In this episode, Belinda Pollard, Donita Bundy and Alison Joy interview Jubilee Lipsey, who writes biblical fiction based on Old Testament narratives. Jubilee shares the methods she uses to invite readers deeper into the stories that form the backbone of Christian faith, while also being changed by the Bible in the process herself.
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In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, writing coach, accredited editor with qualifications in theology, writing and publishing blogger at smallbluedog.com, and Gracewriters founder
- Donita Bundy, writing teacher, preacher and author of the Armour of Light urban fantasy series
- Alison Joy, romance author, former early childhood teacher and mother of 4 adult children
- Jubilee Lipsey, author of biblical fiction based on the lives of Jonathan and David, and Joseph of Egypt
Topics covered in this episode:
- The process Jubilee uses to generate a dramatic narrative surrounding biblical history.
- The importance of recognising what modern believers have in common with heroes of the faith.
- The challenge of balancing reader entertainment while honouring biblical truth.
- Being transformed by the Bible vs imposing our own agenda upon it.
- Finding a unique angle in narratives that are so familiar, and how God opens new perspectives during the work.
Find Jubilee online:
More about Jubilee Lipsey at https://www.jubileelipsey.com/
Find stockists and more information on all of Jubilee’s books, including her new book about Joseph, OF SHEAVES AND STARS, here: https://www.jubileelipsey.com/books
Click the covers below to find each book on Amazon (associate links that help earn a few cents for Gracewriters):
Please use the sharing buttons at top and bottom of this post to share on social media or directly with Christian writers you know.
Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters Podcast – Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. Hit subscribe on your favourite podcast player so you never miss an episode and find show notes, useful links and a full transcript at gracewriters.com.
Today on the podcast, freelance author, speaker and blogger, Jubilee Lipsey.
I’m Belinda Pollard. I’m an author, editor and writing coach with a theology degree and 20 years in the publishing industry. I blog for writers at smallbluedog.com and you can find links to all my blogs, books and online courses at belindapollard.com.
Alison Joy: Hi, I’m Alison Young. I’m a former early childhood teacher living in south-east Queensland. I have four adult children and I’m a mad-keen photographer. I write romance under the pen name Alison Joy and you can find out more about me and my books at alisonjoywriter.com.
Donita Bundy: Hi, I’m Donita Bundy. For the past 20 years, I’ve been using my theology degree to underpin my preaching and more recently, to inspire my urban-fantasy series, Armour of Light. You can find out more about that, me and all my other projects at donitabundy.com.
Belinda Pollard: Jubilee Lipsey is a freelance author, speaker and blogger who specialises in teaching believers to uncover the treasures of their victorious identity in Christ through sharing breakthroughs. The unique personal voice she brings to biblical fiction writing invites readers into a deeper experience with our unchanging God and the timeless truths of Scripture.
Welcome to the show, Jubilee.
Jubilee Lipsey: Thank you so much for having me.
Donita Bundy: Jubilee, just so our listeners can get to know a little bit more about you and see how they can relate to you in a writing way, we were wondering if you would be willing to undergo the rapid-fire five?
Jubilee Lipsey: Sounds good. Let’s do it!
Donita Bundy: Okay. Cool. So, who is your target audience?
Jubilee Lipsey: Mostly, primarily Christians. I would say adult, young adult but then obviously anyone else is welcome to read. Yes. Primarily Christian adults.
Donita Bundy: And what is your main genre?
Jubilee Lipsey: My main genre is biblical fiction.
Donita Bundy: Looking forward to finding out more about that.
Jubilee Lipsey: Yes.
Donita Bundy: When is your optimum time for writing?
Jubilee Lipsey: Honestly, the morning, not super early but usually in the early morning, mid-morning range though I try to get it done whenever I can.
Donita Bundy: And where is your favourite place to write?
Jubilee Lipsey: These days my office. I work from home since 2020 and that’s given me a lot more time to write. My office is the place right now.
Donita Bundy: Excellent! And lastly, how did you get into writing?
Jubilee Lipsey: Oh goodness! I have been writing little bits and pieces since I was probably nine years old. Probably was sparked the inspiration from the American Girl books, if you’re familiar with those.
They’re a kind of historical fiction but for children and that got me really interested in portraying history through someone that you could relate to and I was always in love with the bible and stuff so I would write my own little American Girl stories as a child and kind of went from there.
Alison Joy: Your trilogy, My Brother, the King, is biblical fiction based around the life of King David. What made you want to tackle biblical fiction?
Jubilee Lipsey: I had been, like I said, writing off and on my whole life and I was always in love with the bible. I was raised Christian and always had a very close relationship with Jesus and felt very connected to the bible characters. I saw them as my family, the family of faith, and I was really obsessed with the lives behind the stories. You know, reading between the lines.
