If you knew me in real life, you'd know that I'm one of the last people you'd expect to write a novel based on a Bible story. I'm not religious and wasn't raised in a religious family, although my mom did take me to church a few times when I was little, since she thought that children who were never exposed to organized religion might be more susceptible to cults later in life. My main memory of church is being upset because my mom gave me a dollar for the Sunday School donation, but then they passed around this picture board-thing that only had slots for quarters. Where was I supposed to put my dollar?! I felt like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole...
But anyway, back to Neima's Ark. When my agent at the time first suggested the idea of a YA Noah's Ark retelling, it never even occurred to me that the religious aspect might be a major issue. Which probably tells you how not-religious I am. But Noah's Ark has become a popular children's story in our culture and doesn't seem overtly religious in the same way as, for instance, Moses receiving the Ten Commandments.
Now, this isn't to say I didn't think about religion at all while writing the book--I knew my novel would take an imaginative approach and that it wouldn't appeal to people looking for a strict Bible retelling. But I didn't necessarily think people who aren't fans of religious fiction (which is a lot of people) would be afraid to read it. On the other hand, I hope that people who are more traditionally religious are open to the book and can get something out of it as well. My intent has never been to make a religious statement, but simply to retell an old story in the same manner as, for instance, a fairy tale or myth retelling. (And the flood myth does exist in many cultures--the biblical version is simply the most well-known one.)
So, to the meat of this blog post...here are the three main reasons I was attracted to the Noah's Ark story and chose to retell it. If you're nervous about reading a religious story, I'm hoping this might change your mind!
1. People love disaster stories, and Noah's Ark is a great one.
Apocalyptic disaster stories are incredibly popular right now, and I thought an end-of-the-world story that takes place not in the future, but in the distant past, would be a great new spin on the genre.
I love to write about animals and their relationship to people, and Neima's Ark gave me a chance to do that.
3. Human Nature
When I did reread the biblical story before beginning my own, I was struck by the theme not of eradicating evil in mankind, but of accepting that the capacity for evil is an essential part of human nature. You can read more about that here. I thought this was a particularly powerful theme to explore in connection with all the animals present on the ark. Animals can be vicious and violent and may symbolize evil in our minds...but are they capable of evil in the same way that a human being is? That's one of the questions I dealt with in Neima's Ark.
Yes, there's a tiger on board the ark in my version!
Of course, these three elements weren't my only inspiration for the book, but they were a large part of it, so I hope they might interest you!