Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Aggie Villanueva's Rightfully Mine

An historical novel by Aggie Villanueva
Originally published by Thomas Nelson, reprinted by Aggie Villanueva
Available in several formats at:

“Let us enter into an era in Israeli history where anticipation is a palpable hum, where the bedouin lifestyle gives way to the birth of a nation, a promised nation, where men gear up for war: the era between their forty-year wandering and their victories over Canaan.
After wandering in the desert for forty years the Israelites are preparing to move on at last to the Promised Land. But when Moses divides the new land among the men of Israel, it is Rizpah (called Noah in Numbers 27) who has the courage to fight for her family of sisters.” ~~Excerpted from review by Linda Yezak

It was an unexpected blow to realize that the Promised Land was being divided all right, but only between the men. Rizpah must stand against an entire nation of men to earn for her and her sisters what is rightfully theirs.
And into this era of the Bible that is often brushed over Villanueva “seamlessly weaves into the plot a love story of Rhett-Scarlett-Ashley proportions.” (Linda Yezak) This is a women’s equal rights amendment straight out of history, and handed down straight from the throne of God. How much more do we need to understand the great worth of women, and our worth to God throughout history, today and evermore?

Aggie Villanueva has been writing since the late '70s. Her first novel, Chase the Wind,  was published before she was 30 and her second, Rightfully Mine,  in 1986. Villanueva freelanced throughout the '80s and '90s, also writing three craft columns and three software review columns for national magazines. Villanueva was featured on the cover of The Christian Writer Magazine October 1983.
After teaching at writers conferences throughout the Midwest, she founded/directed the 3-day Mid-America Fellowship of Christian Writers conferences for four years until 1990. For the past several years Aggie has blogged. She is founder of Visual Arts Junction:, and is known for her in-depth interviews both in print, podcast and teleseminars.
Photographic art entered in 2007, and within two years Villanueva was critically acclaimed and award winning. Dubbed the "Grandma Moses of the American Southwest" by her artistic peers, Villanueva is represented in several online and walk-in art galleries across the nation.

Aggie, it is indeed an honor to interview "Grandma Moses of the Southwest".

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

My grandparents and mother used to have slips of paper with poems and stories I wrote starting at five years old. The poetry continued though my hippie years and my early marriage. But the write-to-publish bug entered when I was 28 years old.

I pulled a friend, Deborah Lawrence, into the adventure with me and we co-wrote a Biblical novel, Chase the Wind, was published by Thomas Nelson publishing. We were ecstatic. And I was hooked. The house also accepted my next solo novel, Rightfully Mine, which I have now re-published.

When Chase the Wind was accepted I had just signed up to take every course offered at The Christian Writers Institute of Wheaton, IL. I had completed only two lessons from the first course, Journalism. Being so busy writing the novel that was due within the year, I wrote the Institute asking for a leave of absence in my courses. When they read my explanation for the leave they refunded my money.

As to what genre, I read a few Biblical novels at the time, the late 70s. Biblical fiction was a fairly new genre then. They seemed to be no more than ancient romances. But then I read Thieves, by Thomas Noton, a hard hitting, honest book at the thieves who hung beside Jesus. I wanted to write Biblical fiction like that.

One of the impressive aspects of Thieves is the amount of research Noton put into it. I spent a year researching Chase the Wind and Rightfully Mine before I was satisfied. Thomas Nelson publishers send all manuscripts to expert scholars for accuracy before publishing. The historical expert reported only three inaccuracies in mine. But he was incorrect. I sent my research notes to back up my facts and they left them each stand as I wrote them.

What’s the hook for your recently self published book, Rightfully Mine?
I believe it’s the subtitle “God’s Equal Rights Amendment.” That seems to draw much interest, no matter the religious point of view. And it seems the fact that it all took place so long ago (scholars debate, but approximately 1200 to 1500 BC) incites further interest.

