22 – “Don’t write because you want to get published. Write because you enjoy writing.” (with Tessa Afshar)
I debated long and hard about what to title this episode:
How to make a tattooed construction worker cry like a baby
“This girl knows nothing!”
“It sounds wrong for someone who makes up stuff for a living to write a Bible study.”
Eventually, I settled on, “Don’t write because you want to get published. Write because you enjoy writing.”
That’s the bottom line for award-winning author, Tessa Afshar. But it wasn’t always that way. When Tessa submitted her first romance novels to publishers, she assumed she’d get offered contracts and would immediately begin living off her writing. Things didn’t work out that way.
In episode #22, you’ll learn:
- How Tessa’s “romance with romance” began
- Why she gave up her longed-for writing career when publishers said “no”
- How a life-changing event strengthened her resolve to return to writing
- How Tessa’s publisher believed in her writing, took pity on a newbie author who “didn’t know anything,” and helped her establish her author brand
And yes, you’ll learn how a scene in Tessa’s first novel made a tattooed construction worker cry like a baby.
Tessa’s first book, Pearl in the Sand, was published in 2010, when biblical fiction was in its infancy. As she was writing the manuscript, a voice in the back of Tessa’s mind kept taunting, “This will never get published. Nobody will ever want to read this. This is so boring! This is terrible!”
Pearl in the Sand sold out in three days.
Since then, it has been translated into eight languages besides English. In October 2020, a tenth-anniversary edition, with new scenes and a new cover, is being released.
Tessa’s 8-year journey to full-time writing
It took eight years for Tessa to build her readership and writing income enough to transition to full-time writing and speaking. During those years, she worked full-time in women’s ministry while penning eight novels and one non-fiction book in her not-so-spare time.
Tessa marvels that writing and speaking is now her full-time job. Not only that, but she does it “in a language that’s not even my own”(Persian is her first language).
“Switching Lanes” to Non-Fiction
In June of 2020, Tessa’s first non-fiction book was published. The Way Home is a 6-week Bible study on the story of Ruth.
In the episode, Tessa reveals why her publisher initially turned down her idea for this Bible study, but welcomed it a few years later. She explains how a combination of in-depth research, “what if?” questions, and imagination brings her stories – and her Bible study – to life.
Drawing Fresh Eyes
We also discuss Tessa’s marketing strategy. In a competitive marketplace, all authors “have to work harder and harder to sell our books,” says Tessa. “It doesn’t matter how established you are. You need to find ways to draw new readers and fresh eyes to your work.”
“You have to be disciplined about what you choose to do and what you choose not to do,” she says. Tessa explains how the “free” writing and speaking she does draws new readers, and how she uses social media to encourage her followers to persevere.
Ultimately for Tessa, this journey is about writing for the sheer enjoyment of writing. “Be mindful that small beginnings are powerful,” she says.
And feel confident that God’s intention for your writing is specific, she adds. “It has nothing to do with your worth; it has nothing to do with your talent; it has nothing to do with the fact that He loves you or doesn’t love you….
“Receive whatever opening He gives you with gratitude and run with that opening. Do not grow discouraged. Resist the lies you will hear and do the thing God created you to do.”
Word Nerd Moment
Biblical fiction: Writing about a biblical character or event.
Inspirational historical fiction during the time of the Bible – A biblical character is present, but the story isn’t about biblical events.
About Tessa Afshar
Tessa was born in the Middle East to a nominally Muslim family, and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life. When her parents divorced, she moved to England, where she survived boarding school for girls and fell in love with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.
Tessa attended college in the United States, has lived most of her life there, and is a U.S. citizen. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever.
Tessa is the award-winning author of nine books – eight of them are inspirational fiction and biblical fiction. Visit TessaAfshar.com
Tessa’s most recent books:
Daughter of Rome (February 2020), a journey through first-century Rome and Corinth with Priscilla and Aquila.
The Way Home: God’s Invitation to New Beginnings (June 2020), a six-week, in-depth Bible study on the story of Ruth. An optional DVD contains additional teachings lasting approximately 15-20 minutes per session.
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