Author, Eva Etzioni-Halevy has graciously offered one FREE copy of her latest book, The Triumph of Deborah, to one lucky commenter. Click here for book description. Leave a comment to be entered. I will draw a winner on JULY 10th.
Eva Etzioni-Halevy is the author of three books of biblical fiction. She has led a fascinating life and has turned to writing fiction after a long academic career. Visit her website for additional info and her detailed biography. And without further ado, 9 questions for Eva…
1. Your latest book is about Deborah. Can you tell us what sets her apart from the other women of the Bible?
Deborah is the most eminent woman in the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament). She was a national leader: sort of a president, chief justice and chief rabbi, all wrapped in one, and deeply adored by the people.
What is special about her is not only her prominence, but the intriguing tale the Scripture tells about her: Deborah orders Barak to launch a strike against the Canaanites, who threaten their people with destruction. His response is rather unusual: he demands that she accompany him to the battlefield. Over three thousand years ago – a woman in the battlefield?
I found this to be very strange and suggestive. I asked myself: why did he really want her there? Moreover, he lived in a different part of the country and she ended up going with him to his hometown as well. Yet she was a married woman and a mother, and there is nothing to indicate that her husband accompanied her.
I began asking myself: what did her husband have to say to that excursion? What would anyhusband say if his wife suddenly went off to distant parts with another man, leaving him to do the babysitting? It makes good sense that this created marital problems between them. Would they be able to overcome those problems? And what transpired between Deborah and Barak when they were together with no husband in sight?
These were the aspects of Deborah and her story that to my mind set her apart from other biblical women. I found them most compelling, and they prompted me to write the novel.
2. What led you to writing about the women of the Bible and how do you choose which to base a book on?
Recently I began to read the Bible, and I discovered what an amazing set of books it is. I found it to be full of the most dramatic and the most traumatic stories about people who lived thousands of years ago, and yet are so strikingly similar to us in their anxieties, hopes and desires.
I began to identify in particular with the women whose lives I could visualize as if they were my own. I decided to hand them a “loudspeaker,” so that their voices could be heard loud and clear across the generations. I have done so in three novels, of which The Triumph of Deborah is the most recent.
I usually choose to write about the biblical women who are closest to my heart, and the ones who ignite my imagination, as was the case with Deborah.
3. You are a professor emeritus at Bar-Ilan University. Do you still have any responsibilities at the university that take up your time and how much time is spent writing?
To my mind, Professor emeritus is the best type of professor to be. It means that, being retired, you still hold the title but you no longer have to do anything to earn it.
Having written heavy academic books for years, I felt an urge to burst out into a completely different direction and write light books that people would not have to read for their coursework but would want to read for fun and reading pleasure. So as soon as became emeritus, I “reincarnated” myself as a biblical novelist. I began writing what had been sitting inside me for years, and at this point of my life I no longer do anything else.
4. These books must require extensive research. How much research do you do compared with the amount of time spent writing?
I have been doing extensive research that spanned over several years and included:
-Scouring the Bible itself for all hints it yields about social structure, family structure, the position of women, foods, cosmetics, diseases, medicinal herbs, and more.
-Traveling to the locations in which the plots of the novels took place. I visited some locations of The Triumph of Deborah twice, and it was awesome to see the castle in which part of the story takes place, still in existence, though in ruins!
-Reviewing a variety of excavations that showed the layout of houses and temples, cooking utensils and the like, in the period described.
-Visits to museums, which displayed relieves of what people looked like, what they wore and what utensils they used, and a lot more.
This research has been completed by now, and I can devote most of my time to writing and promoting my books.
5.Your life has been full of experiences I only get to read about in history books (escaping from Vienna, war years in Italy – both in concentration camps and in hiding, life in Palestine after the war, and life in Tel Aviv). Is there any chance that you may write a memoir? I’d love to read it!
I am a child Holocaust survivor and sometimes people say to me: you ought to write about your experiences during this horrific era, because soon there will be no one left to tell the tale to generations to come.
But, disappointingly, I don’t have a book on this topic sitting inside me, waiting to come out.
I am “locked” into writing biblical fiction and intend to continue with that.
6. I love quotes. Do you have a favorite?
My favorite is from the biblical book of Psalms, emphasizing that even when life is dismal there is hope, that even when one is downtrodden, there is a path that leads from despair to success.
He raises the destitute from the dust…
The stone the builders have disdained
has become the chief corner-stone…
It was from the Lord;
it was a marvel in our eyes.
7. What are you currently reading?
I have just finished reading an Advance Review Copy of J: The Women Who Wrote the Bible, a Biblical Novel by Mary Burns. I found it fascinating.
8. If you were trapped in the life of one fictional character who would you choose?
I don’t have one particular favorite character. I am trapped in the lives of all my biblical heroines, and I feel a compulsion to write about them as I believe they deserve to be written about: stories of love, betrayal, and redemption, with sensuous scenes, and twisting, suspenseful plots. Stories that are faithful to the Scripture, but are not only for those interested in it. They are written first and foremost for reading pleasure, for anyone who likes a light, enjoyable read.
9. And finally, what are you working on now?
I am working on a novel about another biblical woman: Tamar, the daughter of King David, who was the victim of incestuous rape by her brother. My book describes the trauma she experienced and how she succeeded in rebuilding her life afterward. I am still struggling with it and it is not ready for publication yet.
Books by Eva- The Song of Hannah, The Garden of Ruth, and The Triumph of Deborah