Enjoy Part 2 of my book club's Q&A with Mesu Andrews but be sure to have read Part 1 first.
*Beware spoilers below*
Mesu talks more about her debut novel, Love Amid the Ashes
RBC: Has it been a long-term dream to be a writer, or is this something that came about unexpectedly for you?
Mesu: I had hoped to be a speaker, a Bible teacher, who wrote books that supplemented the retreats, conferences, etc. My speaking schedule was growing, and then one day...I couldn’t get out of bed. Six months in bed, a year+ of wrestling with God—and WALLAH—I’m writing devotionals instead of speaking. The Solomon manuscript came from a weekend retreat I had been presenting since 1999, and the weekly devotionals began so that I didn’t lose my mind while chained to a bed. Nope, writing was never really high on my priority list. Now, it’s one of the greatest gifts the Lord has ever given me.
What does a 'normal' day look like for you, when in the middle of writing a book, considering the impact of your illness on your life?
Whoa! Normal? Yikes! You’ve got it exactly right! With chronic illness, normal is fleeting! But I will say that I try very hard to keep a schedule. I try to put all my appointments and errands on a single day. It makes for a whopper migraine that night, but the other days are a little more bearable if I stick to that. I try to catch up on e-mail by noon and actually start writing soon after. But all that gets blown out of the water with a writing deadline—or if one of my daughters calls and wants Mommy’s attention! Ha!
Is this a one-off, or are there plans to treat us to another novel in the future?
I mentioned Love’s Sacred Song as the next contracted work, but my passion is the Old Testament, and I hope to write many more novels about God’s love. So many folks see God as a God of wrath in the Old Testament and a God of love in the New Testament. That makes me sad. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I’m passionate about revealing God’s love in Old Testament tales.
I hope to begin writing about the Women of Prophets and Kings. We’ll see which one comes first, but I’ve got two under consideration right now. I’ll keep you posted!
I LOVE RESEARCH!!! It would be easy for me to get caught up in the research and forget to start writing! I’m fascinated when the pieces of a plot begin to fit together. I’m amazed when the Lord begins to quicken my heart, showing me cross-referenced Scriptures and historical data that emphasize seemingly insignificant Bible passages.
Who was your favourite character and why?
I adore Nogahla. She wasn’t even on my original character chart. Maybe that’s why I love her. She just kept stealing the scenes! Ha! I enjoyed the simple wisdom she brought to the confusion around her. She saw INTO people, loved completely, forgave easily. Oh, how I admire that little character!
What inspired you to start writing in the first place?
Preservation of sanity. God created me to study and teach His Word. It’s life-giving to me. When I couldn’t speak to groups (teach Bible studies) anymore, I had to have some reason to study, a purpose for knowledge. The weekly devotionals are my meat and potatoes. Biblical fiction is dessert!
What is your favourite thing to do in your spare time?
Movies! I love movies. We watch lots of movies in our household. I also love water – the ocean, lakes, etc. Though chronic illness makes it difficult to be extremely active, I love to be near water and just listen to the sound.
What aspect of writing do you enjoy the most?
I feel like I’m still ministering to folks. My husband was a pastor when my struggles with chronic illness began. I was a VERY busy pastor’s wife, and then suddenly I had no people interaction whatsoever. Writing, and the many avenues of ministry associated with it, gives me the opportunity to sit quietly in front of my computer and minister to thousands of folks—and still get the rest my body needs to live a relatively normal life. God is SO good!
Can you tell us a little about yourself please?(favourite food, way to spend a day off)
My best buddy is our four-year-old Rottweiler-Pitbull named, Bouzer. He’s a love and sits next to me every moment I write.
My hubby is my biggest cheerleader and best friend. Our two grown daughters are the joy of my life. One got married last summer and the second will be married Aug. 12th this year (18 days!). I’ve waited a long time to get sons, and I’ve acquired the best ones a mother could ask for...BTW getting them this way didn’t hurt nearly as much. My newest son comes with two precious little girls, so I get to be “GramMesu” right away! Woohoo!
I love Jesus but still struggle to get alone-time with Him. I was a pastor’s wife for fourteen years, but I still wake up some Sunday mornings and don’t want to go to church. I try to be nice to the idiot car that cuts me off in the passing lane, but I still say mean things sometimes. Other than that, I’m perfect. J
How did your illness influence your writing of this book?
I’m not sure if I can blame my slow writing on chronic illness (though I might try that! Good idea!), but I do notice when “the fog rolls in.” I’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, POTS, and I’ve had daily migraines since 2005. In all of the first three conditions, symptoms include a sort of neurologic “fog” that causes confused thinking. I can testify to it! I can literally read a sentence (or write one) three or four times, and it makes no sense whatsoever. At that point, it’s time to stop. I think most writers hit a certain point where their creativity goes dead. Some can pull an “all-nighter,” some can’t. I’m in the “can’t” category. My writing window is whatever amount of time that my brain cooperates.
What has been the most rewarding/most difficult part of your writing journey?
Finishing. I’m a great starter and lousy finisher. To actually complete a whole novel was both the most difficult and most rewarding journey of my life. And then to sign a contract, promising to finish a second novel before I’d even written the first word—that was the most terrifying moment of my life!
Why Biblical fiction?
Because I’m a Bible teacher, but no one wanted to publish anything a no-body pastor’s wife had to say! Ha! So I teach through parables, and suddenly the lessons come to life on a page. Cool, eh? It’s why biblical fiction CAN be a very powerful tool. But it’s also why prayer is so crucial to the writing. Reading biblical fiction is just the beginning of the journey. If it doesn’t send a reader to the Author of Truth, it’s not good writing.
Do you plan to write in other genres as well?
Okay, don’t laugh. I know everybody is writing Amish fiction nowadays but... Before my husband and I moved to the West Coast, we pastored a church in a small Amish community, and many of those in our congregation left the Amish culture to attend our church. We lived out a few extremely intense “thriller/suspense” kinds of stories with some folks, and I’ve considered asking permission to write about them. But for now, my heart and mind is totally consumed with God’s love in the Old Testament. We’ll have to wait and see what the very distant future holds. :)
Please share something of your faith journey
Well, I’m a spiritual mutt. My family has a rich and varied theological heritage, and I was thoroughly confused by the time my teen years rolled around. I rebelled against my parents and God and was an alcoholic by age nineteen. The Lord got my attention through a broken relationship, and when an old high school friend showed me proof of a changed life, I finally believed God was real. As a young wife and mom, I formed my early theology from my kids’ Bible story books. When my hunger for Truth grew, I attended Bible Study Fellowship and studied God’s Word on my own. When my husband’s coaching career ended, he said he was called into ministry. I said, “Call me when you’re done.” But I went along—under protest. Pastoral ministry was the best of times and the worst of times. My heart loved people in ways I never imagined possible, but my heart was also broken into a million pieces. Through it all, God was faithful and drew me closer than I’d ever been, and He helps me love His people through the power of the Cross. Today, I minister as a broken vessel, a cracked pot, certain of God’s goodness and convinced of His love.
Thanks Mesu ~ Rel on behalf of RBC Book Club
Thanks to you, Rel! This has been so fun!