Author Interviews · Uncategorized

Q&A With Tessa Afshar

I told you, dear readers, that I had a lovely Q&A waiting just around the corner for you! In honor of her newest release, author Tessa Afshar has been making time for interviews. I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to ask her a handful of questions! Tessa’s author bio as well as a bevy of other relevant links are at the bottom of this post, so please take a look at those if you are interested in learning more about Tessa after you’ve finished reading through her warmhearted answers. Let’s jump right in!

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R: Your newest release, Daughter of Rome, is launching February 4th; I noticed almost immediately that the main characters will encounter Paul the apostle. This isn’t your first book featuring an appearance from Paul (Bread of Angels and Thief of Corinth immediately come to mind), and I’m curious if it’s more than coincidence that you feel drawn to write about him. Do you relate or resonate with his life?

T: What a good question, Rebekah! Because so many of the New Testament letters were written by Paul, we know more about him than almost any other person in the early church. We know of his travels, his travails, his triumphs. We know his friends and his enemies. We know his background and struggles. For a writer like me, Paul’s trailblazing life provides the perfect fodder for a novel.

More subtly, Paul’s presence in different books acts as the cord that pulls the stories together. For example, Bread of Angels is inspired by the story of Lydia, who came to faith through Paul’s preaching in Philippi. Not long after that, Paul traveled to Corinth. So it was natural to have him show up in Thief of Corinth. Paul also first met Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth. Of course, I had to include him in Daughter of Rome as well. He makes a great spiritual father!

R: You also have a number of books set in the Old Testament era—fleshing out the stories of Ruth and Rahab, among others. Do you find it easier to write in one time period versus the other (Old Testament versus New)?

T: I prefer to remain in a specific time period for several years. The more you linger in a certain era, the more you learn about it. Books have a way of expressing that facility and knowledge, creating a more powerful story for the reader. I am currently working on another New Testament book, but eventually I will return to the Old Testament. I have a few ideas percolating in the back of my mind already! I will probably spend the first year in a flurry of research, trying to find answers to too many questions. But it will ultimately be worth it.

R: I was taking a look through your website and noticed that you feature a Bible verse there—Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Such a beautiful verse. Do you feel it is the heartbeat of your novels? A message of healing through Jesus Christ?

T: I certainly feel that it is an important part of my writing. Jesus said he came to bind up the broken-hearted (Isa. 61:1). For me, the best of my writing contains a touch of the Balm of Gilead for the reader.

R: Reading through an excellent interview with you by Mesu Andrews (link to that here) I saw that you mentioned working a day job (at least at the time) in addition to writing. Do you mind if I ask what your occupation is when you aren’t crafting a story? English teacher? Caped superhero? Dye master, like Lydia in Bread of Angels?

T: Actually, I have been a full-time writer for some time now. That interview was from five years ago. At the time, I worked full-time in women’s ministry and prayer ministry, writing whenever I could. Looking back, I can see the grace of God made that crazy schedule possible.

R: Do you feel that having lived the early years of your childhood in Iran gave you a better perspective for detailing the settings of your novels? While I’ve never been to Israel, I’m of the opinion that you deftly capture the flavor of the Middle East.

T: Thank you, Rebekah! I think some of my Middle Eastern background definitely makes its way into the novels. My voice as a writer comes out of a well that was once watered by ancient poems and epic tales of adventures in the East. I was raised eating pomegranates and saffron rice. Those sights and smells are still a deep part of my life, and they spill out on the paper when I write.

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It’s been a pleasure hanging out with you and your readers at A Page Out of Her Book! You are an awesome host, Rebekah. Thanks for asking such great questions.

R: Oh, it’s been a joy having you here! All the best.

 

Tessa AfsharTessa Afshar is an award-winning author of biblical fiction, including Thief of Corinth, a 2019 Inspy Award finalist; Land of Silence, which was voted by Library Journal as one of the top five Christian fiction titles of 2016; and Harvest of Gold, which won a 2014 Christy Award in the Historical Romance category. Born in Iran, Tessa spent her teen years in England and later moved to the United States. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life. She holds an MDiv from Yale Divinity School, where she served as co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship. 

 

Tessa’s Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Daughter of Rome  by Tessa Afshar
ISBN: 978-1-4964-2870-7| Hardcover: $25.99
ISBN: 978-1-4964-2871-4 | Softcover: $15.99
February 2020
Tyndale.com

 

 

Contemporary · Full Reviews · Historical

Full Review, Hidden Among the Stars

If absence truly makes the heart grow fonder, than you must be dearly fond of me by now, friends. How sweet, then, to be able to return to you inspired with new ideas for the blog–armed with possibilities and a number of summertime reads to share!

