Hello, reader friends! Join me in welcoming author friend Mesu Andrews for a little chat and giveaway celebrating Of Fire and Lions! I’ve had the pleasure of reading this book and I highly recommend it!
about the author
Mesu Andrews is an author and speaker who has devoted herself to passionate study of Scripture. Harnessing her deep love for God’s Word, Andrews brings the biblical world alive for her audiences.
Mesu and her husband, Roy, have two grown children and (Praise God!) a growing number of grandkids. They live in Washington, where Roy serves as the academic dean at Multnomah Biblical Seminary. They have a Staffordshire Terrier named Zeke who keeps Mesu company while she writes.
Her first novel, Love Amid the Ashes (the story of Job), won the 2012 ECPA debut Book of the Year. She has since published biblical novels touching on the lives of King Solomon, Hosea and Gomer, Queen Athaliah, Pharaoh’s Daughter, and Miriam. Visit her website!
What do you love about writing biblical fiction? Why did you choose to explore the book of Daniel for this novel?
M: I LOVE the research! It’s my excuse for sitting around all day and studying the seemingly insignificant details of God’s Word. Those seemingly insignificant details are like filling in black-n-white sketches with a box of 64-Crayolas. I’m such a Bible-nerd! I love all those historical facts: archaeological findings, Hebrew words, cultural habits. It’s through that research that I’m able to determine what stories are possible to write and which ones I really shouldn’t.
For years I thought Daniel was sort of “off limits” because in the little bit of research I’d done, many scholars believed Daniel and his friends were made eunuchs when exiled to Babylon. Why write a novel if there can’t be a romance thread? When I read through the Bible a few years later, I was captured again by Daniel’s story and delved deeper into research. This time I discovered the Hebrew word cariyc—translated eunuch—was also used in Genesis to describe Potiphar, Pharaoh’s Captain of the Guard. We know Potiphar was married, and even though his wife wasn’t happy with him, he was surely not a eunuch—at least not in the sense I thought of eunuchs. Suddenly, Daniel became the Bible’s most eligible bachelor, and I really enjoyed imagining what his fictional wife might have been like!
B: Your take on these biblical stories is always fascinating to me. I appreciate your dedication and love of scripture!
Most people are familiar with Daniel and especially the story of the lion’s den, but you dive deeper, imagining his humanity and his family. What inspired the creation of his wife’s character, Belili?
M: I began with what Scripture told us of Daniel—that he was from either the royal family or nobility (Dan. 1:3). I researched righteous King Josiah’s sons, and found the only one who didn’t become a wicked, idolatrous king of Judah was his first son, Johanan. In fact, Scripture never mentions Johanan other than to record him as Josiah’s firstborn. Most commentators presumed Johanan was killed in the same battle that took Josiah’s life, so I assigned Daniel to Johanan, making him King Josiah’s grandson and the only son of Judah’s crown prince. Daniel would have been quite young—perhaps six years old or so—if his father died in that battle. I surmised he might mature quickly and take on more responsibility if left as an only son to care for his royal mother.
Dan. 1: 4 tells us Daniel was chosen because he was also young, handsome, and intelligent. I would imagine he had a strong drive to protect—again because of his father’s early death—so I determined his love interest should be a “damsel in distress.” She should be either a Hebrew servant who shared his faith or an abused Babylonian who he won over to faith in Yahweh. To ratchet up the tension, I sort of made her both.
She was a Hebrew servant girl in the beginning, but because of harsh circumstances, she began serving pagan gods. To make her “worthy” of a man so refined by Daniel’s challenges and steadfast faith, Belili needed an equally strong personality and had to endure as much (or more) difficulty than Daniel. When she responded very differently to her struggles than Daniel, he judged her harshly, which I hope gave readers more to ponder about a character we’ve likely idolized since childhood. Daniel is such a rich, deep, inspirational character that I tried to make his fictional wife equally thought-provoking.
