If you're looking for a biblical fiction novel to lead you into the season of Lent, I have a recommendation! I recently read Rob Seabrook's debut novel Beneath the Tamarisk Tree, and I have to say, I could hardly put this book down.
Like most of you, I knew the story of the thief on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him. But I never really pondered what might have led the thief to make his now famous request of Jesus. Rob Seabrook has crafted an inspirational novel around who the thief may have been, and what he might have encountered as he awoke in paradise.
The thief is given the name Dismas, and the novel shifts back and forth between a childhood of suffering and the overwhelming peace and love he finds through Jesus. Beautifully written, Dismas' story brought me to tears and made my heart sing. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys biblical fiction!
And now, on to the interview with the author, Rob Seabrook. Make sure you scroll to the end to learn how you could win a copy of Beneath the Tamarisk Tree!
Rob, could you tell us a little about yourself?
I live and work in beautiful Devon, UK. I am married to Gemma, with three grown-up children, Bruno the dog, and some chickens. We are also foster carers, which has helped me to gain an insight into the impact of trauma on children that I have been able to lean on in my writing. I have seen that rebuilding a life takes endless patience, full acceptance, love, and care, and there is always room for second chances. After a few years of putting it off, I felt challenged to have a go at writing for myself. Beneath the Tamarisk Tree is my first novel.
Are you a big reader? What sorts of books did you enjoy in your teens?
I am of course a keen reader, as every writer should be! I enjoy fiction the most, often being awestruck at the endless imagination that other writers seem to have. Back in my teens / young adult days, I used to enjoy auto-biographies and biographies, being fascinated by people, their stories, and what makes them tick. A lot of them were sports related, perhaps reflecting my dream to be a great sportsman... never one that was going to come to fruition!
How long have you been writing? Who are you published through?
Beneath the Tamarisk Tree is my first novel. It was not my first idea, which is one that never got written... yet. I started writing it back in August 2019, and it eventually got published in December 2021 by Malcolm Down Publishing. In a way, I have been writing for a long time, mostly through my career as a marketing professional, albeit different genres like websites, press releases, or social media. I guess good discipline and training to write for different audiences.
I loved all the imagery of heaven inspired by the Bible! What inspired you to write biblical fiction?
Strangely, Biblical fiction is not a genre that I had read much before I started writing it. When I had the inspiration for the story and decided to write it, a part of the research process included reading a fair bit of Biblical fiction to get a feel for what may or may not be appropriate, and what works. Having said that though, I also had some fairly clear ideas of what I wanted to include and how I wanted to present the story, so was willing to "break the mould" a little if needed.
What drew you to the story of the thief on the cross?
The truth is I woke one morning, when at a Christian event, and found myself pondering the thief's story. Realizing that his story was in fact amazing and powerful, so full of hope, but so brief and with so little detail. I started to mull it over and soon needed to race out and buy a pen and notebook to start writing some notes. It grew from there as it began to pull me in.
What are some ways you find biblical fiction inspires or challenges your faith? Did you learn anything through writing this story?
Oh yes! I enjoy the research, the writing and the creative process, the fun bits, but having a book published is a whole new arena that I have found exposing. I felt very vulnerable at first, less so as more people have been positive about it and my confidence has grown. I very much felt the responsibility of being accurate and theologically correct, wanting to present the Gospel, whilst being careful not to mislead anyone from the accuracy of the Scriptures.
As much as I could, I aimed to keep the story Biblical and reflect as much from the Bible as I could fit in. For example, we will not know what heaven is like until we get there, but the Bible gives us a few pointers, so I took those as my basis and the imagined around them. This then gave me a deeper grounding in my faith.
Another example is my deeper understanding of what Jesus went through at the crucifixion. It was a horrendous form of torture, that is not pleasant to think about too much. But, when I researched it and began to describe it, hopefully without being overly graphic, the realization of the depth of pain and suffering that Jesus experienced, on our behalf, really hit home.
It is also why I ran manuscripts past two or three pastor friends prior to publication, to try to ensure that theologically no one was going to be led astray.
What's next for you? Do you have plans to write another book?
For a year or so I have been researching for another novel, this time not Biblical fiction, but still Christian fiction. I want to tell the story of a young man, uncertain about his faith, with a fascination for the natural world, who through some encounters and conversations begins to see how there is a Creator who sits behind the creation that he loves. It will encompass the topics of Creation care, perhaps evolution, finding personal faith, the majesty of the created world... I am starting to get quite excited about it!
Where can readers get a copy of your book?
Where can readers find you?
My website is https://www.robseabrook.com, plus I am on all the usual social media platforms if you search for Rob Seabrook.
Instagram - @rob_seabrook
Facebook - @authorrobseabrook
Twitter - @SeabrookRob
TikTok - @RobSeabrook
Make sure you enter the giveaway!
Between February 1st to 15th, Rob Seabrook is giving away five signed copies of Beneath the Tamarisk Tree to subscribers! You can sign up for his newsletter on his website https://www.robseabrook.com/email-list