Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few of our questions. Beth and I both thoroughly loved Miriam. We appreciate the time you spent writing and crafting such a beautiful novel.
Beth: The story of Moses and the deliverance of the Hebrew people is so awe-inspiring and epic. What compelled you to write about this story?
Mesu: I try to explore women’s lives that stand behind the well-known men of Scripture. Some of these women are named—like Miriam—but others are only referred to by title or description—like the Pharaoh’s daughter or the shepherd girl in Solomon’s Song of Songs. Since ancient cultures generally devalue women, I figure we should take notice of the ones God recorded in His eternal story! Moses had four women of influence in his life, and Miriam—both as a little girl and as an elderly prophetess—has always fascinated me.
Melissa: Much of the main storyline for Miriam is history and though we might want to change parts of the story, it’s hard to do so and remain true to scripture. However, if you could change a historical fact or storyline from the Biblical account of the Exodus, what would it be?
Mesu: The biggest change I’d like to make is the historical record-keeping. I wish we knew EXACTLY who was pharaoh when Moses was born and when the Exodus happened. Actually, I’d like to know exactly when the Israelites were in Egypt—historians can’t even agree on that. As far as the actual events of the Israelites’ slavery, the plagues, and the Exodus…I’ve given up trying to second-guess God. Of course, I hate it that innocent people died during those events, but our good God hates it too. I believe if He could have done it differently, He would have, but His perfect mercy and justice are bound by His gift of human choice.
Beth: Why did you choose to tell the story from the perspective of Miriam and Eleazar, instead of, for example, Moses himself? What did you have to do to prepare writing from two very different perspectives?
Mesu: I sat at church one Sunday after reading about the plague of frogs and tried to imagine what our congregation would do/think if suddenly, after the offering, frogs began pouring from the windows, the ceiling, the vents. Would we think it was God’s judgment? Or God’s rescue from bondage? I wanted to write the Exodus story from the perspective of someone who didn’t have the “inside scoop” like Moses did. Granted, Miriam might have known some of what was happening from Moses, but most of the Israelites would have had no warning. They would have needed to form their opinions of the I AM from only what they experienced plague-by-plague. Now, THAT’S a story!
Melissa: Those familiar with the Old Testament know the rest of the story and what happens to many of the characters that are featured in Miriam. How does this knowledge affect the way you craft each character?
Mesu: Many folks know the biblical story, and a lot of people have even seen movies like Ten Commandments and Disney’s The Prince of Egypt. For those reasons I needed to delve deeply into the lesser-known characters of Scripture: Miriam, Eleazar, Hoshea, and Hur. Adding a fictional Hebrew harem girl also helped. It’s easy to read over characters in Scripture when the heroes in the story are familiar to us, so giving these lesser-known characters faces, personalities, and little idiosyncrasies helped humanize them and make them more relatable.
Beth: The Passover scene found within the novel is one that had a deep impact on me. What scene had the most impact on you as a writer, and how do you prepare to write intense, emotional scenes, such as that one? After writing one of these emotional scenes, how do you decompress?
Mesu: Yep, the Passover scene was a killer. Actually, the whole tenth plague was tough to write, and I originally had that one day as almost one-third of the book. (My editor wasn’t pleased. LOL. We cut it down considerably.) It was so meaningful to me and so powerful, it took me a few days to write and as many to recover emotionally. I tend to get quiet when I’m writing those scenes. My hubby can tell, and he’s good to just sort of hang out with me. It sounds almost sacrilegious, but I watch TV in the evenings to decompress. Usually something mindless and light—some HGTV house remodeling show. Does anyone else want to move to Waco, TX so Joanna Gaines can remodel your house?
Melissa: When thinking about the Israelite’s time of slavery, I never really thought about how the tribes interacted with each other. I was surprised by the social order and structure within the Hebrew society. In what ways do you think their social structure was helpful and what ways was it perhaps detrimental?
Mesu: I hadn’t considered the tribal relationships much either until I talked with my friend, Raelene Searle, who studied the tribes extensively and wrote Surrounding God’s Glory: A Study on the Princes of Israel and the Wilderness Tabernacle. Her workbook gave me sooooo much insight on Scripture’s overall history of each tribe and how they interacted over centuries. It was fascinating! I believe Israel’s social structure was both helpful and detrimental much like many close-knit large families through the ages. They would fight to the death to defend each other from an outside enemy, but they would fight each other for a crust of bread or yesterday’s spoiled milk.
Melissa: What’s next for you?
Mesu: I’m waiting to hear from my publisher on that! We’ve got several things in the hopper, and we’re trying to decide which direction is best. For now, I’m enjoying my new podcast with co-host, Lyndsey Kirk, called: REAL PEOPLE, REAL GOD. We chat about biblical characters and how their experiences inform our lives today. Folks can listen to new episodes on iTunes or on my blog each Friday.
To learn more about Mesu and her books, visit her website or connect with her of FaceBook.