Mesu Andrews is an active speaker who has devoted herself to passionate and intense study of Scripture. Harnessing her deep understanding and love for God’s Word, Andrews brings the biblical world alive for her readers in this debut novel. She lives in Vancouver, Washington.
SKC: Before you tell us more about your work, how would you say your upbringing relates to your writing, Mesu?
MA: I am sort of a spiritual mutt; my mom charismatic and my dad a Quaker. My grandparents were ordained ministers in the Pilgrim Holiness Church, then Nazarene and finally in the Wesleyan Church. Life was interesting growing up in the crossfire of debate over God’s Word. In my confusion, I turned away from the Lord as a teenager, but when I returned to Him, I had a tenacious hunger to study the Bible for myself. As a young mom, I read Bible stories to my children at bedtime and then studied the same stories in my NIV Study Bible by day. Now, I write about those stories, weaving together God’s Word in ways that not only entertain but also teach.
SKC: What a great testimony. Thanks. How do you think a person who uses one side of her brain for things that deal with logistics and facts gets their brain into the creative mode?
MA: I’m a “pantser” – I write by the seat of my pants. No methodical plotting of the story. No neat little rows of post-its on my wall. I find intricate references in God’s Word and then pray about how to make His truth make sense. Life can be messy and confusing, but fiction must make sense. And even more importantly for biblical fiction – even when it may appear contradictory, God’s Word can never contradict itself. So the creative mind must find a way to form a believable story around God’s inerrant truth. I believe a simple but effective prayer helps me: It helps to remember that we were formed in the image of our God who is both intellectual and creative. A friend once prayed this prayer over me, and it’s become my declaration of faith when I’m stumped by a difficult plot knot: “I was created by my Creator to be creative.”
SKC: That's a perfect way to look at it. What else inspires you to keep going?
MA: If you have visited my website (www.mesuandrews.com ), you know that I deal with several chronic illnesses. Fibromyalgia and daily migraines are the two most troublesome. I keep going because I know what happens if I stop…the symptoms worsen, rather than improve. If I give in to the desire to stay in bed, my muscles stiffen and the migraines begin earlier in the day. If I keep a regimented sleep schedule and discipline myself to exercise and stay quietly active at my desk, I can enjoy a fairly normal life. I still struggle with a healthy balance between work and rest. Perhaps this is a struggle we’ll all battle while on this earth, but I try to listen to my body more and watch for signs of a “crash” before it relegates me to bed and a dark room. My family reads my silent signals well, and they give me the freedom to rest when needed. They also give me a “kick in the pants” when self-pity begins to slip in. The most important reason I keep writing, speaking, ministering…because I have met Jesus during these days of suffering in a way I could never have known Him without it. I try to remember the blessing of this imposed solitude, and then I appreciate the privilege I’ve been given to minister through my computer screen.
SKC: I understand perfectly about the migraines, Mesu. They have been added to my own thorn in the flesh in the last several years. They are NO FUN. But we learn to live with them don't we. When did you know writing books would become the passion of your heart and what message do you filter in your stories, if any?
MA: I only realized writing could become my passion when I let go of MY goals and MY desires for life. I was a busy speaker and teacher, pastor’s wife and mother of two energetic teenagers. In 1997, fibromyalgia clipped my wings, and I felt like an eagle forced to walk. I continued speaking but traveled only once a month and taught three Bible studies a week. In 2002, another health crisis dealt a more serious blow, and I was in bed for six months. My only teaching outlet was my laptop, typing lessons God laid on my heart while I grudgingly laid in my bed. I fought hard with God in those early days, asking why I couldn’t keep building my speaking ministry. But as I began to let go of my dreams and my desires, I learned to appreciate the sweet fellowship with my Savior. Jesus became more real to me than any human relationship I’d known, and writing became sort of a partnership that I enjoyed with Him. Now, I speak occasionally, but I’ve been transformed from a total extrovert to someone who absolutely LOVES to be at home in my pj’s with a cup of coffee in hand, pecking away at my keyboard. I hope the message that comes through anything I write includes the intimacy I found with Jesus—and that is available to anyone who seeks Him as a precious treasure.
SKC: We'll just have to share a cup of coffee sometime, Mesu. In the meantime, I'm glad you still step out on faith and teach. It helps those who step back because of health issues. I know. What do you believe is the KEY to writing a good book so far?
MA: Wow! I’ve only published one book and working on the second, so I’m not sure I’m qualified to determine a “key” yet! But for me, I’ve discovered that if I try to write a nice story, it’s a disaster. My calling is to teach. Specifically, to teach God’s Word. I don’t have the credentials to publish Bible studies, so my dear friend reminded me that Jesus used the power of story to teach. That’s when I knew biblical novels were for me. Scripture is a wealth of parables already written by the Great Storyteller. When coupled with historical research and a little imagination, the ancient world can come alive to illustrate principles that might otherwise escape our notice. If I write a chapter or a scene, and it seems boring or dead, I know I’ve veered off the path of teaching and need to ask myself what concept the Lord wants to convey through this part of the story. That’s where the power of story really gets its power—when it’s full of eternal meaning.
