I am excited to share with you my very first author interview and I must say that I couldn’t have started with a more compelling book!
Katrina Hamel recently published her first novel called Dividing Sword. Doesn’t the title just make you want to dive in?
Who is Katrina Hamel?
Katrina is a fellow blogger who has been a lover of stories from a young age. She writes from her kitchen table, surrounded by her husband, four kids and two cats. She and her family reside in Alberta, Canada. When she’s not writing, she’s playing board games, camping at the lake, sipping iced coffee on the deck, or staying up way too late with a good book. You can find her Biblical short stories on her blog: katrinadhamel.com
With Katrina’s permission, I am providing below a synopsis of her book, taken from her website.
Dividing Sword is a Christian Historical Novel, inspired by the Gospel of Matthew and shows the real struggles of encountering Christ. Follow two fictional characters as they grapple to keep their families and dreams intact in the wake of a controversial new rabbi.
See the ministry of Jesus through fresh eyes – the eyes of a woman and of a Pharisee.
Dividing Sword is written as fiction, though it includes most of the Gospel of Matthew in paraphrased form. The author did her best to not draw from the other gospel accounts, but to see the story of Jesus through the words of Matthew – with his emphasis, themes and stories. Reading the famous stories in an immersive narrative and setting will draw you right into the world of Jesus, whether you’re new to scripture, or a life-long scholar.
Beth and Reuben are cousins and best friends who grew up in first-century Capernaum. Despite their nation’s suffering under the thumb of Rome, both have clear hopes for the future, and when Jesus comes along they find their fates spiraling in directions they did not expect.
Shy and anxious Beth anticipates a quiet and simple life with her new husband, Peter. She has witnessed the brutal punishment of those who stand up to Rome, and wants nothing to do with revolutionaries. When her impulsive husband throws caution to the wind, she is drawn out of her safe haven to places far from home, and finds herself facing her greatest fears. Will she answer the rabbi’s call, or draw back in fear?
Reuben feels God calling him to join the prestigious scholarly group known as the Pharisees, despite his father’s wishes and his humble beginnings. He believes that the way to a restored Israel is through careful obedience to the law and traditions, and Jesus of Nazareth is challenging tradition at every turn. Can Reuben convince Beth that Jesus is dangerous? Will a humbling run-in with the Nazarene completely destroy his budding career?
The author wanted to explore the idea of women disciples traveling with Jesus. We hear in other gospel accounts that women traveled with Jesus, and financially supported him. (Luke 8:1-3) In 1 Cor 9:5 we have Cephas (Peter) traveling with his wife. And then we have the example of Aquila and Priscilla working as a team.
By taking Beth out into the world with Jesus, we get to see her perspective of Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee, travel with her to exotic Tyre to hear the pleading of the Syrophoenecian woman, peer into the depths of the Gates of Hades in Caesarea Philippi, see Jesus clear the courts of the Temple in Jerusalem, and stand before the cross.
Through Reuben’s eyes as a Pharisee student, we get to peek into the minds of those who saw Jesus’ miracles, but still did not believe. We learn more about who the Pharisees and Sadducees were, and what they believed. We get to join the banquet with Herod Antipas as Salome wins a favor with her dance, hear the Sanhedrin’s secret meetings, and watch the tomb be sealed shut.
An Interview with Katrina Hamel
Summer: Reading the summary of your book has me intrigued! How did your idea to write this novel come about?
Katrina: The idea for Dividing Sword grew out of a short story about Herod Antipas that I wrote for an email Bible study group. My Dad showed it to an author friend of his, and I was surprised when I was asked if I would be interested in writing a whole novel on the Gospel of Matthew! I was both eager and overwhelmed at the idea of tackling such a famous and well-loved gospel. I approached the gospel at a tip-toe, but by the end I was trudging the roads of Galilee in my imagination, and loving every minute of it.
Summer: I have a feeling you did a bit of cultural and historical research to prepare for writing this story. Were you surprised to discover anything as you were taking notes?
Katrina: Yes, I did do a good chunk of research to write this book! One of the things that surprised me was the importance of this little country we call Israel, which was back then chopped up into territories that included the famous Judea and Galilee. I had this idea that this country of Abraham, David and Jesus was tucked out of the way, obscure and unimportant to the rest of the ancient world. Quite the opposite! Important trade routes intersected the country, rulers in Jerusalem helped bring Roman Caesars to power, and Herod the Great was close friends with Mark Antony and Cleopatra.
The spread of Jewish people had created a thriving diaspora—believing Jews not living in their homeland yet still studying and following scripture. I was struck with how God picked a perfect time and place for Jesus to arrive. The creation of synagogues all over the ancient world, joined by good roads and people trained to seek for truth, made a perfect launch for the early church.
Summer: What made you choose the main characters, Beth, a woman, and Reuben, a Pharisee –in -training?
Katrina: Two of the main things that jump out of Matthew is how much talk there is about the kingdom of heaven, and the growing antagonism of the Pharisees towards Jesus. I wanted characters who could ask my questions to the gospel: What is the kingdom of heaven, and when is it coming? How could someone see the miracles of Jesus and not believe? What was it like to walk and talk with Jesus?
As a woman myself, I was intrigued by the stories of women throughout the gospels. There are women who get more mention than some of the apostles! I was keenly interested to explore how Jesus valued women in his ministry. Through my character Beth, I was able to explore what people believed about this coming kingdom—with all its dangers and blessings.
With Reuben, I could give voice to the doubts that creep in, like how do we know for sure that Jesus is the Messiah? I love to see the other side of the story, and Reuben gave me the perfect window to the world of these scholars and leaders who turned their back on Jesus.
Summer: Throughout the writing process, did you encounter any hiccups or obstacles along the way?
Katrina: Only about a hundred! On my first draft, Jesus had as much personality as a tree. I was so scared to make him smile, or frown, or laugh, or even cross his arms. This was Jesus I was talking about! I had to free myself with the reminder that I was writing a novel, not trying to replace the gospel.
There were so many parables that I was weaving into the story that I myself was still trying to understand. I could only write as fast as I learned, so sometimes I felt like I was going nowhere.
And then there was the question of which stories of Matthew to keep, and which to pass over. I didn’t want my story to skip alongside the gospel, I wanted to be in the middle of the action every step I could.
Summer: As the novel was coming together, who did you envision your audience would be? What kinds of readers are you hoping to draw?
Katrina: I wrote this book for men and women who know that faith does not make life easy, yet cling to it for life-giving hope. People who like to ask questions, challenge assumptions and learn a little something in an entertaining way. While I would love for unbelievers to read Dividing Sword, there is simply no way to sneak this book under an unbeliever’s nose, it is packed with the gospel from one end to the other! I have had positive responses from both men and women, something that makes me very excited. I would love to see couples enjoy this book together.
Summer: Should we be expecting more historical novels from you? Any other genres in mind?
Katrina: I do have plans for another historical novel! I loved learning about the first century, and I’m full of questions about the growth of the early church and the amazing men and women who risked their lives to spread the news of Jesus Christ.
I am looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of Dividing Sword! Katrina, I wish you great success with your first historical novel. May God use this labor of love to draw many people to himself, believers and nonbelievers alike. Can’t wait to hear how your second novel comes together!
Purchase a copy of Dividing Sword at: Amazon.com
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