The bible is historical narrative and there’s not always a lot of detail in between the big moments that we like to rehearse in Sunday School plays and a lot of those stories are very familiar to us but we don’t often think about the implications of how intense these moments were.
And I was always just dumbfounded by the fact that we serve the same God who’s the same today and He’s with us and His Spirit is in us in a special way now. And He was with those people, as well, all those thousands of years ago.
And because I was so in love with history and the bible, I just started writing from the mindset of these characters diving deeper into their culture, their personalities to try to learn more of what they were going through.
It just went from there and I think I read my first biblical fiction novel by Francine Rivers in High School and that was the first time I ever knew that it was a genre that you could write in and it was like a puzzle piece. I knew that was what I was supposed to do.
Belinda Pollard: So, for people who are not yet familiar with what biblical fiction is, you basically take a factual account in the bible and develop fiction from that foundation. Is that how it works?
Jubilee Lipsey: Correct. Yes, absolutely. You would start with the bible story, absolutely, as the foundation and build from there.
Belinda Pollard: Perhaps, take one of the characters and dramatise it.
Jubilee Lipsey: Correct.
Belinda Pollard: So, you’ve got to add further things from your imagination that expand out from that biblical story.
Jubilee Lipsey: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: So, what do you see as the value of that? Alongside of actually just reading the bible narrative, what does biblical fiction add?
Jubilee Lipsey: Biblical fiction adds a personal element that we often lose by being either so familiar with Scripture or the world is illiterate and unfamiliar with Scripture. And so, either one. It’s very easy for Christians to think that they know the story so well that they discount what really went into it and how we often don’t compare ourselves to the biblical people.
We think, “Oh, well, they were just special people and so they were able to do those big things and I could never do that or God would never be with me in the same way,” and that’s a very damaging perspective because it causes us to limit the work of God in our own lives and what He wants to do.
So, when you can connect with these people in Scripture and realise the struggles that they went through and how inadequate they felt and that God was everything to them too. It just really is a transformative experience and I’ve been impacted that way so, I love to give that away to others.
Belinda Pollard: And I guess what you’re saying there, too, is that it could introduce some people to the bible in the first place if they read it as a story.
Jubilee Lipsey: Yes! Yes, absolutely.
It would be very exciting, I could imagine, because perhaps someone in the world might have a very religious view of the bible. That it’s a set of very boring liturgy that it’s hard to understand or something but if you could give them that window into the real life issues. They might see these people were not that different from us.
Belinda Pollard: I like that.
Donita Bundy: Jubilee, could you share a bit of your process on how you do that? How do you honour Scripture but fill it out in a way that it entertains and through fiction but you’re balancing both? How do you do that? What’s your process?
Jubilee Lipsey: Right. The first thing I would say is you have to be transformed first, personally, before you can do it. I believe that if this element is missing, then you’re not doing biblical fiction correctly.
Biblical fiction is not, and it has been done this way but it’s lamentable when it happens, it is not taking your own agenda and imposing it on a biblical story or trying to be self-serving in that way.
If that’s the case, you might as well just write a different story but if you’re going to write something that’s surrounding Scripture, it really has to be something that you’re obsessed with, that you can’t stop thinking about and that you can’t stop talking about and that you have questions about. You have insights that you want to probe out of that and if it has really impacted and transformed you, then you know that you have something to give away there.
So, once you bring that kind of humility to it, I think that there’s a lot better chance that God can use it to impact others if it’s done to you first. That really comes out in your writing but with that foundation, the process is that it will be a story that I’m familiar with but I will read it again a couple times and I will look for the big moments first.
Like for David, the big moment of his life was Goliath or when he became King so I’ll look for the moments that are right at my fingertips just ready to be dramatized. They would be easy to write about and I’ll write the stuff that I’m excited about and then I will go back to Scripture and make an outline of all of the events that need to be covered because they’re in Scripture, they’re non-negotiable, I have to use that as my path.
And then, over time, I’ll just take some time to interview the characters a little bit, do some dreaming and brainstorming and sometimes that includes some cultural research and stuff like that but I’m very into researching the Hebrew culture.
From there, it just is a matter of stitching the biblical events together with dramatic licence seeing what would make sense to stitch the moments together. And then an outline usually emerges from there and I put the scenes together from there.
So, it’s kind of writing it from the inside out but it’s a lot of inner character work because most of my books are written from first person. So, it’s a lot of interviewing the characters, figuring out, putting myself in their shoes and what this moment would have actually been like.
Belinda Pollard: It’s interesting that, because there are obviously writers, atheist writers, who take biblical themes and just use them for inspiration as through they were a Greek myth or something.
Jubilee Lipsey: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: It would be a very different outcome, wouldn’t it? And a very different purpose and very different process.
Is it a bit nerve wracking at times figuring out if you’re being faithful?
