It is with great excitement and pride that I am interviewing my fellow Scriblerian, Vanessa Morton, after her YA novel Moonfall was released last week. I’m a newbie with the Scriblerians, so I was not in on the critiquing process the book went through with the rest of the crew, so I was able to read Moonfall for the first time last weekend.
And I loved it!
Vanessa has intertwined her historical research into the story seamlessly. I’m always up for a romp through the biblical era, and I felt immersed in her richly depicted environment, characters and compelling plot. I liked how Vanessa used artistic license with the story, but held true to biblical themes and morals.
So who is Vanessa Morton?
Vanessa Morton is an archaeology junkie and virtual time traveler. She holds a BA in History and studied writing at UCLA. When she’s not writing stories or exploring ancient ruins, she can be found with her husband and two daughters at their vineyard in East Texas.
And what is the story about, you ask?… Here’s an appetizer…
When 16-year-old Rachav drinks the Moon Temple’s forbidden wine, she hardly expects it to result in the death of a priestess. But when King Nur orders Rachav to serve the Queen of the Night—the kingdom’s powerful goddess—as restitution, Rachav’s identical twin, Zaron, has her own reasons for joining the priesthood and offers to take her twin’s place. But choices have consequences. Now Rachav’s family is in danger. As she uncovers the shocking reason why, she finds an ally in Salma, a brooding nomad who wields an ancient force powerful enough to destroy the entire kingdom. While the epic showdown rages above the city, Rachav plays a dangerous game of her own. Can she rescue her sister and right the wrongs of that fateful choice? Or will the king succeed and trap her in the doomed city?
I had some questions for Vanessa after I read the book.
1) Your research is amazing. I felt so immersed in the era with all your details. How long did you spend on the research before you wrote the book?
Vanessa – I spent about three years interviewing scholars, researching, and even touring the ruin—now known as Tell es Sultan—which was an amazing surreal experience! Studying historical weather patterns helped me picture the fantastical lushness — is that a word?—of the Bronze Age Levant and place the twins into that vivid world.
2) Your book is inspired by the scripture in Joshua, where Rahab hid spies from Joshua’s army, and followed through to the destruction of the walls of Jericho. Your main character, Rachav, is based upon Rahab. I like how you introduced a twin for Rachav that wasn’t in the bible. What was your reason?
Vanessa – First of all, I’m glad you mentioned names. In lieu of a ‘westernized’ translation, the reader will find proper names and nouns, such Rachav, Yericho, Shekinah and so forth written to be historically and culturally authentic. In answer to your question, Joshua did not say there was a twin, nor did he say there was no twin. I gave the Bible equal weight alongside the many other historical sources in Moonfall’s way-too-long bibliography. My intent was to take poetic license only if it did not contradict historical sources.
3) Your characters are rich and believable. Have they been inspired by anyone you know?
Vanessa – Many characters were inspired by the fascinating historical people I discovered during research, combined with the usual writerly observations of both myself and others. 😮
4) Now that your research is done, will we see these characters in another book?
Vanessa – I’m always researching and probably will be the rest of my life. Curiosity: the writers’ curse! There are two more books in the Tales from the Levant trilogy. The second book reprises one of Moonfall’s most intriguing characters with surprising new twists!
And now that I’ve got you all primed, here’s an excerpt!
Although it seemed pointless, he fired again and again. A few feet away from the cool shade of the Shekinah, the riders halted. The center rider dismounted and swaggered toward Salma, but the edge of the Shekinah crackled and threw him backwards onto the ground. The other five dismounted. They all pressed forward in silence. This time, pure white light exploded when they touched the edge, and Salma and the girl were thrown backward, toward the encampment, as though pushed by an invisible hand. Acrid sulfur burned his nose. In the haze of smoke, he reached for the girl. He’d lost his sling. Must have dropped it when the Shekinah crackled. He could barely make out his own feet in the dense smoke. Bracing himself in front of the girl’s limp body, he unsheathed his long knife, and waited for the expected attack.
Vanessa, thanks so much for chatting with us about your novel Moonfall. Readers, if you are like me and would enjoy being immersed into biblically-inspired fiction with action, political intrigue, romance and sibling rivalry, then have a look at this book. But start it with some free time ahead. You might not want to put it down.
Meet the characters in Moonfall: http://www.pinterest.com/vrtmorton/moonfall-tales-from-the-levant/