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If I Perish
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Title of Book: If I Perish
Author: Deborah R. Turner
ISBN #: 1591295246

Publisher: PublishAmerica
Genre/Market: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: November 2002

Paperback; 290pp
Price:  $24.95

Highly Recommended


If I Perish is the rare book that transports the reader to another place and time. From the moment you pick the up this book, you are immersed in the world of ancient Persia. The people on the pages of the book not only come alive, but the reader is also there, reveling in the sensory delights provided by the author.


 The story begins when the young girl who will become Queen Esther is living in the Jewish quarter of town. She is a beauty even before she turns thirteen years old, living under the protective and loving care of her uncle Mordecai who has taken care of her since the death of her parents. She is called Hadassah as a Jewish girl and grows up sure that she will one day marry her best friend's brother, Reuben. But fate has other plans in store for Esther. For after King Xerxes has allowed his queen, Vashti, unprecedented power and influence in his court, his princely advisors are none to happy about a woman having so much say in matters of state. They plot to get rid of her and manage to get her banished, but the king mourns her absence. The princes come up with the idea to have a beauty contest throughout the land to find the most beautiful girl who will then become the King's new bride. While this is transpiring, King Xerxes has begun fall under the influence of Haman, a rug merchant, who appears to be wise and loyal to the King. Xerxes, who is often much too trusting, soon elevates Haman to a position of power, which eventually leads him to become Prime Minister. 


 As the search for the most beautiful girls in the land nears an end, Hadassah is taken by the King's soldiers to be one of the girls offered before the king. She is devastated to be torn from her family and friends, but she has no choice. Her uncle had warned her that if she were to be taken, never to reveal that she is a Jew. It is immediately noted by the soldiers and the eunuchs who work with the girls to get them ready to present to the king, that there is something special about this girl. She is given the Persian name of Esther, which means star. And when she is presented to Xerxes almost two years after being taken to the palace, not only does he fall in love with her immediately, but Esther feels the same about him. They are married and Esther is now Queen of Persia. She is not only beautiful, but also wise and caring and the people love her for her kind ways. And she and King Xerxes are truly in love with each other.


 But Haman does not like the King listening to anyone but himself and he plots to kill both Xerxes and Esther. Mordecai who manages to warn Esther discovers the plot and she tells the King.  When the conspirators name Haman in the plot, Xerxes will not believe that his Prime Minister is anything but loyal to him and he continues placing his trust in Haman. Haman has become so power mad that he demands that all of the King's subjects bow down to him, and one day he sees that Mordecai will not bow down when he passes. This happens on several occasions and when Haman discovers that Mordecai is a Jew, he vows to not only kill Mordecai but also kill all of the Jews in the kingdom. He knows that Xerxes will never knowingly allow this, but he tricks him into putting the King's seal on an irrevocable edict that demands the destruction of the Jewish people. This sets into motion a chain of events leading to Esther's revelation that she is Jewish, unmasking Haman as the traitor he is, and the desperate attempt to find a way to stop the terrible consequences that will result if the edict is carried out. 


 As I read If I Perish, I was in awe of the vast amount of research that Deborah Turner did in order to provide the wealth of detail that permeates every page of this wonderful story. Although I thought I knew this story well, it was as if I was hearing it for the first time. If you are looking for a beautifully written and all-encompassing read, If I Perish should be the next book on your list. It is the next best thing to having a time machine of your own.


An Interview with Deborah R. Turner



To start this off, why don't you give an idea of what the book is about? 


Esther is removed from her modest Jewish family in Susa and thrust into the luxurious, decadent court of the Persian king, Xerxes. She must compete for the position of Queen against hundreds of other virgins. After a year of intense preparation, Esther is called before the King. He falls in love with her and declares her the Queen.


Just as she is adjusting to her new life, she is swept up into a storm of intrigue and terror. And edict has been written and stamped with her husband's seal that will end not only her life, but those of the entire Jewish race. Faced with peril at every turn, uncertain whom she can trust, Esther must carefully weave her way through a tangled web of palace intrigues before she can expose the man who plots not only the death of a nation, but schemes to seize the throne.



Where did you grow up and was reading and writing a part of your life?


I grew up in Ethiopia, East Africa. My parents were missionaries and I attended boarding school there. There wasn't much to do during our two-hour Sunday rest-hours, so I read Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Emma, the Narnia Series, The Lord of the Rings Series and the Hobbit, and other classics just for fun. I also read any British comic books I could get my hands on.


I have always had stories in my head, but only began putting them to paper in High School, when one of my friends encouraged me. They weren't very good, and I threw them out. In college I would hand in twenty page essays on Shakespeare when everyone else handed in three; my professor was always saying, "This is great, but could you please shorten it?"


I finally started writing in earnest when I was pregnant with my first child and was pretty much housebound. I'd always been interested in the Biblical story of Esther and decided to write her story. The story came together and I was hooked on writing from thereafter.


Who were your earliest influences and why? 

My family, the missionaries, the country of Ethiopia, and it's people. Ethiopia is a beautiful land with an ancient history it is part of the Persian Empire at the time of Xerxes glorious people, and wonderful food. It shaped me, as did the faith of the missionaries I knew.


What would a typical day be like for a writer?