Jubilee Lipsey: Yes, it is. I think the key is finding God’s heart in the story. What He is, what He was intending to tell us and then what you personally learned because if it’s a familiar story, other people have written about it, you’re not the first one to write about it and so, finding your own unique angle is important, as well.
Yes. There has been a lot of pacing and a lot of prayer and a lot of questions but God has been so faithful and that’s the other thing too, is that I feel like I have a head start with this because it’s His word and it started from His mind first. I can always ask the Lord about it and I’m not making it up when I say that He has literally illuminated things and put puzzle pieces together just because I’ve asked and so that’s the beautiful part.
Obviously, He’ll do that for whatever you’re writing if you’re seeking Him but especially with the bible, I feel like He knows my heart for it, so, He’s right there to help.
Donita Bundy: Yes. Like an extension of the living word, isn’t it?
Jubilee Lipsey: Yes.
Donita Bundy: It’s alive and it meets each of us where we’re at and if we come at it humbly and obediently, that extension can be made in our writing. Yes, very exciting stuff.
Alison Joy: Jubilee, could you tell us how long it took you to write and publish your trilogy and what publishing process did you follow?
Jubilee Lipsey: I wrote the three novels and the bible study in 2020 so, about eight months and then in 2021, that year was the publishing process for about six months.
I worked with Paper Raven Books which is a rapid release publishing company that helps you publish your own books. It depends on what you need. I was hiring different people so, editors and formatters and such to help me.
It was self-publishing but with a team on your side to help you do it professionally and avoid some of the pitfalls of doing it alone. Rapid release just means that they were helping me to get the series out month by month so, it was October, November and December instead of having years between the books like you typically would.
With traditional publishing it could be a year, it could be two years between the books, depending. But rapid release was all in one year and it was intense and it was crazy but the momentum behind it was worth it because people’s appetite for series right now is so hot that they were like, “We can totally run with the energy that’s going to come behind it coming out that fast.” And so many people were shocked that it was out that fast.
Belinda Pollard: What kind of reactions have you had to it?
Jubilee Lipsey: Oh, people have been very excited, very good reactions and even I’m amazed at how fast people are reading them because they’re pretty thick but, yes, the energy was definitely there.
It doesn’t happen a lot but just when I haven’t heard for a while, someone new that I don’t know will reach out to me and tell me about how they’re loving it or how it’s impacted them and that’s always just so amazing to be reminded of that.
Alison Joy: You’ve got the trilogy, did you just write it all in one hit and then divide it up afterwards or did you go, “This is book one, this is book two, this is book three”?
Jubilee Lipsey: It was actually very interesting because the bible study was actually what started it.
A couple of years ago, I have always been obsessed with the character of Jonathan and I wrote the bible study a few years ago just out of my own study of him as a character. My question for scripture was, he was the son of a king that hated David so, how was he not impacted by his father’s opinion, how was he able to take God’s perspective and run with that? How was he able to take a different road? Despite all the opposition and the pressure. So that was what I was researching and so the bible study came out of that.
In the bible study I wrote little novel excerpts because I thought it would be fun and make it kind of unique. Then in 2020, when I started working from home, I was feeling pressure to make the time count because I didn’t know what was going to happen, how long it was going to be, all of that, and I thought about those novel excepts. I thought, “I wonder if I could put those together and actually if it would take off. If I could make a novel out of it.”
And I just started trying it and it took off. I was writing every day and it was just coming so fast that I didn’t have to force it. It was work but I didn’t have to force it and once I started talking to Paper Raven, they were the ones that suggested splitting it up into three books. And so, there was a little bit of adjustment to the manuscript, obviously, to build up the other books once they were split but it was definitely a good move to avoid one of them being way too long.
It was definitely the right move also because when I looked at the manuscript, there were clear moments where I could see where the books needed to separate so it worked out very well. It was great to have their input on that.
Donita Bundy: Eight months is very fast to write a trilogy!
Jubilee Lipsey: Yes!
Belinda Pollard: How many thousand words was it in the trilogy?
Jubilee Lipsey: The bible study is a bit shorter, it’s like a pocket size but each novel is over 100,000.
Donita Bundy: That’s a lot of words!
Belinda Pollard: And it’s interesting that you chose David to do first.
If I was thinking of writing biblical fiction, I’d probably start with something smaller like Esther or Ruth. A more confined story. You’ve gone for a major component of salvation history and so complex!
Jubilee Lipsey: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: What made you choose David and have you got others in mind? What are you thinking?
Jubilee Lipsey: Yes. Actually, I was surprised that David came first because my whole life I’ve been studying Joseph in Genesis and so I thought for sure that that’s what I would write about first. And I had a manuscript but that manuscript has evolved and it needed to, quite a bit.
