I’d like to give a big welcome to TESSA AFSHAR to my blog. Tessa, thank you for joining me today. *note: this interview is a repeat, originally posted 29 january 2015. Ms. Afshar is one of my favorite authors, and was the first interview I did on my blog. I have added her new release, The Land of Silence, which comes out this Sunday, 1 May.
TESSA AFSHAR: Robin, I am delighted to spend time with you and your readers. Thank you so much for inviting me to be a guest on your blog.
rem: Tessa, have become one of my most favorite authors, I’m excited to have you here. Let’s get started! Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
TESSA AFSHAR: With six million other women, I would probably have to choose Mr. Darcy. He starts off distant and at times even unpleasant. But he morphs into his true self, becoming humble, protective, and loving. That shift is very appealing.
rem: I’m with you, Tessa, ‘specially if you’re talking about Colin Firth’s portrayal! mmm… If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
TESSA AFSHAR: Probably Jane Eyre, just because that is my favorite book. And because she is witty and strong when you least expect her to be.
rem: Good choice, and good reasons! Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
TESSA AFSHAR: I imagine one of the Narnia Chronicles or perhaps Jane Eyre.
rem: Also good choices – totally with you on that as well! Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
TESSA AFSHAR: Bible characters that inspire me emotionally and spiritually, as well as my personal journals.
rem: Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read?
TESSA AFSHAR: I don’t stick to one genre, but read a variety of books. I have been reading a lot of YA lately. C. S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles never seem to get old. I love everything by Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen. Charles Dickens has the best descriptions of any writer I know. One of my favorite books is To Kill a Mocking Bird. But sadly Harper Lee never wrote another book.
rem: I’m sure you’ve seen the news by now, that Ms. Harper is, indeed releasing the sequel, Go Set a Watchman! It is expected out in July! Tell us a little about your current project.
TESSA AFSHAR: I am thrilled to be working with Tyndale Publishing for the first time. They represent many legendary authors including Francine Rivers and Joel Rosenberg. Instead of the Old Testament, I am writing a New Testament story based on the woman with the issue of blood. The Bible does not tell us anything about her other than the fact that she was sick for twelve years, and lost all her money looking for a cure. So I got to make up her whole life before that. It has been great fun. I have another hundred pages to write in a tight deadline. So I would appreciate your prayers.
rem: This is what I love about Biblical, and historical fiction – studying and research with due diligence, toward accuracy – making up stuff!! It’s what we do!! And prayers, absolutely! What advice, do you have for others aspiring to publish a book of their own/follow their dream?
TESSA AFSHAR: First, for me, writing is not a hobby. It’s not even a job. It is a call. I believe I was created to do this. The Bible says that God created us in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us (Ephesians 2:10). I believe, in my life, part of that work is writing. So what shall I say when things become hard or seem untenable? Shall I walk away from God’s purpose? Shall I ditch my destiny just because it’s hard? If writing is a call in your life, you must persevere.
Second, I have writing partners whose opinion I trust. If they felt I was wasting my time over a certain project, they would tell me. Just as they wouldn’t let me walk out the door with toilet paper stuck to my skirt, they wouldn’t let me work on a book that had nothing to offer. Try to find writing partners who are a good fit for you.
Writing makes me myopic. I can’t tell good from bad in my own work when I am too close to it. I tend to have a negative perception of my writing. It’s easy for me to think doom and gloom about my work. So I trust my critique partners to help me discern whether my perceptions of failure are accurate. Make sure that you surround yourself with honest encouragement.
Third, I take a break. If I am under a deadline, that break might be for a few hours. If I have the luxury, I step away for a week in order to gain a fresh perspective.
Most of us struggle with some degree of discouragement. You don’t win victory by never having such feelings, but by resisting them. By overcoming and fulfilling your destiny.
rem: Great advice! What is your writing routine?
TESSA AFSHAR: Sadly, I don’t have one! With a very demanding full-time job, I write when I can. I like writing on my dining room table, because I can spread out with all the necessary research books around me. Of course, this is not particularly good for actually eating on my dining room table.
rem: I spread out also, or “nest” as I call it, on the couch in the living room. TV? What TV? What are your top writing tips?
TESSA AFSHAR: Dream big. Hone your craft. Love the characters you choose. Be emotionally honest. Write because you love telling stories, not because you want to be recognized or admired or make money.
rem: Check, check, check, and check! Tell us a little about your writing journey.
TESSA AFSHAR: I really only became a writer when I promised God that I would finish what I started! It took me a long time to get to that point of obedience. After that, things moved rapidly. Story in hand, I found an agent and within a few months Pearl in the Sand went into print.
rem: Within a few months! That’s awesome! That’s God!! What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
TESSA AFSHAR: Hearing how the stories impact readers.
rem: On your website, you give the “about me” basics – but leave us dangling with “a story for another time…” Can you share your conversion to Christianity and the impact is has had on your life? What do you remember about your Muslim upbringing, however nominal?
TESSA AFSHAR: (Robin, in order to answer all these questions I would have to write a book! So I have just shared the beginning of my Christian journey with your readers here.)
TESSA AFSHAR: I was twenty-five when I first began my journey of faith. 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.
rem: Tessa, your story gives me chills! And I confess, brought tears to mine eyes! How did you go from reading Jane Austen to writing Biblical fiction? What was the impetus for your writing?
TESSA AFSHAR: The Bible is the greatest book ever written. Something about the stories it contains has managed to grab the human heart for thousands of years. More often than not, God chooses deeply flawed men and women through whom He fulfills His purposes. That’s why so many of us can relate to them! A broken woman who rises above her circumstances to make the right choice, to cling to God, and to ultimately overcome is an inescapably powerful character to read about. I relate to her brokenness and am inspired by her victory. In my experience, all of us struggle with various kinds of insecurities. We doubt ourselves. We even doubt God. But in God’s hands these fissures that run through the very fabric of our being can turn into glory, because the light of His countenance can shine through them. This is why I like writing Biblical fiction. That doesn’t mean I have stopped liking Jane Austen!
rem: Tessa, thank you so much for joining us today! It has been my pleasure to have you here!
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