Coffee Chat with Ariadne from Tessa Afshar’s Thief of Corinth

978-1-4964-2865-3We are sitting down this morning for a latte and chocolate cake with Ariadne of Corinth, who is the main character from the book Thief of Corinth. Ariadne has never tasted coffee or chocolate. How do you like your first taste?

 

Ariadne (swallowing a large mouthful): I am sorry. I am too distracted to conduct an interview. How did we survive in the first century without these delicacies?

 

Interviewer: I feel for you. So you are from the first century. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

 

Ariadne: I was born in Corinth, but when I was eight, my mother divorced my father and took my brothers and me to Athens to live with our grandfather. Like my grandfather, Athens was strict and conservative. Life became intolerable when my grandfather threatened to marry me to a cruel man. So I ran away to join my father in Corinth.

 

Interviewer: We are told you won an award. Could you tell us a little about that?

 

Ariadne: I ran the short race in the Isthmian Games and was declared a champion. The Isthmian Games were similar to the Olympic Games, though they were slightly smaller. In the footraces, men and women competed against one another. (Washes down an enormous mouthful of chocolate cake with a gulp of latte.) I fear I might not have managed that feat if we had this ravishing pastry in my time.

 

Interviewer: Was it common for women to participate in national games?

 

Ariadne: In Corinth where the Isthmian Games were held, there was more tolerance toward female athletes, though it was unusual for women of good families to participate.

 

Interviewer: Speaking of unusual, you open your story by mentioning that you are a thief. Surely that is not a common occupation for women of good family either.

 

Ariadne: That is true. I convinced myself it was the only way I could help my family. It is not a chapter of my life I am proud of. But I admit it was an exciting time.

 

Interviewer: You fell in love in the midst of difficult circumstances.

 

Ariadne: Didn’t one of your famous poets say that “the course of true love never did run smooth?”

 

Interviewer: His name was William Shakespeare.

 

Ariadne: He was a wise man. There were many obstacles in our path that had to be overcome. I confess, some of those obstacles were of my own making.

 

Interviewer: Speaking of wise men, what did you think of the Apostle Paul when you met him?

 

Ariadne: I did not like him. He annoyed me with all his talk of love being patient and kind. My brother Dionysius was very fond of him, which only annoyed me further. (The physician Luke wrote the story of how Paul met my brother in Athens in his famous tome called Acts.) In time, I came to realize that Paul was a brilliant man. I finally understood that I needed the unfailing love of his God more than anything.

 

Interviewer: What did you think of Tessa Afshar, the scribe who wrote down your story?

 

Ariadne (polishing off the cake): She can’t run to save her life, poor thing.

 

Interviewer: Why did you want her to tell your story?

 

Ariadne: I wanted the scribe to talk about the lingering wounds of divorce. My parents’ divorce left a mark in my life that affected me for many years. Because of the divorce, my father was absent from our lives, and my mother grew hard and distant. I tried to fill that void in my life by trying to win affirmation, affection, and admiration.  In spite of all my efforts, I found that love fails; it is imperfect and broken. Paul and my brother Dionysius taught me that the sole solution to all my struggles was God Himself.

 

To read Ariadne’s full story, look for Thief of Corinth by Tessa Afshar.

TESSA_A_FULL-235-3109650834-OTessa Afshar is the award-winning author of historical and biblical fiction whose work has received the prestigious Christy and Inspy Awards. Her novel, Land of Silence was chosen by Library Journal as one of top five Christian Fiction titles of 2016, and nominated for the 2016 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for best Inspirational Romance. Her book, Harvest of Rubies was a finalist for the 2013 ECPA Book Award in fiction, and chosen by World Magazine as one of four notable books of the year. Tessa was born in the Middle East to a nominally Muslim family, and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life before moving to England and eventually settling in the United States. 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 co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School.

 

Meet Hannah from Jill Eileen Smith’s A Passionate Hope

Today we have the pleasure of meeting a character from the Bible, Hannah, as told in Jill Eileen Smith’s novel A Passionate Hope.

A Passionate Hope-Book CoverName:

My name is Hannah, which means “favor or grace”. Looking back on my life, I can say now that God has shown me both.

Parents:

My father is Hyam. My mother is Adva. I am their only daughter, though I have many brothers and sisters-in-law.

Siblings:

My brothers are Barukh, Chaim, Dan, and Gilad.

Places lived:

I have lived all of my life in the hills of Ephraim.

 

Jobs:

Job?

I do not understand this foreign word.

Work then:

Ah, work. My work is to do the daily tasks of womanhood—to care for our home, keep us clothed and fed and to meet my husband’s needs. My husband, Elkanah, is a Levite and I do what I can to help him carry out his duties in that role. I also sell some of my weaving in the marketplace. This helps my husband and makes me feel useful.

