It’s been a year since I met Tracy Higley at an all-day writer’s workshop in the area, and I have yet to read a book she’s written that I haven’t loved. (Check out a past review here.) Her latest release, Garden of Madness, is another winner. In it, Higley takes us to Babylon during the seven years of madness of King Nebuchadnezzar. (For biblical background, see the book of Daniel.) The king’s daughter, Tiamet, finds herself widowed and a pawn in a power struggle to solidify the kingdom during the king’s mental absence. What I love about Higley’s books are that they are not direct retellings of biblical stories but are historical imaginations of events we don’t know much about. In this story, the familiar biblical character Daniel is given life, as is the prophet Jeremiah. Though we never meet the prophet, the importance of his letters to the exiles is highlighted. Sometimes, when I read the Bible, I forget that these are real events, not just words on a page.
FAVORITES: Higley writes characters who are compelling and realistic. Her books make me more interested in history especially the cultural and historical context in which the Bible was written.
FAULTS: Honestly, I can’t come up with one. The only “faults” I find are that I want to read more about the time periods in which she writes and I finish the story too quickly. Those aren’t bad things.
IN A WORD: Addictive. That’s probably not supposed to be a good thing, but I find every time I finish one of Higley’s novel, I’m ready for another.
Read on for an interview with the author and news of what’s coming up next from her.
Your novels are based, in part, on historical people and places. So, where do you draw the line between fact and fiction? For example, in Garden of Madness, at what point does the story become something that could have happened instead of a historical retelling of the facts?
Most of my novels brush very lightly against actual historical events. Whenever the people are historical, I try to remain true to what we know of them. But there are many gaps in the historical record, and that’s where I have fun filling in with my own imagination!
Often your characters have bold, sometimes frightening, confrontations with evil. How important is the portrayal of this conflict to your stories and what can modern-day readers learn from the stands your characters take?
Yes, the ancient world was probably more aware of and in touch with the spiritual evil in the world. I do think it’s important not to gloss over the often demonic influence of paganism. And I would hope that my readers would see that evil is something that can definitely be confronted and conquered, with the help of God.
Along those same lines, do you ever find yourself experiencing spiritual warfare or oppression when writing about good-versus-evil conflicts?
I don’t think I’ve experienced anything strange in the way of spiritual warfare, that others don’t experience. I do pray often, though, as I am exploring these concepts in my research, for protection. There are times when I am reading actual ancient spells, etc., that I get a little creeped out!
Your books and travels have taken you to beautiful and interesting places across the globe. What’s on your must-see list that you haven’t seen and/or written about yet?
I would love to visit Morocco someday. [I even love Morocco at Epcot!] I think it would be very cool to write a story set in Casablanca. I’d also like to write some stories set in the British Colonial empire – perhaps the West Indies or the Caribbean.
When you aren’t able to visit the location you’re writing about (as was the case with Garden of Madness), what are your best resources for accurately describing the setting and culture?
I take a multi-level approach to research before I begin writing, starting out with skimming textbooks to get a big-picture view of the time and place, then diving deeper for the details I need. As I write, I often leave “placeholders” for little details I don’t have at the time, then come back to those later and use the internet to dig out the small pieces.
What can we look forward to next from you?
I am just finishing up revisions on my next novel, set in Ephesus during the time of Paul – specifically during the incidents of Acts 19. It will be another story focusing on spiritual warfare and the pagan worship of Artemis, along with the early church’s victory over evil.
Connect with Tracy on her Web site and Facebook for the latest news, chances to win free books and travel journals from her research trips.
In exchange for my review, I was given a free advance digital copy of Garden of Madness from Thomas Nelson through the Booksneeze program.