Tell me about the story of The Tomb, A Novel of Martha.
The Tomb is a surprising story of Martha and her siblings, Mary and Lazarus. As I say in a letter to readers at the beginning of the book, this story is not an attempt to recount the historical events that took place in Bethany two thousand years ago. Instead, it is a re-imagining of how Martha, a woman who was “anxious and worried about many things,” might have been transformed into the faith-filled woman of John 11:22, who said to Jesus—as her brother lay in his tomb—“Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”
Give us the backcover blurb of the book.
In this captivating retelling of a classic biblical story, Jesus shocks the town of Bethany with Lazarus’s resurrection from the dead, leading Martha—a seemingly perfect woman trapped by the secrets of her past—to hope and a new life.
Everyone in Bethany admires Martha—the perfect Jewish woman. She feeds and clothes her loved ones, looks after the family farm, and meticulously follows every precept of the Pharisees’ strict laws. But Martha is hiding a secret. At her sister’s marriage feast, she gave her heart and her innocence to a young musician who promised to return and marry her, but instead betrayed her love and abandoned her.
Seven years later, only two people in Bethany know of Martha’s secret sin: her brother, Lazarus, and Simon, the righteous Pharisee to whom Martha is betrothed. When Lazarus falls ill, Martha is faced with a choice: send for Jesus to save her dying brother—risking the wrath of Simon who threatens to betray her—or deny Jesus’ healing power and remain trapped in her tomb of secrecy and lies.
Meanwhile, on the shores of Galilee, Isa roams the wilderness, tortured by demons and knowing only that someone is waiting for him. When he is healed by Jesus, he finds that seven years have passed since his descent into madness. Isa journeys home to Bethany only to find he is too late to win back Martha’s love.
When Martha risks all to heal Lazarus, will Jesus arrive in time, or will he—like Isa—come too late?
Share the first page of The Tomb, A Novel of Martha.
Hear, O children, a father’s instruction, be attentive that you may gain understanding! Proverbs 4:1
Martha clenched her teeth so tight her jaw ached. She’d kept quiet for seven days. Seven days. Now she felt like a pot left too long over the fire. If another old woman gave her a pitying glance, if one more village girl whispered behind her hand . . . by the Most High, she’d boil over.
She filled a cup for Josiah, her sister’s new husband. Who would have believed it? Sirach of Bethany’s daughter—his youngest daughter!—choosing her own husband. And what a husband he was. Josiah had many good qualities. He was kind and patient and everyone knew how he loved Mary. But he was also poor and none too smart. Even his own mother admitted that he as useful as a three-legged donkey.
She took a deep breath and poured a cup of wine for Abba, careful not to spill a drop on his fine linen tunic. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that Mary got to choose and she didn’t.
When Abba agreed to the betrothal a full year ago, the women of Bethany had gossiped for weeks. Most had concluded that Sirach was eager to be rid of Mary, his grown daughter who spent more time playing with the village children than taking care of her father’s household. But they were wrong. Abba loved Mary just as much as he loved Martha and Lazarus.
Now, at almost fifteen years, Mary was ready to start her own family with a man she adored. Martha was glad that Abba had allowed Mary her hearts desire. If only he could allow Martha hers.
If Mary can choose Josiah, can’t have a say in my husband? But of course, she knew why.
What’s next after The Tomb, A Novel of Martha?
In between book clubs, conferences, and promoting The Tomb, I’ll be researching an idea for a new novel. Although I still love biblical fiction, I’d like to explore some new historical periods. I’m currently playing with an idea of the prodigal son—this time a daughter—set in depression-era Hollywood.
If time and money did not enter in the equation, what would be your dream?
I’d love to travel all over the world with my family. We’d probably start with New Zealand since we are huge Lord of the Rings nerds. Then on to the Great Barrier Reef to swim with the sharks and jellyfish. If we survive that, on to Asia so that I could check off 6 continents. We’d probably skip Antarctica!
What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?
I think I’d probably have something to do with food. I love to cook, especially ethnic foods. I’m also dabbling in Paleo recipes right now. In the summers, I’d spend a lot of time gardening – vegetables, not flowers unless they’re edible. In fact, this summer we’re putting in an organic garden so I’m looking forward to that and will be cooking with plenty of fresh vegetables come August.
Where are you right now (LVR, DR, Bathroom) and what are you wearing? You have to tell the truth.
Truth? I’m sitting in my office in my sweaty workout clothes. The cats are lying in the sun and I’m seriously considering taking a nap alongside them.
What is your favorite season of the year? Why?
True Minnesotans are supposed to say winter, but since I grew up in the Pacific Northwest I can say that I love the summers here. Lots of long hot days with plenty of blue sky. The only bad thing about Minnesota summers is that they’re too short.
What is the most fun thing you have ever done?
I couldn’t begin to answer that! But the top of my list is traveling with my family, especially when we get out in the wilderness. My favorite memories are a rock-climbing afternoon in the mountains surrounding the Rheine River in Germany, and a very long day of hiking on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. There’s real family togetherness when you afraid you might be lost and only have one chocolate bar to split between six people!
What is the most important thing on your current ‘To Do ‘ list?
Take a nap? Seriously, I can’t wait to get started on my next book. The research is partially done and the story is just waiting to be written.
What gave you the inspiration for this particular story?
I grew up with three wonderful sisters and a great brother and so the idea of a family who knew Jesus was fascinating to me. I wanted to explore what it would be like for siblings who had known Jesus all their lives. How would they react to Jesus’ radical statements and actions? And what would happen if they disagreed whether Jesus was the Messiah?
What is it about your lead character that will make your readers care about him/her?
I’ve always been drawn to Martha – I felt for her when she was rebuked by Jesus because she was ‘worried about many things’. Haven’t we all had our worries and doubts crowd our thoughts and take over our actions so that we can’t see God working in our lives?
Mary, of course, is the one that Jesus tells us to emulate. But I wanted to know more about her. What was her life like? Why was she so eager to sit at Jesus feet and to anoint him with oil? Most of all, I wondered about her relationship with Martha and wanted to write a story that told both the good and bad of having such opposite sisters.
And who wouldn’t want to know more about Lazarus? He was an intimate friend of Jesus. So beloved that Jesus wept for him even though he knew he would be raising him from his tomb. I wanted to explore how Lazarus felt when he realized that this friend was not coming to heal him as he had healed so many others.
How much of your own experiences influenced your characters? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?
The family dynamics between Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were influenced by my own sisters and brothers. I’m the youngest, so it was easy to imagine how Lazarus must have felt with a somewhat bossy older sister (sorry, Jen). But even though I started with my experiences, Martha, Mary and Lazarus grew into their own characters as I wrote them and occasionally surprised even me.
Stephanie is hosting a blog-tour giveaway:
1st Prize: $100 Amazon Gift Card
2nd Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card
3rd Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card
10 more winners will receive an olive wood pocket cross from the Holy Land.
Also, leave a comment below, for a chance to have Stephanie send you a copy of the book. (US only, sorry).
I absolutely loved this book. this is the third in The Living Water series. You’ll love them too!
Stephanie Landsem, author of The Living Water Series, writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. In real life, she’s explored ancient ruins, medieval castles, and majestic cathedrals around the world. Stephanie is equally happy at home in Minnesota with her husband, four children, and three fat cats. When she’s not writing, she’s feeding the ravenous horde, avoiding housework, and dreaming about her next adventure—whether it be in person or on the page.