Friends:

My husband’s sister Meira used to be my closest friend, but once she married, we rarely saw each other. My sister-in-law Dana has become my only friend and confidant in our large and often contentious household.

Enemies:

I wish I had no enemies, but my sister-wife Peninnah has done her best to not live at peace with me. I find her presence trying.

Children:

I have no children—at least I did not in the early years. That is why Elkanah married Peninnah. But God blessed us later with Samuel and many more sons and daughters.

What person do you most admire?

I have always loved and admired my husband. To think that Elkanah loves me as he does…I never dreamed he would care for me.

Overall outlook on life:

Life…we are here such a short time and then we rest in Sheol. But I have always believed that one day I would see God. He is the one I long for, and when life has been at its worst, He has carried me through each struggle. What would I do without Him?

Do you like yourself?

I find this question confusing. We do not spend time thinking about liking ourselves. This sounds like someone who is focused too much on the wrong things. When I think of Adonai or Elkanah, I do not think of Hannah, though I will admit, sometimes I feel sorry for myself when Peninnah is near.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life?

I would have chosen a path that kept our marriage between Elkanah and me alone. Sharing a husband is not God’s best and it has made life miserable for everyone at times.

How do others view you?

I have no idea what people think of me.

Fears:

I fear, rather I used to fear never bearing a son, never outliving my shame. But as I said, God has shown me favor and grace. I praise Him for His goodness to me.

When are you happy?

When I am alone with Adonai. I love to walk in the hills and pray. They say we should pray at the Tabernacle, and I try…but I feel more of God’s presence in the creation that surrounds me. I do love to sing in worship with the serving women in Shiloh though.

What makes you angry?

I grow angry at the corruption of the priests in Shiloh—sometimes to the point of despair. When will God answer? When will He restore worship to what it is meant to be? Yet there is nothing to be done but wait and pray.

What makes you sad?

I will admit, every time Peninnah birthed another child, I wanted to run far from home. The joy over her success reminded me all over again of my failures.

What makes you laugh?

Elkanah. We manage to find humor in the strangest places. Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself or you will see life as too difficult.

Hopes and dreams:

I hope my children grow up to follow Adonai all of their days.

Biggest trauma:

Facing the fact that I had to release Elkanah to marry another woman. I couldn’t let him know how hard that was for me, but a piece of my heart broke away that day and I never felt the same again.

What do you care about most in the world?

Adonai. Pleasing Him. And then…having children consumed me until it no longer did.

Do you have a secret?

Yes, but I can’t share it, lest it stop being a secret.

Thank you, Hannah, for giving us this glimpse into your life.

Smith_JillEileen_Jill Eileen Smith is the bestselling and award-winning author of the Wives of King David, the Wives of the Patriarchs, the Loves of King Solomon, and the Daughters of the Promised Land series. Her research into the lives of biblical women has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Jill lives with her family in southeast Michigan. Learn more at www.jilleileensmith.com.

Meet Jochebed, Mother of Moses

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Novel PASTimes: Thank you for joining us today.  Would you begin by telling us how to pronounce your name?

JOCHEBED:  My people pronounce it yo-KEHV-edh although many people say jok-uh-bed.

Novel PASTimes: Do you have a preference?

JOCHEBED: Not as long as it is said with kindness.

Novel PASTimes: Tell me about yourself.

JOCHEBED: I’m an ordinary Hebrew slave. Why are we doing this interview? Am I in trouble with the overseers? Are you a spy? Will my words be reported to Pharaoh? My back is already scarred from the times I haven’t made my weaving quota.

Novel PASTimes: You are in no danger, but you are not ‘ordinary’. You are considered a remarkable woman.

JOCHEBED: I can’t imagine why. I’m just a basket weaver although my mother taught me the secrets to perfect waterproofing.

Novel PASTimes: And…

JOCHEBED: And I’m a mother—three children though only two know me. My youngest boy, Moses, has lived at Pharaoh’s palace since he was weaned. I-I never see him except from afar but I’m grateful he lives. When he was still with me, I’d whisper the stories and songs of our G-d into his little ears and pray he’d remember them someday.

Miriam, my oldest, gives me grey hair with her daring ways, but have you heard her sing? Her voice brightens even the days of misery and my boy Aaron could persuade the Nile to flow backwards. He has such a way with words!

Novel PASTimes: Who is your role model?

JOCHEBED: My mother. Always my mother. Still—though she lies buried beneath the sands.  Her words and her faith taught me how to trust G-d and how to listen for His voice. I try to teach that to my children.

