Q&A: Diana Wallis Taylor
Diana Wallis Taylor takes readers into the life of one of the most maligned, mysterious, and inspiring people in the Bible - Mary Magdalene.
Q. What were your goals writing Mary Magdalene?
Mary Magdalene has had a negative reputation for centuries. She’s been portrayed as a prostitute, (even the one flung at the feet of Jesus by the Jewish leaders); the wife of Jesus (courtesy of Dan Brown’s book); and one of the apostles with a gospel of her own. Nowhere in the Bible does it say she was a prostitute, nor does it substantiate the other theories. The Bible only states that Jesus delivered her from 7 evil spirits. My goal was to show her in a different light. I was curious how she came to the state she was in when Jesus healed her and began picturing how her life might have gone. Included in my research were some of the effects of trauma, i.e. fear, nightmares, migraines and epilepsy. I also believed that my readers could identify with her and the things that “fictionally” happened in her life. They did!
Q. The setting for this book is Biblical times. What about this historical period and setting piqued your interest?
I’ve written 4 books of Biblical Fiction, the fourth, Claudia, Wife of Pontius Pilate comes out in June and I am completing my fifth, Ruth, Mother of Kings, coming in September. I love to dig deeper in the character of Biblical personalities.
Q. Did you do any special research for this novel? How familiar were you with this period before you wrote the book?
I usually peruse all of the books I can find that have been written about my character so I don’t accidentally duplicate someone else’s scenario and also to see how my character has been portrayed by that author. I use the library and internet for information. A notebook is started on all the subjects I might need as I write, i.e. Hebrew names, food in Biblical times, customs, home life, crops, religious worship, etc. For Claudia, I had a whole notebook on the Roman Empire. As to being familiar with this time period, I am a believer in Christ and the Bible is familiar territory to me. It has a wealth of stories.
Q. Where do you draw the line between historical accuracy and taking dramatic license?
When it comes to Biblical characters, I generally follow the story in the Bible as to the parts that are given. I remain accurate with scenes and words presented in the Bible but add my own flair. With Claudia, she was given basically about two lines when she sends a note to her husband, Pontius Pilate, ‘not to have anything to do with that just man’ (Jesus). I had to research Roman history to find out who she was. It was a pretty involved family. She was the granddaughter of Caesar Augustus and that was just for starters! As to dramatic license, yes, I create characters that did not exist in that day but could have, and imagine their conversations. The feedback from readers is that it causes them to go back and read about that person again with a different focus.
Q. What are the lessons of that era that are still relevant to readers today?
I would say that even in Biblical times women faced the same problems women face today, i.e. marriage, love, the birth of a child, death of a loved one, sickness, adultery, alcoholism, etc. We don’t seem to learn from history. Some of what I read about what was going on in the Roman Empire read like today’s newspaper. To me, the lessons of the Bible never grow old. God hasn’t changed. The Library of Congress is filled with thousands of laws that God covered simply in the Ten Commandments, which as our pastor reminded us, are not called the ‘Ten Suggestions’. They are basic rules for life. The choice to follow them is ours.