I’m nearly done with the final edits for Woman of Stones, and it should be ready for release next week. I know it seems like I write fast, but the novels I’m releasing now have been finished for years, sitting around on my hard drive collecting cyberdust. I had some time this summer—around researching and beginning the final book in the Loving Husband Trilogy—to get them cleaned up and pretty-like so I could share them with you.
If you think Victory Garden is a change of pace from the James and Sarah books, then Woman of Stones may as well be written in Greek. In fact, if it was written during the time it takes place—2000 years ago—it might have been written in Ancient Greek.
It might seem odd to discover I’ve written a novella set in Ancient Jerusalem with a story from the New Testament as the inspiration. For me, that’s one of the glorious things about writing historical fiction—inspiration can come from anywhere at any time. My inspiration for the Loving Husband Trilogy came first from reading the Twilight series and then watching True Blood on HBO. My inspiration for Woman of Stones began when I read Anita Diamant’s lyrical historical/Biblical novel The Red Tent. I was blown away by that book, so much so that as soon as I finished it I began reading it again. I loved Diamant’s poetic prose, her stream-of-consciousness storytelling, and her creative imagining of a Bible story from a woman’s point of view. A Bible story from a woman’s point of view? I loved the idea, and I loved the way Diamant made Dinah’s story come to life in the novel.
I don’t come from a religious family, so I didn’t grow up reading the Bible. I’ve read it in bits and pieces over the years, and like many people, I find a lot that’s inspirational there. One of my favorite stories from the New Testatment has always been the story of the woman dragged before Jesus, caught in the act of adultery. The woman’s accusers mean to teach Jesus a lesson, but Jesus is too wise for them and he makes them go away with a few pointed words: whoever of you is without sin, cast the first stone. The men dwindle away, and Jesus sends the poor woman along, telling her to sin no more.
Who was this woman, I wondered? How did she come to be at that place at that time? Having read The Red Tent, I decided to imagine a story for her. That’s all the novella is—my imagination piecing together a story for the woman who was dragged before Jesus as a sinner. I began writing in 2002 and I finished in 2004, five years before I started Her Dear & Loving Husband.
For me, Woman of Stones is a study in memory. I’m fascinated by memory, how we remember things, what we want to remember, what we choose to forget. I also wanted to tap into the stream-of-consciousness narration I found in Diamant’s novel, and I love that fluidity in a lot of Toni Morrison’s novels too. The novella became a first person narration from the Woman of Stones herself. We follow her as she remembers what happened to her in the Temple courts, how Jesus saved her, how she came to live in Jerusalem, why she wanted to live there, what her lover meant to her. She isn’t perfect, but who is perfect? This is probably the most “literary” work I’ve written because it focuses very much on the Woman of Stones and her telling of her story the way she remembers it. Sometimes she remembers in linear order, and sometimes she doesn’t. Mainly, I’ve broken one of the oldest Creative Writing 101 rules with this novella: Show me, don’t tell me. There is a lot of telling in this story, but I’m all right with that. To me, it fits the fluidity of the woman’s memory as she struggles to make sense of what happened to her. Plus, at 35,000 words it’s only a novella, so the telling format works better with this shorter story. I wouldn’t like it so much for a full-length novel.
After Woman of Stones is released, I’ll be finishing the revisions of a book I originally published in 2000 through Xlibris—My Brother’s Battle. I’ll have more to say about that one soon.