I got tagged by Christopher Bynum on his blog The Black Writer to carry the torch by taking part in a blog tour, in which we discuss our writing process. Christopher is the talented author of several books: Love Won't Let Me Wait, Speaking As A Man: Poetry And Prose, and With Benefits.
What am I working on?
I am in the last stretch of writing my next novel, titled A Peek at Bathsheba. This is the second volume in my new historical fiction series, The David Chronicles, told in the voice of King David.
I know no better way to share a taste of my writing than to let you read an excerpt. Here goes:
“Come here,” I whisper to her.
Instead she goes to the window. I find myself unable to say anything, so instead I make a note to myself, to write down these words, later: “The fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride. You are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.”
By the reflection I can read her. I see that she wipes the corner of her eye. Silk curtains start swishing. They sway, they billow wildly around her, blotting and redrawing the curves of her silhouette.
I join her by the window and hold her, rocking her gently in my arms. Together, we look out at the last glimmer of the sun, sinking.
Our touch is magical. It melts away the bitterness in her. I hum a sweet melody in her ear. She closes her eyes and so do I. There is no need for words, because both of us know, we both understand the hardship she has to go through in my court, and both of us know she has to go it alone.
If I would try to put in a good word for her, it would miscarry. I mean, it would be construed as favoring her to others, which would put her in even greater isolation.
I do not know if Bathsheba can find her way up from the bottom of the hierarchy down there, in the women’s quarters. It takes a special skill to survive, to persevere is spite of any and all obstacles. It takes grit.
Trust me, I know all there is to know about it. That determination, graced by the joy of taking risks, allowed me to challenge men stronger than me, and rise to power in their place. And to this day, it helps me hold on to it.
Does she have it in her? Can she take on women more established than her, such as my first wife, Michal, and my second wife, Abigail? Can she gain their support, and climb over their shoulders into her own power?
Time will tell.
How does my release differ from others of its genre?
I go through meticulous research, like every author worth his salt in the historical fiction genre, and collect every detail about the time and the setting. But then, I choose where to take my departure from the reference material. In this series, I chose to let the character speak in modern language. This is a design decision, meant to bring the reader into the realization that this is a universal story, happening here and now, rather than an old fairytale.
Being an artist, I find my inspiration also by artwork depicting the story. In each era, the artists did not shy away from staging David in garments that belongs to their time, and surrounding him with a contemporary scene. I take my cues from them. Here, for example, is a modern painting by Shaggal, depicting David and Bathsheba. Compare it to this excerpt from the book:
And the one image that keeps coming back to me is our reflection in the glass, where our faces melded into one. My eye, her eye, and around us, the outline of a new, fluid identity. A portrait of our love, rippling there, across the surface of the wine.
Why do I write what I do?
I am drawn to characters of complexity. By writing them I hope to put a mirror to the torment we all go through, as we stand on a crossroad contemplating our choices. In this series the character, David, tells his story. How does he see himself, during this first phase of his life? With his hands stained with blood, can he find an inner balance between conflicting drives: his ambition for the crown, his determination to survive the conflict with Saul, and his longing for purity, for a touch of the divine, as expressed so lyrically in his psalms and music?
How does my writing process work?
Since this novel is the sequel to my first volume, Rise to Power, the character of David already lives in me. I know him through and through, and the writing flows out of my pen in an amazingly fluent way. When I am away from my desk he goes on talking in my mind, and I cannot wait to get back and put his words on paper.
Here is another excerpt, this time from my book Home, where I share my writing process by attributing it to one of my characters:
He looks at the line. It is written in blue ink, pressed into the sheet of paper—vigorously here, faintly there—with his usual stroke, a stroke that drives through the spikes and valleys in the shapes of the letters at a steady slant. The line reaches the margin, where it is punctuated, unexpectedly, by a red stain.
Blotting it is bound to leave fingerprints, and so Mr. Schriber decides to leave it alone. He lifts the paper by its corner—and a drop bleeds down; he lays it down on the desk—and the stain goes on spreading. Going back to his writing, he applies too much pressure on the pen—and the pointed nib digs into the paper. Taking a deep breath, he tries to compose himself. The pen is his weapon. The simple act of pulling it over the soft, white surface has never failed to calm him down. Letter by letter, mark by mark, it will soon draw him into a different state of mind.
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