Thank you Tessa for joining us today to learn more about you and your latest book Land of Silence!
- Land of Silence is based on the story of the woman with the issue of blood. Did you learn anything as you researched this novel?
I have always known that there are no throw-away phrases with Jesus. He is very intentional with every word He chooses. Interestingly, the woman with the issue of blood is the only person that Jesus addresses directly as daughter. I was intrigued by this anomaly, and based a large part of the storyline on Jesus’ reason for addressing her in such a tender manner. Ultimately, I think He addresses all His followers in the same way. We too are daughters and sons. And when we grasp the depth of that claim, our internal lives are transformed.
- The heroine of the story, Elianna, tells her sister: “One step at a time, we can go forward, and learn to be faithful in suffering.” What did she mean by this?
We all suffer in this world. As hard as we may try to control our circumstances, suffering will find us and make its home with us for a season. It demands a response from us. Will we be angry? Will we despair? Will we reject God? Elianna’s response is to be faithful to God one step at a time. One painful hour at a time to trust Him still and call Him Father. I think that is the most effective response to suffering, and the one Jesus modeled for us.
- You write: “Despair is an invitation to prayer. You can either sink or pray when it lodges at your door.” What did you mean by those words?
There are seasons of life when we may land in despair. Even the Apostle Paul admits to experiencing despair when he says: “we were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure so that we despaired, even of life.” In such seasons, we have only two real options. We can either sink under the weight of despair, or pray ourselves out of it. God has the power to destroy hopelessness and its repercussions. In His presence, we enter the power that binds despair.
- Speaking of Jesus, one of your characters in Land of Silence says, “Compassion becomes a weapon of warfare in Jesus’s hands. No heartache can stand against it.” Can you expand on that?
In the time of Jesus, most Jews who were expecting the promised Messiah thought that he would come as a warrior king, much like David, and defeat the Roman occupation. Jesus was a warrior king, but He did not use the weapons of human warfare. Instead, He turned to the weapons of righteousness. When He was moved by compassion, darkness could not withstand His power. Sickness and death were defeated.
- Why do you write biblical fiction?
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, Charlotte Bronte or some contemporary YA fiction!
- Outside of the Bible, what resources do you use?
Historical and archaeological records, academic books, online sources, museums, photographs of ancient buildings, and even interviews with my Middle Eastern relatives about the weather, topography and geography of a particular area they are personally familiar with.
- What is your idea of a favorite vacation?
To have one? If you want me to be more specific, then I would love to visit a sunny island nestled against a deep blue ocean, with nothing to do but eat, read, swim, and walk on the beach with my wonderful husband. On the other hand, I would take a vacation in Italy. Or a tour of the churches mentioned in the book of Acts. Or a few weeks walking about Israel. As you see, I’m not picky.
- What would you tell an aspiring writer?
Persevere. 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 to make money. 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.
- Why is perseverance so important to you?
Life can be a battlefield. Your job, your relationships, your heart, your destiny—they can all come under assault. Without perseverance, it’s easy to lose hope in the darkest hours. When you feel most overwhelmed, remember that the Lord has not forgotten you. He is on your side. He is for you, even when you feel you are unworthy of His care. Your worth does not depend on what you do or whether you fail. Your worth is in His love. His covenant of peace in Jesus will never be shaken. You are His and He will not give you up.
- How did you become a Christian?
Although I have lived in the Christian West my whole adult life, I never heard the gospel until I was in my mid-twenties. During a particularly difficult season in my life, 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 approached 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.
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, heart, and soul?
Thank you so much Tessa, and as a bonus, she has offered to giveaway a copy of Land of Silence to one lucky winner. Due to shipping costs, the winner must have a US address. Enter through the Rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The giveaway will run through May 15, 2016 and the winner will be announced on May 16.