Thursday, July 11, 2013

An Inkling of Fiction


“When drought and famine strike Judea, David’s people wonder if he has become too old to rule.  Solomon and his mother, Bathsheba, as sent to find a new addition to David’s harem.  During their search, Solomon falls in love with Shulamit, only to have her chosen as his father’s bride.  Solomon is heartbroken, but Bathsheba has plans of her own.” 
- Solomon’s Song by Roberta Kells Dorr

Roberta, the actress

   Dorr graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in literature and studied at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY where she earned a Masters in religious education (the only degree offered women at that time).  But an interesting side note to her University of Maryland tenure.  She was an actress of some talent.  She was very active in the Foot-light club (the theater club) at the University.  She then related a story which can only capture the imagination of ‘what ifs.’  Wondering what she was going to do after graduation her mother took it upon herself to hustle Roberta off to an audition with a Hollywood Agent who had come to DC looking for ‘talent.’  She was accompanied by another Washington DC mother/daughter combo, a Mrs. Greer and her daughter, Jane.  The agent loved them both and offered the glitter of Hollywood if they would come out and screen test.  There was much soul searching and Roberta decided to go to Seminary.  As for Jane Greer, well, we know what happened to her – stardom.  But we digress.

   She married David Dorr, a surgeon, in 1946.  In 1954 they packed up their young family of five to become medical missionaries for 17 years in the Gaza Strip and Jibla, Yemen.  This is where she learned a great deal of the Arab-Jewish and early Christian cultures.

   “I saw how women lived in harems, washed their clothes in streams, and I got a good idea of Eastern thinking.  They think more in random thoughts than we do.  This helped me better understand the Son of Solomon which I later used in my book,” said Dorr.

   Dorr said the staff at the Gaza Baptist Hospital many times helped young women who were pregnant outside marriage.

   “Once the fathers found out, they would have to stone them to death.  Even if they left and returned years later, married, they would want to stone them,” said Dorr.

   Living in the Middle East and doing research gave background for her books.  Returning to the United States in 1974 she had a manuscript nearly a foot deep.  She read an advertisement where Katherine Marshall, the author of A MAN CALLED PETER and CHRISTY, and her husband, Len Le Sourd, editor of Guidepost were starting a publishing company and were looking for manuscripts.

   “They got very excited with my book and asked me to come to their home to work on the book.  First they wanted me to cut it in half, making two books out of it.  That broke my heart.  Then Le Sourd wanted me to put more color into the story.  He rewrote a chapter with Bathsheba dressed in bright red velvet to attend a funeral.  I had to tell them Bathsheba would have been dressed in sack cloth and ashes and to change it would ruin what I was trying to do with my novels,” said Dorr.

   Dorr believes too many American authors of biblical fiction make their stories too American from many cultural points of view.  She said she does extensive research for her stories to make them as close to what life would have been like for the people of biblical times.

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