So, I will definitely be continuing this. I’ve got a lot of other things in mind besides Joseph. Like I said, the Jonathan thing was just in me since I was a child. I always, sort of, identified with him more and was really just intrigued about why he was able to choose friendship in such an intense situation and being the crown prince himself, there was just so much there. This whole thing really grew out of that obsession, that bible study and it really chose me.
This particular story, I didn’t choose it, it definitely chose me and just went from there. The flow of things in 2020, it was so obvious that this was supposed to be happening and even what I would be writing on a particular day, God would be speaking to me out of it according to what was happening in my world or my family or the world at large.
It was definitely more than just writing books. It was a whole journey that I was supposed to take at that time and I’m still learning from it. I laugh with people now because when you write books you think, “Okay, I’ve mastered this information because I just wrote the books,” but no, you are writing it for your future self and you’re going to learn these things later!
Donita Bundy: Jubilee, the Gracewriters slogan is Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. How does this challenge you?
Jubilee Lipsey: I love that. I have been all over your website and your podcast and I just love so much about what you do and how you describe it and portray your mission.
Even like gracenotes, the hints of the Kingdom, that is really where our foundation needs to be. It challenges me as a writer because it reminds me why I’m doing this and where my grace comes from, where my power comes from and really with that I can’t lose because I don’t have to force anything. I can always lean back on Him because He’s what I’m proclaiming.
So, if I ever get lost, He’s my anchor to remind me, “Proclaim me and write out of what you have received and that will touch the world,” because it’s His impact. We share what He’s put within us but then the impact comes from Him. He’s the one that changes hearts. So, that’s how we impact culture, is definitely just by being His instruments.
I love that. I’m inspired by a lot of what you guys have written.
Alison Joy: So, you’ve been touching on this the whole way along but how does your faith impact how and what you write?
Jubilee Lipsey: Yes. It’s central to it, for sure.
Any time that I get into a mindset of trying to force it or comparing my writing to other people or just how much other people are putting out there. I always am remembering, “Okay. I’ve lost my focus.” If the joy is gone, if the love is gone, I need to get back to the focus.
So, I can always get back to my faith being the reason that I do any of this, is it came from my love for the Lord and my love for His word and that obsession grew until I had to do something with it. I had to get it out and writing gave me that, that outlet, to be able to share my faith with anyone who will listen.
Belinda Pollard: I love that point you raised about comparisons, the toxicity of making comparisons and that’s a general human situation, isn’t it?
Jubilee Lipsey: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: And there’s that famous quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I can’t remember who said it now but comparison is also the thief of purpose, of ministry. We’re not supposed to be comparing ourselves, are we, to anything.
Jubilee Lipsey: No. I think even the Apostle Paul, somewhere in Corinthians, he says something like, “I don’t want to work in someone else’s area of influence. I just want to have my own impact wherever Christ wants me and I’m happy that He’s being proclaimed through other people, as well.”
And that really challenges me because the market is full of writers and you could really derail yourself looking too hard at other people because you’ve got a different calling, a different purpose.
Belinda Pollard: That’s beautiful. Thank you so much, Jubilee.
Jubilee Lipsey: Thank you.
Belinda Pollard: Fantastic thoughts there. I’m going to be turning some of those over in my mind for a while, actually.
Where can people find you online, please?
Jubilee Lipsey: Sure. My website is www.jubileelipsey.com and a lot of my information, blogs and all that is there but also the links to my books are there and the synopses are there.
I’m on YouTube as Jubilee Lipsey Unedited and that’s where I do little book highlight videos. It’s not as deep as a bible study but I talk through different points of the books and how we can apply them to our lives and some of the writing process, as well. So, some of the videos are more geared toward that.
And then on Instagram @jubileeauthorpage, as well.
Belinda Pollard: Excellent! And for those listening, I’ll also include links to all of those places on our website at gracewriters.com if you’re having trouble finding any of the links to Jubilee’s work.
How about I pray for you before we finish?
Jubilee Lipsey: Thank you. That would be wonderful.
Belinda Pollard: Heavenly Father, we thank you for Jubilee. We thank you that you helped her to redeem the time during those worst days of the pandemic when she was sitting down and writing these fascinating books.
I pray that you will bless her abundantly. That you will give her wisdom as to where she goes next with her writing and how she uses it and how you want to use it, Father, to get it out there into different hands and to be encouraging your people and drawing people to yourself.
And I pray for all the other Gracewriters out there, too, who are either currently working in or eager to get into writing biblical fiction. Please give them inspiration and wisdom and your words and your direction and help them keep turning back to you and seeking your face and seeking your guidance, in Jesus’ name. Amen
Jubilee Lipsey: Amen. And thank you so much.
Belinda Pollard: Jubilee Lipsey, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today.
Jubilee Lipsey: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.
Belinda Pollard: Thank you Donita Bundy and Alison Joy. I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time on the Gracewriters podcast.
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