B: You certainly succeeded on the tension front! Oh my heart and this story, Mesu! Wow!
Which character in the book do you most resonate with?
M: Definitely Belili. Jesus made Himself known to me at a very young age, and I walked away from Him—willingly, knowingly. I’m amazed at His grace every moment of every day, but the fear of rejection is a constant battle. (Why in the world did I become a writer when rejection is my daily bread?) Belili’s ability to find her security in Yahweh was a painfully slow process—as it is for me. She sometimes felt alone in a room full of people. She was at once strong and confident and then weak and insecure. And she let very few people close enough to really hurt her. I’m sure if she and I could share a cup of coffee, we’d find even more in common.
B: Belili’s story is heart-wrenching but in the best way, God’s way!
Which scene in the book did you most enjoy writing and/or researching?
M: I loved the scene in which our little heroine tries to escape Babylonian soldiers by running into Jerusalem’s Temple—a place she knows is forbidden to anyone but priests. Researching the furnishings and the Showbread was fascinating. I had no idea the sacred bread loaves were so HUGE! And I loved writing how Yahweh made Himself real to her in the Most Holy Place. Her awe at seeing the Ark, a consecrated relic no one but the High Priest has seen for three centuries, was so fun to imagine. To see and describe the actions and emotions through the perspective of a nine-year-old girl was an absolute joy! This whole scene was added after my first draft at my editor’s suggestion. I loved the idea. Researched it. And I think it made the whole book come together.
B: I love these fascinating little facts and little girl Belili is precious!
What do you hope readers take away from Of Fire and Lions?
M: As with every book I write, I want readers to rush back to their Bibles to see what came from my imagination and what was gleaned from God’s Word. Secondly, with this book in particular, I hope folks will see the humanness of the Bible heroes we’ve heard about since we were children.
Daniel was an adolescent taken captive to a foreign country where he experienced fear, doubts, anger, and was a little arrogant sometimes. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego weren’t mentioned after their heroic stand-off at the fiery furnace. Was it because they died soon after or because they were swallowed up by the glitz and glitter of Babylon’s pleasures? We don’t know, but I hope Of Fire and Lions gives a plausible alternative to the two extremes I mentioned.
The biblical accounts are snapshots of a few moments in characters’ lives that God uses to teach us vital lessons. But these characters were real people who coped with the daily-ness of their faith just like you and me. I think that’s when we relate to best and what I want everyone to take away from any book I write.
B: Thank you for taking the time to share a little bit of this story with us, Mesu! Of Fire and Lions has given me a greater appreciation for the story of Daniel and God’s works during that time period.
about the book
Title: Of Fire and Lions
Author: Mesu Andrews
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Release Date: March 5, 2019
The Old Testament book of Daniel comes to life in this novel for readers of Lynn Austin’s Chronicles of the Kings series or Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series.
Survival. A Hebrew girl first tasted it when she escaped death nearly seventy years ago as the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem and took their finest as captives. She thought she’d perfected in the many years amongst the Magoi and the idol worshippers, pretending with all the others in King Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Now, as Daniel’s wife and a septuagenarian matriarch, Belili thinks she’s safe and she can live out her days in Babylon without fear–until the night Daniel is escorted to Belshazzar’s palace to interpret mysterious handwriting on a wall. The Persian Army invades, and Bellili’s tightly-wound secrets unfurl with the arrival of the conquering army. What will the reign of Darius mean for Daniel, a man who prays to Yahweh alone?
Ultimately, Yahweh’s sovereign hand guides Jerusalem’s captives, and the frightened Hebrew girl is transformed into a confident woman, who realizes her need of the God who conquers both fire and lions.
Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, one fortunate Faithfully Bookish reader friend will win a print copy of Of Fire and Lions.
US only | ends 4/10 | giveaway policy
Reader friends, I hope y’all get a chance to experience Mesu’s biblical fiction!
Tell me what aspect of biblical fiction most appeals to you.
Are you a fan? why or why not?