The author talks about the challenges of adapting the true-life adventures of Samson—and why the account is more relevant than ever.
The true-life story of the original superhero is being retold to a new generation, both as the motion picture Samson in theaters, and as a novelization from New York Times best-selling author Eric Wilson. Based on the historical account from the Bible, a young Hebrew with a supernatural gift of strength is called by God to lead his people out of enslavement from the Philistine empire. In this interview, Eric outlines the challenges of writing a novel based on historical events, shares how his perspective about Samson changed as he grew up, and compares writing novelizations with writing his original novels…
Eric, your novel is an interpretation of a screenplay that is itself an interpretation of the Scriptural record. As you wrote Samson, were you following the screenplay or the Bible?
My first priority in any of my novels is to honor God through creativity. Being true to Scripture takes precedence.
Thankfully, the screenplay followed the biblical account, while throwing in various scenes and subplots that were still faithful to the heart of the Bible story. Some have asked, “Why write Samson’s story? People should just read the Bible.”
Reading the Bible is first and foremost, but if that was the only way we learned, we would never listen to a pastor’s sermon, because we wouldn’t need his research, knowledge, experience, or interpretation. As a writer, I hope to use gifts and experience God has given me to help readers see things from a fresh angle.
What are the challenges of creating a work of art that’s an interpretation of historical events—especially when the historical record really just hits the highlights of what happened?
We have so much we can learn from history, but yes, we are often only seeing the highlighted bits. We imagine, for example, that Abraham Lincoln was a man of honesty, courage, and integrity, but only if we dig deeper do we begin to understand his childhood, his marriage, and the choices he made that led to greatness.
While writing a story rooted in history, I wanted to bring that time period to life, make it fresh, and help readers see how the choices made then have parallels to choices we face today. Ultimately, the issues of the heart haven’t changed.
What kind of research did you need to do to get the historical details right?
I have a Bachelor’s degree, with high honors, in Biblical studies. I used that background to build my story, reading Scripture, studying the context of Samson’s story and location.
I read hundreds of pages of research regarding life, farming, food, customs of that time period, as well as an entire book about the Philistines and their influence in that day and age. As readers flip the pages, I want them to feel that it is believable and true to that period, but I also want them to speed through without getting bogged down in details.
How do you get into the right mindset to write a novel about people we know from the Bible? Does the fact that this is the Bible make it harder than if you were writing a novel about, say, Abraham Lincoln or Marie Curie?
I don’t know that writing about a story from the Bible makes it harder than other historical figures or eras, so much as it adds weight to the responsibility. I want to get it right. I need to get it right. This is God’s Word we’re dealing with, and I don’t want to add or take away from its message. But I do want to highlight and bring new perspective to the messages it already contains.
Click through to discover how Eric’s perspective on Samson changed as he grew up…