Novel PASTimes: The story of your life—would you call it a tragedy or a mystery or what?

JOCHEBED: Sometimes it was a comedy, like when the goat ate my quota and sometimes it was a tragedy, but I think overall I’d call it a story of victory.

Novel PASTimes: Really? How?

JOCHEBED: Victory against fear. Victory over prejudice. Victory in spite of doubt.

Does that sound like I’m taunting Pharaoh?

Novel PASTimes: Not at all. I assure you the pharaoh will never know what you share here.  Jochebed—did I say that correctly? What do you think about when you’re alone?

JOCHEBED:  In a slave village, that doesn’t often happen. Hmmm. I think of seasons—how the seasons of the year change what we do and eat and fear. The seasons of life change people—who and what’s important to them and how they treat others.

Novel PASTimes: Change. What would you change about your life?

JOCHEBED: Everything. Nothing.

Novel PASTimes: Excuse me?

JOCHEBED: Like I tell my children, if you change one thing, everything else changes. Life would have been easier if I was not a slave, my husband not sent away, and my son’s life not endangered. But! I would not trade the knowledge that the Almighty, the G-d of my fathers heard me, a simple slave! He heard my prayer and saved Moses’ life. I am blessed among women.

Novel PASTimes: The book’s title is Slender Reeds: Jochebed’s Hope. What is your hope?

JOCHEBED: I’m in a book? Is that like a scroll?

Novel PASTimes: Please, Jochebed?

JOCHEBED: My hope is that my prayers as a mother and the stories of our people’s faith will be woven like slender reeds—strong reeds—through the lives of my children—even Moses—and bind them to the Almighty.

About Author Texie Susan Gregory:

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Studying why people act and respond the way they do fascinates me. I hold a master’s degree in School Counseling and a Master of Religious Education.

North Carolina born and bred, I currently live in Maryland with my husband, a PTSD therapist. Our two adult children live on opposite coasts—one near Boston and one near Los Angeles. I’m thankful they are on the same continent!

Jochebed and I would love to hear from you.

www.texiesusangregory.com

Facebook Texie Susan Gregory

If you’d like to read more of Jochebed’s story, please visit your local bookstore or

