A Conversation with Tessa Afshar

Today, the INSPY Awards warmly welcomes author, Tessa Asfshar. Her novel, Land of Silence (Tyndale House) is on the 2017 shortlist in the General Fiction category. Please join us in welcoming Tessa.

Tessa shares the inspiration behind her shortlist novel, her TV shows (hint: she’s a BBC fan!) – plus more!

ABOUT the BOOK

Before Christ called her daughter . . .

Before she stole healing by touching the hem of his garment . . .

Elianna is a young girl crushed by guilt. After her only brother is killed while in her care, Elianna tries to earn forgiveness by working for her father’s textile trade and caring for her family. When another tragedy places Elianna in sole charge of the business, her talent for design brings enormous success, but never the absolution she longs for. As her world unravels, she breaks off her betrothal to the only man she will ever love. Then illness strikes, isolating Elianna from everyone, stripping everything she has left.

No physician can cure her. No end is in sight. Until she hears whispers of a man whose mere touch can heal. After so many years of suffering and disappointment, is it possible that one man could redeem the wounds of body . . . and soul? – Goodreads


Interview Questions

INSPYs: Tell us about Land of Silence; what inspired it or its characters? Land of Silence is based on the gospel accounts of the woman suffering from a bleeding disease. I always found this story touching because of Jesus’ indescribable grace for an outcast. But after studying it, I found some hidden treasures, and was profoundly moved by them.

The context of the core story made me want to write a novel about it. A twelve-year-old girl is dying. Her father, Jairus, has come to beg Jesus to help. The situation is urgent. There is no time to waste. Jesus begins to follow Jairus to his house, a large crowd following in His wake. Suddenly, He comes to a dead stop. Most of us would agree that this doesn’t seem like a good time to halt. A little girl’s life depends on Him. Every moment is critical. This is a time to hurry, not to delay! But Jesus slows everything down and demands to know who has touched Him.

Finally a woman falls on her knees before Him. She has no father to beg for her. She has no one to approach Jesus on her behalf. For twelve years, the same number of years that the little girl has lived on this earth, she has been sick. And the nature of her sickness has brought her great shame. Because of her condition, she isn’t allowed to touch people. But in faith, she has touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. An outrage. A presumption. An act of faith.

With one touch, she is healed. She knows it. Jesus also knows it, because He has felt healing power going out of Him. Again, I had to ask myself, why the delay, then, when a little girl’s life hangs in the balance? The woman has already received the miracle she needed. Why endanger the little girl’s life?

I think Jesus has two reasons. First, He wants to declare publicly that the bleeding woman is healed. He wants the crowds to see that her shame is wiped clean. God has restored her.

There is another reason. Jesus calls her daughter, the only woman in thea New Testament that He addresses in such a way. She has no father to come and beg for her. No one implores the Master on her behalf. So Jesus takes on the role. He fills the hole. I think in addition to healing her body, in that moment Jesus heals a father wound in her soul as well. That is why He delays the procession to Jairus’ house. He wants to give this woman not only physical healing, but also a restored heart.

Pictured are “some of the books I used to find inspiration and direction and accurate information for Land of Silence.”

Tessa says of her notebook, “I always make [one] for each project, where I handwrite my notes. Of course, at the time I create the notebook, there is no book cover. So I try to find an image that fits the storyline.”

What are some of the greatest challenges writing Biblical Fiction? I am writing fiction based on Holy Scriptures. Scriptures that many of us hold sacred. As I weave my narrative around that core revelation, I have to be careful that I retain the truth, while weaving a fictional tale around it. At the same time, I must take care that the novel does not grow preachy while displaying biblical insights. I am not writing a Bible study. My books are supposed to entertain and engage the reader. It’s a tight rope. On the other hand, the people who inhabit the biblical world have managed to capture our hearts for thousands of years. Most of these characters are flawed men and women through whom God fulfills his purposes.  In my experience, all of us struggle with various wounds. Soul wounds. Biblical stories show us how in God’s hands a broken person can live a healed and healing life.

JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS

What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I am reading The Black Prism by Brent Weeks. It is a secular fantasy. It sits sandwiched between my journal and the Bible, neither of which is secular or fantasy.

What are you currently watching? Season two of Poldark and season four of Sherlock.

Faceoff Questions:
  1. Cake or Pie? Cake, definitely. No offense, but pie is for amateurs. Way too much fruit.
  2. Print or Ebook? I still prefer print for my favorite books. I need to be able to flip to various portions at a moment’s notice.
  3. Comedy or Action? How about action with a lot of witty comments?

ABOUT the AUTHOR

Tessa Afshar is an award-winning author of historical and biblical fiction. Her novel, Land of Silence was voted by Library Journal as one of five top Christian Fiction titles of 2016, and nominated for the 2016 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for best Inspirational Romance. Harvest of Gold won the prestigious 2014 Christy Award in the Historical Romance category. Her book, Harvest of Rubies was a finalist for the 2013 ECPA Book Award in the fiction category. Her first novel, Pearl in the Sand, won her “New Author of the Year” by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader’s Choice Awards 2011. Tessa was born in Iran 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 serves on the staff of one of the oldest churches in America. But that has not cured her from being addicted to chocolate. Contact Tessa at tessaafshar.com or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTessaAfshar/


Thanks so much for joining us on the INSPYs blog today, Tessa. It was a pleasure to host you and spotlight Land of Silence.

Thank you for inviting me to join you. I am honored to have spent this time with you and your readers.