The author shares the challenges of using fiction to explore the lives of women of the Bible.

Jill Eileen Smith is the bestselling and award-winning author of the biblical fiction series The Wives of King David, Wives of the Patriarchs, and Daughters of the Promised Land. Her research into the lives of biblical women has taken her from the Bible to Israel, where she has particularly enjoyed learning how women lived in Old Testament times.

She explores the life of Esther in her newest novel, Star of Persia (Revell). As a young girl raised by her cousin, Esther never imagined that she would end up as the queen of Persia. But she is soon caught up in the middle of palace politics that place her in an impossible position: risk her life or consign her people to the worst disaster ever to befall them. Can she pit her wisdom against a vicious enemy and win?

In this interview, Jill explains the challenges of filling the blanks when writing about historical figures, shares what started her writing biblical fiction, and reveals her methods of getting to the facts behind her fiction…

You have written many books about men and women in the Bible. When did you decide that you wanted to write about Esther?

I never intended to write Esther’s story, as it has been done many, many times, and I did not think I could bring anything new to it. But around the time I was finishing The Heart of a King and had a contract for my nonfiction, I wondered who else was left in the Old Testament whose story I might like to tell. Revell and I talked over several options. They liked the idea of Esther, and I agreed.

Did you learn anything new about Esther while writing Star of Persia?

I learned a lot more about Xerxes and his life outside of biblical writings. I don’t think I really learned anything new about Esther, but as I developed her character, I came to appreciate her more.

Esther had an impossible decision to make—risk her life or consign her people to annihilation. Do you offer a different twist on this experience?

Not necessarily too different, though I do show that she was raised to believe in God. (She was Hebrew, after all.) So when the time comes to face her worst nightmare, she has a background she can lean on—and not just her family. I bring in some of the scriptural writings she might have known that could have helped her, beginning with what type of fast God accepts, since Scripture does say she fasted before she approached the king.

Click thru to read bout the palace intrigue behind the novel…