Today on the blog, I’m welcoming the one and only Angela Hunt! Her upcoming release, Paul, Apostle of Christ is a novelization of the film of the same name that releases March 23, one that tells the story of Luke and Paul from the New Testament. I’ve got questions; she’s got answers.
What are some of the challenges of writing the novelization of a film?
Angela: First, having a screenplay to work with takes care of most of the plotting, and that’s a relief. But a screenplay, when turned into prose, comes in around 30,000 words, and a novel must be around 75-80,000 words. So a novelist has to add a lot, but the added material mustn’t detract from or contradict the screenplay. That can be a challenge.
What are some strengths that a novel has when compared to a film? Is there anything that the film can convey more easily than a novel?
Angela: In a film, the viewer only knows what he can see and hear. In a novel, the writer can help a reader “hear” a character’s thoughts and experience what a character tastes, smells, intuits, and feels beneath his fingertips.
Conversely, a filmmaker can show the image of a building or a landscape and convey in a second what might take a writer a thousand words to express.
As you researched, did you discover anything about the life and times of Paul, or the culture he wrote in, that might be surprising to readers?
Angela: Most Christians are quite familiar with Paul because he wrote so many books of the New Testament. (Luke actually wrote more words of the New Testament, and how like a writer to consider word count.) What I found myself doing was looking for logical connections Paul might have had with other characters. He was part of the Sanhedrin along with Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Did they know each other? Did they interact? We know Paul was present when Stephen was killed, but did he know him before that day? Since nearly every religious Jew went to the Temple during the Pilgrimage festivals, could Paul have been present when the twelve-year-old Jesus was confounding the rabbis during Passover? The world was a smaller place in those days, so those situations might have happened . . . and that intrigued me.
So, why read Biblical fiction at all? Isn’t the Bible enough on its own?
Angela: I wrote about this in more depth on my blog, but here’s a summary: because the human spirit resonates to STORY.
That covers fiction in general, but why read fiction specifically based on biblical events?
- Because a trustworthy author will not violate Scripture.
- Because the fictional elements should be logical and based on historical facts.
- Because human nature is consistent over time. We often think our problems are unique, and we’re relieved to discover that we aren’t alone. Others have been in similar situations.
- Because historical fiction helps us better understand the culture and history of familiar story events.
- Because we learn from the lives of other people.
- Because God Himself recorded stories, and Jesus taught with them since humans are hard-wired to appreciate story. Who would know that better than the God who created us?
God gave us Scripture, and the doctrine of biblical sufficiency states that the Bible gives us all we need to know about God. But it does not give us all we want to know, and our quest for knowledge is a God-given gift. We yearn to know more, and well-written biblical, historical, and contemporary fiction can meet that need. So don’t hesitate to open your heart and mind to a well-written biblical novel. You may be surprised to learn a truth you had never before considered.
What do you hope readers take away from reading Paul, Apostle of Christ?
Angela: As I worked on the novel, I found myself convicted by the all-or-nothing attitude Paul and Luke evidenced. We live in a post-Christian society where people can look at you askance if you talk about Jesus or even take a stand against sin. Paul and Luke lived in a world where for talking about Jesus you could be arrested on the street and hung on a burning cross by nightfall. That is a sobering realization. They would not have retreated from the possibility of being shamed on Facebook, yet how many times we do choose not to speak for fear of reprisals? I hope readers will realize the price the early Christians paid for our faith—and the price we must pay if we are to be faithful for future generations.
Thanks so much for being with us, Angela! Here’s a question for you, readers: what story or figure in the Bible fascinates you?