T.K. Thorne: Noah’s wife and Lot’s wife were both unnamed women in the Bible and given only one line. The idea of telling their stories intrigued me. But, I have to admit that initially I rejected writing about Sodom & Gomorrah. Two things bothered me: 1) The story seemed so dark, and 2) I was perplexed about how I could use angels without delving into the supernatural. But curiosity wove its web, especially after I discovered a fascinating book written by two scientists that explored the possible connections between Stonehenge cultures, the Middle East, and angels. (Really.) Then I learned that the Hebrew for the word “angel” is actually “messenger,” and that angels appearing in Genesis were portrayed as physical men. (The popular envisioning of angels with wings and haloes came from paintings in the Middle Ages.) The more I delved into this, the tighter the web drew, until I finally gave up and started writing.
FB: Given the often very few story details in the Bible, did you find it challenging to pull these characters off the page and make them larger than life? Were you concerned with staying true to the character or were you excited to breathe life into a character we historically haven't known much about?
TKT: We know so little about Adira’s character from the Bible. Literally, the only information is given in one line—“But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26). In Jewish tradition, however, there are several stories, called midrashim, expanding on the Biblical text, and I drew from some of that, but mostly from my own imagination. In fact, you could say that this is my own midrash. There is much conflicting information about Lot’s character in the Bible, and I made conscious choices about how to portray him. The research was fascinating and had its own allure, but once I started writing, the characters came alive, had their own say and made their own decisions—one of the exciting, rewarding, and just plain fun aspects of writing fiction.
FB: At the beginning of the novel, Adira begins as a girl in disguise as a boy and later sheds her male persona to embrace her femininity. What were some of the challenges you faced in writing a character that lives oscillating between two genders?
TKT: Actually, it was a lot of fun. I even read a book about a woman who went undercover for a year as a man, but Adira’s situation was different. She was raised with that duality, so she didn’t have problem with it until she wanted to claim her birthright as woman. Then she began to realize what she was giving up. As a writer, the challenge for me was having that desire and conflict arise naturally within the context of the difficulties such a drastic change would bring about.
Before I began writing, I knew Adira would have a problem with obedience. After all, she turned to look back at her burning city after being expressly told not to. Obedience was a much-valued quality in ancient times, especially in women. Even until very recently, women in our own culture were extorted to “love and obey” as part of marriage vows.
In the guise of a boy, Adira was able to more fully explore her capabilities. She learned the art of observation and negotiations at her father’s side. Her exposure to other cultures allowed her to learn different languages and expand her capacity to understand her world and eventually, herself. At the same time, she struggled with coming to terms with who she was, which in many ways is still our challenge as women, even in a modern society. We do not want our capacities to be defined by our gender, but at the same time we seek to embrace our unique strengths as women.
FB: One of the things that I love so much about your work is that you have a historical fiction novel that's set in the times of the Bible and has a Bible story as its underlying influence, yet religion is not thrust to the forefront of the novel. Tell us a little about what it was like navigating the attribution of natural causes (like fire erupting from the earth) to things that religious people have been attributing to a higher power for millennia.
TKT: Part of the intrigue about writing these stories was the challenge of uncovering the historical and scientific origins for the tales. Humans have been attributing the divine to natural events throughout prehistory and into our current day. Stories told in one culture are modified and retold to reflect another culture’s values and beliefs. Living in the highly religious milieu of the South, there was some trepidation on my part about writing from such a different perspective. There are also serious marketing challenges, as the book does not fit into what is considered the typical “religious” category.
As both a historian and a historical novelist, I have come to believe that both types of writing are about finding truths in our past, in terms of what actually happened, what might have happened, and the truths within the human heart. And the only way for me to tap fully into my own capacity as a writer is to write from my own truth.
FB: We know from ancient historical documents that the days of the Old Testament did not have Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, as we know them today. Tell us more about the polytheistic religion you depict in Angels at the Gate. What was your research process like? Was polytheistic religion depicted in the novel, at one time, a real religion?
