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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
How does a biographer get interested in a subject? Click to Tweet
How writing a novel tricked me into writing a biography. Click to Tweet
Why a novelist knows so much about Biddy Chambers? Click to Tweet
Interested in Oswald and Biddy Chambers? I’ll be telling stories about the amazing ways God led me through the writing of two books about them, starting in my January newsletter–one story a month for 2017, free.
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