Tell us more.
It’s the story of the woman, Noah, in Numbers 27, who was one of 5 daughters of Zelophehad, and only daughters. When Moses was finally instructed by God to divide the promised land between the nation of Israel, he did it according to legal custom, which means only men are allowed to own/inherit land.

With only women in the family, and Zelophehad dead in the wilderness wandering, someone had to defy the law; it was Noah, who the publishing house urged me to rename to avoid the obvious confusion. I nicknamed her Rizpah.

The subplot involves love, actually a love triangle, and greed that murders, and family ties that bind, but the story is of an infant nation finding itself before it can emerge to war and earn what is rightfully theirs. How could the nation inherit the Promised Land when they denied some of their own their rights?

How do you develop characters? Setting?
I develop characters the old fashioned way. I write about them to myself. Staring with basics, I note where they are the from, who are their parents and immediate/extended family, height, weight, physical characteristics, etc..

Then come long essays about things that happened in their childhood, whether they like carrots and hate spinach, how they sit, stand, walk, run, what makes them cry/laugh/angry. I write the essays in first person so I can learn the nuances of their speech and emotions. Before long my characters are as real as you, to me anyway.

Developing setting is not so fun, but is so satisfying. Lots of plain old hard research. I remember during my research for Rightfully Mine I read one entire tome, seriously it was over 1200 pages. After reading this reference book, the only thing I learned was how the wandering Israelites handled their, well, toilet duties.

Think about it. A million people with no plumbing. The fact that they were a sanitary encampment is proven by how healthy they remained for 40 years. That step in my research was maximum tedium, but so worth it. It fascinated me so much I wrote an entire scene where my heroin thought out her problems while taking care of their family sanitation. Besides, I wasn’t about to let all the time I invested in that knowledge go to waste!

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
My grandparents, who raised me, were the biggest influence of creative thinking in my life. My grandfather, Reverend Vernon A. Vance, was, believe it or not, a Southern Baptist Minister. But they taught me through word and deed (mostly deed) that if I am true to the Word of God in my own personal life there will be few in line with me, least of all those within the church who need someone else to do their higher thinking.

They both taught me that God is our Source for everything—period. We need no human interpretation clouding his clear guidance. Though he was a preacher, he believed, and lived, that we should “call no man teacher,” and that if we do call a man teacher, we cease to hear clearly from the Bible and from God. He taught me well, apparently. You’ll notice the heroines, and heroes, of my books rarely follow the religious tradition taught in the church/temple.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.
Here are four.

“Her portrayal of a humanity struggling between safety and destiny is touching, palpable, and memorable. This is easily one of the best biblical novels I’ve ever read.” From a review of Rightfully Mine by K.M. Weiland.

“One of my favorite movies of all time is The Ten Commandments. Rightfully Mine is now one of my favorite books.” From a review of Rightfully Mine by Cindy Bauer.

“…with the economy of words that is the hallmark of a masterful writer. Her characters are full-bodied; her action scenes are tense and exciting; her love scenes are both pure and seductive.” From a review of Rightfully Mine by Linda Yezak.

“This reviewer liked the book so much that she is buying it as a Christmas gift for a family member.

**** 4 stars Carol Langstroth, Manager, Mind Fog Reviews.

Great reviews!

What are your current projects?
I’m compiling two books from my 2009 interviews; one is interviews of photographers/artists, and the other of writers. They will be available at excellent prices and in various formats. Also I’m gathering the courses I teach on rewriting into book format.

Where can folks learn more about your books, other ventures, and events?




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Continued, success, my friend.

1 comment:

Aggie Villanueva said...

Greetings everyone. I'm in the middle of a week-long snow front. We've had eight inches so far, in addition to the four already on the ground. We're expected to get another six inches by Saturday night.

We'll get some great moisture out of this one. But I wanted to stop by while I can. Yesterday I only had electricity intermittently, and had my satellite internet connection broken for hours at a time.

But I wanted to say hi, and that I'll stop by as often as possible. So if anyone wants to talk, I'll be back!