Hey y’all! I hope everyone is having a great day! Today I’m here with Know the Novel part one – Introduction. As you guys know, I AM doing these backwards, LOL, because back when parts one and two were posted I didn’t yet have a blog. I’ve already posted parts two and three, so here is the last one – part one.
I’m a lot less discouraged about my progress on my novel, The Apostle’s Sister. In fact, I’m super excited to proceed with this second draft! I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming on brilliant ideas that will make it better. When I did part two of Know the Novel last week, I did it mainly to renew my excitement for the novel, because it was honestly wearing thin after reading through the first draft. I was discouraged by all the mistakes. But now that I have strengthened my bond to TAS, I’m writing this post to help me brainstorm a little more before I begin outlining the second draft.
All the credit for these questions goes to blogger Christine Smith, and I’m VERY grateful to her for providing them! This should help me get in the last bit of brainstorming I need to before throwing myself into the chaos of drafting once again. So let’s just get started! Hope you guys enjoy.
1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?
I explained this all on the MY NOVEL page on this website. So I’m just going to copy and paste from there, so you won’t have to go click on that page. (I’m lazy like that, so in case any of you are, too… LOL.)
The Apostle’s Sister is a Biblical fiction novel about St. Paul the apostle, told through the eyes of his loving younger sister. Paul’s sister is mentioned only once in all of Scripture, in this brief verse:
“But Paul’s nephew—his sister’s son—heard of their plan and went to the fortress and told Paul.”– Acts 23:16 (NLT)
Wow! That’s a memorable mention if there ever was one. Paul’s nephew – the son of his sister – saved his life. And would he have just walked away and forgotten about it? No way! Here are Paul’s strong beliefs regarding family relationships:
“Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.”– 1 Timothy 5:2 (NLT)
“But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.”– 1 Timothy 5:8 (NLT)
The idea that Paul could say these things, and yet not love and care for his own sister, is unbelievable to me. Is there any reason why he wouldn’t have loved her very much? What would it be like to be the apostle Paul’s sister? Did she love him back or think he was crazy?
These thoughts are what sparked the idea for The Apostle’s Sister.
2. Share a blurb (or just an overall summary if you’d prefer)!
Again, a back-cover summary is provided on the MY NOVEL page, so I will copy and paste from there:
Life with abusive, neglectful parents would have killed Temira, if not for her older brother, the only person in the world who loved her. But when only five years old, she was separated from him when their parents sent him to study in Jerusalem with a famous rabbi.
Now, as a young woman, Temira is left a widow with a three-year-old son after the death of her abusive husband. Her estranged brother couldn’t care less about her, being a Jewish leader with only one ambition in life: destroying the followers of Jesus Christ. She wonders what other cruelties Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, means to do to her.
Until her brother shows up at her door, begging her forgiveness. Has he gone mad? At first she rejects his plea for reconciliation. But his pursuing love is determined to draw her to him – and to the man he now calls the Lord Jesus Christ.
Soon Temira is following her brother Paul through heaven and hell. The life of an apostle’s sister involves terrible pain. Paul needs her help to bear the days filled with imprisonment, torture, illness, and the threat of martyrdom. But will their love for each other and for the Lord Jesus last? Will guilt over the past destroy everything? Or is a tender bond really strong enough to break every chain?
A deeply moving story about the love of a little sister for her brother, The Apostle’s Sister will take readers through a journey of suffering, forgiveness, and the sacrifice that overcomes death itself.
3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?
The story takes place in the world of the Bible, two thousand years ago! It’s New Testament times.
The characters are not confined to any one city or region. Throughout the book, they are found in many areas, including Tarsus of Cilicia, Syrian Antioch, Caesarea Philippi, Jerusalem, Rome, etc. (Paul and his sister do tons of traveling to spread the gospel!) So I guess the location would be the Roman Empire?
My favorite aspects about the setting are, first of all, the time period. I LOVE writing about Biblical times! I find them so fascinating. Another aspect I love is that the story happens in places I want more than anything to visit. I would absolutely LOVE to visit places like Ephesus and Jerusalem and Rome. It would be awesome to visit those Biblical spots. How cool would it be to walk where St. Paul walked!? I have my heart set on visiting at least Jerusalem once in my life.
4. Tell us about your protagonist(s).
My protagonist is St. Paul. My narrator is his sister, Temira. Though the entire novel is from her point of view, the story is Paul’s. As I explained in this post, Temira is the eyes and voice through which his story is told. I believe making her the narrator was the best decision I made for the book, because Paul’s suffering story is even more poignant when told through the eyes of a loving sister.
