Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rituals of the Writer

Roberta was interesting because Roberta was interested….
interested in everything and everybody.

Researching in Yemen for her book, Queen of Sheba

Describe Roberta’s journey towards becoming a successful multi-published

Her father loved and quoted the Bible and Shakespeare and a copy of each was all
marked up at his bedside.

Her little grandmother read Bible stories to her each night igniting her

A professor at Southern Seminary, where she received a Masters in religious
education, infused her with the idea that if the world was introduced to Jesus it
could change everything. It certainly changed Roberta’s life and direction.

Her first book, BATHSHEBA, (The publishers changed the name of the book
to DAVID AND BATHSHEBA because they reasoned nobody would know who
Bathsheba was. The same with SHULAMIT…changed to SONG OF SOLOMON…
And BILQIS, the QUEEN OF SHEBA. Roberta wanted the books named after the
women whose POVs they were written.) took 17 years to rough draft and was
stuffed away in boxes that followed her as a missionary, from the Gaza Strip to
Jibla, Yemen to Maryville, Tennessee. Her passion was for the women of the
Middle East. Her books were woven extensions of that passion; finding the fragile
beauty and the daily struggle hadn’t changed much since Biblical times.

The editing process with Catherine Marshall and Len LaSourd and Tibby Sherrill,
was brutal. Roberta insisted on rewriting everything herself and would comment
years later that it was through this incubation where she learned how to write.
250 pages had to be cut from DAVID AND BATHSHEBA, of which the edited pages
would make a marvelous unedited edition.

Of course, success spurs the creative juices and subsequent books followed.
Roberta’s first book was hammered out on a wobbly manual typewriter whose
keys were forever sticking. She was forever grateful for electric typewriters and
eventually owned a computer. Her ‘magic chair’ turned into the cockpit of a fighter jet with all the post-it technical instructions.

Roberta's notes

Did Roberta have any rituals or habits while writing?

Roberta wrote in the wee hours of the morning. Her family would later remark
that they never saw her writing and were amazed to see boxes of manuscripts
just appear as if some elf were in a back room laboring furiously . She would read
before bedtime and then get up around 2 or 3 AM and write, sometimes till dawn.

Tea or coffee was a favorite. But it was so much the beverage that was important
but the container out of which it was consumed. Roberta had to drink out of
a delicate, lady like, tea cup to make the experience enjoyable. It was part
of ‘settling down’, ‘feeling comfortable’ that nestled her into a good book on the
back porch or accompanied her to the ‘magic chair.’

The ‘magic chair.’ Writing isn’t easy…good writing takes great inspiration and
preparation. Where and how it is accomplished could be compared to a bird
building a nest. When Roberta sat in her magic chair it was time to write. She
would shut the world out and focus, letting the characters speak to her from her
extensive notes and outlines that cluttered around the chair sometimes stacked
in ‘organized’ piles that no one dare touch.

How did Roberta relate her passion for writing?

Roberta would encourage people to write their stories.

She was very active in the Knoxville Writers Group and was a coveted speaker
at writers’ conferences. She would never hesitate to read and critique another
writer’s manuscript and had one in tow most all the time.

She journaled. Her family is pouring over a fabulous treasure of notebooks into
which she poured her prayer life, commentary on Biblical passages, and life
observations…truly a tour de force of a life richly lived.


How immersive was Roberta’s research into the historical and biblical context of
her books?

It is here that Roberta’s true genius shown. Living in the Middle East gave her
access to archeological digs, Biblical scholars, museums, libraries, topography,
seasons, flora/fauna, and cultural eccentricities that have not changed in Bedouin
society since the time of Abraham. Roberta availed herself of all and drank from
the wisdom afforded. Her children will tell you how the whole family was trotted
all over the Middle East in search of historical/biblical sites, even risking heat
stroke on several occasions to explore desert locations. Nothing missed her
writer’s eye and the camel jockeys and goat herders were eager to answer any
question. The women would take Roberta into their confidence and let her sit in
on very intimate details of their lives, the struggles with each other and with their
men and children.

The donkey hooves that served as the feet for the Queen Sheba's throne

In Yemen she was able to do extensive research on the Queen of Sheba who
historically ruled Southern Arabia and Ethiopia from Mar’eb, Yemen. Only
recently have Arab tribes let select archeologists dig and it is still a very remote
and dangerous place….and there is Roberta sitting among the ruins of the
Queen’s palace, taking notes. (some of her pictures and notes are available here)


What was Roberta’s greatest desire for the purpose of her writing?

To be read and appreciated, certainly.

