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Christy Award-Winning Author Mesu Andrews Brings to Life the Prophet Daniel Through the Eyes of the Woman He Loved
“Andrews (Isaiah’s Daughter) fleshes out the lives of well-known Old Testament characters in this enchanting work. Unexpected plot twists, empathetic characters, and well-researched biblical history make this an exceptional work of scripture-based fiction.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
CBA best-selling and Christy Award-winning author Mesu Andrews draws from the Old Testament book of Daniel to tell a powerful story of survival, long-held secrets, prophecies and miraculous deliverance in her new biblical fiction novel, OF FIRE AND LIONS (3/5/19, WaterBrook).
Andrews takes the well-known story of Daniel, including the 70-year exile of the Jews to Babylon and Daniel’s time in the lion’s den, and imagines it through the eyes of his lifelong love, Belili.
As a young girl, Belili narrowly escaped death when the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem and took their finest as captives. Instructed to tend to four captive princes—Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—Belili was immediately drawn to Daniel as she witnessed him step into his role as a prophet at a young age. But her survival journey took her elsewhere, among pagan worshippers and into a life she would long to forget.
Years later, as Daniel’s wife and matriarch of their family, Belili’s past seems far behind her; until the night the Medo-Persian Army invades and brings her secrets with them. Will Belili choose truth over deception and find freedom in the God who rescues His people from both fire and lions?
Andrews once again provides a compelling, previously unexplored story inspired by the Old Testament. Biblical fiction and historical fiction fans, as well as readers who take a special interest in the Old Testament, will love the way Andrews has woven her imagination through the biblical account of Daniel.
Q&A with Mesu Andrews
How did your first published book change your life?
When we lived in Nappanee, Indiana (beautiful Amish territory!), and my husband served as a pastor for fourteen years, I served alongside him at the church, spoke at retreats and conferences, and wrote one Bible study—a companion book for my favorite presentation. I hoped to publish that Bible study—non-fiction—and attended several writers conference to learn how to do that. Oh, how things changed when we moved to the Pacific Northwest and a friend convinced me to write that Bible study as a novel!
When I signed my first contract in 2008, crawling into the pages of Scripture and living those stories with the biblical characters became my hobby, my career, and my passion. The fact that some people started following, liking, and reviewing my books and signing up for my newsletter (without me begging them) was sort of a bonus.
I remember the first time I introduced myself to someone at a conference and she said, “Oh! I’ve read your book!” I was astounded and began asking all sorts of questions to see how we were related. Surely, only my family would read my book, right? But I also had to grow a little armor around my heart, letting negative comments bounce off—though some still poked holes in my Cloud 9.
When my first book won the ECPA debut novel of the year, my publisher emailed to congratulate me. I emailed back with, Oh, is that good? I got an immediate phone call from my marketing director explaining who the ECPA was and why I should be elated!
At some point—I’m not really sure when—I started feeling a little less like a newbie. In the movie, Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell knew his purpose was ultimately to be a missionary to China, but when he ran he felt God’s pleasure. I’ve always known my greatest purpose is to be a wife, mama, and grandma but now—after having been published and seeing the Lord minister to so many folks through my writing—when I write, I feel God’s pleasure.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
My publishing journey isn’t at all typical. I was a Bible teacher at retreats and conferences for more than ten years before we moved to the Pacific Northwest. Speaking was my passion until chronic health issues suddenly made writing more practical—necessary even. I went to three writer’s conferences between 2001 and 2008. Even had an agent for three years that fielded dozens of rejection letters for my non-fiction attempts. But when I attended Mt. Hermon’s fiction mentoring clinic, my first fiction proposal garnered interest from an editor. Was it due to stellar writing? No way! I didn’t even know what POV was! But the editor promised she’d look at the full manuscript if I could “fix my craft issues.” It was because she was at that particular conference looking for biblical fiction, and I was the only one she saw. It was because of God’s timing, not mine. With LOTS of help and a patient instructor (thank you, writing-mama Gayle Roper), I submitted the full manuscript and was offered a two-book contract. Sounds great, right?
This is where it got complicated. The publisher wanted to wait three years to publish my Bible-study-turned-novel and wanted me to write a second novel within twelve months to publish first. The problem? I’d never written a novel from start to finish in so little time! That first “novel” had been a Bible study that took me twelve years to write!!! By God’s grace, I completed my first published novel, Love Amid the Ashes (the story of Job), which sailed through the editing process with fewer edits than any of my books to date. Again, our great God proved that HE ALONE was in charge of my writing career—and He confirms it by bringing me to my knees on every book I write.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found work best for you?
