Omega Writers

CALEB Adult Fiction Winner: The Merchant of Sychar

Cindy Williams was the winner of the Adult Fiction section of the CALEB Awards in 2021, with her book, The Silk Merchant of Sychar. We sat down with Cindy after her win and asked her a few questions about her book and her process.

Q. What’s your book about?

The Silk Merchant of Sychar is about a woman, Leah, who had five husbands. Set in first century Samaria – a multicultural, multireligious, Roman controlled province of the Middle East – it follows Leah through death, divorce, lust and betrayal. Woven through the story is the beauty of the coloured silks that Leah dyes and sells to the wealthy women of the region.

Q. What inspired you to start writing

I had finished my first novel and was praying about what I should write next. I really wanted to write a story based on my grandfather’s war diaries of his time in Gallipoli, Salonika and France but as I prayed, very clearly the thought came to me: ‘I want you to write about the woman at the well.’ I argued: ‘I don’t even like that story! Why should I write about it?’ The reply was: ‘She’s been misrepresented.’ That got my attention!

I grabbed my Bible and looked up John 4, asking the Lord to show me why. All the teaching I had heard in church claimed she was a prostitute or at least a woman of loose morals. I came to the part where she runs back to town and says to the townspeople, ‘Come see a man who told me everything I ever did!’ It struck me: why did they listen to her? That got me hooked.

Q. Who is the audience?

The audience is women of any age although I have had positive responses from several men who have read it. Some people, mostly older Christians, have found it a bit ‘spicy’ for a Christian book! My writing group was not at all Christian which certainly encouraged me to write in a way that appeals to a broad range of people. I think that really helped it to get shortlisted for the 2020 Romance Writers Australia RUBY awards.

Q. How do I hope the book will affect people?

Like most Christian writers I pray that whatever I write will encourage and inspire others. The best comment I could get from a reader is that it really helped them in some way.

The book can be read purely as entertainment, but it can also be used as a prompt to study the John 4 bible passage in greater depth. I have a list of questions on my website that book groups or bible study groups can use as a guide. There is so much depth in this seemingly simple story – and the lessons are applicable to today.

Q. Where can people get your book?

It’s available on the Rhiza Press website, at Koorong and in paperback or eBook on Amazon, Book Depository and Booktopia.

We hope you’ll check out Cindy’s winning title and leave a review for her. Congratulations to  Cindy and all our winners.