Narelle here. I’m delighted to welcome Roseanna M. White to our blog. Today we’re giving away a gift package including Roseanna’s book, A Stray Drop of Blood.
The gift package includes a personalized copy of A Stray Drop Of Blood, a Companion Guide with go-to references for all Roseanna’s sources and texts used in research, recipe cards featuring A Taste from the Land of Milk and Honey, a bookmark, and beeswax lip balm much like her characters would have used.
Roseanna M.White is a wife, mommy, writer, reviewer, and lover of all things literature-related. She makes her home in the mountains of Western Maryland with her husband and two small children, where they run the Christian Review of Books. She's a member of ACFW, HisWriters, and HEWN Marketing.
Book Review by Narelle Atkins
A Stray Drop of Blood (WhiteFire Publishing, 2009) is Roseanna M. White’s captivating debut Biblical fiction novel. The story is set in Jerusalem and Rome around the time of Jesus’ ministry.
Eight year old Hebrew girl Abigail is orphaned and sold into slavery by her stepfather. She is purchased by a Roman prefect as a companion for his Hebrew wife. Abigail is educated and raised as if she was their own daughter and her immense beauty is both a blessing and curse. Six years later her master’s son, a Roman soldier, returns home after a six year absence and claims Abigail as his own before she can be given in marriage to her fellow slave and best friend. Abigail is forced to accept her new situation and feels abandoned by her God.
Tragedy befalls her Master’s household and Abigail’s encounter with Jesus on the day he is crucified both challenges her faith and transforms her life. Her faith is tested as she loses loved ones and cannot escape being treated as a Hebrew slave despite changes in her circumstances. A powerful love story unfolds and Abigail struggles with her seemingly futile desire to be with the man she loves.
A Stray Drop of Blood is an honest story that explores the best and worst of human nature. Realistic and compelling character’s struggle with temptation and the differences between the Hebrew and Roman society create strong emotional conflict. The story is action packed, with masterful plot twists and the spiritual element flows seamlessly through the story. I would recommend A Stray Drop of Blood for those looking for a challenging and exciting Biblical fiction story.
Narelle: I really enjoyed reading your book. Please tell us about your inspiration for A Stray Drop of Blood.
Roseanna: It was Good Friday when I was 15, and I’d just gotten in a huge fight with my best friend over a guy (who, I might add, is now my husband). Feeling at once the high of young love and the bitterness of disappointment over the falling out with my oldest friend, I sat down at my parents’ bay window, looked out over the mountains, and turned my thoughts to the Lord. I got out my Bible and read the accounts of that first Good Friday.
Suddenly, my issues didn’t seem so big, and these bittersweet feelings just magnified the importance of the day, of what Jesus did. But in typical me-fashion, I didn’t internalize it just by reading the facts. I had to put myself into the story. I wondered what it would have been like to be a woman in the crowd at Jesus’s trial, his crucifixion. What would she have seen, have felt? And what if she had come seeking vengeance on Barabbas, only to collide with the forgiveness offered by the One to take the criminal’s place?
I moved to the computer and quickly wrote a 6-page short story called “A Stray Drop of Blood,” where the heroine’s life is changed when she feels the fire and power of her savior’s blood when a drop lands on her. I knew then and there it would expand into a book, and over the next six years as I finished high school and went to college, I turned it into one. (Or, if you’re going by word count, perhaps I turned it into three, LOL. It was looooooong!)
Narelle: Please share with us a few tips for researching Biblical fiction.
Roseanna: Oh, my. First, read texts from the day. The Bible, obviously, and some notes and commentary on the setting or story you’re using. You’ll also want to do some outside research on things like fashion, housing, geography, that sort of thing. But the thing that will really help you get in the mind-set of the culture is to read other writing from the time period.
For A Stray Drop of Blood, I utilized all the reading that I did in my first two years of college; the Ancient Greeks, from Homer to Plato and Aristotle, the playwrights, even (actually, especially) the histories and biographies; the Bible, obviously, both Old and New Testaments; and Roman works from the time of Christ, from Virgil and Epictetus to Tacitus. These helped give a complete picture of what life, religion, politics, and philosophy were like leading up to Jesus’ day, and each of my characters tend toward a different school of thought.
Narelle: I was fascinated to read quotes and references in your book from philosophers eg. Aristotle, Homer. What influence did the Greek philosophers have on your characters in A Stray Drop of Blood?
Roseanna: Tremendous! LOL. I really enjoyed learning all about them my Freshman year of college–and by learning, I mean reading their works, even translating them from Ancient Greek, not reading about them in textbooks. But what I really loved was how the Greek way of thinking, the Greek literature were such a presence in the time period I was writing in. Educated people in Jesus’ day would be very familiar with the dialogues, plays, and treatises from the Greeks, and many texts from the Romans and their contemporaries reference them like you and I would reference popular TV shows.
I also loved the differences between the Greek way of thinking, the Hebrew way of thinking, the Roman way of thinking. To achieve diversity in my characters, they each tend toward one of these big philosophies. Abigail represents the Greeks, always asking questions, trying to understand the form behind the things she sees, but rarely willing to accept the answers given her. Ester, her mistress, is Hebrew through and through, and though she loves the Lord with a full heart, she also tends to think that the Law is God, rather than an extension of Him. Jason, Ester’s son (and his friends), represents the Roman philosophies that focus largely on self, and on how self relates to state. His primary concerns through the beginning of the book are finding his pleasure and planning his future in Roman politics.
I've yet to get a frustrated email from a reader that says, “You totally lost me with all those dead philosophers, you over-educated ninny!” but just in case, I’ve put together a Companion Guide for the book that points out all the places I mention writers or figures in history that might be unfamiliar to the average modern reader, and I expound on the references. And even if you caught all my references, you might take interest in seeing the complete list or my reasons for including them. Check it out here.
