Today, I have the pleasure of introducing Hannah Joy Wilkinson, who has graciously offered a copy of her debut novel The Moor and the Maiden to be given away to one commenter. I met Hannah on one of ACFW’s Facebook groups. After talking with her about her story, and reading more about her writing journey on her blog, I was thrilled to host this interview.
To enter the giveaway, follow the link at the end of the article to Rafflecopter.
Hannah Joy Wilkinson lives in McAlester, OK with her husband Stan and their two ornery cats. She enjoys spending time with God in His word with a good cup of coffee, discovering the joys of growing things out in the garden, and reading too many books at one time. The Moor and the Maiden is her first novel.
Hannah, welcome to the Reader’s Blog.
Thank you very much, KyLee. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this blog!
KyLee: Wonderful! Let’s begin with a couple fun questions. Imagine you win a free vacation. Which scene do you prefer, mountains or beach?
Hannah: This is a tough question because I have deeply enjoyed both, but I would prefer the beach as long as I could take my husband. I could walk along the beach watching the waves or read on the sand for hours!
KyLee: Coffee, do you like it sweet or strong?
Hannah: Both! I always try to make strong coffee, but I have to add milk and sugar or flavored creamer to it.
KyLee: Me too! I probably end up using way too much creamer but, hum…delish. Ok, back to the interview. 🙂 If you could be born in another time, which would you prefer?
Hannah: I would say the 19th century, either in the England that Jane Austen describes, or in the North America that Laura Ingalls Wilder describes. Though my view is probably romanticized, the idea of living without phones and computers in a place where family relationships and hard work are the center of life sounds refreshing.
KyLee: Your story takes place in A. D. 1150. How did you research a time period so far in the past?
Hannah: I found books at the public library about life in the 12th century, the Knights Templar, the Second Crusade, and the Moorish culture. I had to find out when tournaments began and what form they took in AD 1150, what the Christian Church believed about the Crusades, what Crusader battles were won and lost, and I even tried to learn the Arabic alphabet as one of my characters does in the book! As much as possible, I wanted to get into the mindset of each character: what they would be afraid of, long for, and enjoy like hawking or horseback riding. After researching, the story formed around the details I found, though I still had to research when little questions came up.
KyLee: Wow, you must really enjoy research. I had never heard of a Moor before your book. Is this a fictional term, or one actually used in that era?
Hannah: The term is not fictional and was used in the time of my novel. You can also find mention of Moors in the Arthurian legends and featured prominently in Shakespeare’s Othello (also called Othello, the Moor of Venice). According to the Oxford Dictionary, a Moor is a member of a north-western African Muslim people of mixed Berber and Arab descent. To the medieval “Christian” Europeans, any person who had darker skin fit this description, though it is not a correct term for an ethnic group.
KyLee: What inspired you to write The Moor and the Maiden?
Hannah: I wanted to write a Christian romance novel that was different than any book I had ever read, with the most nontraditional main character and enough adventure to interest men as well as women. I was initially inspired by the idea of Shakespeare’s Othello and that interracial love story, but I wanted to set the story in my favorite era and place: medieval France. While researching medieval history to find conflict for my story, the early Crusades and the Knights Templar stood out to me. And the more I read about the Crusades in the Holy Land, the more I wanted to bring out what I believe was unbiblical in Christianity at that time.
KyLee: Is Asim patterned after someone particular, or perhaps a combination of men dear to you?
Hannah: No, he is not. I have a wonderful father and an amazing husband, but Asim is the product of my imagination. In the novel I give him all my rebellious thoughts and questions to expose any flaws I saw in the Crusades, Knights Templar, the Church, and any Christians who said they believed in Jesus but rejected Him with their actions. Asim the Moor is unwittingly the iron by which everyone is sharpened.
KyLee: I read on your blog that you began writing The Moor and the Maiden six years ago. As you grew over that time period, how did your character’s grow?
Hannah: As I grew spiritually over those years, I was able to deepen the spiritual growth of my characters based on what God would teach me or correct in me. My characters became more genuine, more flawed, and asked deeper questions of God and themselves. Each of the four main characters and their relationship with God became central to the story, and the romance became second. I am so glad that it did!
KyLee: In your book you address some sensitive issues, namely prejudices. What do you hope your readers will learn in regard to that issue?
Hannah: I do pray that readers will see how important it is for Christ followers to know and imitate Jesus in what we say and especially in what we do. Jesus said to love our neighbor as ourselves, like the good Samaritan showed mercy to a complete stranger despite their ethnic differences. If Jesus also says to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us, how can we despise or hurt anyone?
KyLee: That is very profound. We are instructed to love our fellow believers (John 13:34) but loving everyone, even those who hurt us, is not easy. I’m glad you tackled this issue in your book. The Moor and the Maiden is your first novel, what do you have planned next?
Hannah: I plan to write one sequel to continue the story, because some difficulties have only just begun at the end of the novel! The novel is complete in itself, but I have room to keep writing, which I am looking forward to doing.
KyLee: If you could have lunch with your favorite author, who would it be and why?
Hannah: Francine Rivers, without a doubt. As much as I love Jane Austen, I want to write with as much spiritual depth and ferocity as Francine Rivers does. I admire the way she goes for the unpopular and troubling topics Christians face in the world. I would want to hear about her life and how she can write stories that touch the hearts of so many people!
KyLee: And that is such an enormous part of writing Christian fiction, touching the hearts of people. Thank you, Hannah, for your time, and for sharing about yourself and your book.
If you could be born in any time-period, which would you choose?
Click the picture below then comment to enter to win a free copy of The Moor and the Maiden. For giveaway rules, reference policies and procedures.
More on The Moor and the Maiden
The only woman he could ever love
is bound by fear and wants him gone.
A Templar Knight, bitter from
the failed second crusade, wants him dead.
But there is One who, despite his past,
wants him back.
Asim never should have returned to France. In AD 1150, too many people believe the dark-skinned Moor is an infidel sorcerer. The Christians who persecute him further harden his heart against God. Only Bishop Lisieux welcomes him back after years of estrangement.
During their journey to the de Montfort castle, a threat emerges. Stephan, a young Templar Knight, will stop at nothing to kill the Moor. If he finds the Bishop’s heretical secret, Asim and the Bishop will burn together.
Will Asim ever be reconciled to God amid the fear and hatred that surrounds him? Or will he be cut down before he is given the chance?