Look Inside My Research Process

Mesu Andrews Featured Articles 10 Comments

03-04-16--Cheese Curl Cooley 001To understand my research process, you must first realize how utterly compulsive I am. When I was in high school, I hated history—can you believe it? I never read the chapters, so when it was time for a test, it was time to cram! I would go home, grab my book, notes, and a can of Planter’s cheese curls, go upstairs to my room and study into the wee hours of the morning—and get an “A” on the test. I was a good memorizer and could regurgitate facts like nobody’s business!

Fast-forward thirty-five years. Menopause hit. Memory’s gone. And it’s nobody’s business what I regurgitate.

So how do I keep all those Hebrew and Egyptian names straight? How do I discover how Miriam stitched up a deep cut or how long it took Aaron to retrieve Moses from the wilderness in Midian?

The simple answer is divine intervention. I can honestly say that my fibro-fogged brain could not retain information without a Holy-Spirit-secured memory. But the Lord has also taught me some very practical strategies that might encourage you to dig into His-story a little deeper.

His-story Is My Story

I hated history in school because I never saw the point. It felt like a waste of time to talk about wars and dead people. Now, please don’t write me nasty emails. I was extremely narrow-minded as the spoiled-rotten baby of the family. Truthfully, until my view of the world expanded—and I began to think about more than my life in my house in my school in my city—the idea of my connections to that great big world had no bearing. The big “Ah-Hah!” moment came when someone showed me that the Bible was a single story—and I’m in it.

Our God created humankind to be in intimate relationship with Him. When we betrayed Him by disobeying, He promised to restore that relationship through the Offspring of the woman who disobeyed. The whole Bible tells that redemption story—God’s unfaltering plan to restore humankind to that perfectly transparent, Eden-like relationship that we see described in Revelation’s last chapter.

Yes, I’m a part of that story—and so are you. His-story (history) is our story.

Israel the Heart of the Story

The history of all mankind began with Adam and Even, and God let Noah tell the story of His “do over.” From there, God chose Abraham to become the seed of redemption—the single man from whom all nations on earth would be blessed. It would be Abraham’s family that would preserve the ancient stories of God’s interactions with humankind on earth. These are the stories I love to research most. These are the biblical truths—the foundations—upon which I build every novel I write.

It was Abraham’s grandson, Jacob—renamed Israel—who had twelve sons. One of those sons, Joseph, became quite powerful in Egypt and, when a severe famine affected their homeland of Canaan, he moved Israel’s family to the fertile Delta region of Egypt. Israel remained in Egypt, however, even after the famine resolved. Later, after Joseph died, the Egyptians enslaved the descendants of Israel for four hundred years. It was during this time that Israel’s twelve tribes grew into a nation—and it’s here that I began my research for The Pharaoh’s Daughter and Miriam, The Treasures of the Nile novels.

Through the Bible, God’s inspired Word, I gain Truth and insight into my characters, locations, and time periods. Scripture is where I find Truth, but it’s not the only place I find facts.

Israel, a Part of the World

Though the Bible is first and foundational to my research process, I consider many other historical documents when fact-finding. God’s Word is accurate, and I’m not nervous about researching archeological or anthropological documentation for fear they’ll raise conflicting evidence. On the contrary! More often than not, I find fascinating tid-bits that confirm what the Bible says! And it’s those interesting little extras that make the stories more authentic because we see how Israel was woven into the fabric of the world.

Though God chose Israel to tell His-story through Scripture, Israel didn’t live in a bubble. They were and are very much a part of what’s happening in world civilizations. So when I researched Egypt, I looked for evidence of severe decline in their economy to pinpoint when the plagues might have hit. I looked for a severe decline in their army to indicate when they lost those six hundred chariots in the Red Sea. And when I studied the Pharaohs, I searched for the firstborns who died unexpectedly. These factors helped me decide on the much-debated date of the Exodus. Is my dating correct? I don’t know. Many folks MUCH smarter than me have debated it for centuries. Can my little novel claim to have greater insight than scholars and theologians who have dedicated their lives to research? Absolutely not, but my dating is plausible, and that’s the best I can hope for—which is hard for a girl who compulsively studied for history tests!

My Best Resources

03-04-16--3 fav Egypt resourcesIf you need a little geek therapy and find yourself yearning for more Egyptian knowledge, here’s a peek at my three favorite resources. I found myself going back to these even after the books have been written to get refresher facts on some things I’ve forgotten.

