Interview with acclaimed author Tessa Afshar

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Recently I have had the honor to do a written interview with one of my favorite authors Tessa Afshar, Author of PEARL IN THE SAND. Once I received the answers to my questions I will say I was inspired. The purpose of this interview is of course to get to know the author but also to inspire new authors or aspiring authors to not give up. Why do I say this? As you will see from the interview this is Tessa’s first novel (a very beautifuly written novel that you must read), she persisted and did not give up… the point? God has a plan for each and every one of us, don’t give up, pray a lot and press on.

So… now to the interview…. enjoy:

Hi Evangheline. It’s a pleasure being with you on your creative blog. I’ve been looking forward to our time together.

Me:
This is your first novel. What is the inspiration behind the novel? What was your goal as you wrote this captivating story?

Tessa:
Thanks for that compliment, Evangheline. My main inspiration for writing Pearl in the Sand was Rahab herself. Here was a woman with a past, a harlot from Canaan who actually married one of the leaders of Judah—a man from one of the most distinguished families of Israel. As if this marriage was not in itself utterly astounding, the birth of her son placed Rahab in the lineage of Jesus. Think about that: some of the DNA of this former harlot swam in Jesus’ blood stream. Of all the women in the world, God chose this woman for such an honor. That tells a lot about God’s heart from my perspective.

This is the story of a woman whose world was a mess, whose life was a mess, whose heart was a mess, but in encountering God, she found to her shock that her life was salvageable. More than that—it was valuable. She found that she was lovable.

Pearl in the Sand portrays a God who has never given up on Rahab. I think women today need to know God as the wooer and pursuer of their hearts. They need to know the depth of their true worth as seen through His compassionate eyes. More than anything I hope the reader of this story will come away with a deeper glimpse into her own soul, and a more profound understanding of God the Father.

Me:
According to your website http://www.tessaafshar.com you came to Christ in your mid twenties. Tell us how you came to Christ? How did Christ make Himself known to you?

Tessa:
I grew up in the Middle East until I was almost fourteen. My parents were nominal Muslims. Although I had lived in the Christian West my whole adult life, I had never heard the gospel. I was going through a particularly difficult season in my life. One night, I had a vivid dream. In my dream I was on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. From a distance I saw a man walking toward me and I knew instantly that this was Jesus. As He drew closer, I felt very disappointed. You see, He was not handsome by any stretch of the imagination! The only Jesus I had seen up to this point was portrayed by a couple of very good-looking actors in TV movies. I thought, This is Jesus?

As He came closer I realized, Of course this is Jesus, for in His eyes I saw such depth of love and power that I almost fell to my knees. He asked me to follow Him and I did. In the dream not only did I know Him as Jesus, but I also knew beyond the slightest shadow of doubt that He was the Son of God, very God of very God, and unlike anyone else in the whole universe.

Shortly after that dream, friends began to ask me to go to church and Bible study. It was as though God Himself first opened a door in my inmost being and then He arranged for me to find out the facts! I simply fell in love with Jesus. There’s no one like Him.

Me:
How long have you been writing? Is this a passion that has just recently been born in your heart or has this been a life-long dream?

Tessa:
Actually, I have wanted to write since grade school. I just took a LONG time getting serious about it. Underlying that delay was probably a fear of failure—something that I ultimately had to face.

Me:
What is the most important advice you would give to other aspiring authors?

Tessa:
Don’t give up! Learn your craft, and practice daily.

Me:
Have you had moments when you were writing Pearl in the Sand where you thought your book was just not good enough compared to other authors? If so, how did you overcome those moments?

Tessa:
That’s a good question. I don’t generally compare myself to other people, but there were many moments I thought Pearl wasn’t good enough, period. I often doubted my ability and wanted to give up many times. Because writing is such a solitary endeavor, I was at the mercy of my own thoughts and the enemy’s lies. Two things helped me: prayer and the decision to send the first three chapters of the book to a professional editor. It was a great investment. His encouragement helped me to continue writing.

