Award-winning author Tessa Afshar was born in Iran, where she lived for the first fourteen years of her life. After moving to England—and attending a boarding school for girls—she fell in love with the works of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.

Tessa’s conversion to Christianity during her twenties changed the course of her life forever. She now resides in the United States and holds an MDiv from Yale Divinity School, where she was co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship. She served in ministry for nearly twenty years before deciding to write full time. Her books have received multiple awards, including an Inspy and a Christy award. In 2011, after publishing her first novel, Pearl in the Sand, Tessa was named New Author of the Year by the Family Fiction-sponsored Reader’s Choice Awards.

Just as all good novels include a plot twist, the Author and Creator of our lives often writes in a twist. You’ve experienced a number of these Divine Detours—the foundational one, perhaps, is your unique conversion to Christianity. Please tell us about that and how your past has influenced your writing.

I was born in the Middle East to a nominally Muslim family. After my parents’ divorce, my mother, my sister and I moved to England when I was fourteen. Although I have lived in the Christian West my whole adult life, I never heard the gospel until I was in my mid-twenties. My journey of faith began with a dream. 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, the only Jesus I had seen up to this point was portrayed by a couple of very good-looking actors in TV movies. But the Jesus of my dream was not handsome by any stretch of the imagination! 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. Both my upbringing in the Middle East and my powerful conversion experience influence what I write. These experiences seep into my stories, often without my awareness.

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Your books are written about people in Old and New Testament times. Why do you think readers connect with characters who lived in a world so different from ours?

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. Our souls hunger for that truth regardless of the century we live in.

Let’s talk specifically about Thief of Corinth, your new novel (Tyndale House, August 2018). What is the central theme of the story, and how is it different from other books you’ve written?

Perhaps the most central theme of Thief of Corinth is that of love, the fallen nature of it, the imperfection and brokenness of it, and the sole solution to all our struggles, Jesus Himself.

Increasingly, fans have been asking me for a book they could share with friends who are not practicing Christians. I wrote Thief of Corinth mostly for them. It is a more lighthearted story than you usually find in the genre. Thief of Corinth has more action and adventure than you may expect to find in biblical fiction. I hope my readers will be able to escape into a world that will make them laugh, cry, cringe, clap, and emerge feeling satisfied and strengthened. The novel still grapples with a few important issues, and of course it takes the reader on an adventure of faith. But that adventure occurs later in the story, giving the reader time to settle into the plot first before coming face to face with God.

In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?

I am probably all of those things depending on the day. Sometimes, when I speak in front of large crowds, I feel like the little girl in high heels. There are days when God gives me strength to be the super heroine, and accomplish what in my own strength I could not. A lot of the time I am the ordinary girl next door, weeding my garden, cooking for my husband, returning late library books, and loving up on my friends. In the storms of life, when fear is overwhelming, I find that I can abruptly become the strong female lead, because Christ is in me. And well, I won’t tell you everything. So yes. Definitely the woman behind dark glasses.

Thank you, Tessa! It’s a pleasure to have you as a guest at Divine Detour.

 Such a privilege to hang out with you and your readers. Tessa

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For more information about Tessa, visit her website and/or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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