Interview with Elizabeth Jacobson

Author of Not By Sight, A Novel of the Patriarchs

Beloved. Betrayed. Despised. Exalted. What could make a man turn to God when every event in his life screams that God has turned his back on him? Joseph, the eleventh son of the patriarch Jacob, had his father’s favor, and that was his downfall. Sold into Egypt by his enraged and jealous brothers, Joseph is left with nothing to cling to except the stories of his father’s God, a seemingly remote and unreachable figure. Faith may prove futile, but Joseph is desperate – for the very hate that enslaved his brothers has begun to overtake him.

Elizabeth Jacobson, Not By Sight

Nicola: Today we are joined by Elizabeth Jacobson, and her first novel releases today, March 16th 2022.

From https://headdeskliz.com/

Elizabeth, you have brought Joseph to life in the most vivid way. You must have studied Egypt in great detail to write this book. I felt the setting was totally authentic. Can you tell us about your sources? What is the most interesting part of Egyptian life that you learned? Have you always been interested and could pick out from
knowledge already there? Or did you have to research quickly as Joseph’s story was being
drafted? Would you like to live in ancient Egypt? 


Elizabeth: Thank you! I’ve heard from multiple readers now who felt the setting was immersive and
authentic. This was definitely my goal and I’m so honored by the praise!
I have always enjoyed history, but I wasn’t an Egypt buff in particular before writing this story. I
researched both before and during my writing.

Sometimes something would come up while drafting a chapter and I’d have to spend the rest of the day hunting down information. My sources were exclusively the internet, if you can believe it. A lot of the sites were research,
university, or museum websites, which I felt I could trust.

But, I also spent a lot of time filtering through other websites and just making sure that I could back up what they were saying with multiple other sites, or better yet, pull up the historical document that they were referencing.

One of the interesting things I started to notice about Ancient Egypt about a third of the way
through the story is how much we don’t know. Sometimes I couldn’t get a straight answer about
something. This was hard for my Type A self! Eventually my mantra for these situations
became: “Just don’t contradict anything known, and it will have to be fine!” Haha.
There are also definitely a handful of things that I slightly stretched, to make the story work.

For instance, we don’t have documentation of horses in Egypt until a couple hundred years after
1900 BC, which is around the time I set my Joseph story. But there is a lot about this time
period, called the Middle Kingdom, which is unknown. We haven’t even excavated the capital,
Itjtawy, though we know where it is. So, could horses have been a curiosity, only owned by a
few of the uber-rich in Egypt at that time? Maybe! They were known and used in Mesopotamia,
which had trading links to the Levant, right next to Egypt. So I ran with it!

Looking back on everything that I learned, I can’t say I would have liked to live in Ancient
Egypt. Women’s Rights were actually pretty decent there, and the quality of life was probably
the best in the ancient world if you had the money. But the mythology and religion was
maliciously depraved from a modern perspective (even without reference to a Christian
perspective). I hint at and sketch out some this in my book, but wasn’t comfortable going into
extreme detail. And Joseph would have been familiar with Canaanite pagan traditions, so I don’t
think the Egyptian religion would have been as utterly shocking to him as it would have been to
a modern audience.

If anyone is interested in learning more about my research regarding Ancient Egypt and Canaan,
I have a blog series on my website, called The Joseph Story, all about it!

From https://headdeskliz.com/category/the-joseph-story/

Nicola: One of the first audiobooks I ever did was the Kebra Nagast, an ancient Coptic sacred script. In there it says that Pharaoh gave Sarah land in Egypt as a present when she was leaving his harem (because of Abraham’s deception). It says that Joseph settled Jacob and family in that same land. Did you ever come across any evidence of this?

Elizabeth: That’s a fascinating claim! I didn’t come across this claim or evidence for it, but I could see it
being the sort of poetic foreshadowing that God is wont to do.

