My guest today is Sharon Alice Geyer, the author of a trilogy set in the Middle East: The Samson Option, The Time of Jacob's Trouble, and the upcoming The Return of the Mahdi, plus her memoir Daughter of Jerusalem. Sharon is a fellow member of Lagunita Writers Group in Southern California. I'd love for you to get to know this interesting woman.
Lorna: What was your inspiration for the character of Ari?
An infant boy was found abandoned and brought to the Baby Home where I worked in Jerusalem. I loved this little fellow, who eventually was adopted by a kibbutz family. The grown-up Ari is a figment of my imagination.
Lorna: Did you meet people like Lily who had been diagnosed with the Jerusalem syndrome? Is it an existing condition?
I met several people who exhibited certain delusions, which would qualify as the Jerusalem Syndrome. It definitely is a known phenomenon to doctors in Jerusalem.
Lorna: We have visited Israel ourselves and remember many of the spots in the novels. We are transported back there through your books. You vividly describe all the locations Ari and Lily pass through in their journeys. Did you yourself visit all of them?
Yes, I have lived and traveled extensively in Iran, Israel, the West Bank, and the Sinai. The only exception is Damascus. I have never been there, but surely would love to visit “Straight Street” some day in the future.
Lorna: Does the convent garden in Jerusalem where Lily uncovers the inscription actually exit?
Yes, the convent belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church, located in a neighborhood near Jerusalem called Ain Karem. This is the traditional hometown of John the Baptist.
Lorna: The brothers, Daniel and Eli, are pivotal characters towards the end, but their personal motivations seem vague at the end of the first book. Was this deliberate? They reappear in the second. Will they reappear in the last book in the trilogy?
My plotting is done more from the subconscious level than anything deliberate. But yes, Dan and Eli are important characters. They appear in the sequel The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, and the final book in the trilogy called The Return of the Mahdi.
Lorna: Is the character of Lily based on someone you know?
Lily is perhaps an amalgam of many people I have known. But other characters, like Dr. Hepzibah Klein and Rachel, are based on real people.
Lorna: Are any of the situations or characters based on your own life?
Yes, the nurse, Miss Queller, who is murdered in the chapter one, is based on my life as a baby nurse. I changed her nationality and home country to make it not so apparent.
Sharon Alice Geyer was born and raised in California where she met and married her first husband, an Iranian national. After the births of two sons, she returned with him to Iran. Her naïve dreams of living as a Persian princess were soon shattered, and her life became so dangerous her only option was escape. However, the price for her freedom was leaving her sons behind. She became an exile in Israel in the hope of regaining her children. She returned to the United States in 1989 where she lives today with her second husband, an archaeobotanist. Her sons now live nearby and she has a close relationship with them and her grandchildren. Read all about her fascinating life in her memoir, Daughter of Jerusalem.