Please join me in welcoming Dana McNeely to the blog today to talk about writing Biblical fiction and her new novel, Whirlwind!
WHIRLWIND by Dana McNeely
SERIES: Whispers on the Wind #2
GENRE: Inspirational Historical Romance / Biblical Era
PUBLISHER: Mountain Brook Ink
RELEASE DATE: December 22, 2022
A king’s downfall and a love that transcends war
SPURNED BY POTENTIAL SUITORS, Miriam travels to Jezreel to care for her cousin’s son. There, the precocious seven-year-old works his way into her heart. When Arameans swarm the land like locusts, Miriam focuses on the safety of her young ward but promises adventures beyond the city walls when the war ends.
Gershon, a quiet and kind vintner, is happily building a life for his wife, son, and aging parents. But when his wife dies during childbirth and war looms on the horizon, he must make a decision—will he take a new wife before his heart can mend?
Meanwhile, Dov, a young officer crosses paths with the “bird girl” he remembers from the past, now grown to womanhood. That she is a beautiful woman matters not, as he is a career soldier. Unexpectedly charged with leading Ahab’s army against the Arameans, Dov anticipates death and defeat in Samaria, but when a prophet pledges victory, Dov vows to fight to the end.
When an unlikely victory brings freedom, a bright future seems imminent. Then one afternoon Miriam witnesses a tragedy and must flee with the boy to keep them both safe. With henchmen on their trail, will they find refuge—and her heart the home she’s longed for?
The Secrets of Writing Biblical Fiction
by Dana McNeely, author of Whirlwind
When I wrote my first biblical novel, I knew nothing about genre expectations. In fact, I pitched Rain as historical fiction to an agent who said, “I don’t represent biblical fiction.” Huh? What was more historical than 875 BC?
I learned biblical fiction was a subgenre of historical fiction, but that’s all sources were agreed upon. I had enjoyed The Red Tent by Anita Diamante and The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers, as well as older books, such as The Robe. I thought my book was roughly in the same genre as these, but I knew it was also somehow different. Based upon what I liked or thought was missing from these books, I instinctively developed my own set of rules.
- Don’t change anything the Bible is clear about.
- Enhance the plot with history, culture, and setting.
- Make characters come alive with plausible backstories.
Over time, as I read novels by other biblical novelists, I realized my favorite authors followed similar guidelines. Not every author writing this genre does, but I made these my rules.
My determination was severely tested during the writing of my second book, Whirlwind. I had gotten halfway through the novel when the following cross-referenced passage revealed a contradiction. A tiny contradiction caused by the letter “s.” I moaned about it to my critique group, who suggested I could leave the manuscript as it was, reminding me I wrote fiction. I read the passage again.
Then Jehu drew his bow and shot Joram between the shoulders. The arrow pierced his heart and he slumped down in his chariot. Jehu said to Bidkar, his chariot officer, “Pick him up and throw him on the field that belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. Remember how you and I were riding together in chariots behind Ahab his father when the Lord spoke this prophecy against him: ‘Yesterday I saw the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons, declares the Lord, and I will surely make you pay for it on this plot of ground, declares the Lord.’ Now then, pick him up and throw him on that plot, in accordance with the word of the Lord.”
~ 2 Kings 9:24-26, NIV
This conversation between Jehu and Bidkar happened after all the biblical events in the plot of Whirlwind, but it revealed new information—that more than one son died with Naboth. I had given him only one son. First I checked carefully to see if there was any other passage that told exactly how many sons were born to Naboth. There was not. So I did the hard work of adding another son—in accordance with the word of the Lord!
But when I finished, not only did I know my story followed the biblical text, it had become a much better, more exciting story because of the difficult rewrite.
Do I ever go off script? Maybe. I do stick to my three rules. However, I like to surprise readers with twists to familiar stories. I do this by delving into the characters’ psyches, showing a plausible “why” and “how” for their actions when no motivation is given in the written text. I ask myself, “What would Dov, or Miriam, or Jaedon, or Jezebel do?”
Other “off-script” surprises? I assign characters less common occupations, give birds and animals cameo roles, and show miracles close up and personal. Research gives me a wide range of possibilities for surprising readers, such as ancient dances, musical instruments of war, weapons, and battle plans.
Rain and Whirlwind are the first two books in the series Whispers on the Wind, telling the saga of the Prophet Elijah. Two more novels are planned to follow the adventures of his successor, Elisha. Rain is available now and Whirlwind available for preorder from ChristianBook, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. Paperbacks released December 5th and should ship in plenty of time for Christmas, and eBooks will appear on devices December 22nd.
Dana McNeely writes biblical fiction from an Arizona oasis, where she lives with her hubby (the constant gardener), two good dogs, an antisocial cat, and myriad migrating butterflies. When not researching, writing, or struggling with the mysteries of social media, Dana can be found wandering in her personal Eden dreaming up new stories.
You may follow and connect with Dana at https://DanaMcNeely.com
When you subscribe to Dana’s newsletter, you receive a free ebook! The Eyes of the Lord is a prequel to the series and showcases a beloved character from Rain.
Dana McNeely is offering an autographed, print copy of Whirlwind to one of my readers! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What makes you want to read Whirlwind by Dana McNeely?