TKT: Angels at the Gate takes place in the time of Abraham, the “father” of all three major religions of the West and Middle East. Prior to that, the religions of the area were primarily Egyptian, Canaanite and Mesopotamian. There are ancient texts that, combined with the findings of archeology, enlighten us about the religions of the time.
Israel was originally the land of Canaan and many scholars are now leaning toward the theory that the Israelites had their origin as Canaanites. My research took me to the earliest documents written on clay tablets or even stone, scholars’ interpretations, and the latest archeological findings. I spoke to a geologist and a chemist about the possibilities of what might have been happening beneath the surface of the Dead Sea, read books on various theories, and used my imagination to put together what seemed the best scenario for my story.
As I studied early religion, one observation ran throughout—that the need to have some control over their fate has driven people throughout time to try to influence their deities through sacrifice, incense, rites, praise, or pleading. The religious practices of the Canaanites were based on a belief in gods and goddesses that controlled the fertility of the land in a place where the timing of rain meant life or death. Understanding that gave me a different perspective of the life in Sodom & Gomorrah.
FB: What was your research process like? With the story being based in the ancient world, what were you hoping to find?
TKT: Several exciting things happened while my husband and I were in the Middle East researching this book, although I’m not sure “ exciting” would be the word he would always choose.
One was the opportunity to take a daylong trip into the Negev with a desert ranger. There was an area that I needed for my story, a certain configuration of a dry wash (called a wadi) south of the Dead Sea. We laid out a map the night before our planned trip, and the ranger made a small circle on it and said, “This is the only place where what you have described exists.” The next day he took us there, sharing his insights about the land, the soil, which direction the wadis would flood, etc.
Another time, we stumbled onto a small animal exhibit in the Negev desert and an enthusiastic young man who was from a Bedouin tribe. He was an expert in the desert plants and the creatures that flew, crawled, or crept in it. I got some wonderful details that I would never have known even to ask about. That was an unexpected gold mine. Another exciting moment was finding a Bronze Age bridle bit in a museum after a frustrating search for evidence that horses were domesticated in my time period. We took a dip in the Dead Sea and spent some time in a Bedouin tent. I remember looking closely at the black camel hairs visible in the material of the tent and thinking this was what my character would have seen. It hasn’t changed for thousands of years! I was halfway through my book, so I knew the kind of things I was looking for. I even talked our guide into taking us to into the volatile West Bank to the location where the Bible said Abraham had pitched his tents. An Israeli soldier decided we looked suspicious and pointed his M-16 rifle at us. It only lasted a moment, but it was a moment I’ll never forget. It was an experience I will never forget and it definitely enriched this book.
FB: Without giving it away, some aspects of the tale of Lot's wife are portrayed literally and others are portrayed figuratively. Tell us a little about your thought process in deciding which parts of the story to apply in what way.
TKT: Where I thought the literal aspects of the Biblical story could have reasonably happened (i.e., without supernatural influence), I used that as a framework. Much of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, was written after the first expulsion of the Hebrew elite from Jerusalem in the sixth century BCE, primarily for picking the wrong side in a struggle between Egypt and Babylonia. Believing God was angry with them for failing to make a break with Canaanite religious practices, the Hebrew scholars railed against the Canaanite ways and their people’s proclivity to practice them. With both Noah's Wife and Angels at the Gate, I wanted to present the stories as how they might have happened before the biblical authors told or retold them in a way that supported their agendas.
My intention in writing these novels has been to bring these unnamed women to life as real and complex human beings in a way that rang true to me. They traveled the same path we all tread—a journey of the spirit, one where we grow in our capacity for imagination, understanding, and love, discovering the divine in our world, in ourselves, and in our fellow travelers.
