Suellen Lazarus and her advisory panel know how to pick the very best. Ms. Lazarus scours the literature sections in The New Yorker and other magazines, she communicates with publicists and review sites, and she even employs her own children to keep their ears open to any new book that seems to create some buzz. It is why her story of building the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival and Author Lecture Series is such a good one.

It all began when Ms. Lazarus, a seasonal Chilmark resident, took over the Chilmark Community Center Evening Lecture series almost 20 years ago. She realized that she enjoyed what the authors had to say most of all. Just before 9/11, she attended the National Book Festival at the Mall in Washington, D.C.

“I thought it was a great thing,” she said during a recent conversation with the Gazette. And so, in 2005, she brought such a festival to the Vineyard.

For financial and logistical reasons, the Book Festival is held every other summer on the grounds of the Chilmark Community Center. The Author Lecture series runs throughout the summer during alternate years. This year’s Author Lecture Series will include seven different authors speaking about their most recent works. From Carly Simon’s Boys in the Trees, about her childhood and rise to fame, to Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond’s book about poverty and the housing crisis, Evicted, Ms. Lazarus and her advisory panel have chosen a variety of subjects. Other authors are Geraldine Brooks, Richard Russo, Margo Jefferson, Diane Rehm and Jane Mayer.

“I try to balance it between fiction and nonfiction, but more importantly different interests,” Ms. Lazarus said.

On Thursday, July 21, at the Chilmark Community Center beginning at 7:30 p.m. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Geraldine Brooks will begin the series with a discussion about her novel The Secret Chord. Ms. Brooks will be interviewed by Nicole Galland, another local author.

The Secret Chord chronicles the life of King David in Israel during the Second Iron Age in a way that refreshes the story that most people think they know. The book includes the famous fight between David and Goliath, and David’s seducing Bathsheba, but it focuses more on lesser known aspects of David’s life.

“I wanted to talk more about the many, many events in David’s life that don’t get much attention,” Ms. Brooks said. “There were the dark years when he was an outcast, and then there were many other women besides Bathsheba.”

Ms. Brooks was a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in the Middle East for 15 years. Though it has been 10 years since her job reporting on crises around the world, she continues to carry her experiences close.

“As a novelist I couldn’t write the books I do if I hadn’t had those years,” she said. “I think it makes it easier, even though I write historical fiction. When you’ve seen a war zone, even if the weapons are different, the effect of the weapons on the body is the same and the experience of strong emotion is the same. People in chaotic or crisis situations is the same. They don’t change that much.”

In particular, she drew from her interactions with local women in these countries to fill in the blank spaces of women in biblical stories. She got to know women in refugee camps and palaces, including Khadijah Saqafi, the wife of the Iranian Shia Muslim leader Ayatollah Khomeini, who had a major influence on the Iranian Revolution. Ms. Brooks realized that the women who held no political power held enormous private power, just as Bathsheba controlled David’s successor.

“There were things from journalism that I could use to create my fictional story,” said Ms. Brooks.

While she usually immerses herself in letters and diaries to research more recent history, Ms. Brooks had to use a more experiential approach in researching 1000 BC Israel. She took her then ten-year-old son and travelled to the Middle East.

“I went to the places that were associated with King David, to see the things that haven’t changed, like the way the light changes through the day and how it falls on the hills across the Dead Sea, so I could grab onto those realities. The smell of the herbs on the hillside, the experiences herding sheep, has not changed,” Ms. Brooks said. “I wanted to say something about that because it’s interesting how many biblical leaders start out as shepherds. I wanted to think about what the boy might have learned herding sheep leading his people later on.”

The title, The Secret Chord, comes from Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah. According to Ms. Brooks, it is fitting because of David’s musical talent. Also, a chord is a symbol of unification and David linked the fractious Jewish tribes in Israel.

Ms. Brooks said she is looking forward to the conversation on Thursday.

“She is quite the scholar of these wonderful, biblical narrations,” Ms. Brooks said of Ms. Galland. “And I love it when I have no idea what’s going to be asked.”

For more information and to purchase tickets,