Saturday Sisters: An Interview with Author Diana Wallis Taylor

As part of my Ruth Project, i asked the author of one of the books for a brief interview.  Diana Wallis Taylor, author of Ruth: Mother of Kings, graciously consented.

Regular readers know that i'm very interested in fiction, especially Christian fiction.  Just yesterday i wrote on the subject. The articles i cited come from a common ground of refuting criticism of Christians reading fiction at all.

Diana, what would you say?
Diana writes: Why would we not read fiction?  We enjoy stories as much as others and especially stories about Biblical characters.  I feel it brings the Bible alive to get a different view of someone who is mentioned briefly in Scriptures.  The description of the miracle of water to wine at Cana in the Scriptures  is only covered briefly and leaves a lot of questions. Why did Jesus say it was not His time and then perform the miracle?  Why did Mary choose to ask Him to do something? My focus is on taking women who have been painted in a negative way and showing them as God sees them. Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute, yet she's been painted as one from the pulpits of America as well as film. The Bible only tells us she was delivered of 7 demons.  How did she reach that state?  My research showed me that it could easily be attributed to trauma when she was young and nightmares, epilepsy or ? progressing in stages. Satan does not care if one is an innocent child.  My own testimony proves that, but that is another story.
One of the fascinating parts of my "Ruth project" is seeing how different authors handle the same subject. Your view of her was quite distinct from the other authors, indeed, from anything i'd come across before.
In my book on Ruth, I did not portray her as an actual Moabite, but as a Reubenite living with her grandparents in the Fields of Moab (the name was not changed even after Joshua conquered the Ammonites, who had conquered the Moabites years before).  We live in California, so we are called Californians, even though we might be of English or German or French descent.  Ruth was a Moabite because they lived in the land allotted to the tribe of Reuben on the other side of the Jordan, called the Fields of Moab.  The racial Moabites lived in their own land on the  other side of the Arnon River where they had fled from the Ammonites. I wondered why Elimelech would take his family through the pasturelands of the fields of Moab where there was ample feed for his flocks and herds, and where he would be among his brethren, and cross the huge Arnon River to settle in the land of the racial Moabites where they hated Israelites!  It didn't make sense.
The research can make or break a historical novel. Can you share a little of your research process?
  Many factors go into my research.  It begins with a lot of reading. First, I look up all the books that have been written about my subject. If I can get them in the library, okay, but many times I go into Amazon used books and look for an inexpensive copy.  Some I can discard quickly and others I read.
 I find a lot of my material on the internet, and use books on foods of the times and  books like: Jesus and His Times, that show the normal daily life of a Jewish family.  I research holy days and customs and separate categories in a notebook. For the book on Claudia, I had a whole notebook on the Roman Empire and Roman customs, clothing, foods, etc.  I don’t want to duplicate another author’s premise.  Some views of my characters I disregard.  One author had written a book on Martha and her agent wanted me to read and endorse.  I read the book, but her premise was that Martha was unmarried because she’d had an affair with a pagan slave, that her father took her to a distant cousin’s to have the baby and then brought a slave girl to pose as the mother of the child when the father returned for his daughter. He brought all three home with him!  She couldn’t marry (the author surmised) because she was no longer a virgin and her husband would know her shame.  It did not fit with how Martha is portrayed in the Scriptures* and didn’t resonate with me. This was out of character for an Orthodox Jewish man! I tactfully turned down the endorsement. . .
It sounds like, in presenting Ruth as an Israelite, your thoughts were not so much the desire to be distinct from other novelists, as reflecting your own faith and reading of the Bible.
  That is how I saw her and perhaps I took poetic license, but it was interesting writing her story!

Absolutely an interesting story!
How do you proceed after researching?
Many authors use storyboards, or detailed outlines.  I just start writing and the story seems to weave itself.  Sometimes a character leads me down a different path, but it is always in keeping with the protagonist’s character.  I always like to end a chapter with a small cliffhanger to challenge the reader to go on to the next chapter.  I still have questions as I write that require continued research, to make sure I am as accurate as possible. For my latest book,  Mary, Chosen of God, that comes out around September, I had a friend who is a Messianic Jew, go through the manuscript for any details that I missed or that were incorrect. 
Does all your research come from books and websites?
Life experiences are also valuable. I’ve gone through many difficult situations in my life; married to an alcoholic for 21 years, having 3 children, on my own for almost 10 years,wrong relationships (from the singles group at my church!)  struggling because there  were no teaching jobs available in 1981 even though I had a life credential and that was supposed to be my “fall back” occupation.  God took care of us in miraculous ways I could’t even begin to expect.  He truly is Jehovah Jireh, our provider.  Also, In my early years, my mother and grandmother were into occult groups and that’s another story in itself. I included some of my testimony in the Halloween book commissioned by Whitaker House. Those experiences are woven into my stories.  I know what that character is feeling.  
from Genesis 22
You hinted above that you did not grow up in a Christian home. Can you share a bit about your path to Christ?
As I mentioned, there were occult influences in my home when I was a child. I always wanted to find God, but thought He didn't answer my prayers.  I sought God in many churches and in many different religions. Finally, God most graciously revealed Jesus to me in my early thirties. I began to read the Bible and studied with a Bible teacher.  I soaked up the Scriptures like a sponge.
Yes, the Scriptures are SO important. How has knowing them helped you?
God wants us to know His Word. There is much error out in the world and voices that call for another path, yet it has been my experience that I cannot go by what a group or church teaches if it does not line up with the Bible. That is my plumb line. I attended Bethel Seminary for a year and a half and felt it was a great experience for my writing and knowledge of the Bible.

Readers, Diana has several excellent books out there, both Biblical and contemporary fiction, as well as the Halloween book.   And i for one look forward to reading Mary: Chosen of God when it comes out this fall.
Thank you, Diana.  i so appreciate you giving me my first interview for this website! 

* For Scripture references on Martha, see Luke 10:38-42John 11:1-46, and John 12:1 and following

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