I think my story is similar to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in this respect. In TKAM, Atticus Finch, the crusading Southern lawyer, is the protagonist. However, the narrator is not Atticus but his little daughter, Scout. I feel Lee’s decision to make Scout the narrator made the story even more poignant than it would be if Atticus was the narrator. Scout’s narration is very powerful, because a little girl’s innocent love for her widowed father is powerful to begin with. Also, it’s very interesting to see Atticus’s radical actions, such as taking a stand against racism (something very radical in those days), through the eyes of his six-year-old.
Anyways, St. Paul is the protagonist. As you guys know, I love St. Paul very much. I gave a list (though certainly not an exhaustive list) of the reasons why in this post. I just love getting to know him better and better as I work on my novel. It’s amazing to remember that our favorite heroes from the Bible were living, breathing people with feelings just like ours. Paul is amazing because of his love for his enemies, his incredible faith in Jesus through relentless suffering, and his tearful tenderness for unbelievers. And we certainly cannot forget his heart for family and friends, which is the entire basis for the novel, as I previously explained in question one.
And since Temira is certainly also a protagonist, though not the main protagonist, I will give a summary of her character as well. She is Paul’s sister, seven years his junior, and she’s a fiercely devoted sister. Her love for Paul is evident in her every thought, her every word, her every gesture. I think this is so beautiful. She is always comforting him, nursing him, and defending him.
And of course, she has an intensely passionate love for Jesus Christ, whom Paul introduced her to. That’s the reason she loves Paul so much; she is grateful to him, because without him, she would never have become a Christian. The things I most admire about Temira are her compassion, her bravery, and her merciful heart of forgiveness towards her brother’s cruelest enemies.
Something that illustrates Temira’s compassion is her adoption of Seth, a sickly, starved little boy abandoned by his mother. From the moment she takes Seth in her arms, Temira loves him as her own. She loves him the same she loves Reuben, who is the son she birthed. Something that illustrates her bravery is the way she stands there fiercely for Paul, even while watching him tortured and nearly murdered. And instead of thirsting for revenge on those who torture, imprison, and abuse him, she wishes only that they could be brought to Christ. Those are my absolute favorite parts of Temira’s character.
5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?
The Apostle’s Sister has multiple antagonists. The most obvious are the enemies of the Christian faith, who want nothing more than to see Paul dead and his ministry stopped. These enemies include both Jews and Gentiles, although I believe Paul’s Jewish enemies hurt him more because they were his own people. That hurts more than the abuse of outsiders. I also feel that the emotional pain they caused Paul by refusing to believe in Christ was much worse than the excruciating physical pain they caused him.
(The antagonists I discussed in the above paragraph also include Paul’s own family. I don’t want to give too much away, so this is the only bit I will share: in one part of the book, Paul is tortured by his own uncle.)
Temira and Paul also bear the scars of their emotionally starved childhood, so the pain of those memories are also antagonists. Their family had no love in it, and it was their father who abused them the most. So their family, and especially their father, are also antagonists.
Another big antagonist is Paul’s own guilt over his past of persecuting the church. This past and his shame over it haunt him for the rest of his life. Though he preaches forgiveness, at times he struggles to believe he could really be forgiven after what he had done. During the novel, Paul’s guilt and fury with himself for what he did is a big tormentor to him. His sister, Temira, is obviously affected by it, too. She watches the guilt always tearing at her brother, knows he will never forget it, and prays to God about it in tears. Paul’s horror at his actions never goes away, and both he and his sister realize it will never go away until he gets to heaven. That’s one of the bittersweet parts of the story.
6. What excites you the most about this novel?
The CHARACTERS!!! It’s just so much fun to get to know the people of the Bible as real people. It strengthens your love and admiration for them, and it’s encouraging to know they can relate to our struggles. I love getting to know St. Paul as a person.
The most exciting part of this novel is, I feel, exploring St. Paul’s story through his sister’s eyes. It’s very emotional to feel the pain she felt at the suffering he endured in his ministry and his “getting killed every day” (Romans 8:36) as an apostle. She was his sister. As previously discussed, it would have been completely out of character for Paul not to love his own sister when he had so much love for even his enemies and spoke so strongly about family relationships. So he would have loved her and done everything he could to bring her to Christ, whether or not his love was returned.
So it’s super exciting to write from the perspective of Paul’s sister, because she would have been in his heart no matter what, even if he was not in hers.