To champion the women of the Bible specifically. As one of the first novelists to
attempt to do so, Roberta opened the door to a new perspective on the biblical
narrative. To see the story from the woman’s POV is to open up the discussion on
a new and exciting dimension. Roberta was fearless in this and championed the
Old Testament stories as a wealth of untapped insight into the nature of God and
understanding of Jesus’ heritage as a Jew.


In what other areas besides writing did Roberta excel?

She was a formidable actress at the University of Maryland and even toyed with
the idea of Hollywood at one time, going with Jane Greer and her mother to
interview with an agent. Jane went to Hollywood and Roberta went to Seminary.
She wrote poetry….delicious poetry about her travels and life, the height and
depth of HER human experience. Soon to be published.

She journaled.

She was a champion of the symphony, being on their board of directors in
Knoxville, Tennessee and was a patron of the Opera and UT theater.
She was also very active in many women’s clubs around Knoxville and Maryville
Tennessee (the Knoxville Writers’ Group being an important one) and oddly
enough did aerobic exercise every morning at a local health club all the way up
into her eighties.

Roberta loved to eat in boutique restaurants and out of the way places that could
offer up dainty fair for a very discerning palate.

She relished teaching Sunday school and at one time had a rather burgeoning
class of young marrieds whom she loved very dearly.

Roberta had a very large research library of select titles that she’d gathered
searching used book stores all over the world. She would read several hours a
day. And her books are all marked up with many side notes and references.
Below are some of her personal notes and some pictures of her in Mer’eb,
Yemen, doing research for THE QUEEN OF SHEBA.

There is a picture of the royal throne with hooves. (above)

A lithograph of the Queen on a camel, riding to Solomon perhaps?

Ideas flowing at a restaurant as Roberta made notes on the menu as she’s
working through plot problems. When ideas or solutions come a writer has to be
able to write them down immediately. Roberta also kept pen and ink by her bed.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Queen of Sheba: Optioned for Film

We are very excited and pleased to report that Roberta Kells Dorr’s book, QUEEN OF SHEBA, has been optioned to be made into a TV series or feature film by a Canadian production company. 

"The wisest king of antiquity encounters a stunning queen who he cannot possess.  Bathe in riches beyond imagination and a love story as magnificent in ancient times as it is today."
Published by River North Fiction, a division of Moody Publishers.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Sons of Isaac

Roberta K Dorr's never before published book - THE SONS OF ISAAC is now available online for purchase, either in digital format or hardcopy. This book followed on from Abraham and Sarah, her successful book about Abraham and Sarah.

If you have enjoyed Roberta's other books, you will certainly enjoy the same gifted storytelling and attention to detail that Roberta is known for. So zip over to Moody Publishing and get a copy, read it, and let us know what you think about it.

You will live the grand story of the descendants of Abraham in this capstone of the Roberta Kells Dorr biblical fiction series. This work is a new, unpublished title, of Abraham's descendants featuring Isaac's sons, Jacob and Esau, told with the same critical eye and careful study Dorr is known for. In it, faith keeps Abraham from accepting the king's daughter as a wife for Isaac, but fear almost keeps Rebekah from leaving her home to become Isaac's spouse. When God tells Rebekah that she will bear Isaac twin sons and the youngest will serve the older, Jacob is skeptical. But that revelation will mark the lives of Jacob and Esau and influence generations to come.

This tale of family love, greed, jealousy, hope, manipulation, stubbornness, idol worship, famine, and faith in the one God, Elohim, is taken from the pages of biblical history but sounds like a headline from today's magazines. It ends much like it begins, when Jacob blesses two of his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, saying that the younger will become greater than the older, a theme that is seen throughout The Sons of Isaac.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Abraham and Sarah

A splendid exploration of faith against great odds and love that endures years of disappointment.

Abraham and Sarah is a masterful historical drama from the moment that Abraham strides into the pagan temple to rescue Sarah. The couple set out in search of the blessings God had promised: abundant fertile land and decedents more plentiful than the stars.

Available for purchase from Moody Publishers

But years of wandering bring the couple to Egypt where once again Abraham convinces Sarah that as sister and brother surely they will pass safely through the territory. But Pharaoh takes Sarah into his harem where she befriends Pharaoh's daughter, Hagar. Together the three are ordered to leave.
Years of barrenness have embittered Sarah and she hatches a plan: Hagar must become the vessel for the child God has promised. Ishmael is born to Hagar and so is jealousy born in Sarah's heart. But God had a plan and He was right all along. This miracle unfolds with Historical authenticity leaving the reader with a better understanding of the ancient world and the life-changing faith of Abraham and Sarah.