Saturday, March 22, 2014

Such Deliverance as This, Rebecca Velez (OakTara)

That a group of Jews returned from Babylonian exile under the leadership of Ezra is well-known history. What the returning Jews faced on the trek from Babylon--and when they reached their forefathers' homeland--is less well known. Ms. Velez has helped us with that.

In Such Deliverance as This, the sequel to Such a Time as This, Ms. Velez brings to life the ordeal these exiles endured through the experiences of individuals who made the journey. Fictional characters? Yes. Realistic characters? Oh my, yes.

Meet Hadassah, formerly of Queen Esther's court, who journeys under the protection of Ezra after the death of her beloved husband. How will a pampered widow survive in the relative wilderness of a desolated Jerusalem? With her come thousands of Hebrews returning to their homeland who face a less-than-enthusiastic welcome from the Jews who escaped the exile and have worked Judah's fields and vineyards, and must now surrender them to those whose lineage demands it.

Ms. Velez skillfully and tenderly portrays the travails, particularly of the women, during and after the journey from Babylon. The crux, though, comes when the edict comes down that those men who married pagan women despite--or in ignorance of--the Law's prohibitions against inter-marrying must either defend their unions or dissolve them.

Throughout such travails, though, Ms. Velez sprinkles a dose of humor, romance and love, and adventure, something for everyone. Thoughtfully portrayed and gently written, Such Deliverance as This indeed does deliver. Recommended.

Now that you have my thoughts on the story, let's have the author's. After the brief interview, please leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Deliverance Such as This.
Rebecca, first of all, thanks so much for appearing on my blog.  I really enjoyed the story and am looking forward to your thoughts on it.

Thank you for having me. I'm glad you enjoyed it. 

What made you choose this particular story to tell, other than the fact that it’s a sequel to Such a Time as This? Does this period in Biblical history particularly interest you?

Esther, the heroine of Such a Time, captured my imagination first. I wondered what her bravery cost her if she were an introvert. Such Deliverance continues the story and allowed me to capitalize on the research I'd already done. The research takes a huge amount of time.

And you can tell you're meticulous in that research.  Your characters really come alive.  How did you conceive them; that is, what did you want to communicate to your readers through them?

These characters "grew" as the book progressed over the 6 1/2 years it took me to plan and write it. I wanted to have two pagan women who would be opposites, so Tova serves as a foil for Judith. I also wanted a girl who was afraid of becoming a spinster.

Always a fun question, how did you decide what names to give your characters?

I was trying to keep the names authentic. Tova's name means good in Hebrew, so it was meant to be symbolic.

Do you write aspects of yourself, or people you know, into your characters?

I'm an introvert, so some of my initial questions about Esther's personality and experience stemmed from imagining myself speaking up to a king. (Scary thought!) As an introvert, I'm fascinated by extroverts. Jarah and Judith are two of the extroverts in Such Deliverance. Jarah is also blunt in her conversation, and I did get that part of her character from someone I admired at church.

Were there any parts of the story that were especially difficult for you to write, emotionally or technically?  What parts came easiest to you?

I had a difficult time with the beginning of this book. Neither my critique group nor an editors' panel at a conference I attended liked the beginning, so I moved it to chapter 10 and created a new starting point.

I understand. The beginning is critical to capture the interest of your readers. Sometimes it's tough to know just how to start out, but you did a great job. As the story progressed, though, it seemed to me that you had a message to tell in the story. If you were to identify a single thought you’d like a reader to take away after reading the book, what would it be?

God offers each of us deliverance. He rescues from huge problems like being captives in foreign lands. Others of us have "little" problems like feeling unloved or losing someone we care about.

Okay, so what’s next?  Is there another book in the series, or are you going to embark on something brand new?

I'm starting a book on Nehemiah which picks up the story of the Jews about a dozen years after the end of this book, so you'll see some of Deliverance's characters again.

Do you have a website where can we find out more about you and your writing?
Thanks again for spending this time with us. I believe you have a giveaway offer to present to readers of this blog?

Yes, a secondary theme of Deliverance is friendship. The five main characters share complicated but deep friendships. I'd be interested to hear from readers how one of their friends has helped them.

That's it then. Readers, how are you on friendship? If you don't have any particular thoughts, or experiences you'd like to share, please leave a comment anyway. You'll still be entered for a copy of the book. Oh! And when you comment, please leave an email address so we can get back to you.  Thanks!