Harvest of GoldHarvest of Gold
Tessa Afshar
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The scribe Sarah married Darius, and at times she feels as if she has married the Persian aristocracy, too. There is another point she did not count on in her marriage-Sarah has grown to love her husband. She has wealth, property, honor, and power, but her husband's love still seems unattainable.

Although his mother was an Israelite, Darius remains skeptical that his Jewish wife is the right choice for him, particularly when she conspires with her cousin Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Ordered to assist in the effort, the couple begins a journey to the homeland of his mother's people. Will the road filled with danger, conflict, and surprising memories, help Darius to see the hand of God at work in his life-and even in his marriage?
     


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tessAmazingly talented author, Tessa Afshar was voted "New Author of the Year" for her novel, Pearl in the Sand (Reader's Choice Award 2011, sponsored by Family Fiction). Her book, Harvest of Rubies, was nominated for the 2013 ECPA Book Award in the fiction category. Tessa holds an MDiv from Yale University where she served as co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School. She has spent the last fourteen years in full-time Christian work.

Favorite Bible Verse: Hebrews 6:9: “We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation.” (New Living Translation)


 

 Christianbook.com Interview with Tessa Afshar


 

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Iran (ancient Persia) and lived there for the first fourteen years of my life. I moved to England where I survived boarding school for girls and fell in love with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, before relocating to the United States permanently. My conversion to Christianity in my twenties changed the course of my life forever.

Many things are important to me: books, chocolate, family, cozy days with friends. Friendships are a crucial part of my personal life, and that’s reflected in my stories. I know that to a large degree I owe my growth as a woman and as a Christian to my close friendships.  The Scriptures say, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16) If you want to heal your soul, you have to learn to share everything about yourself with another. Share until the light overcomes the darkness that clogs your inmost being when you keep your fears and wounds hidden from others.

I am not perfect. I would like to be. But I’m not. In friendship, what I have learned is that even my imperfect self is lovable…worthy of honor…And a blessing. Most of my main characters have to learn this lesson. I figure if I had to suffer, so should they.

What is your favorite Bible verse? (translation too, please) Why?

This is a hard question for me to answer. I can’t even pick a favorite ice cream flavor. Lately, I’ve been focusing on Hebrews 6:9: “We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation.” (New Living Translation) I think it’s so easy to get lost in the daily things of life, lost in unworthy things that steal our time and thoughts and love and make us spiritually dull and indifferent. But we were made for better things! Higher things! Eternal things; the things that come with salvation.

What sparked your interest to write Harvest of Gold?

This sounds weird, but originally, it was the walls of Jerusalem. I was studying the symbol of walls in Scripture while I wrote Pearl in the Sand. Nehemiah’s battle to restore the walls of Jerusalem was one of the first stories that I studied. Nehemiah overcame great odds. I think this is a story that every modern Christian needs to understand because we too are battling a relentless enemy. He just doesn’t give up, so we can’t either. Nehemiah shows us how to stay the course.

Do you have a strong interest in writing biblical fiction? What draws you to that period of writing? ~ To some; it is considered the most difficult time frame to write about.

 

In my opinion, there are two main ways of handling biblical fiction. Let me use an example from movie classics to demonstrate. The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston was a movie about the life of Moses. Straight out of the Bible, though obviously the Hollywood version. Charlton Heston also acted in a movie called Ben Hur. None of the central characters of that film can be found in the Bible, but it’s still a biblical movie, because of the era, and because in the last ten minutes of the film, you see the shadow of Jesus. And He turns everything on its head. You can write biblical novels in the same way. My first book, Pearl in the Sand is straight forward biblical fiction about Rahab. My next novel, Harvest of Rubies, is more in the tradition of Ben Hur. It’s not based on a particular story in the Bible. Harvest of Gold is an intermingling of the two. 
 
What part of your background was involved in creating the setting and characters for Harvest of Gold?

A number of my characters are Persian and the novel begins in Persia. Naturally, my background came into play. As my agent likes to say, I “might have once walked on some of the same roads.” I might have eaten the same foods. I might have spoken the same words.
 
How much research did Harvest of Gold take?

Too much!

How much of Harvest of Gold is based on factual information?

The biblical story stays very close to the Scriptural account as found in the book of Nehemiah. The characters of the king and queen of Persia are historical. The plot against the king is based on two stories told by Greek historians of that era, which I have combined to create a fictional story. Sarah and Darius are figments of my imagination. But much of the details of their lives are based on what archaeologists have uncovered about the ancient Persians, including what an aristocratic boy’s education might have been like.

What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing Harvest of Gold?

How much room do you have? I had to research everything from the origins of Chinese kung fu, to the Jewish calendar in 446 BC, to the position in which women gave birth. But nothing compared to the treasures I learned from the book of Nehemiah.

 

What other new writing projects do you have on the horizon?

I’m working on a book based on the story of Ruth right now. I’m afraid I have developed a slight crush on Boaz, and I don’t know what to do about it.

What message would you like your readers to take from reading Harvest of Gold?

Life can be a battlefield. Your job, your relationships, your heart, your destiny—they can all be under a barrage of what feels like assault. What do you do to face the battles of life and come out victorious? How do you overcome?

Harvest of Gold deals with that question.

Harvest of Gold is a romance, but it is also a book about overcoming. How do you respond to the interior and exterior forces that threaten to destroy you? This novel tries to answer that question based on the timeless principles we find in the book of Nehemiah.
 
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

How to clean the kitchen, balance my checkbook, do the laundry, keep up with family and friends, write engaging interviews, work a full-time job, reach out to the needy, and research a novel while writing another one. I guess time management would be the short answer. But I’m a woman. Why settle for a short answer when I can give you painful details?

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

Writing! I also love communicating with my readers. They are delightful, honest, funny, heart-rending, and brilliant. I am constantly humbled by the stories they share with me.

What do you do to get away from it all?

I read other people’s books and don’t think about how long it took them to write each chapter.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you to my readers and fans who make writing an absolute joy. Please keep your letters and Facebook comments coming. I love hearing from you.

 


 

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