I’m all for a dessert-first attitude, so I wanted to come back with my absolute favorite book of this year. Hidden Among the Stars is the kind of book I started this blog to find; the kind of book I thought about during the day, and looked forward to enjoying when I got home in the same way I look forward to savoring my favorite comfort foods or lighting my favorite candle. I felt as if I could nestle into this book and its characters.

Written by Melanie Dobson, the book is a time-slip novel alternating between Nazi Austria (late 1930s) and a modern day America. Unlike many dual-plotline stories, I found myself equally invested in and enjoying both, at least until the very end… when I absolutely HAD to know how the past would unfold and finally have all my questions answered. The modern day protagonist owns a children’s bookstore with her sister (cue a surplus of snippets from classic children’s literature),and is trying to uncover the links between a family member’s puzzling origins and two mysterious vintage books. The past holds a musician, a wealthy young man, and a girl in love… plus a large dose of fascination. As if that wasn’t enough allure for one novel, Dobson skillfully set the stages in and around a lakeside castle.

How do you feel about unrequited love stories, readers? It isn’t usually to my taste; perhaps I just think there’s enough loneliness in the real world to invalidate ever wanting to put it into a work of fiction where a happily ever after would be as easy as writing in another “I love you.” There was a case of it in Hidden Among the Stars, but it was so perfectly juxtaposed against a few other romances in the novel that it seemed fitting. Younger readers should be cautioned that this book does deal with some heavy topics. As well as, or perhaps as a result of, the expected anti-semitism and cruelty of the period, a young woman is raped. 

While I generally try not to rely on other reviewers to put my feelings about a book into words, I think author Sandra Byrd put it perfectly when she said of Dobson’s work:

“A silver thread of the love-of-others entwines with a golden thread of the love-of-God, tying past and present storylines.”

These threads of Christian truth are woven in delicately and don’t begin to really sparkle until about half-way through. Patiently enjoy the beauty of this novel as you wait for them to emerge and add rich depth to an already lovely book. 5/5 Stars.

Full Reviews · Historical

Saving Amelie, Full Review

I’ve been busy, book friends—I’ve been on a trip to Germany! More than two weeks spent mostly in the little Bavarian village of Oberammergau. It’s a place where fragrant breakfast rolls and strudels warm your mouth and your heart… and the Alps reach up with snowy hands as if ready to catch the sky if it falls. This is the home of the Passion Play, which has been performed by the locals once a decade for over 350 years.

Of course, I haven’t been there literally; who has money to travel? I’ve been immersed in a WWII novel by Cathy Gohlke—Saving Amelie. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember it as one of the books in my bargain haul from Tyndale. $5 for a ticket back in time is certainly a fare I can afford!

Based on the back-cover summary, I initially thought that the story would be at least partly from the point of view of Kristine Schlick, a young mother unsure how to protect her deaf daughter. Married to an SS officer who views the little girl as a blight on his Aryan bloodline, Kristine is forced to turn to an old friend for help. Rachel Cramer, the true protagonist, steps in as a hesitant hero and escapes with Kristine’s child to the little village of Oberammergau. There, she deals with some shocking discoveries about her own past.

Rachel isn’t a gallant hero, despite the whirlwind of danger and deception she finds herself entrenched in. She’s somewhat selfish, a consequence of being raised in the affluent and prejudiced home of a eugenics scientist. Unable to stomach the depravity she comes face to face with among her father’s circle in Germany, Rachel takes a stand for morality… but remains reluctant to help others with their more mundane and down-to-earth needs.

There’s a romantic interest—Jason Young, an American journalist with resistance connections—as well as a whole host of other lovable characters. As both Rachel and Jason begin to understand Christ’s sacrifice for mankind, they also become more selfless… and this is where the core of the story lies, in what Gohlke emphasizes as “costly grace”—grace that requires a servant’s heart and a surrendering of your own desires.

Despite the hard realities of WWII, Gohlke manages to keep the book from becoming too gritty. She deftly paints the heartaches and struggles of her characters but manages quite a bit of good luck (or perhaps she would call it providence!) for them as well. One or two key plot lines seemed utterly far-fetched and unconvincing to me—ultimately hurting my rating of the book, which otherwise could have been a 5/5. That said, if you relish stories that feature undercover subterfuge or a mysterious underground resistance, you’ll probably still find yourself thoroughly enjoying Saving Amelie.

4/5

Biblical · Full Reviews

Full Review, Land of Silence

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Close your eyes for a moment… (not too long, or you won’t be able to read this post!)

