Tessa Afshar was voted “New Author of the Year” by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader’s Choice Awards 2011 for her novel Pearl in the Sand. She was born in Iran to a nominally Muslim family, and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life. She moved to England where she survived boarding school for girls and fell in love with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, before moving to the United States permanently. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever. Tessa holds an MDiv from Yale University where she served as cochair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School. She has spent the last thirteen years in full-time Christian work.
Hi Embassie. It’s a pleasure to hang out with you and your readers today.
What inspired you to write Harvest of Rubies?
I had committed to writing three biblical novels that involved the symbol of walls. My first novel, Pearl in the Sand, dealt with Rahab, a woman who literally lived in a wall. Nehemiah, as the rebuilder of the walls of Jerusalem, was another obvious choice. But as I began to write Harvest of Rubies, my main character, Sarah, took over. She practically invited herself over for dinner and refused to leave! Her personality was so compelling that I had no choice but to tell her story, and tackle the walls that surrounded her world. In the follow-up novel, Harvest of Gold, I will tell the story of Sarah and her husband as they accompany Nehemiah to Jerusalem.
Ms. Afshar, you were born in Iran and lived there for 14 years, has this experience influenced your writing?
Persian people love literature. Everyone from university professors to construction workers will quote five-hundred-year-old poetry during the course of a conversation. As you travel, you come across ancient structures, some as old as twenty-five hundred years old. The very atmosphere causes the love of history and story to sink into your bones. I think that’s why I am drawn to the historical genre. The Persians also love to laugh. Although I cover some serious topics, my characters often manage to see the lighter side of life. I love it when my readers tell me that I made them laugh and cry in the same novel.
I imagine that Harvest of Rubies took a lot of research. How long does it take you to research a book?
Each book is different. Harvest of Rubies required over a year of research. The ancient Persian culture is a complex and mysterious world. In recent years, scholars have made important breakthroughs in their study of the Persian Empire. I had to become familiar with these discoveries, while also studying Nehemiah in the Bible and through many commentaries.
When you were thinking about the “wedding scene,” what helped you think of things to go badly for Sarah?
Often as I write, I ask myself this question: “What is the worst thing I can do to this character?” It’s a trick I learned from a favorite writer. As I wrote the wedding scene, I kept thinking of the most humiliating things a woman might experience on her wedding day and put Sarah through them. Isn’t that cruel? But it makes for good reading!
Darius is quite the man, anything (anyone) influence his character?
He is a hottie, isn’t he? He isn’t patterned after anyone special. I wanted the right foil for Sarah—someone who would bring out her insecurities while at the same time strengthen her character and ultimately make her feel wanted.
I was extremely excited to learn that there will be a book two, is there anything that you can share with us regarding it? Do you know when it will be coming out?
Currently, I am working on the sequel to Harvest of Rubies. There are more intrigues to solve, adventures to survive, and love to find for Sarah and Darius in Harvest of Gold. The rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem has a special significance for Sarah and Darius’s marriage. I am hoping to finish the book by the fall of 2012, which would mean that River North Publishing (the fiction arm of Moody) will release it next May. But that is not set in stone yet.
Embassie, thank you so much for inviting me to spend time with you. It’s been an absolute pleasure. If you would like to visit me on my website, the address is 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
Please check out my review of Harvest of Rubies:https://remaininhislove.com/2012/05/04/tessa-afshars-harvest-of-rubies-9/