7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?
I’ve actually thought of a sequel for The Apostle’s Sister, though that wouldn’t happen for a VERY long time. So I won’t be discussing details of that sequel until the Lord’s own time for that comes! I will say, though, that TAS will definitely work as a standalone. The sequel could be read as a standalone, though it would be better to read TAS first because then you’d understand all the backstory and the people I would mention.
8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?
I am a plotter all the way. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am actually writing part one of Know the Novel now in order to help me brainstorm a little more before I outline the second draft of TAS.
I think plotting is best for me because of the genre I write. Writing Biblical fiction requires you to know the story you’re retelling THROUGH AND THROUGH before you type even one word into that first draft. You must always go to Scripture to be sure your story is in line with God’s Word. As I outlined and wrote the first draft of The Apostle’s Sister, I had the Bible open. The Bible is the guide for my story. The Bible is what outlines and drafts my story. For the Biblical fiction writer, the Bible is EVERYTHING. Without it, you couldn’t get a single word written. So you must always check the details of your outline very carefully before you put a word of it into the manuscript. Remember that your writing is submissive to God’s Word and must never stray from it. That’s why outlining is best, to be absolutely sure you have your facts exactly right. If you get your facts wrong, you will have to go back and re-plot your entire story, which would undoubtedly be very frustrating.
So for the Biblical fiction writer, it’s plotting all the way, all the time. I wrote a 20-page outline for the first draft of TAS, and I plan to do the same for the second draft.
9. Name a few unique elements about this story.
A unique element that I love about this story is that all my characters have unique backstories and come from unique walks of life.
There’s St. Luke, who is a Gentile physician. He’s very skilled, calm, and certainly the brain of the group. Before becoming a Christian, he blindly worshipped the pagan gods of Greece, along with his family. He and his family, especially his sister, were passionate haters of Jews until they met Paul.
There’s Reuben’s wife, Mesi, who is also a Gentile. Though a Gentile, she is a Jewish convert, and her father tried his best to lead his family in worship of Yahweh instead of paganism. As Gentiles, their family was shunned and treated cruelly by Jews, who detested those who were not descendants of Abraham even if they were converts. To make matters even worse, Mesi is an Egyptian, and the hatred between Jews and Egyptians has been alive since the time of Moses and Pharaoh. In short, Reuben and his family are the first Jews to treat Mesi and her family with kindness. And imagine how shocking it was, in those days, for Jews and Gentiles to intermarry! Paul and Temira would have been looked down upon among their fellow Jews for allowing their son to marry an Egyptian girl – and have mixed children!
There’s Seth, Temira’s adoptive son, who was abandoned by his mother. Though not related to them by blood, Temira and Paul love him as their own, and they don’t care where he came from. To many people, that would have been considered foolish. It would also have been foolish in the world’s eyes for Temira to bring a dirty, sickly, ugly, strange child into her home in the first place.
So yes, I love how everyone in this story comes from unique places in life. Those are just a few examples. And no matter how different they are, they’re all family in Christ. One of the top reasons why Paul was hated so much was because he loved and accepted all people and called them all family, no matter how different they were from him. No matter if they were slave or free, Jew or Gentile, man or woman (Galatians 3:28). Paul tore down racism, social hierarchy, and all other walls among people. That’s one of the biggest reasons why he was hated so much.
10. Share some fun “extras” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).
LOL, I’m sorry I have literally nothing for this one. But it’s such a fun question! I wish I did, but sadly I am way too lazy to make any of those cool character boards or maps or anything like that.
I guess, though, that I can share my favorite classical music pieces that I listen to while I write. So if you want to check them out or even listen to them while you write your own awesome story, here are a couple of them! I like having them play softly in the background as I work.
Also, I’m going to share two of my favorite songs that are about passages in the Bible authored by Paul.
This first one is about the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). I think it’s a super fun and cute song!
The second one is about Romans 8:28 – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” I feel like this would be Paul’s theme song. LOL, he wrote his own theme song! That’s kind of funny, haha. But anyways, my father (whose favorite Bible verse is actually Romans 8:28, so this song was one of his favorites to sing) sang this song back when he was with this group. I actually sang with this group once, too, back when I was in children’s choir and we did kind of a collaboration with the adults. Here is the song:
That’s all, folks!
Hope y’all enjoyed this Know the Novel series! I know I definitely did.
If you have any thoughts, feel absolutely free to share in the comments. I love hearing from you guys.
You know the drill – eat, pray, write, repeat!