Me:
What is the best critique you have received on Pearl in the Sand and why was that the best?

Tessa:
My agent offered Pearl to a secular publisher first. While they loved the romance, they had a hard time believing Rahab’s conversion. Any conversion story is best reviewed through the eyes of a non Christian! I did more work on that part of the story before the book went to publication.

Me:
What was the worst and most discouraging critique you received on Pearl in the Sand? What did you learn from it, and has it helped you improve?

Tessa:
I find unfair or inaccurate critiques to be the most difficult emotionally. I’ve been fortunate in the overall response to this book, which is a huge blessing. There was one guy, who actually liked the book in general, but was really upset that I had used the word “GOD” in the novel and claimed that in the Jewish tradition this was the same as taking the name of the Lord in vain. This was an inaccurate claim. The tradition not to spell out the names of G-d in full probably came into Jewish scholarship sometime in the medieval period. If it was present before that, we certainly have no proof. So I decided to follow biblical models of addressing the Lord. What I learned from this experience was that you just have to let some things go. God is our vindicator; starting a defensive argument may show a lack of trust in His ability to protect us.

Me:
Are you currently working on more books? If so, can you tell us something about it and when we can expect to see it on the market?

Tessa:
Thank you for asking that question! The novel I am currently working on, A Harvest of Rubies, is based on a fictional character named Sarah who is the Senior Scribe to the queen of Persia. She is a genius who doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut, which continuously gets her into trouble. She solves plots, marries a man who hates her, and finds out that there’s more to life than being good at your job. Oh yeah, and by the way, she is Nehemiah’s second cousin. A Harvest of Rubies will be released by Moody in May 2012. A second book based on the rest of Sarah’s story will follow her journey as she and her husband find themselves in Nehemiah’s train when he returns to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls.

Me:
What Christian authors have inspired you the most and why?

Tessa:
Charlotte Bronte, C. S. Lewis, Walter Wangerin, Francine Rivers. Actually the list is too numerous to mention (I’m a book worm). Each writer was able to keep me awake when I needed sleep! And I have read some of their books more than once, because they touched my soul in a unique way and brought me closer to God.

Me:
When you write a book, do you plan and outline a lot, or do you just plow into the story and then come back and rewrite it?

Tessa:
I’m a seat-of-the-pants sort of writer. I do a lot of research first; with historicals, you have no choice if you want to sound authentic. Once I feel comfortable with the world I am writing in, I try to plot, but find that unless I am writing a scene, I can’t grasp hold of the details that will naturally lead to the next scene. My novels tend to be character driven, even when I am working on a plot-heavy story as I am with my present project. For me the plot is always influenced by the character. The same circumstance in someone else’s life wouldn’t have the same outcome.

Me:
Which person(s) in the Bible most inspire you and why?

Tessa:
Jesus, for obvious reasons. And I love David. He is a poet and a warrior; that’s an intriguing combination.

Me:
In conclusion, what is the one thing you would like people to know about you and understand?

Tessa:
The one thing? I can’t even pick a favorite color or ice cream flavor! But I don’t suppose that’s the one thing I want you to know about me. I guess if I had to choose, I would say that I would like to be remembered as someone who believes in the inherent worth of each person.

Evangheline, it’s always a pleasure to spend time with you. If you and your guests would like to hear more from me, please stop by on my website: http://www.tessaafshar.com/ or visit me on my Facebook author page where there is always some new discussion going on: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tessa-Afshar/337761827820?ref=ts

~~~~~~This interview was done over a year ago, since then Harvest of Rubies has been published and it does not disappoint, in fact it will leave you breathless. Here is the link to her latest book:
HARVEST OF RUBIES by Tessa Afshar
http://www.amazon.com/Harvest-of-Rubies-ebook/dp/B007VO7PTW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1363561978&sr=1-1&keywords=Harvest+of+Rubies

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