Find a Christian store

Interview with Jill Eileen Smith

Jill Eileen Smith is the author of seven published novels and a collection of short stories focusing on the loves and lives of actual women of the Bible. In today’s modern world where so much has been taken from the Bible and twisted out of context, Jill’s bio contains this reassuring quote, “My stories are simply glimpses of what “might have been”. The Bible has what really happened. I encourage you to compare, and if there are discrepancies, believe His Word.”

Jill, congratulations on the release of The Crimson Cord, Rahab’s Story, Book 1 in the Daughters of the Promised Land series. With Rahab being a Canaanite prostitute, and the other books centering on Deborah, a Hebrew judge and prophetess; Ruth, a Moabite widow; and Hannah, a barren Hebrew wife; this series promises to be a varied and powerful collection of women.

I commend you on staying true to the Bible while giving readers an entertaining and rewarding story. Do you write first and then confirm details later…or do you keep your reference materials on hand and check as you write?
Thank you for that kind introduction! I appreciate the invitation to talk with you about one of my favorite subjects – the Bible! – and the people within its pages.

I study first. I spend a month or two reading the biblical accounts and consulting with extra-biblical sources. You can find some of my reference materials under Bonus Features listed with some of the books on my website. But the short list includes life and times books, cultural atlases, maps, commentaries, devotionals, Bible studies, and whatever I can find on the era or the woman who happens to be my current focus.

After I begin to write, I will often put the word (check) in parenthesis after a particular sentence. That is normally to check a small detail such as the name of a type of tree or the properties of an herb or the color of a flower or the names of the gates in the city of Jerusalem, etc. Things I know I’ve read but just forgotten and want to make sure the details are accurate.

With all your available research from previous books, what did you need to discover about Rahab to bring her story to life in The Crimson Cord?
Rahab lived at a completely different time than the wives of the patriarchs or the wives of King David. The history of Israel had changed. They’d spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness, not to mention their years in captivity in Egypt. So that affected the main male characters in the story -- Joshua and Salmon. For Rahab, she would have had little knowledge of Israel except the stories that had survived from the Exodus, that is, until Israel defeated two kings east of the Jordan. That victory put fear into the hearts of the Canaanites, and would have affected everything in Rahab’s world. It also could have been the spark that ignited faith in Rahab. Until that point, Israel would have been seen as helpless wanderers, whose God had abandoned them.

So to answer your question – I needed to understand Israel’s history at that time, to study the details of things that had happened in the wilderness (like the sin of some of the men with Moabite women and later Midianite women and God’s judgment on both) to better grasp Israelite motives or how the men who had remained faithful might have felt about the coming conquest of Canaan.

When starting a project, how do you decide whose story needs telling?
The story is decided when I propose a project more than when I begin writing one. My contract dictates the main character. In other words, I proposed stories about these four women from the era of the Judges—the Daughters of the Promised Land—and so they will stay my main focus. That doesn’t mean I can’t have other main characters that come alongside the female heroine. But the proposed woman gets center stage.

The crimson cord is an integral symbol of Rahab’s story. Will the titles in the rest of the series contain similar imagery?
I don’t honestly know. My working titles are the names of the women. I don’t necessarily have symbols in each story, not like this one. The crimson cord was biblical. The other women don’t have such a strong symbol from Scripture. Ultimately, Revell chooses the titles and they’re better at it than I am!

What is your fondest memory of your visit to the Holy Land?
Oh, there are so many! But I guess one of the most touching moments for me was when I looked out over Jerusalem at sunrise one morning and thought, “This is home.” I have never felt that way about another city other than the one where I live now. Sometimes California gives me a feeling of belonging – much of my heart is there because some of my family is there – but Israel, particularly Jerusalem, felt like home.

Speaking of Israel, is there somewhere you wish you had been able to visit, or somewhere you would like to re-visit, for research purposes?
I would go back in a heartbeat if we could visit the places we missed. I would want to actually tour the archeological site that they think is King David’s palace. I think we saw it and got pictures of it, but our guide refused to discuss it as such. I would love to see Hebron and Petra and see more of the old City of David, perhaps go into the actual water tunnel, though I would spend less time talking about water systems and walking through caves. I’d like to see the archeological site at Elah too, where they believe David built a city.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
I love to talk to my kids when they have time or travel to see them. I love talking to my friends over coffee or Skype or dinner out. Ride my bike to the park when the weather is nice. Read just for pleasure. Listen to new music. Dates with my husband. I love to travel to new places, though travel can be hard on me. I will enjoy it while I can. Cleaning if it means we are getting rid of clutter. Spending time with people – my mom, my sister, so many people I love. But I also need my downtime. I’m an introvert all the way and I have to recharge away from the crowd.

Finish this statement: The male biblical character I would most likely write about would be . . .
Judah and Joseph. I have a desire to tell their story someday, though all of my books have centered on women. I don’t know if readers would welcome a story of two brothers, but these two men intrigue me. Maybe someday.

Any parting words?
Since I suspect most of us here are writers, I’d like to offer this bit of encouragement.

Write what you love. You can always learn what you don’t know, but if you don’t write what you love, readers will be able to tell. Let God speak to your heart until you are certain that the story burning within you is the one He wants you to tell. Don’t write just for your own pleasure, though there is nothing wrong with that. But if you want to touch a reader’s heart, love the work, and love the God who gave you the story. That’s what makes it truly Christian fiction.

Thanks for sharing with us, Jill!

For more great interviews, visit our Author Interview Archives.

ACFW Members, click here to apply for an author interview!

Developed by Camna, LLC

This is a service provided by ACFW, but does not in any way endorse any publisher, author, or work herein.