh vision of why they are writing their books.
  • For readers to take away something from the books to apply to relationships and situations in their own lives.

I know our authors greatly appreciate your prayers, as do I. Take some time to thank God for all He’s done, and for His goodness in listening to us.