24 February 2015

Author Q&A Session #34: With Sherry Jones

Hello and Good Evening Folks,
In another new author interview session, we have another international best-selling author, Sherry Jones, who is the author of the controversial "The Jewel of Medina" and other historical fiction novels. Well Jones is here to talk about her new book, The Sharp Hook of Love, her journey and her life beyond books. Read the interview to know more about this amazing author.

Read the review of The Sharp Hook of Love here

Me: Hello and welcome to my blog, Sherry. Congratulations on your new book, The Sharp Hook of Love: A Novel of Heloise and Abelard. Can you share with us the story behind your book, The Sharp Hook of Love: A Novel of Heloise and Abelard?

Sherry: In Europe and the West, Heloise and Abelard are the most famous lovers of all time. Their love was very passionate, and also tragic, in the tradition of Romeo and Juliet and Tristan and Isolde. During their time, in 115 Paris, they were both very well known, also: Abelard was the most famous philosopher in France, very intelligent, and his arrogance made him many enemies. He was also a handsome poet  whose beautiful love songs made women swoon. Heloise, a young, innocent woman who had been raised and educated in a convent, was an expert in languages and literature, a rare female scholar who became Abelard’s student. In her uncle’s house, they studied together but, as Abelard wrote, soon their hands strayed from their books to each other’s bodies, and they began a love affair in her uncle’s house, without his knowledge. When he discovered them, he wreaked a terrible revenge upon Abelard, forcing the lovers to part for the rest of their lives. But, as their letters show, their love for each other endured until their deaths. It’s a beautiful, inspiring tale that has much to teach us about the true meaning of love.

Me: What was your source of inspiration behind this book, The Sharp Hook of Love: A Novel of Heloise and Abelard?

Sherry: I heard of them in a series of lectures on philosophy in the Middle Ages, and instantly knew I wanted to tell their tale. Although it has been told many times, in poems, songs, books, art, and films — even in a Broadway play — I wanted to write something new and different, one that explored their passion and their deep love. Writing about love truly and in a way that’s not overly sentimental is one of the most difficult tasks a writer can attempt, I think, and I love to challenge myself.

Me: How did you research to dig deeper into the history of Heloise and Abelard's love affair? Did you travel extensively to Paris to bring alive the 12th century timeline in your book?

Sherry: I read all their biographies and their letters, including 113 “lost love letters” recently discovered and translated from Latin into English. I read Abelard’s philosophical writings, as well. I read the works that Heloise would have read, too, by Boethus and Seneca and Cicero and Ovid, and many scholarly works about them. I traveled to Paris to see where they lived with her uncle, and to see their tomb in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, and I visited the Museum of the Middle Ages at the former Cluny monastery to learn about the time in which they lived. I also visited The Cloisters museum in New York City, for the same reason, and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago to see the world’s largest collection of astrolabes, which was so important to the couple somehow that they named their son “Astrolabe."

Me: Tell us one trait of Heloise and Abelard that intrigue you the most.

Sherry: Their undying love for each other, in spite of all the obstacles society placed between them. After Heloise became abbess of one of France’s most prominent convents and Abelard became an abbot, she, especially, worried that God would keep them apart in paradise as they had been kept apart on Earth. Legend says they were buried together — and that when Heloise died, they opened the coffin to place her body next to his, and he opened his arms to receive her.

Me: What did you expect from your readers to draw away from, after reading your book, The Sharp Hook of Love: A Novel of Heloise and Abelard?

Sherry: I hope readers are challenged to examine their own ideas of love’s meaning, and how it differs for each of us. In today’s world, longevity seems to be our greatest challenge. We are so quick to end every love affair when things aren’t going the way we want them to — we have become a “throwaway” culture, always after the next big thing, instead of working out our problems and recognizing that true love is precious and so, so rare.

Me: What was your source of inspiration behind your debut book, The Jewel of Medina? And how did Aisha, your protagonist, intrigue you to weave a story about her life and time?