Narelle: Abigail is sold into slavery as a young girl. How were slaves treated in Jerusalem and Rome?
Roseanna: These actually have very different answers. A Hebrew that is sold (or sells oneself) to another Hebrew is, by Law, treated very well; they would in fact be a bondservant, not a slave, and would be given the choice of freedom in the year of Jubilee, and sent off into the world with the means to support themselves. Only foreigners were permitted by the Law of Moses to be held as true slaves and considered property that could be inherited with the estates, and whose children would be born slaves.
Romans, on the other hand, were definitely in the people-selling business, and slaves were little more than livestock. I was truly shocked by how many times in Tacitus’s Annals I read about slaves being sold to the state for torture when someone suspected they might know something about a crime or plot.
The issue is complicated in A Stray Drop of Blood because Abigail is sold to a household technically Roman–for the record, Hebrews were told not to sell their own to foreigners. Abigail’s step-family would have been frowned on for doing this, but given the political climate of the day and her particular situation, it’s still reasonable. She is fortunate to have been purchased by a Roman who upholds Jewish law as much as he is able. Her master and mistress both treat her with love, as a daughter. But when their son Jason returns from Rome, he doesn’t share their outlook and treats her as the Romans treat their slaves–namely, however he pleases.
Narelle: Abigail’s master, a Roman prefect, learns of Jesus’ teachings and wants his household to hear Jesus in person. How did your character’s cultural background influence their response to Jesus’ teachings?
Roseanna: Well, the teachings appeal to Cleopas largely because he is a Roman who loves the Hebrew God. The way he sees it, he as a Roman can never fully obey the Law, and he longs with all his heart for a mediator, someone to deliver him from his shortcomings and allow him to move closer to God, rather than being stuck forever in the outer courts of His temple.
Cleopas's wife, Ester, is the daughter of a legalistic Jew, and she cannot reconcile the messages Jesus teaches with the way she was raised. His words raise questions in her heart of how he dares to judge people like her father, how he even knows their hearts, and why he calls chaff all the work and study the religious Jews dedicate themselves to. Though she loves the Lord, she fails to see that it is her heart, and not her tithes and sacrifices, that matter the most.
Abigail has been so well educated in Greek, Hebrew, and Roman philosophies that she cannot just accept what she sees. She questions everything, and the answers never satisfy. Part of her wants to trust Cleopas’s word, since she respects and honors him, but it takes much of the book for her to realize that the beliefs of her mistress, the faith of her master, will never be enough for her own soul. Abigail must experience something that surpasses philosophy before she can accept not only that there is a Truth, but that it stands before her.
Jason, her master’s son, has been immersed in Roman ways for the last six years, and he has embraced the hedonism and Stoicism of the day. It at first makes him scoff at Jesus and all he represents; but the longer he’s in Jerusalem, the more he sees the difference between the kind of authority his father wields and the kind his friends aspire to, the more he begins to understand there is something more to life than wine, food, and women. It is his father’s example, more than the teachings of Christ themselves, that eventually capture his curiosity.
I could go on, but I don’t want to bore everyone, LOL. I’m skipping a rather vital character, but that’s largely because I don’t want to ruin a major twist. :-)
Narelle: A Stray Drop of Blood is published by a small press, WhiteFire Publishing. Are they open for submissions? What type of stories are they looking for and will they consider foreign settings?
Roseanna: WhiteFire will be expanding their fiction line in the next year, so interested parties should keep their eyes open for a call for submissions. A Stray Drop of Blood is a decent example of the kind of book they’re looking for, though not necessarily Biblical fiction. They’re embracing the motto of “Not Your Grandmother’s Christian Fiction,” and looking for books that portray the realities of life, love, and faith; not shying away from issues but handling them Biblically. Edgy is good, but the precepts of the Bible must reign in the conclusion.
As for foreign settings, that gets a resound, “Yes, please!” Rather than publishing what everyone else is and then competing with the established authors of those genres, WFP wants to establish its own niche, and they’re seriously considering getting that niche started with foreign settings, especially historicals. The only caveat to that is that the language itself must be accessible to Americans, so too much dialect or idioms from other countries would have to be American-ized a bit–not completely, mind you, but enough that the average American reader could immediately understand what’s being said.
I'll actually be the acquiring editor when WFP opens for submissions, and it’s pretty easy to know what books capture me. Things like mine, obviously, LOL, but I’m also the senior reviewer at the Christian Review of Books and blog daily, so my opinions are all over the place. I like books that are passionate, that have a unique voice, that have an intellectual appeal without being stuffy or feeling like a textbook, and that delve into the spiritual realities that surround us as Christians but which are often unseen (and I’m a sucker for romance!). Send us something like that, and we’ll be excited to welcome you to the WhiteFire family!
Roseanna, thanks so much for joining us today. It's been a pleasure to interview you and learn more about Biblical fiction.
By commenting on today’s post you can enter the drawing to win the gift package, including a personalized copy of A Stray Drop of Blood. The drawing will take place on Friday, February 19 and the winner announced on Sunday, February 21. Please leave an email address [ ] at [ ] dot [ ] where you can be reached.
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To learn more about Roseanna M. White, please visit her website, blog and Christian Review of Books.
If you miss out on winning the gift package, you can purchase Roseanna’s book at CrossPurposes (her mom's online store). A note from Roseanna: If you purchase A Stray Drop of Blood from CrossPurposes, you can then email her at roseanna [at] roseannawhite [dot] com with how you'd like it personalized, and she'll sign it for you. Feel free to use coupon code BLOGGER at checkout for 20% off!