Why I Learned So Much About Biddy Chambers

About_Biddy_chambers5Why do I know so much about Biddy Chambers?

Other than the fact I wrote her biography?

Two years ago I finished writing another book in which Biddy plays a major role–and in writing that novel, I became intrigued by her. Biddy and Oswald Chambers were “marquee” characters–real life people who moved through a story I created.

The story took place during World War I–just a narrow four years in the life of my characters.

My novel  heroine’s life changed through meeting Oswald and Biddy. To that end, I needed to make sure I knew them, too.

Background

While I had read David McCasland’s Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God prior to beginning my novel, I knew little about Biddy herself.

Oswald, “OC,” was the draw and while I tried to do my homework, I didn’t pay much attention to Biddy at first.

My epic novel has plenty of characters; it can be tricky to keep track of so many people.

Biddy's typewriter

If she owned a typewriter, she must have been real!

Biddy’s role, basically, was that of OC’s wife.

Many people besides me have foolishly underestimated her.

Doing the research

As a bestselling historical fiction author, I always do a great deal of research in writing my books.

I trained as a newspaper reporter in college and my mentors at UCLA drilled journalism ethics into me.

If I couldn’t respectfully articulate both sides of a story, I was not in a position to write it yet.

We stuck to the facts–laying them out as clearly as we could–and left it to the reader to draw their own conclusions.

Even in a novel, I had to get the background right or I didn’t feel I could write an “honest” story.

Examining Facts

Several months into writing the novel, I spent two days at Wheaton College’s Special Collections Library in the Oswald Chambers Papers.

I started with the photos–I knew I would have to describe a YMCA camp during World War I in Egypt.

Since my heroine first meets OC and Biddy at the Bible Training College (BTC) in London, I also examined those photos.

OC was front and center in most pictures, of course, but my eyes inevitably shifted to the woman standing beside him.

Biddy

Does this woman look tired to you? (Wheaton Library)

She often looked more ruffled and tired than he did–and I began to wonder about her.

I photocopied letters she had written describing life in the camp.

Since a half-dozen BTC students in London ended up in Egypt, I explored them as auxiliary characters for my novel.

A Character Alters the Novel

It took me a year to draft my novel. Many surprising things happened over the course of that year–including changes in the storyline.

The original story and my heroine’s arch followed original synopsis with little deviation.

But as often happens for novelists, as I got deeper into the story, dialogue and character interaction deepend and pointed in directions I hadn’t expected.

Several characters stepped out of the shadows and wrestled control of minor themes.

They began to influence my heroine’s reactions and broadened the novel in ways that made me catch my breath.

Two women in particular, disrupted the story in a powerful way: my heroine’s mother and her surprising friend Biddy.

Under the Influence

Ten months into writing the novel, I loved Biddy and wanted more for her than a footnote in Oswald Chambers’ life.

I was reading everything I could get my hands on about both Biddy and OC because I needed to write dialogue that sounded like them.

There wasn’t much about Biddy other than what I saw at Wheaton.

When I had an opportunity to meet someone with publishing influence, I asked, “have you thought of having a biography written about Biddy?”

“No,” he said, “but maybe you’re the one to do it?”

I laughed that day. Three years ago was a novelist.

But I’m a biographer today.

Tweetables

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Interested in Oswald and Biddy Chambers? I’ll be telling stories about the amazing ways God led me through the Biddy Chamberswriting of two books about them, starting in my January newsletter–one story a month for 2017, free.

If you’d like to follow the serial–the same chronological way it unfolded for me–sign up for my newsletter here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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