Sherry: I wanted to tell A’isha’s story because she exemplifies strength and courage, and did so in her time, as well. She is a very inspiring figure to me. And her relationship to the Prophet Muhammad, as well as that of her sister-wives, shows that, contrary to what we believe, women were not second-class citizens in the early Muslim community. Women were treated as equals to men, fighting alongside men in battles, praying alongside men in the mosque, and serving as trusted advisors to Muhammad. Only after his death did the role of women in Islam begin to change, at the will of men who did not like their new egalitarian role and wanted to return them to the lower status they’d held before Islam was revealed to Muhammad. I hoped that Muslim women, too, would see this and be inspired to reclaim their rightful role within their faith. Muhammad said, “We  are all made from a single soul."

Me: Describe your journey so far as an author. And was it always your one true dream to be an author?

Sherry: I have wanted to write books since I was a young child. When I was in the second grade, a child of seven, my teacher praised me in front of the class and predicted that, someday, I would be an author. For many years I dreamed of becoming a novelist but I never knew what to write about, or how to do it. I did not find my first subject — A’isha, and the origins of Islam — until I was 41 years old. I worked on “The Jewel of Medina” while also working part-time as a newspaper journalist and finishing my college education, and being a single mother to my young daughter. I graduated from the university in 2006 with the highest honors, and found a publisher for “The Jewel of Medina” and its sequel, “The Sword of Medina” in 2007. Random House bought the rights to both books — but unfortunately, just a few months before publication, my publisher canceled, fearing that Muslim extremists would be offended by these books and attack them. When the news came out about their decision, media around the world clamored to interview me. Many tried to get me to say something negative about Islam or Muslims, but I refused. I endured death threats and a lot of stress and fear, especially after my UK publisher was attacked and canceled publication of the books, but A’isha inspired me to live courageously. The ending is a happy one: I have a U.S. publisher (although not one in the UK) and these books have been published in 19 languages worldwide, and are best-sellers in a number of countries.

Me: How will you describe your normal writing day? And how do you get away from the stress of a long day's work?

Sherry: I write freelance, also, which takes up four hours every day. Otherwise, I am reading and writing constantly, working on my next book, and trying to promote my other books. I also study French and try to get some exercise daily. I spend a lot of time caring for my home, too, which is a small but beautiful historic house, and I play piano when I can. Because I work at home, though, I have to get out of the house most evenings. I spend time at night with my many friends, dining, going out for drinks, enjoying great conversations, and dancing to live music. Dancing helps me work out my stress more than anything else.

Me: What's next up on your writing sleeves? Please tell us briefly about it.

Sherry: I’m working on a novel, under contract with Simon & Schuster, about the great early-20th-century comedienne, dancer, and singer Josephine Baker. She was an African-American woman from New York who won the heart of Paris, and became a spy in the French Resistance during World War II as well as a civil rights activist advocating for desegregation in the U.S., where blacks were treated very poorly. Another very inspiring woman!

Me: Thanks so much Sherry for sparing time to have this interview session with me for my blog. I can only wish you luck in all your future endeavors.

Sherry: Thank you for your support of my writing and my career, Aditi. I must say that the people of India have astonished me with their affection, and with their love for my books. I invite everyone to come to my website and join my mailing list.
Sherry's Bio:

Sherry Jones is an American journalist and internationally best selling author of the controversial "The Jewel of Medina" and other historical fiction novels about women's power. She is also a speaker on issues including women's rights, free speech, and Islamophobia.

Her latest novel, THE SHARP HOOK OF LOVE, tells of the forbidden love affair between two of the Middle Ages' greatest intellectuals: Peter Abelard, headmaster of the Notre-Dame Cloister School and a poet whose good looks and love songs make women swoon; and Heloise d'Argenteuil, a beautiful woman scholar being groomed by her uncle to become an abbess. This erotic, passionate story about the sacrifices we make for love debuts Nov. 25 from Simon and Schuster's Gallery Books.

Connect With Sherry On:  Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Youtube 


  1. I think such a strong romance story would be interesting to read! Especially as it looks like the author has done a lot of detailed research into it as well - I can't imagine having to read 113 letters!

  2. Moreover, the story is a real one. And it's a great historical romance book.


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