I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree T.K. Thorne today to talk with me about her award winning book, Noah’s Wife. T.K.’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, City Action Partnership, as the executive director. Both careers and a Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Alabama 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 gives the investigators’ perspectives of the 1963 Sixteenth Street church bombing case and was featured on the New York Post’s “Books You Should Be Reading” list. Rave reviews have followed her newest historical novel about the unnamed wife of Lot, Angels at the Gate, which has just been announced as a finalist for IBPA’s Benjamin Franklin awards! She loves traveling and speaking about her books and life lessons and writes at her mountaintop home near Birmingham, often with two dogs and a cat vying for her lap.
How did you discover indieBRAG?
At the 2015 Historical Novel Society Conference, I happened to sit next to Geri Cloustan, the president of indieBRAG, and we started talking. I was excited by the concept of having a way to screen a book’s quality for readers who love discovering good indie books, so I took her card, looked into it, and submitted Noah’s Wife.
Tell me about your book, Noah’s Wife.
This is really the backstory of the tale of Noah’s flood from the perspective of Noah’s wife. The Bible only mentions her with one sentence, so I decided to make her the focus and tell her story. I wanted the retelling to be supported by what was known about the science and history of the time period. Noah’s wife is Na’amah, a beautiful young shepherdess in ancient Turkey who has what today we would term Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of high-functioning autism. Na’amah sees the world through unique eyes. Her first words are, “My name, Na’amah means beautiful or pleasant. I am not always pleasant, but I am beautiful.” Her only wish is to watch the sheep on
her beloved hillside, a desire shattered by the hatred of her brother and the love of two men. Her savant abilities and penchant to speak truth force her to walk a dangerous path in an age of change—a time of challenge to the goddess’ ancient ways, when cultures clash, and the earth itself is unstable. When foreign raiders kidnap her, Na’amah’s epic journey to escape and return home becomes an attempt to save her people from the disaster only she knows is coming.
What are some of the historical facts or significance about your book?
Noah’s Wife is based on four years of studying Asperger’s Syndrome, historical, archaeological, geological, and cultural information about the land and time period, as well as a fabulous trip to Turkey! Here are a few highlights:
- Robert Ballard, the explorer who found the sunken Titanic discovered a lost civilization under the Black Sea, confirming that it was once a fresh water lake that flooded in a cataclysmic event around 5500 BCE.
- The oldest known worshiped deity was female. The role of the feminine in the divine was also entwined with early Judaism and keeps reappearing throughout history.
- One in every 88 persons has a form of autism. The choice to make Noah’s wife an Asperger savant stemmed from personal experience in my life and gives the story a distinctive perspective.
Please describe the setting and period of your story.
Several theories about the flood that inspired the Noah’s ark episode in the Bible. It seems very likely that the story was actually borrowed from what is the earliest known written tale—the epic poem of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh was unearthed in the cities of Babylon and Ur in Mesopotamia. In the Bible, Abraham is said to have come from Ur. As I mentioned, scientists have discovered that a cataclysmic event during the Copper Age changed a fresh water lake north of Turkey into a salt water sea—the Black Sea—causing it to overflow its banks, reverse the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and flood the Middle East as far as the Mesopotamian cities of Ur and Babylon. Adira’s adventure begins in the green hills just south of the Black Sea. Her journey takes her across the expanse of Anatolia and some of the land’s natural wonders.
For those who do not know the meaning of the Copper Age, could you please explain?
The Copper Age (also called the Chalcolithic Age) is the period of human history that occurred after the Neolithic (Stone Age) when mankind had discovered how to make implements with copper. Interestingly, this discovery did not happen at the same time across the world. For this part of the world, it occurred between 9,000 to 7,000 years ago. Villages and communities nestled in the hills just south of the Black Sea (where Noah’s Wife is set) were very advanced in the technology, even ahead of Egypt. In fact, archeologists have traced the path of those peoples fleeing the Black Sea flood by the pottery they left behind, and believe the spreading of their culture stimulated the technical advancement of Europe as well as other areas, significantly affecting the entire world’s history.
Please tell me a little about the cultural experiences you had in Turkey.
Turkey is an amazing place. The city of Istanbul, which straddles two continents, is full of history, stunning architecture, and an eclectic mixture of old and new, but the majority of Turkey stretches out in a land mass to the east of the Mediterranean known as Anatolia. The word means “Land of the Mother.” In ancient times the mother goddess was worshiped there, and even though 98% of today’s population is Muslim, there are tribes who trace their roots back thousands of years for whom treating women with respect and giving them status is so important that they advise their girls not to marry outside the tribe, lest they be unhappy. All over Turkey, I was welcomed warmly. The people in the Anatolia countryside live
connected to the land and produce beautiful rugs, pottery and other crafts with family designs that go back many generations.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
I stole the idea from the international bestseller, Ahab’s Wife, by Sena Jeter Naslund, because I liked the simplicity of the title and the concept of taking one line from a famous book and building a totally new story around the old one. After it was published, I had the opportunity to meet Sena for tea while she was in residence in Fairhope, Alabama. She “blessed” my title, read the book and gave me a lovely review.
What are the challenges of building a new story around an old one?
Both of my novels are taken from biblical stories involving an unnamed woman (Noah’s wife and Lot’s wife in Angels at the Gate) whose life is skipped over in the text. In Judaism, writings or oral stories that further enlighten or enrich the primary text is called midrash. In a loose sense, these novels are midrash, or reinterpretations. I wanted to tell the woman’s story, to make her a real, whole person in what I felt was a historically accurate time and culture, leaving moralistic or religious interpretations to the reader to add or not. It was often fun to twist the traditional, such as deciding the white dove in the flood story might have actually been a white parrot with his own personality. The challenge was the several-year journey of research needed to authentically represent a time period that existed before any written material and to make an ancient story both familiar and new.
Who designed your book cover?
My sister, Laura Katz Parenteau, who is a graphic artist, designed the beautiful cover. We wanted to avoid a religious connotation that might misrepresent the story and settled on a composition she drew—a woman with flowing hair lying on her side, facing the sunrise. It can also be viewed as a scene of mountains with water. I love the fact that the cover has layers of meaning, just as the story has, and the fact that my talented sister designed it. She has created and crowned herself “Queen” of the T.K. Thorne Super Fan Club, which she has a lot of fun with. Any fans out there can contact her at Laura@TKThorne.com.
Thanks so much for letting me be a part of Layered Pages. I’m proud to be associated with IndieBrag! And I love hearing from readers.
A message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview T.K. Thorne who is the author of Noah’s Wife, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Noah’s Wife, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money