SKC: Couldn't agree more. Tell us how you schedule your daily writing time so that it does not interfere with your God time and quality time with family.
MA: Schedule and balance…eeee-gad! That’s always the question, eh? Theoretically, I’m an empty-nester. Practically, our youngest daughter and her husband (and their dog) are newlyweds, living with us for a few of months, putting into practice their Dave Ramsey principles. Next weekend our older daughter will also move back in with us in order to manage her finances for her upcoming wedding in August. Did I mention my father-in-law lives next door? Because my husband is a college professor, his schedule is flexible, so this can be a good thing…or challenging since this means he’s home at odd hours. So, when you say the words, “schedule” and “daily writing time,” I chuckle a little bit. I write like crazy when the house is quiet, and I enjoy my family when they seem to need mama around. It’s a juggling act for sure! Whoever said adult kids don’t need mom must not have had adult kids! And some of my best “God time” happens while I’m on the treadmill or exercise bike. I can walk or ride and think of nothing else except the Scripture before me. (And it helps distract me from the exercise fatigue, too!)
SKC: That's right. Adult kids DO need the folks as much as the wee ones. I have three of my ow, and I know they need us, even if they don't always admit it. Why do you think so many authors have a difficult time coming up with their proposals? What is it like for you?
MA: I hate proposals! I’m terrible at writing them! I think the only reason I got a contract was because I went to a writers’ conference and met the editor in person. I’m much better at talking about an idea than boiling it down to a pitch sentence. I think proposals are difficult because writers were made to write…and proposals are for marketers. Marketers think in phrases and quips. Writers think in paragraphs and chapters. But it’s a good discipline. It makes me search the market for other books like mine, and it makes me consider what projects are viable for my future. Writing a proposal is a time to take stock of my writing life. Where am I? Where have I been? And where am I going? It’s good torture.
SKC: Tell us about your present project, Mesu, and also what plans you have for the near future.
MA: I’m currently working on my second book for Revell, (working title) Love in a Sacred Song. It’s the story of King Solomon’s early years and the love of a shepherd girl that shaped his character and his nation. For young Solomon, wisdom came as God’s gift, but sacred love was forged through passion’s fire. This book releases in March 2012.
I’ve started research on three more biblical novels, each holding to the pattern of the first two. I love to find famous (or infamous) male figures and then search and dig for interesting information about the women in their lives. Stay tuned to find out which three shadowy women are revealed in the next trilogy!
SKC: Our readers here at A Pen for Your Thoughts usually get excited about the reflection question an author has to ask, in part, because there is always a chance their name might get selected for a book from our guest. What would you like to ask our readers and writers in the next few days, and what book will you be offering?
MA: I’d like to offer my debut novel, Love Amid the Ashes. Because it tells the story of Job’s life through the women who loved him, I’d like your readers and writers to consider this questions: How do you think you would handle a sudden change in your health? Whether it’s severe (like Job’s physical suffering) or a chronic annoyance (like mine), how would you respond emotionally and/or spiritually to such a test?
SKC: Those are great questions. Thanks. We thank you for joining us here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Mesu. Tell us how we can find you and your books on the web.
MA: You can visit my website: www.mesuandrews.com to buy my book, or you can purchase Love Amid the Ashes at your local book retailer. (Releases March 1, Revell)
Readers and Viewers and Authors: I'm thrilled to introduce Mesu Andrews to all of you this week at A Pen for Your Thoughts. Do take the time to drop by and say hello to this debut author and be sure to take a moment to answer her challenging questions listed above. Please be sure to leave your email address.
Congratulations to Terri Reed of Tigard, Oregon. Woo Hoo! Your book will be on its way soon.
From Ann Gaylia (Mt. Hermon buddy): I certainly want to read Love Among the Ashes, and the second one when it comes out (the one we critiqued at Mt. Hermon, right?)ReplyDelete
I'm definitely a seat-of-the-pants writer. I write scenes as they occur, then connect them up, then arrange them again until they make sense, then edit several more times. Sounds awful, I know, but it works for me.
I've had to handle changes like that with my health on a regular basis, Mesu. I had cancer and then another terrible health problem. I just knew I couldnt ask why. Because I know it's not the why. It's the how am I going to deal with it in faith. I love JOB and the scripture I think that is at Job 23:10 or something like that.ReplyDelete
I loved your interview here. Thanks
Ann Gaylia, I can't wait to read YOUR book that we critiqued at Mt. Hermon as well! It's fun to hear that you're a "pantser" too! Some people hate the extra editing, but I love the way it sort of massages the story into my soul.ReplyDelete
And Betty, you're absolutely right about the "whys" of life. It's not about the why. It's about the HOW and the Who. When we remember those things, trials become challenges instead of weapons in the enemy's hand. I'm so sorry for your suffering, but I'm thankful the Lord revealed Himself to you in it.
