Biblical fiction is hard to do well.
And so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Shelter of the Most High. There are so many challenges associated with this subgenre. Like any work of historical fiction, the author has do get the historical context right. But when you’re dealing with the biblical times, sometimes we don’t know all that much about the historical background. We have a lot more records of, for example, Victorian England or the American Civil War. The records are in languages that are still spoken today by many of these authors. With biblical fiction, there may be limited sources. But also, the Bible is such a sensitive thing that researchers have done scholarly battle over the information that is available. How do you know who to trust?
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To add to it, there’s a concern about character development with Bible characters, especially Jesus. Because we’re dealing with God’s Word, we don’t want to say something about that real person that is just made up (not based on Scripture or historical sources). Gerd Theissen addresses this concern well in his introduction to Shadow of the Galilean:
Your worries would be justified if this were the kind of Life of Jesus that imaginatively fills in the areas where historical sources are silent and sacrifices historical truth to make an effect. Let me reassure you: I am most averse to writing anything about Jesus that is not based on sources.
Can you write fiction about Bible characters?
I don’t know that it is necessarily wrong to fill in the gaps about Bible characters in fiction writing (or storytelling), as long as we are clear that’s what we’re doing. Bible stories sometimes don’t give us all the dialogue, and when we have it, it is translated so there is some wiggle room. When I tell the Hagar story, I might say “and she was probably like…” but that works a lot better in storytelling than in writing. In general, my stance is to be clear about your genre. If you’re writing fiction, and folks know you’re writing fiction, they should also know that you will have to create details that aren’t there simply because we don’t have that information. It’s okay. You don’t need to write the Bible (unless you’re a translator). Someone already did that. (A lot of someones, and a Someone. But that’s for another time.)
The authors that have done biblical fiction well have toed this line by writing about fictional characters set in biblical times.
They are able to bring their characters into contact with biblical themes and even biblical characters, using those characters as a touchstone. That’s what Connilyn Cossette did with Shelter of the Most High. In this way, authors don’t have to get into that fuzzy territory of making something up about people in the Bible. And good biblical fiction writers would say they write about could have happened, just like any other historical fiction writer would. Folks just get persnickety about the Bible. 😉
Shelter of the Most High is set in the time of the beginning of the book of Judges, when Joshua is still alive. Two young women from a Mediterranean island find themselves kidnapped, their village and families destroyed, and eventually swimming to the shores of Tyre, where they are rescued by travelers whose language and ways are completely unknown. They are brought to Kedesh, a city of refuge, and taken in by a Hebrew family.
What did I think of Shelter of the Most High?
I thought this story was done really well. Christianity and Judaism have been a part of our culture for so long that it was refreshing to step inside the head of a young woman who would have found early Hebrew monotheism utterly foreign and sometimes terrifying. Funny business: I read this book after two days of teaching the book of Judges for School of Ministry. (If I had realized, I would have read the book before teaching the class!). A few weeks before that, I finished a Bible study on the book of Ruth, which is set during the time of the Judges. So I was all seeped up in the historical context – and the theological issues – before reading Shelter of the Most High.
There’s a taste of the surrounding towns gravitating back towards Canaanite religion, and the memories of people who were alive for the end of the journey from Egypt. Historically, this book seemed fairly accurate (for what we can know and what we choose to debate about or not.). There are a lot of unknowns about this time, such as how much of Moses’ instructions were actually carried out. I thought Ms. Rossette filled in the gaps in a reasonable way, and I think the story will open your eyes to a time in Scripture we don’t spend much time with, and hopefully will challenge your own faith, forgiveness, and loyalty to the Most High.
Shelter of the Most High is on tour with Celebrate Lit!
About the Book
Book: Shelter of the Most High
Author: Connilyn Cossette
Genre: Christian Biblical Fiction
Release Date: October, 2018
The daughter of a pagan high priest, Sofea finds solace from her troubles in the freedom of the ocean. But when marauders attack her village on the island of Sicily, she and her cousin are taken across the sea to the shores of Canaan.
Eitan has lived in Kedesh, a city of refuge, for the last eleven years, haunted by a tragedy in his childhood, yet chafing at the boundaries placed on him. He is immediately captivated by Sofea, but revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing her into the danger of his past.