Nicola: You make radical forgiveness seem perfectly plausible as Joseph discusses it with Judah
and his brothers. Have you experienced radical forgiveness from either side? Would you be
willing to share a story from your own life that helped you write about it so honestly and
organically? 
You present Joseph’s faith journey with no apologies and no preachiness. How did your
own faith grow as a result of writing his journey?

Elizabeth: These are fascinating questions. I can’t say I’ve experienced that sort of radical forgiveness in
myself or from others, but then, I haven’t had nearly as “interesting” a life as Joseph did. That
said, I grew up in a family where forgiveness was emphasized, because it is God’s radical
forgiveness and sacrifice of His Son that saves us.

One of the things I wanted to make clear in writing Not by Sight is that Joseph never intended to
let his brothers back into his life if they did not prove that they had changed. At first, he was only
out to ensure Benjamin’s safety. There is a difference between forgiveness and allowing toxicity
back into your life. This was taught to me as well.

When I write, I try my hardest to analyze events from the character’s perspective. I already knew
Joseph’s end choice – to forgive his brothers and let them back into his life. It was challenge to
reverse-engineer that well, so I chose to do it through the use of Bible verses (that are sayings of
Joseph’s father, in the story) and Joseph’s own life events leading him to that choice. I am so
glad to know that it paid off and worked!

Especially in the past six months, I have found the prayer I wrote for Joseph: “Lead me in a way
that pleases You.” coming to my lips more and more. We live in crazy times. So did Joseph,
though his were far different and far more personal than these times are for me. But I think God
is teaching me a bit through my own writing. We can’t see tomorrow. But we can trust that God
will lead us through it.

Nicola: You make the two women in Joseph’s life, Dinah and Asenath beautifully feminine. They
are strong and wise and humble and meek. How much of you is there in them? Who are
your models for these women in your life? Was there research you did that helped you
form them?

Elizabeth: I am SO happy to hear you say this! Writing well-rounded, believable women is one of my goals.
There are too many cardboard-cutout women in fiction.
I don’t tend to model characters after people I know. I guess I want them to be people of their
own, in a sense. Though there always does end up being some of me in each of them!

I experienced a lot of sexual harassment during my college years. The feelings that come with
that, shame and anger and a sort of closed-off way of discussing it, I gave to Dinah, though she
experienced far more tragedy and violation than I did. To Asenath, I gave my propensity to ask
the tough questions, pointing out things that don’t make sense and searching for the truth.
Besides these traits, I also wanted to give them agency of their own, even as secondary
characters (since we are always in Joseph’s head). I knew this would help make them seem more
like “real people”.

Dinah has less time on the page then Asenath, so I gave her subtle traits to show she thinks for
herself. She stirs the pot, so to speak, when it came to Reuben and Bilhah, and goes against her
mother in her closeness to Joseph and Benjamin.

To Asenath, who has more time on the page, I was able to give a mini-character arc. She overcomes the struggles given to her by her upbringing with her astute mind and yearning for something good and right and full of truth. I also gave her a hobby – her love for horses.

Nicola: What next? Are you going to write more biblical fiction? Which story? Are you going to
try other genres? Based on a Bible story? Where can your fans find you and read more of
what you have written?

Elizabeth: I definitely have some other ideas for Biblical fiction down the line, but right now I am hard at
work on a fantasy trilogy with Christian themes. I’m currently in the middle of book two and
having a blast! I also have ideas for historical fiction and science fiction stories, also with
Christian messages. I look forward to the day I can share each of these stories with everyone!
I’d love to chat with fans on my Instagram or Facebook pages, and you can also find me at my
website/blog here.
You can also purchase Not by Sight: a novel of the patriarchs on Amazon, in hardcover,
paperback, and Kindle formats, here!
Thank you so much for having me on to interview, Nicola! It has been such a pleasure!

Nicola: Thank YOU, Elizabeth. I am honoured to know you. I love Not By Sight and the Joseph you have brought to my imagination. You make it easier to believe in radical forgiveness, that I can follow Joseph into God’s arms.

I am very eager to read whatever you write next!

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