You’re me. You’re at work at the library. The automated materials handler (a.k.a. the book sorting machine) is humming and spitting books into different bins behind you; someone’s mom is reading aloud in the children’s area; coworkers in sweaters and cardigans answer the telephone at the help desk in a professional tone.

You just received the daily delivery from our sister library in Fairbanks… and opened the lid of one box full of brand new shiny books. If this didn’t already happen every week (and you didn’t have to wonder about little details like shelf space) you might expect some angelic music to fly out when that box opens. Or confetti. With sparkles!

Of course you’re only a little surprised when Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar makes its way out of the box– after all, your ARE the one who requested it for purchase… Continue reading “Full Review, Land of Silence”

Allegory · Full Reviews

Full Review, Hinds’ Feet on High Places

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Hinds Feet on High Places
by Hannah Hurnard
Tyndale Publishers

I gave you a sneak peek of Hinds’ Feet on High Places a few weeks ago (you can find that here). In case you missed that post, Hinds’ Feet is an allegory detailing the journey of little “Much-Afraid”, a crippled and disfigured young woman following the Shepherd up to the High Places. In my interpretation, the High Places do not represent Heaven and the end of earthly life, but rather the reaching of a deep spiritual relationship with God which continues to grow. Continue reading “Full Review, Hinds’ Feet on High Places”

Suspense · Thriller

Full Review, Centralia

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“Centralia.” He said it out loud, hoping the auditory stimulation would trigger something, anything. But it didn’t. It was just a word, nothing more than a string of letters, a compilation of sounds.

Again tears came to his eyes, and he brushed them away. Regardless of whether he knew what the note meant, this was the proof he’d been looking for. Lilly was alive. And her note said they’d both gone together. If Lilly was alive, he had every reason to believe Karen was too.

He had to find them. He had to figure out what Centralia was and what he was supposed to remember.

Centralia
by Mike Dellosso, ©2015
Tyndale House Publishers

Centralia holds a special place today because it is the first suspense/thriller I have reviewed on the blog. This book is also the first one I finished from the Tyndale book haul I shared a while back. It’s also the first book since Sutter’s Cross by a male author. So, is it worth all those firsts?

Centralia is the story of Peter Ryan, who wakes up one morning looking for his wife and daughter only to discover that they both died in a car accident he doesn’t remember. As the back cover puts it, “Haunted by faint memories and flashes of details, Peter becomes convinced that something isn’t right and begins to question reality.” Peter goes on the run to try to find his family –if he even still has one. But confusing memories aren’t the only thing haunting him; hit men follow him every step of the way and Peter can’t afford to make any mistakes.

While this isn’t the kind of story I typically read, I really enjoyed it. One thing author Mike Dellosso did right was including the strong family element. In a book full of shootouts, close calls, car chases, and questions, Peter Ryan’s need to find his wife and daughter kept things grounded and meaningful. On another level, Peter also begins to remember a relationship with God he didn’t know he had, buried somewhere in his confusing and jumbled past.

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Between trying to figure out which memories are real, (was he a mild-mannered scientist? An army ranger with a medal of honor? A divorcee or happily married?) I should warn you that a lot of people die. I lost count after fifteen (mostly nameless assassins after Peter) people expired, so this book might not be for you or for younger people. I did appreciate that Dellosso included this section dealing with Peter’s grief over the lives lost as he’s tried to escape:

…But in the aftermath, looking at the collection of casualties in the parking lot, he wondered who these men were when they weren’t being used as killing machines. Did they have wives who would grow ashen at the news? Children who would never again hear their father’s voice reading them a bedtime story? The thought made Peter sick.

God in heaven, forgive me. Deliver me from this evil.”

As for negatives, I did think the ending was a little bit underwhelming, and some components of the story were a  or bit over-the-topespecially convenient for the hero. A ventilation chimney leading straight out of the bad guys’ bunker complete with a ladder to the top and a metal grate cover (that isn’t even fastened on!) comes to mind. But it’s ultimately all part of the Marvel movie-ish fun and action.

The front cover quietly warns that “things are not what they seem.” But if you think this book seems like an energy-infused story full of revelations and heart…you might just be right.

Biblical · Full Reviews

Full Review, Bread of Angels

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“Like her grandparents, her parents had managed to bring only one child into this world, another daughter. And now it was Lydia’s turn to fight for this last piece of her family’s inheritance, this tiny patch of land that represented everything good and safe and noble in this world. Home and her father and purple. Lydia was content if the world had nothing else to offer.”

Continue reading “Full Review, Bread of Angels”