The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt by Aidan Dodson and Dyan Hilton was fabulous because it gave me not only the pharaoh’s names but also the wives’ and daughters’ names. It also listed peripheral officials and noblemen with their families as described in various hieroglyphs. It was from this book that I learned that King Tut had sisters, which helped solve the dating dilemma in The Pharaoh’s Daughter (see blog post: Who’s the Baby-Killin’ King?). For Miriam’s story, this book told me Pharaoh Ramesses fathered approximately 250 royal children in his lifetime and gave the names of his firstborn sons according to which royal wife they belonged.

The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt by Ian Shaw was great for giving me Egypt’s overall history and gave specific events (social, family, and/or military) from each pharaoh’s reign. It was from this book that I learned what I believed to be Moses’s Egyptian name—Mehy—and really the formation of his military career (see blog post: Cover Celebration Contest). Much of the military activity and the information in Miriam about the Battle of Kadesh came from this resource.

World Eras: Ancient Egypt (2615 – 332 B.C.) by Edward Bleiberg was an all-purpose resource that provided beautiful pictures as well as easy-to-read descriptions of  places, processes, and people. It offered a few word-for-word translations of ancient documents and maps to give context (and to show trade routes—especially helpful). I used this one for LOTS of things!

The Miracles of Exodus by Colin Humphreys was my go-to resource for everything about the plagues. This fantastically thorough book is subtitled, “A Scientist’s Discovery of the Extraordinary Natural Causes of the Biblical Stories,” and it lives up to its title. Sir Humphreys offers plausible natural causes for God’s miraculous plagues. Why is this important? 2 reasons: 1) It gave me a timetable for the duration of each plague and the time between them (meaning the whole ten plagues lasted approximately a year), and 2) It gave just enough scientific reason for Pharaoh and other “doubters” to choose to harden their hearts. God never takes away a person’s opportunity to choose–even when He performs a miracle. 

Perhaps the best internet resource was a travel site: http://www.touregypt.net/ancientegypt/. Whenever I Googled a question (i.e. What were the ancient water fowl in the northern Nile Delta?), this site came up and was consistently on target with my scholarly resources.


Today’s Question:

  • Was there anything about Egypt that surprised you in my books? Or anything you wanted to know that I didn’t address?

Comments 10

  1. Oh that was so interesting! I don’t agree with the ‘spoiled rotten brat’ part but that’s bec I was there in your childhood. I would say, tho’ we could say spoiled rotten baby girl ( : and a joy to our family. Your research is amazing and has changed the way I read the O.T. thru. Now I think when I read different children’s names…’wonder what Mesu would do with that story’. Actually, you have made reading thru all those names (just finished Leviticus) realize those are REAL people, each with their own story! And, ‘wonder what Mesu would do with that!’ is a constant wonder. Thanks.

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      Hahaha! I think spoiling me was a group effort, Mama! 😉 And it is fun to think about all those names in Leviticus and Numbers as real people with stories of their own–because they were!! I love our talks about Scripture. You inspire me.

  2. I absolutely LOVE reading your books. Clearly, you spend loads of time researching, so this post was fun to read. Thanks for making the stories in Scripture come alive!

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  3. You are very thorough with your research. I always find myself thinking ‘I never thought of it that way.’ Always adds a new layer to what I read in the Bible. Your books are always an inspiration!

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      I think that’s what I think of when people say the Bible is the Living Word. To me it means that it’s a living organism, able to adapt to every generation, every life situation, every individual no matter what. The same passage holds untold treasures each time I read it! God’s Word is just so stinking exciting!!! 😉

  4. Mesu,it is your love for research that makes me so fascinated by each and every one of your books. It is this gift from God that helps those of us, who do not have the passion or abilities to do that kind of in depth research, to have a better understanding of these biblical stories. You and your books are such a blessing. I love how you bring to life all of the aspects of the lives of these bible characters, whether it be the details of what they eat, how they prepare it, the names and dates of key characters, or the things that they would see or hear in nature surrounding them. I’m so glad the Holy Spirit is in work in you, in spite of any brain fog or spoiling that may have occurred. =)

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  5. Even though I loved history in school, I was completely surprised by the fact that the princess who drew Moses from the Nile was Tut’s sister. How did I miss that in my high school and college history classes?
    I love the authenticity of your books.
    Thank you for making history such welcoming read.

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      Oh, Shirley! I’m not sure your history teacher would agree with that hypothesis. That’s where a little fiction comes in handy. 😉 Tut had sisters, and he was within the window of the years of possibility for the Exodus. I chose Tut because it seemed to make sense with the biblical record. I’m guessing your history teacher might not have made such an effort. 😉

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