My historical fiction trilogy, The David Chronicles, which opens with the novel Rise to Power, presents a surprising contrast before you: the story harkens back to biblical times—yet by design, it is expressed in modern language. Why? Because such is my way to suggest to you that this is no fairytale. It is happening here and now. I invite you to step into the skin of my character, become David, and look yourself in the mirror.
Readers often ask me, "Were you quoting the bible or paraphrasing? I’m used to read the King James version, and I'm certain you aren’t." To which I say, “All the English versions—King James included—are translations. Therefore, they are interpretations of the original Hebrew, in which I am versed to the point of knowing it by heart.”
In this trilogy, the choice of modern language is intentional. The entire book is greatly informed by art through the ages, including modern art, which adds multiple viewpoints to every moment in the story. This artistic versatility is reflected in my writing. Here is but one example, that was inspired inspired by a painting of David and Bathsheba by Chagall:
I try to take control of my desire by playing my lyre and writing poetry, but notes and words fail me. Everything I compose these days seems to be but a pale shadow of a shadow of what Bathsheba means to me.
And the one image that keeps coming back to me is our reflection in the glass, where our faces melded into one. My eye, her eye, and around us, the outline of a new, fluid identity. A portrait of our love, rippling there, across the surface of the wine.
I feel great responsibility for all my characters. My utmost wish is to convey their voices and their experiences in a faithful manner. However I take none of them as a sacred, perfect figure, which to my surprise may offend some readers. Please keep in mind, I do not claim my story as gospel.
To me, perfect characters are boring and unreal. I am interested in mining the internal conflicts in their souls. In an era of cruelty, when destroying the enemy is deemed a divine directive, David’s search for a path to power leads him in ways that are, at times, scandalous. Notorious for his contradictions, he is seen by others as a gifted court entertainer, a successful captain in Saul’s army, a cunning fugitive, a traitor leading a gang of felons, and a ruthless raider of neighboring towns who leaves no witnesses behind.
How does he see himself, during the first phase of his life? With his hands stained with blood, can he find an inner balance between conflicting drives: his ambition for the crown, his determination to survive the conflict with Saul, and his longing for purity, for a touch of the divine, as expressed so lyrically in his psalms and music?
Not only is David a conflicted character, striving to find his better self—but so are other characters, each bearing her anguish. Take Michal, daughter of king Saul, as an example. My story springs out of very few lines given to her in the bible. You may remember that when David dances in front of the arc, she despises him in her heart. Such is the bitterness of love that has turned to hate.
In the first volume of the trilogy, titled Rise to Power, Michal is a tragically conflicted figure. Because of her royal upbringing, her pride makes her look down upon David. To her he is an outsider and a commoner. And yet, in spite of herself, her heart is consumed by love for him. She is doomed, in the end, not to have children. This is something I explore from the beginning of their relationship. Here is a glimpse of how he sees her on their wedding night:
I glance at her as she climbs up over me into her bed and tucks herself under the blankets, and I remember what Joav told me about girls, just a few days ago. It’s all just flesh, he said, no matter how fancy their garments. In bed, they’re all the same.
I must tell him he made a mistake. This girl is different.
With her narrow hips and her flat belly, which is matched by an equally flat chest, Michal looks like a boy. And trapped in that skinny body, pounding there with palpable longing, is the heart of a woman, a proud woman, cursed with love.
What I want most of all is for the characters that have sprung from my mind onto the paper to continue their journey, and spring from the paper into your mind. That, for me, would be the best reward.
Michal fools the king's soldiers so that David can escape through the window
Michal and David, separated by her jealousy
Painting by Ivan Schwebel
In between them you can see a happy couple walking together on the other side of the steet