Interview & Giveaway: Zahara and the Lost Books of Light by Joyce Yarrow

Hello, dear readers! Today on the blog I am excited to share my interview with Author Joyce Yarrow today! She is currently touring the blogosphere for Zahara and the Lost Books of Light!

I hope you enjoy getting to know Joyce! Be sure to enter the giveaway below!

Hello Joyce and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about Zahara and the Lost Books of Light!

To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and your writing?

I was born in the Southeast Bronx and escaped to Manhattan at an early age, where I wrote poetry while riding the bus through the Lower East Side and set some of these poems to music. I ‘graduated’ to writing short stories and then novels but I have always striven for an economy of words. I enjoy writing suspense fiction, since it is a good channel for processing the violence that surrounded me as a child and that pervades our world in many ways. Having my protagonists use brains rather than brawn to prevail is also quite therapeutical.

What inspired you to write Zahara and the Lost Books of Light?

ZAHARA AND THE LOST BOOKS OF LIGHT was inspired by a song, Cuando el Rey Nimrod –a joyous retelling of the birth of Abraham with lyrics composed in Ladino (a mixture of Judeo-Spanish and Hebrew originally devised to confuse the ears of the Inquisition). Whenever I performed it with my vocal-with-percussion group, Abráce, I would introduce it along with the wish that someday Muslims, Jews and Christians would come to honor their common ancestor and as another song says, “turn their swords into plowshares.”

I wondered if the Convivencia (a period in Medieval Spain when interfaith artistic collaboration was at its height) had managed to survive, what form might it have taken? I came up with the premise that a hidden library of books still exists in Spain, manuscripts penned during the Convivencia that were rescued from the fires of the Inquisition.

I decided that my protagonist, Alienor Crespo, would be an American returning to Spain to claim her right to citizenship after the expulsion of the Jews in 1492. Part of her adventure would be her discovery of this hidden library and its ongoing struggle to survive. Alienor also has the gift of ‘second sight’ and has vijitas (visits) with her female ancestors, during which she experiences life through their eyes.

What research did you undertake when writing Zahara and the Lost Books of Light?

For a year I devoured books on Medieval Spain, Islamic and Jewish history, and the Francoist era in Spain. “When will you stop checking out books from the library and start writing?” my husband asked. I looked around at the stacks I’d accumulated. Was I capable of distilling all this accumulated knowledge into a simple premise on which I could base a compelling story?

That’s when I realized that I had to forget every word I’d read and trust my creative process to synthesize what I’d learned as part of the writing process. Thank goodness this worked!

What would you like readers to take away from reading Zahara and the Lost Books of Light?

A sense that if we are going to live meaningful and peaceful lives we must uncover gifts from the past and build on them, rather than blindly moving forward.

What was your favorite scene to write?

It may sound funny, but what I most enjoyed was writing the prologue after I’d finished the book.

What was the most difficult scene to write?

There scene where the most dangerous villain in the book has a change of heart because of the death of his son. It was difficult to make this believable after he’d done so much harm. But I have seen people transformed by staggering revelations that rocked their world. So I went for it.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I can’t remember. I could make up something but that wouldn’t be fair.

What does your daily writing routine look like?

While I’m researching and outlining a book I grab time when I can but also let gardening, long walks and cuddling with my cat distract me so that the creative process has room to work in the back of my mind. Once I have the story and characters firmly etched in my mind, I write in the mornings for at least four hours at a stretch.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?

Oy! I’d say it was learning how to let scenes breathe and not stop them abruptly. My nomadic ways up until my thirties were a result of a continuous flight response stemming from early childhood trauma. I learned to control the impulse and channel it into my writing but sometimes it gets the better of me and I run away from an emotionally complex scene.

Who are your writing inspirations?

For ZAHARA I would have to choose FARENHEIT 451 as the main source of inspiration. In both the book and the movie I was moved to tears by the “book people” who walked by the river, reciting aloud the text of classics they memorized before all the books were burned.

What was the first historical novel you read?

BLACK BEAUTY, although it was not an historical novel at the time it was written 😊.

What is the last historical novel you read?

THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN’S UNION, although it really belongs to the genre of alternative history. 😊

What are three things people may not know about you?

Only three? That I was once in a street fight and won; that my father grew up in a Catholic Orphanage; and that because my father was beaten by the nuns I inherited his hatred of them and was afraid of being punished if I ever entered a church. Finally, at seventeen (It Was a Very Good Year) I went into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NY during a wedding and was bored to tears by the Latin sermon.

What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?

It makes me happy to hear a reader call ZAHARA a “genre-bender.”

What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?

Lately I have been enjoying science fiction, so I’d have to say “the future.” Is that an historical period? For me, it is.

What do you like to do when you aren't writing?

Take my canoe out on Lake Washington, a 30-mile-long body of water here in Seattle that I’m lucky enough to live close to. (Feels good to end that sentence with a preposition and have it work.)

Lastly, what are you working on next?

I’m tackling Book II and am reading about the stolen children of Spain never reunited with their parents, the war between the Goddesses and the Gods that led to the domination of patriarchy over our species, and—what’s that third thing?---I won’t know until I’ve finished writing.

That sounds like a fascinating read! Thank you for being here today, Joyce! Enjoy the rest of the tour!

Zahara and the Lost Books of Light by Joyce Yarrow

Publication Date: December 13, 2020
Adelaide Books

Genre: Historical Fantasy

When Seattle journalist Alienor Crespo travels to Granada to apply for citizenship as a descendant of Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, she uncovers her own family story, along with a hidden treasure trove of medieval Hebrew and Arabic books, saved from the fires of the Inquisition.

This “Library of Light” is being protected by a secretive group of literary caretakers. Alienor joins their struggle to safeguard the priceless manuscripts from discovery and destruction by a fanatical group devoted to restoring limpieza de sangre, purity of blood, to the Iberian Peninsula.

Crespo forms mystical bonds with her female ancestors, both Jewish and Muslim, who once faced the same dark forces aligned against her. What began as a routine, freelance assignment becomes front page news in Spain’s growing confrontation with its troubled past.

With a touch of magic realism honoring the mystics of Andalusia, as well as an emerging romance entangled in mystery, this fast-paced novel is rich with conflict and suspense.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

About the Author

Joyce Yarrow is the author of literary novels of suspense that “appeal to readers who enjoy unusual stories with an international setting.” - Library Journal

Her latest offering is a historical fantasy - ZAHARA AND THE LOST BOOKS OF LIGHT - from Adelaide Books in Dec 2020.

A New York City transplant now living in Seattle, Joyce began her writing life scribbling poems on the subway and observing human behavior from every walk of life.

Her published novels include ASK THE DEAD (Martin Brown), RUSSIAN RECKONING - available in hardcover as THE LAST MATRYOSHKA (Five Star Mysteries), RIVERS RUN BACK, co-authored with Arindam Roy (Vitasta, New Delhi).

She is a Pushcart Prize Nominee with short stories and essays that have appeared in Inkwell Journal, Whistling Shade, Descant, Arabesques, and Weber: The Contemporary West and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Yarrow is a member of the Sisters in Crime organization and has presented workshops on “The Place of Place in Mystery Writing” at conferences in the US and India.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 22
Review at @the.b00kreader

Tuesday, February 23
Guest Post at Novels Alive

Wednesday, February 24
Review at With A Book In Our Hands

Thursday, February 25
Feature at Books, Cooks, Looks

Friday, February 26
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Sunday, February 28
Interview on Reader_ceygo

Monday, March 1
Review on Reader_ceygo

Wednesday, March 3
Feature at Bookworlder

Saturday, March 6
Feature at Reading is My Remedy

Monday, March 8
Review at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, March 9
Interview at Passages to the Past

Friday, March 12
Review at Kellie Butler
Review at Coffee and Ink


Enter to win a $20 Gift Card to Powell's Books!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on March 12th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

The Heiress Gets a Duke


  1. Thanks so much for this lovely interview and for featuring Zahara!

  2. Thank you for this lovely interview and for featuring Zahara!


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Passages to the Past
All rights reserved © 2013

Custom Blog Design by Blogger Boutique

Blogger Boutique