It's great to see your first "child" take on flesh! I love your point about seeing yourself more as a teacher than a writer. Wonder what our textbooks would look like if scholars thought more creatively? I also get the sense you look for the Spirit to bridle your thoughts so the Truth shines through. Do you consider your book "inspired" in that sense?ReplyDelete
Great question, George! Perhaps all creative human endeavor is "inspired" since it is part of the essence of the One in whose image we were created. In that sense, I'll say, Yes, my writing is inspired. I wouldn't dare claim it to be inspired in the same way Scripture was inspired. But to find intricate details of various Bible characters and carefully fit them into a coherent story...I believe that is a creation of some sort.ReplyDelete
Hi Mesu, it's thrilling to see a fellow ACFW Northwesterner MAKING it! :) Awesome.ReplyDelete
I love your motivation for writing and your method for "finding the story". My favorite reason to write is the conversations I get to have with the Lord about his truths.
Well, I have had a somewhat major upset once in my life. After my 2nd child I learned that I had celiac and had to completely rearrange my diet or continue to live in the ER.
I was angry, then I was in denial and finally I had to slap myself and stop wallowing. God then surrounded me with wonderful support, many of whom I met online (amazing to me) and I learned to lean on Him.
Not that I assume it can "cure" everyone but did you know migranes and fibromialgia (sp?) are two symptoms that often indicate celiac disorder? I had the first for sure and after going gluten free they disappeared except when I'd slip on the diet. Just a though.
Thanks for your interview and congratulations on your debut!
A dear friend of mine has celiac's too. It is certainly a life-changer. Those stages you mentioned are much like my own battle. Isn't it amazing how similar we are in our struggles yet how uniquely we each connect with our God. Love that!
Thanks so much for the insight into the combo of fibro and migraine. I was tested for allergies, and no food allergies showed up. Would celiac's be detected that way? Interesting new avenue to pursue. Thanks, to a fellow Northwesterner!
Love the cover!!! Great interview, Mesu. Looking forward to picking up a copy.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Terri! Blessings!ReplyDelete
I'll fb message you about celiac. Happy writing!ReplyDelete
I really enjoyed the interview. And I plan to look into your book, Mesu. thanks so much for sharing your life here.ReplyDelete
Thanks for stopping by, Janice. I hope you enjoy the book!ReplyDelete
Definitely dealt with this with my husband several years ago. Due to a chronic back injury he had to change professions totally at age 45. Not an easy thing to do, but God equipped us with everything we needed for him to go back to school and start over. No sense wasting time on why. You just do what you have to do and go on. Our motto is "whining never accomplishes anything"! Plus, Scripture tells us to give thanks in all things, and we am truly thankful for the changes that came about.ReplyDelete
I love your attitude, Anne! Amen, and Amen! Though once in a while I need a good whine, I try to keep it between me and the Lord. Others quickly tire of my whining, and the Lord's shoulders are broad and lovingly padded. The trick is not to get stuck in whine-mode. Express it, then press on! Rejoicing with you for your husband's new-found career!ReplyDelete
Great interview, thank you for hosting her.
If my health suddenly turned toward the worse like Job, there is probably no way I'd be like him. I quiver everytime I read about his woes and feel so extremely sorry for him.
I hope I wouldn't whine nor complain, but I really can't say what I'd do for sure.
kjv1611as at gmail dot com
Amanda, I think you've captured something very profound. None of us truly know how we'd respond to a situation until we go through it personally. Wise words!ReplyDelete
I really enjoyed the interview Mesu, and learning a bit about you. I look forward to reading your new book! I am loving finding new books to read!!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Joy! Hope you enjoy the book!ReplyDelete
I'm reading Mesu's book right now, and finding it riveting!ReplyDelete
Ann Lee Miller
Ann, I'm so thrilled you stopped by! I can't wait to read your book and watch the Lord do great things through your stories of love and triumph. Blessings, sweet friend!ReplyDelete
With a strong family history of cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's (had/has all three - Mom died young of cancer) it's probably just a matter of time before one of them overtakes me. This question is one I've pondered more than once. I pray God gives me the grace to face whatever comes my way.ReplyDelete
The book sounds like a great read. Thanks for entering me in the drawing.
twinwillowsfarm at gmail dot com
Hi Peggy! I'm so sorry to hear about your varied family medical history. It could sound a little intimidating. Prayer that God will prepare you is a great place to start! Good for you! I think it's also important to remember that Job stayed focused on his daily relationship with the Lord. I believe that's where he gained the fortitude to persevere. I pray you never have to discover how you'll react in those circumstances, gal! Blessings!ReplyDelete