I have found building a great street team is the best benefit in so many ways. For those who aren’t familiar with the term street team, it’s sort of like being an “influencer” or becoming a member of a “launch team.” You usually receive a free advanced (pre-release) copy of their newest book in return for your honest review posted to an online retailer’s website. However, my interpretation of a street team carries a bit more responsibility for both the team members and the author.
My team—called Mesu’s BFFs, Bibilical-Fiction-Fans—remains together even after the specific book is launched. They’re given the opportunity to step off the team after launch but are encouraged to continue as part of the group to help promote other biblical fiction authors as their books release. The application process for my team is pretty rigorous, and we look for members who are passionate about the biblical fiction genre—not just folks who like my books and want a free gift.
The continuity of our team makes for a tight-knit community and encourages prayer support between author and team as well as member to member. We get matching t-shirts, do mug and/or postcard swaps to build relationships, and I communicate personal updates as well as up-to-date publishing news.
And when Release Day comes—WATCH OUT! I’ve got an army of passionate readers ready to spread the word on all their favorite marketing channels: social media, personal blogs, book clubs (online and community), libraries (churches and public), and their local church ministries (women’s ministries, etc.). A well-trained, committed street team multiplies my marketing efforts exponentially, and they become precious friends working shoulder-to-shoulder for the Kingdom.
What has been the toughest part of being a published author? The best part?
The toughest part is juggling the other aspects of my life around my ever-growing passion for writing. I love what I do, so my Type-A inclination is to do it all the time. I adore my husband, my kids, and grandkids—but when I’ve been living night and day for two weeks in 9th-century B.C. Israel or Babylon or Egypt, it’s hard to fully engage in a birthday party for a five-year-old in 21st-century America. 2018 was the most difficult year of my writing career because I over-committed with three rough-drafts and two releases in a single calendar year. I usually do one first draft and launch in a year. Bad planning.
This year I’m back to one book a year and have MUCH healthier boundaries on the time I spend in my ancient worlds! The best part about being a published author…writing! I’ve always loved researching the biblical text; discovering ancient culture, learning more about the land and surrounding nations, getting into biblical characters’ “skin.” Because I’m actually writing books, I get to share what I’m learning with others. I’m almost giddy every time I find a new detail to work into a story. It’s better than C.H.O.C.O.L.A.T.E.
Describe a moment when you said to yourself, “Now this, this is why I write!”
Two things happen on almost every book I write, one negative and one positive. The negative usually happens first at some point in the process when I stumble on a difficult research fact or an editor gives me (what feels like) hopeless feedback. I say to my husband, “I can’t write this book. I have to break the contract and give the advance money back.” After hearing it ten times now, he’s learned to just pull me into his arms and let me cry.
Fairly soon after, the positive thing happens—that “Now this is why I write!” moment—when the Lord takes over and reminds me He’s in charge. I suddenly discover how to weave into the story that difficult historical fact. Or I make the changes my editor suggested, and the scene turns out ten times better than I could have imagined!
In my current WIP (work in progress), Isaiah’s Legacy, I’m writing about King Manasseh, the most wicked king to ever rule God’s people. The story was becoming too heavy, and I despaired over whether anyone would even read to the end. I’d been asking the Lord for days about how to write a hopeful ending that could overcome the darkness—and then it began to flow from my fingers onto the keyboard. I absolutely sobbed and laughed and praised Jesus as I wrote the whole last chapter! (I was glad no one else was home—they would have thought I’d lost my mind.) But I knew, I KNEW it was the reason I wrote the book—to give hope to those praying for their prodigal.
That same feeling happens at least once on every book. If I could see the supernatural world, I’d probably be terrified at the unseen battles raging. I’m so thankful God ALWAYS wins!
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any advice you’d give to yourself? Or to aspiring writers?
Include your family and friends in your writing process. Writing is such a lonely business, and it’s easy to compartmentalize your writing world in one corner of your heart and the “real world” in a different part—especially if family and friends don’t “get” it. They may never understand why we talk aloud to our characters or spend so much time editing a single scene, but by excluding them, we create a distance between us that can become a stumbling block in those relationships.
I’m currently working to clear away ten years of writing-neglect that some in my family are feeling. Though the Lord undeniably works through the stories He gives me—and I’m both honored and humbled by that reality—He would never want me to sacrifice my relationships on the altar of publishing. I am first and foremost my husband’s one-flesh partner in this life. I’m a mama to two beautiful, grown daughters and Grammy to eight amazing grandkids.
In order to be a good steward of ALL God’s blessings, I must write from the overflow of my heart after my priorities are well and fully cared for. THAT’S what ten years of published writing has taught me.
Many of her faithful readers are members of her launch team—Mesu’s Biblical Fiction Fans (BFFs)—and offer their time and service to promote God’s word through story. Andrews lives in North Carolina with her husband Roy and enjoys spending time with her growing tribe of grandchildren.