Welcome back, Tessa!
Thank you for asking me back! It’s always a pleasure to hang out with you and your readers, Embassie.
1. What made you decide to write a series based on Nehemiah?
Nehemiah repaired the ruined walls of Jerusalem in fifty-two days. For over a century, these walls had lain in ruin, reminding everyone of Judah’s defeat at the hand of Babylon. Jerusalem, once a thriving city, had diminished to a pathetic town, undefended against marauders and ridiculed by its neighbors. Nehemiah managed to rally his countrymen out of their fear and apathy to do a work no other man had managed to accomplish. Without the help of slaves, or paid workers, or military personnel, and with only volunteers as his workforce, he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem while under constant attack.
Our lives are similar to Jerusalem. We too are under assault in a spiritual sense. We too have crumbling lives that need repair. I wanted to tell a story full of action and motion and danger that would help the reader come away feeling encouraged. Feeling like she too could do the impossible with the help of God.
2. When writing this series, which one was the hardest to write? Harvest of Rubies? Or Harvest of Gold?
I had to have two surgeries while writing Harvest of Gold, and my dad ended up in hospital with double pneumonia. I was writing about overcoming the battles of life, and my own life had turned into a battlefield. Writing was hard, but God helped me through every page, and suddenly, those scenes depicting Jerusalem’s struggles became very personal.
3. There’s a bit of a mystery in this novel, was any of it based on facts or was it all fiction?
There is a plot to kill the king of Persia, Artaxerxes, which would have left the empire weak and in great disarray. Historically, Artaxerxes did have to deal with several assassination plots during his lifetime, the last one of which succeeded. My plot is not historical, but the details of the plan, which include a poisoned dagger and a tattoo, are based on events that actually took place.
4. I found Roxanna and Lysander to be two very interesting secondary characters. What was your inspiration for them?
I wanted to create two new characters that the reader could connect with and have them play a supporting role to Sarah and Darius. They are both complex people with fascinating backstories, most of which the reader doesn’t know. Harvest of Gold is a more serious novel than its prequel due to its subject matter. Roxanna and Lysander bring a little lightness to the story. You never know. One day, I might give them a book of their own, especially since a lot of readers have been prodding in that direction.
5. Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
I am writing a book based on the life of Ruth. It’s fast turning into one of my most favorite Old Testament stories. I am only halfway done, however. So lots of work still remains. My favorite Boaz quote so far: “Life is like a pomegranate. You can only enjoy it if you learn to deal with the seeds.”
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. Her book, Harvest of Rubies was nominated for the 2013 ECPA Book Award (formerly known as the Gold Medalion) in the fiction category and won the Grace Award for best Women’s Fiction in the same year. World Magazine chose Harvest of Rubies as one of four notable books of the year. Tessa 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 fourteen years in full-time Christian service in New England.
It’s been a pleasure to be with you. Please feel free to visit me on my webpage at: tessaafshar.com, tweet me @tessaafshar or join me on my FaceBook Author Page at:page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tessa-Afshar/337761827820?ref=ts.