SEPTEMBER 2010 INTERVIEW BY HISTORICAL FICTION EBOOKS RE: ONCE MORE, FROM THE BEGINNING
HF: The way you tell it, the Old Testament seems to be a laugh a minute. The Bible isn’t usually considered a particularly comical book. You must have had to get pretty creative to transform the stories into comedy. How close have you kept to the original text?
Wendy: In fact, if you check, you’ll find that every one of the incidents is as it was reported in the Old Testament itself. People assume that I’ve played fast and loose with the details, but no one has yet been able to point out a single instance where I’ve misrepresented an action or circumstance. Now that I’ve said so, I’m sure there will be those who will try, but if they find any discrepancies, I assure you, they were unintentional. In fact, I had to leave out many juicy tidbits that were either too ridiculous or too raunchy for my delicate sensibilities. I’ve only reinterpreted the motivations, as has every religion and church that has been based on the Bible. And the humor…well…it was unavoidable, given the material I had to work with!
HF: So you think you have as much right to interpret the motivation of these revered individuals as the churches and the religious do?
Wendy: Absolutely. Given the circumstances described in the Bible, the motivations of the players seem pretty obvious to me. And what God thought or intended is anybody’s guess.
HF: People tend to get pretty touchy about religion. Do you find that many people are offended by your interpretation?
Wendy: To be honest, I thought the book would meet with more resistance than it has. Most of the clerics who have read it recognize that “it’s not a theological treatise–it’s a light-hearted feminist critique.” (Those were the words of a Methodist minister, by the way.) They know what they believe, and no levity on my part is going to disturb their faith. There have been a few shrill voices wailing that I’ve misrepresented passages, because they know what God intended. Their minister told them what to know, and they are generous in their willingness to pass that knowledge along to poor benighted me. But by far the majority of people just appreciate a good laugh. I’m sure they put the book down and go right back to believing whatever they believed before, without having sustained any serious lasting spiritual damage. Of course many of them have warned me that I’m going to hell, for sure. I think they’re kidding.
HF: What gave you the idea of retelling the stories from the Old Testament?
Wendy: I was reading about the niggling debates some of the more idle Jewish scholars had pursued through the years over stunningly obscure laws in the Old Testament, and I thought: there’s some great material in there; I have to dig it out.
HF: How much research did you do before you tackled this project? Was it tough going?
Wendy: When I started writing the book, I was determined to be as little influenced as possible by other people’s interpretations of the words . . . any other people’s interpretations. Let me be clear, here. I based the book on the King James version of the Old Testament. I’m well aware that it’s not an entirely accurate translation of the original writings but frankly, I don’t care. My book, my rules. During the year and a half that I wrote it, I conscientiously avoided the writings of any biblical scholar – not difficult, that’s not my usual reading matter–and even more particularly the writings of any bible critics. I was determined to be scrupulously fair. I tried to base the book strictly on the words of that particular version of the Bible. I read the Old Testament through…with extreme care…many times. Many, many times. I admit that, in places, was extremely heavy plodding.
HF: You’re looking at these stories through a woman’s eyes. Do you feel women have been misrepresented in the Old Testament?
Wendy: Of course they have. The women are all either compliant or wicked. Their only burning desire is to bear children and to faithfully serve some male entity or other. Does it sound as if there’s an agenda in play here?
HF: You are pretty critical of the men in your book. Have you ruffled any feathers? How do your male readers react?
Wendy: Well, over half of the people who have commented on this book were men. And the overwhelming majority thought it was good fun. I worked very hard to keep it funny, not mean-spirited, and the men have been remarkably good-natured about the ribbing they’ve taken. I wonder if we women would be as gracious.
HF: Do you have a hidden agenda?
Wendy: You bet I do. The Bible is an integral part of our heritage. It’s impossible to understand much of our classical literature without a basic knowledge of its stories. Yet I’ve been appalled at the number of people who lack any significant knowledge of any episode that hasn’t been portrayed large on the silver screen. And what little they do remember is incorrect or, at best, foggy. I hoped that this book, read for the humor, would slip people some working knowledge of the stories that might help them to recognize biblical allusions in the work of much better writers than myself.
HF: Do you think you’ve achieved that?
Wendy: You’d be surprised how many people have said that if this book had been taught in bible class, they would have paid a lot more attention. I don’t know what that would have done for their souls–it’s been suggested that it should be required reading in every bible college–but it sure would have made them better-informed readers.
HF: What’s your next project? Will you be tackling the New Testament next?
Wendy: No. It’s just not funny enough. And the Koran is safe from me, too. I’m finishing a book right now based on my Dad’s experiences as a Canadian infantryman, fighting through Italy in the Second World War. Yes, it’s a funny book–about war. I love a challenge.