As threats from outside the walls loom and traitors are uncovered within, Sofea and Eitan are plunged into the midst of a murder plot. Can they uncover the betrayal in time to save their lives and the lives of those they love?
Click here to purchase your copy!
Connilyn Cossette is the CBA bestselling author of the Out From Egypt series. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars, was a finalist for the Christy Award, the INSPY Award, and the Christian Retailing’s Best Award. She lives in North Carolina with her husband of twenty years and a son and a daughter who fill her days with joy, inspiration, and laughter. Connect with her at www.ConnilynCossette.com.
To celebrate her tour, Connilyn is giving away:
Grand Prize: All five of Conni’s novels, including Shelter of the Most High, plus AHAVA Dead Sea Bath Salts
Three other winners will receive a copy of Shelter of the Most High!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops below for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/d66d/shelter-of-the-most-high-celebration-tour-giveaway
Guest Post from Connilyn
Shelter of the Most High, the second book in my Cities of Refuge Series, will be the first I’ve written to have been influenced by my trip to Israel last year. When I started writing Biblical fiction almost nine years ago, I was limited to exploring the Land of Promise via Google Earth, books, and through a plethora of photos on the good ol’ world wide web, but of course nothing can compare to actually experiencing the atmosphere and scenery for yourself.
So although I’d already written Shelter of the Most High by the time I hopped on a plane to join fellow author Cliff Graham’s GoodBattle Tour, once I returned my editing was filtered through the sights and sounds I’d witnessed for myself. It had been a life-long dream to go to Israel and it did not disappoint, in fact it just went way too fast!
One of my greatest fears was that I would see the places I’d written about in my books and realize I totally messed up my descriptions, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that for the most part I’d been fairly accurate (although I did tweak a few things here and there).
Standing on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee I was able to envision Eitan, our hero in Shelter of the Most High, sitting on one of the black boulders there, defeated and weary as he searched for his love. I was able to look toward the snowy peaks of Mount Hermon in the north and over the fertile Hula Valley just below the ancient ruins of Kedesh, the city of refuge, and consider how Sofea must have felt as she experienced the landscape of her new home for the first time, both the fear and the awe.
One of my favorite sites was Tel Dan and although it does not feature in Shelter of the Most High it’s lush greenness and dense forest gave me a better sense of what Israel must have been in the past before deforestation, war, and shifts in climate have done to the fertile land God himself called a land of milk and honey. Since I was so affected by Tel Dan (or Laish in ancient times) that city will be one of the settings in my upcoming third installment of the Cities of Refuge Series, Until the Mountains Fall.
Being a super visual person who is highly sensitive to sensory input, I took great pleasure in absorbing with all my senses as we walked paths, climbed mountains (yes, mountains), slogged through a long, cold, and wet tunnel deep beneath Jerusalem, hiked up to the secret oasis of Ein Gedi where David hid from Saul, and rocked along on a boat over the glassy surface of the Galilee. I felt like a sponge just soaking up every little detail and every grand vista.
Smelling the salty breeze off the Mediterranean and hearing the waves crash against the sandy beach in Tel Aviv and Caesarea Phillipi made me imagine our heroine Sofea looking over that enormous, blue expanse and wondering what sort of god had control of such a powerful thing.
Feeling the timeworn cobblestones beneath my feet gave me a sense of what it must have been like for Eitan and Sofea to walk through the streets of Kedesh, their own sandals scuffing against the rough-hewn stone as they went about their daily activities.
Running my fingers along the pitted surfaces of ancient buildings and tracing the chisel marks from craftsmen of the Bronze Age wrapped me in a whirl of imagination about who the people were that hefted those same rocks into place and the ingenuity it took to create structures that have lasted so long.
Tasting the unique spices and flavors of the Middle East gave me a sense of the passion Moryiah (our hero’s mother) has for creating delicious new dishes to feed her growing family and the guests at her inn.
Although I write fiction, my stories are woven into Biblical accounts so going to Israel was a perfect reminder for me that the people that lived between the pages of Genesis to Revelations were real. They breathed, they cried, they loved, they mourned, they suffered, and they celebrated with their families. I am so grateful to have gleaned some great new insight into the Land and its resilient, vibrant people and hope that through Shelter of the Most High readers get a small sense of the beauty and wonder I experienced there. I cannot wait to go back!
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