Stephanie Landsem writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she’s explored ancient ruins, medieval castles, and majestic cathedrals around the world. Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband, four children, and three fat cats. When she’s not writing, she’s feeding the ravenous horde, avoiding housework, and dreaming about her next adventure—whether it be in person or on the page.
What drew you to writing historical and especially biblical novels?
I never planned on writing Biblical fiction. My favorite historical time periods were ancient Rome and Medieval Europe. I thought I’d end up writing a story set in either of those eras. But when I started thinking about the story of Mara, it took hold of me and didn’t let go. I found that Biblical had everything I loved about history, plus the beautiful spiritual element. Now, I have a contract for three Biblical fiction novels, of which The Well is the first, and I couldn’t be happier.
That’s wonderful, Stephanie!
If you’re anything like I am, one favorite book is hard to pick! Do you have two or three top picks among the historical genre that you would care to recommend?
For biblical fiction, The Red Tent is a must-read. I’ve also enjoyed Biblical fiction by Rebecca Kanner and Roseanna White.
In Christian historical fiction, I never miss a book by Siri Mitchell or Regina Jennings.
My summer reading list includes City of Women by David Gillham and Mary Coin by Marisa Silver.
What do you consider the best resources for historical research?
The Internet is great for general knowledge, but I really like to order books from the library on specific topics. Many libraries have loan programs with nearby universities, and with a little persistence you can find all sorts of fascinating works by experts in your specific time period. Your librarian can help you, as mine did for The Well. We were able to track down several experts on ancient Samaria and find the latest historical and archeological research.
What or who inspired you to write inspirational fiction? How does that keep you plodding ahead with your writing each day?
As I write about the times and places that Jesus lived, I never tire of imagining what it would have been like to come face to face with the Incarnation. Most of us won’t meet Jesus until we reach heaven, but in my novels I’d like to give my readers a little taste of what that might be like. That idea keeps me going each day as I sit down to write, and keeps the stories of the Bible new and fresh for me and, I hope, my readers.
What helps you maintain productivity as a writer? And what do you find most challenging about the business of being an author?
Writing, research, and marketing all have their challenges and I’m learning more about the business of writing every day.
One of my biggest challenges is leaving my story and characters when it is time to switch to wife and mother. If I’ve been working on an important scene all day, I might be in the kitchen making dinner or listening to the kids tell me about school, but my brain is still in the first century.
I’ve found that if I set aside a long stretch of uninterrupted writing time, then go for a walk or clean the house for an hour, I’m able to shut the door on my story and characters and give my full attention to my husband and children.
Do you feel you are more of a character driven or plot driven writer? How do you think it comes across in your writing?
I think that I’m plot driven. I’d rather write a sword fight than delve into the minds of my characters. My fantastic editor at Howard Books helps me remember to spend more time with my characters thoughts, for which I am very grateful. You will find when you read The Well that I like a good chase, a good fight, and a lot of action that keeps the story moving.
Would you like to share about what you are working on now?
I just turned in the second book of “The Living Water” series, The Thief, to my editor at Howard Books. It is told from two points of view and one is that of a familiar character from The Well, the red-haired Roman, Longinus. The Thief is about a Roman centurion looking for peace and a Jewish woman hiding a secret. When a miracle at the Pool of Siloam brings them together, her secret will keep them apart and ultimately lead them both to the foot of a cross on Calvary.
Do you have any last words of wisdom to share with aspiring authors?
I don’t remember who said it, but it is so true: You can’t edit a blank page. My rough drafts are terrible. Awful. I wouldn’t show them to my mother. But you have to get something terrible down on the page before you can edit it into something wonderful.
Thank you, Stephanie, for joining us at Novel PASTimes. It has been a privilege to interview you.
Please leave a comment by answering the question Stephanie is asking below for a chance to win her novel, The Well. Don't forget to include your email address in the form of name[at]domain[dot]com before 8:30 a.m. EDT this Friday morning to qualify for the drawing.
Is there a biblical woman you’d like to see featured in a novel?
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