Slender Reeds: Jochebed’s Hope Amazon Books

Slender Reeds: Jochebed’s Hope Barnes & Noble Books

Fictional Character Interview: Helena, Her Encounter with Jesus Terrified Her

Today we will meet Helena, a 1st century biracial character from Regarding Tiberius by Bartholomew Boge.
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Novel Pastimes: Thank you for taking time to be with us today, Helena. First off, what language would you prefer we conduct this interview in?
Helena: I am perfectly fluent in Greek, Latin, and Persian and have a basic conversational fluency in Aramaic and Armenian. I know a few basics in a handful of others. Will Greek work for you?
Novel Pastimes: Certainly.  (the rest of the interview is translated from Koine Greek). Let’s begin with your name: Helena Mithridates Kleopatra.
Helena: My first name is, of course, an homage to the great character of Greek legend and history, Helena of Sparta. It is said that she was so beautiful that hers was “the face that launched a thousand ships,” which, of course, refers to the siege of Troy by the forces of Menelaus when Helena was stolen from him. Now I do not claim to have such beauty, as scarred and lean as I am, but I do share Helena’s experience with the arts of war, as it is supposed that she trained with the men as a Spartan warrior in her youth.
Novel Pastimes: And the middle name, “Mithridates”?
Helena: That is my family name. I am from the line of Mithradates VI, the last great Pontic king to defy Roman rule in Asia Minor. After his demise, all of his descendants were to have been executed by Roman law. An exception was made in my case, obviously. In fact, rather than rebel against Roman rule as my ancestors have, I have logged years of service in Rome’s Third Gallic Legion as a translator and transcriptionist of Persian documents, mostly receipts for goods purchased by the legion.
Novel Pastimes: “Kleopatra”?
Helena: That was just a pet name given me by my father, Nikophoros, King of Eupatoria, which means “Glory of Her Father.” I am of Ethiopian and Persian descent, and have no relation to the Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra who ruled Egypt.
Novel Pastimes:  So you are of royal descent?  That explains your high level of education.
Helena: Indeed. My parents bore no male heirs, so I was thoroughly trained in law, rhetoric, history, geography, and the arts of war—all critical fields of study for a would-be monarch.
Novel Pastimes: And languages?
Helena: That was more a family tradition than preparation for rule, although being a polyglot holds many advantages for a queen. In fact, my ancestor, Mithradates VI, was said to have been fluent in all 26 languages of his realm.
Novel Pastimes: Where were you born?
Helena: A small principality called Eupatoria, a city-state under Roman jurisdiction in the province of Pontus (editor’s note: modern north central Turkey). The Romans sacked it in 20 AD, smashing every structure to rubble and killing the entire population. Today only ruins remain.
Novel Pastimes: The Romans destroyed your homeland, yet you served in their legions?
Helena: Not by choice, initially. I was the only member of the royal family spared, and one of only a handful of citizens left alive after the slaughter. A centurion, Tiberius, orchestrated my clemency and took me as his slave.
Novel Pastimes: This is the same Tiberius you wrote your account about?
Helena: Yes. We had met once, prior to the sacking of Eupatoria, when I was a princess and heir-apparent to the crown. He took me as a war captive, but generally treated me more like a colleague than a slave. He was a brilliant tactician, Tiberius. He made a way for the governor of Bithynia, Pontus Pilate, to negate my slave status and restore my Roman citizenship.
Novel Pastimes: Wait—THE Pontus Pilate? The one who had Christ crucified?
Helena: The same. Before he became governor of Judaea, he was first given command of a lesser province in Asia Minor, Bithynia, just west of Pontus. I’ve had several run-ins with him over the years.
Novel Pastimes: Did you ever meet Jesus of Nazareth?
Helena: Twice. Once before his crucifixion, once after.
Novel Pastimes: What were your impressions?
Helena: I was never more terrified of another human being in all my life.
Novel Pastimes: Terrified? Why?
Helena: I’m a strategist at heart. Being a woman, I am usually underestimated as such, and I typically benefit from mistakes made by adversaries who don’t take me seriously. Jesus of Nazareth was different: he knew me to the core of my being, even my every thought and feeling. How can one ever hope to best a foe who knows your every whim?
Novel Pastimes: You were adversaries?
Helena: Not in a military sense, but in an emotional and spiritual one. He cut through my every defense and exposed my deepest, darkest longings for vengeance. It was unsettling. I avoided him after our first meeting as best I could, but was confronted by him once again, after his resurrection.
Novel Pastimes: And how did that go?
Helena: Better. (smiles)
Novel Pastimes: You are from a royal family in Asia Minor, yet you have a very dark complexion.
Helena: My family line comes from Ethiopia and Persia. I bear more a resemblance to my African ancestors.
Novel Pastimes: You mentioned scars earlier.  What from?
Helena: Some are from minor hand-to-hand combat wounds, simple scratches. The worst are on my stomach, where I bear disfiguring scars from being mauled by a Caspian tiger in my youth.
Novel Pastimes: You survived a tiger attack?
Helena: I was wearing leather armor at the time, which is the only reason I’m still here to engage in this interview. My private security detail managed to dispatch it before it could finish me off, but I am fortunate to be alive. As are my men—my father was quite displeased that none of them got so much as a scratch while his only daughter was bloody and torn open like a sack of grain!
Novel Pastimes: Well, Helena, thank you very much for your time.  One final question; what would you say is your best quality, aptitude, or gift?
Helena: The ability to think rationally under pressure. That may sound like an incredible gift, to think with perfect logic and clarity under stress, but rest assured that it’s often as much a curse as a blessing. On more than one occasion it has been a horrible quality to possess—particularly when the stakes are life and death.
Thank you, Helena, for this fascinating look at the life of a woman in Biblical times.
image3Originally known for applying his creative vision to the composition of Christian art-rock epics, Bartholomew Boge has found a new niche writing historical fiction. Whether it be through music or literature, Bartholomew challenges his audience to examine the depravity of man and the redeeming grace of God, bought with the shed blood of Christ.

In his debut novel, Regarding Tiberius, Bartholomew explores questions of justice, mercy, unconditional love, and forgiveness. Set during the time of Christ, this fast-paced story moves through several locations within the Roman Empire, including Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, and Judea. Confronted with the brutal death of her parents and the destruction of her kingdom, Bartholomew’s female protagonist, Helena Mithridates Kleopatra, undertakes a clandestine mission to avenge the slaughter of her people by assassinating the Roman commander who ordered their pitiless liquidation. Success would mean death for herself, her lover, Tiberius, and her only son, Marcellus. Will she do it? Should she? Which is more righteous–justice or mercy? How can one forgive an unforgivable crime, or receive forgiveness for one? Helena must answer these timeless questions along the way to fulfilling her bloody destiny.

Bartholomew Boge lives with his family in northcentral Wisconsin.

Read Reviews of REGARDING TIBERIUS:

https://www.amazon.com/Regarding-Tiberius-Helena-Mithridates-Kleopatra/dp/0692590684

https://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/regarding-tiberius/