About Angels at the Gate
Publication Date: March 5, 2015 | Cappuccino Books | eBook, Hardcover | Pages: 368
Genre: Historical Fiction
Based on historical, biblical, and archaeological research, visits to the Middle East, and a large measure of creativity, ANGELS AT THE GATE is the story of Adira, destined to become Lot’s wife. A daughter of Abram's tribe, Adira is an impetuous young girl whose mother died in childbirth. Secretly raised as a boy in her father’s caravan and schooled in languages and the art of negotiation, Adira rejects the looming changes of womanhood that threaten her nomadic life and independence.
But with the arrival of two mysterious strangers – Northmen rumored to be holy or possibly even “Angels” – Adira’s world unravels. Raiders invade the caravan, and she loses everything she values most – her father, her freedom, and even the “Angels.”
Caught between her oath to her father to return to her tribe and the “proper life for a woman” and tormented by an impossible love, she abandons all she has known in a dangerous quest to seek revenge and find her kidnapped “Angel.” With only her beloved dog, Nami, at her side, Adira must use the skills she learned in the caravan to survive the perils of the desert, Sodom, and her own heart.
ANGELS AT THE GATE is a story of adventure and the power of love, exploring themes about choice – the importance of asking the right questions and walking the fine edge between duty and personal freedom.
Based on a simple mention in the Bible, T.K. Thorne has developed a complex and full-bodied character in the wife of Lot, a woman both ancient and modern, who will touch readers’ hearts, and live in their memories for years to come. As Dianne Mooney, founder of Southern Living At Home says, “For all those whose curiosity is piqued by how it might have been in the time of Sodom and Gomorrah, this is a must read!”
Praise for Angels at the Gate"ANGELS AT THE GATE is nothing short of a masterwork–superbly and eloquently written, solidly researched and a high-speed page-turner. Readers will be swept up in a story they can't put down." –Elsa D. Ruther, editor,The Nifty Pickle
“A masterpiece of historical research, interweaving history and theology in a re-visioning of an ancient story from a woman’s perspective. Thorne is a dazzlingly gifted writer.” –Sue Walker, Poet Laureate of Alabama, 2003-2012
“Thorne unspools an ancient adventure with crackling undertones of our contemporary lives. Lean, polished action sequences render a young woman’s life with both intensity and nuanced truth.” –Dale Short, public radio commentator and author of A Shinning, Shinning Path
Buy Angels at the GateAmazon
Barnes & Noble
About the AuthorT.K. Thorne’s childhood passion for storytelling deepened when she became a police officer in Birmingham, Alabama. “It was a crash course in life and what motivated and mattered to people.” When she retired as a captain, she took on Birmingham’s business improvement district as the executive director. Both careers provide fodder for her writing, which has garnered several awards, including “Book of the Year for Historical Fiction” (ForeWord Reviews) for her debut novel Noah’s Wife. Her first non-fiction book, Last Chance for Justice, was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list. She loves traveling, especially to research her novels, and speaking about her books and life lessons. She writes at her mountaintop home, often with two dogs by her side and a cat on her lap.
She blogs at www.TKs-tales.com and her web site is www.TKThorne.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads. Sign Up for T.K. Thorne’s newsletter.
Angels at the Gate Blog Tour ScheduleMonday, March 23
Review at Genre Queen
Spotlight at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, March 25
Review at Quirky Book Reviews
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Thursday, March 26
Review at Room With Books
Review at Unshelfish
Friday, March 27
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Review at Broken Teepee
Saturday, March 28
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Tuesday, March 31
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
Thursday, April 2
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Monday, April 6
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Thursday, April 9
Spotlight at I'd So Rather Be Reading
Monday, April 13
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Wednesday, April 15
Review at Book Nerd
Thursday, April 16
Review at Griperang's Bookmarks
Friday, April 17
Blog Tour Wrap Up at Passages to the Past
GiveawayTo enter to win a Hardcover copy of Angels at the Gate please complete the giveaway form below. Five copies are up for grabs!
* Giveaway is open to US residents only.
* Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on April 17th.
* You must be 18 or older to enter.
* Only one entry per household.
* All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
* Winners will be chosen via GLEAM on April 18th and notified via email. Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
* Please email Amy @ firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Angels at the Gate