Between Paul and Luke, the two wrote so much of the New Testament, but there’s still a lot we don’t really know about them. Does that make it easier or harder for you as a storyteller?

Both. It is easier to invent situations when we don’t know otherwise, but I have to make sure my fictional forays are logical and founded on fact. I couldn’t have Paul trotting off to Britannia, for instance, because from what we know of his journeys, that excursion would strain a reader’s credulity.

But we do know he spent three years in Arabia, so I could have written a scene where he witnessed to Nabatean Arabs. (I didn’t, but I could have.)

Compared to a script for a film, you have so much more room for a novel. How did you determine the best way to fill out the story without drifting too far away from the film’s core?

Having a screenplay to work with takes care of most of the plotting, and that’s a relief. But a screenplay, when turned into prose, comes in around 30,000 words—and a novel must be around 75-80,000 words. A novelist has to add a lot, but the added material mustn’t detract from or contradict the screenplay. That can be a challenge.

When I’m doing a novelization, I have to begin where and when the movie begins and end where and when the movie ends. My novelization will contain everything in the movie, as well as material that expands the movie’s characters and plot.

What are some strengths that a novel has when compared to a film? Is there anything that the film can convey more easily than a novel?

In a film, the viewer only knows what he can see and hear. In a novel, the writer can help a reader “hear” a character’s thoughts and experience what a character tastes, smells, intuits, and feels beneath his fingertips.

Conversely, a filmmaker can show the image of a building or a landscape and convey in a second what might take a writer a thousand words to express.

Angela, you’ve written several historical novels that expand on real people and real events. What are the challenges of expanding on these accounts while also staying true to what actually happened?

I have a personal guideline—I never want to contradict historical fact. Trouble is, sometimes historical accounts don’t agree, and then I have to read all the accounts and choose the most plausible.

As a novelist, I feel free to amplify those historical accounts as long as I don’t contradict actual events or known personalities. History—and the Bible as history—is like a pencil sketch. It gives us a picture of events, but it’s not detailed. What historical fiction does is fill in the sketch with color and texture and sound and taste and motivation.

It’s the difference between a nearly-blank canvas and a detailed painting—and yes, sometimes a little artistic license comes into play. But the Truth is still present.

What’s your favorite thing about writing a biblical novel that fleshes out a person or events from the Bible?

I love learning new things. By the time I finish a historical novel—any novel, actually—I feel as if I have lived my protagonist’s experiences.

That’s why I have recently written three novels set in the Intertestamental Period—because I knew very little about that era. But oh, what an exciting and eventful time it was!

Click through to find out the parallels that Angela sees between Ancient Rome and present day America…

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