I typically get up around 9 a.m., shower, drink a cup of coffee, take the second one into the office and read my e-mail, answering anything important right away.  Then I start writing. I try to finish a chapter a week; for me that's five to seven pages a day. Sometimes it goes quickly, other days it's like pulling teeth. I fix dinner, then sit down and write a bit more. If things are going real well in my story, I may just stay up and work all night or until the ideas stop flowing.   If I'm stuck, and the ideas won't come at all, I might do something completely different like take a bath and read a book that has nothing to do with my subject.



How long have you been writing and in what capacities?


I've been writing since high school. I was part of the high school newspaper, doing biographical stories on students and teachers. I was the editor of a Rhododendron Society newsletter, and have also done business stories when I worked on a local newspaper. Mostly though, I've written freelance articles for the last 20 years.



Which is more difficult to write - Fiction or nonfiction and why?


I think non-fiction is harder to write.  For me, it's getting all the facts straight. I love to do biographies of people and with that, I have to make sure all my data is correct.


My fiction is historical, and again, I have to make sure that if I'm putting real, historical people into the book, that my facts are right. It takes lots and lots of research, but it's still easier than doing straight non-fiction for me.



Has there ever been a time when you wanted to throw in the towel and give up? And if so, how did you defeat those instincts?


Lots of times. I often question myself, my talent, my writing. I think this is good, because it makes me work hard until I get it right. I read books on writing, or other great writers, trying to figure out what makes them so good.


Sometimes I get stuck and can't seem to get the story move on and want to quit. I defeat this by doing "what if" scenarios in my head until something clicks. Or I read my character back-stories to see what motivates them. What do they want most?


I guess it comes down to pure stubbornness. I simply refuse to give up.  I love to write.



What is the hardest part about being a writer?


Doing it every day, rain or shine, good times and bad. The hardest part is sitting at the computer, staring at a paragraph, trying to figure out why it's not working and knowing I can't go on until I get it right.



Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?


I love to crochet afghans, paint ceramic and plaster houses, and cook gourmet meals. I think they give me a break from writing and a chance to let my mind work quietly in the background and come up with some ideas. I also love to read, which will often spark ideas, too, and drive me back to the computer.



Articles and media alike make it sound as though the only way to rise to the top is to sacrifice. What do you find to be good sacrifices?


The sacrifices I make are small ones, like TV or going shopping or out to eat with friends. I do all these things, but not all the time. I'm not sure, its not so much sacrificing things, as being disciplined.  I work every day and fit extra activities in at night or at the weekends, usually Sunday.



What question do you get asked more than any other?


Where do you get your ideas? I still can't answer that; the ideas are just there.



Whats the coolest thing a reader has said to you?


"I didnt want the book to end."



What has been your feedback from readers? What do they say to you about their interpretations of your book?


My readers have been enthusiastic about If I Perish. They feel as if they are actually in the story, and they love the vivid descriptions of the exotic palace. Most tell me that once they started it, they couldn't put it down until they finished the book. One told me he liked my book because there weren't a lot of storylines going at the same time. It was just one story from beginning to end.



Do you think that as a writer you are more prone to watching what goes on around you and observing behaviors than most people are?


I've always been a people watcher. I love to see how they walk, how they eat, how they interact with others. I'm also an inveterate eavesdropper, especially in restaurants and grocery store checkout lines.  It all ends up in my books.



Who are some of the authors you consider to be "don't miss"?


Rita Gerlach, Marcyle Taliaferro, Betsie Romero, H.B. Marcus, Gus Filegar, Dan Coleman, Erin Elder, Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, Amanda Quick, Mary Balough, Julia Quinn, Ann Maxwell, Jayne Castle, Ann Rule, Agatha Christie, Jane Austin, Shakespeare.


**Now thats a list!



If one were looking to start his/her own career as a writer, what would you suggest his/her first step to be?


Read! Read every book by your favourite author, then read other books in that general category. Join Writer's Digest Book Club and get some of the excellent books on writing, both generally and in the genre you want to write. Then, sit down, write out a sketch of the story it doesn't have to be long figure out your characters and write their stories, from birth to death.  Characterization is the single most important element in a book. If you know your people know their lives, their wants, their dreams, as well as you know your own, your story will live.



What kind of movies do you enjoy?


Star Wars, Titanic, Indiana Jones (all of them), Tomb Raider, Lord of the Rings Series, Harry Potter. All of these movies have great characters, people I want to know.



What is your favorite city to visit, but one that you wouldnt want to live in?


Seattle, WA.



Whats the strangest question youve ever been asked in an interview?


"Have you experienced everything youve written about?"  I had to say no, since my story took place thousands of years ago, but yes, I was able to draw on my background in Ethiopia, for some of the descriptions.


*** Hey we actually got an answer to this one!!



Whats the best part of being a writer?


The writing. I look forward to sitting down every day and putting words on paper. The other best part is the interaction and friendship with all the other authors I've met. I've been truly blessed by my association with Publish America and it's wonderful stable of authors.



What's next?


I am currently working on a book set in 1888 New York City, at the time the Astors and the Vanderbilts ruled Society. I'm hoping to finish it by this time next year. 




This has been a wonderful time spent with author, Deborah Turner and hope to read more of her material in the future. Best of luck to her from Betsie's Literary Page.