Friday, March 18, 2011

Blog Tour: Bathsheba (Review & Interview)

Michal, Abigail, Bathsheba.

Three women with one thing in common – a marriage relationship with King David during his rise to power and reign.

For the past three years, author Jill Eileen Smith has released a series of novels examining the lives of these three women.

Her latest release, Bathsheba, tackles both the good and the bad aspects surrounding David’s adulterous yet loving relationship with his third “main” wife, Bathsheba.

Smith said her series grew out of her research.

“I started out studying David’ s life and wanted to know how and why he did the things he did,” she said. “The study evolved from wanting to understand him to trying to imagine what life was like for the women he married.”

Smith said she was struck with three questions as she looked at the lives of these women: Did David love them? Did the women love him? And, finally,  how did they handle life in a royal harem?

“I learned that human nature does not change,” Smith said. “Though time and culture separates us, women in any age still feel deeply and care about similar things.

“We are not so very different. I can’ t think of anything that truly surprised or shocked me.”

During her research, Smith not only learned things about David and Bathsheba, but also Uriah.

“Uriah’s military code of conduct would have influenced his comments to the king and his refusal to go home to his wife,” Smith explained.

She also learned things about Bathsheba.

“I think her relationship with David grew over time,” she explained. “She had a lot of grieving to do over  Uriah’ s death and the death of her newborn son before she could even consider any kind of a relationship with David.”

Each of the stories focus on one particular wife, and how she interacted with David.

“The Bible doesn’t tell us which wife might have been David’s favorite – or if he even had a favorite,” Smith said. “My fictionalized version of each wife’s story is supposition in that respect, but I do believe David and Bathsheba grew to love each other over time.

“They had five sons together, which was more than David had with any other wife – at least that is recorded in Scripture. He wouldn’t’ t have spent that much time with her if there was nothing between them—not with so many other women to please.”

Smith said she learned quite a bit, researching and writing The Wives of King David series.

“With each story I tend to experience the emotions of my characters,” Smith said. “A trial they went through will often be something I experience—not the same circumstances, but something that would trigger similar emotions.

“In those moments, I tend to have an epiphany that tells ‘me this is probably how Bathsheba felt when…’ and so on.”

Smith said she hopes readers will see her empathy with the characters as they read the novels.

“I always aim to explore the characters’ motives and feelings so that I can try to convey that through the story to my readers,” Smith continued. “All three of these women suffered a great deal in their lifetimes, but of the three, Bathsheba’ s story probably evokes the most feeling in me.

“I’m really not sure why. Maybe because she is the one listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ and hers is the greatest story of grace.”

A Closer Look At Biblical Fiction
Smith said she likes to combine Biblical facts with fiction for several reasons.

“I [like] to explore how and why things might have happened as they did. To bring the story to life for the modern reader,” Smith said. “Hopefully, to inspire readers to want to go back and read what really happened in the Bible and discover God’ s truth for themselves.”

While The Wives of King David series contains a thread of romance, Smith said she simply focuses on the lives of the people involved in the stories.

“When I write Biblical fiction, I study the people of the Bible and try to convey the truth of who they were or at least who they might have been,” Smith said. “The Bible itself is a love story from beginning to end. If you can see it as a whole, you see God’s heart in His great love for mankind, in sending Yeshua, Jesus, the Messiah to restore the love that was lost between us and Him and to bring us back into a relationship with Him.”

A Look Ahead
Smith has started working on a new series – The Wives of the Patriarchs. The first novel, Sarai, releases in mid-Winter, 2012.

Who is Smith?
Smith describes herself as a wife, a mom, aspiring Bible scholar, author, amateur historian, cat owner, musician, and above all- a Christian.

Want to find out more about her?  Visit her blog: http://www.jilleileensmith.com or find her on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jill-Eileen-Smith/10924241028?ref=ts

Smith said she loves to hear from her readers. Her e-mail address is: jill @ jilleileensmith.com (just remove the spaces).

What I Thought
Smith puts a lot of time and energy into researching her stories and it truly shows in her stories.

She crafts her Biblical fiction in such away, that I found myself grabbing my Bible and re-reading familiar passages to see where she drew her inspiration.

I will admit, it took me a while to "dig into" the story, for two reasons:
1) I thought I knew enough of the story - that I questioned why I should read a novel about it. I mean, David and Bathsheba are probably one of the "this is how you make bad choices" stories in the Bible. I "thought" I knew the story, kinda like I knew the how the story of the Titanic ends (duh the boat crashes) even before the movie came out.

2) I really didn't like Bathsheba at the beginning of the novel. She's a bit, well, whiny. Smith said she tries to portray the emotions of her character. Well, I believe she succeeded. I felt the emotions of Bathsheba (before her affair with David) and frankly, didn't like them.

However, I kept reading. For that, I was rewarded.

As Paul Harvey put it, Smith tells the "rest of the story" after David and Bathsheba have an affair, and Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, is killed. Pulling from her research and probably her imagination, Smith helps "humanize" David and Bathsheba in a way that will help you see the story with fresh eyes.

It's' a well written, well developed novel. On a scale of one to five, with five being the highest, I definitely give it a four or maybe four and half. It's a book that is going on my "keeper" shelf, and one that I'll probably recommend to a few avid readers in my sphere of influence.

More About Smith
Jill Eileen Smith has more than 20 years of writing experience, and her writing has garnered acclaim in several contests.

Her research into the lives of David's wives has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Smith is the author of the bestselling Michal and Abigail and lives with her family in southeast Michigan.

Find her at her blog: http://www.jilleileensmith.com or on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jill-Eileen-Smith/10924241028?ref=ts

Online Resources
Find Bathsheba on Amazon.com
Read the other books in the series: Michal and Abigail
Download the Bible study guide for Bathsheba here.
Read an excerpt of Bathsheba here. 
Download the Bathsheba Reading Group Guide here.
Read my review of Abigail here.

About Revell, The Publisher
Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life.  They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet. For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

Note: As a freelance journalist, I was provided a copy of this book by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This review was not influenced by a free book - just in case you (or the FTC) were worried about this detail.

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