Stephanie Landsem writes historical fiction because she loves adventure in far-off times and places. As a teenager, she backpacked through Germany and Eastern Europe, studied German in Salzburg, ate gelato in Italy, and rode camels in Morocco.
When she’s not traveling, she likes to read. When she’s not reading or writing Biblical fiction, she is feeding a “ravenous horde” of kids and their friends, volunteering at church and school, battling dandelions, and dreaming about her next adventure—whether it be in person or on the page.
Stephanie lives in Minnesota with her husband of twenty-two years, four children, three fat cats, and a tortoise named Moe.
You love traveling, but what sparked your literary journey?
I’ve always loved to read, but historical fiction caught my interest early on. It’s one step up from travel . . . it’s time travel. With a good book, you can live in an ancient city or a medieval castle. You eat the food, wear the clothes, and experience what life was really like in that far-off time and place. That’s what I hope my readers can experience when they read my books.
Has God ever provided an unexpected “detour” in your life that turned out to be positive?
Yes, I never ‘planned’ on writing Biblical fiction. My favorite historical time periods tended to be ancient Rome or Medieval Europe. I thought I’d end up writing a story set in either of those eras. But when I started thinking about the story of Mara, it took hold of me and didn’t let go. I found that Biblical had everything I loved about history, plus the beautiful spiritual element. Now, I have a contract for three Biblical fiction novels, of which The Well is the first, and I couldn’t be happier.
How does your faith play into your writing?
It’s my hope that my faith plays into everything I do.
Most of us won’t get to come face to face with Jesus until heaven, but I like to spend some time here on earth imagining what it might have felt like to meet the Incarnation. Jesus, the Son of God, as He walked, talked, and ate with men and women of His time. How would it change you, how would it affect those around you?
The Well is about a girl named Mara who lives in the Samaritan town of Sychar with her disgraced mother and crippled little brother. Because of her mother’s many sins, Mara struggles against the constant threats of starvation or exile. Mara and Nava’s lives are forever changed with the arrival of two men: Shem, a mysterious young man from Caesarea, and Jesus, a Jewish teacher. Nava is transformed by Jesus, but His teachings come too late and she is stoned by the unforgiving villagers. Desperate to save her dying mother, Mara and Shem embark on a journey to seek Jesus’ help—a journey that brings unexpected love and unimaginable heartbreak.
God often uses our stories to teach us when we’re writing them. What did you learn (about life, faith, and/or even yourself) in the process of writing this book?
I learned about trust in God. Trust in His timing. Trust that what He wants for us is so much bigger and better than anything our little minds can imagine. It’s a lesson I think we can learn every day in everything we do.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
I’m a big fan of cheese. I love pretty much all of it: Wisconsin cheddar to stinky French cheese. If the words aren’t flowing, I turn to the comfort of a gooey grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of tomato soup. It never fails to make me feel better. When I turn in a manuscript or finish a round of edits, I like to treat myself to a couple little wedges of exotic fromage and a warm baguette.
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
I’m like the manager for the Partridge Family—surrounded by musical talent, but have none myself. My husband has had a band since our college years, and now both my teenage sons play guitar and piano, and write music. We have band practice at our house at least twice a week, more in the summer. When the guitars, drums, keyboards, and bass are going strong in the basement, I’m usually in the kitchen making food for the hungry band members, so I guess I do my part!
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
I’d be a simple song, maybe kind of folksy, nothing complicated. I’d have a nice melody, some lyrics that make you think a little bit, and just enough harmony to make it stick in your head.
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
What I see: the little girl trying to walk in high heels
What my husband sees: The super heroine
What the world sees: The girl next door
What I wish I saw: The mysterious woman behind the dark glasses
What I really am: In any given moment, a combination of all four!
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
I love all pets. Right now, we have three cats (Linus, Milo, and Lucky) and a tortoise (Moe). The cats keep me company when the kids are at school. I’ll be typing away, deep in a scene, and I’ll feel eyes watching me. I turn around to see the three cats sitting on the floor, staring at me. They either want food or they are waiting to see if I’m going to move to the couch and become their human futon. Moe, the tortoise, is a great pet. He doesn’t smell bad, he eats lettuce, and he never complains.
Thanks, Stephanie! It’s great to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
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For more information about Stephanie, visit her website.
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