YA Review & Interview: FORBIDDEN by Kimberley Griffiths Little

Today I’m thrilled to feature an interview with Kimberley Griffiths Little for her new young adult historical, FORBIDDEN, which takes readers much further into history than the typical historical novel. Take a look at this gorgeous trailer for a glimpse.

Kimberley graciously answered questions for me about the five things I loved best.

1. When I first read about your research into belly-dancing, I imagined a very different setting for this story. I had no idea it was 1759 BC in the deserts of Mesopotamia. I felt like I’d been transported into the Old Testament! What kinds of texts did you refer to as research for the customs and daily life of this time? Did you get to travel?

I did use the Old Testament – mostly for names, though, but Abraham is one of my favorite prophets and his story is quite heart-breaking. He was also a nomad who had tents and camels and goats. I used to teach the Bible to teenagers several years ago—and it was definitely inspiring and helped me get into the time period. I also spent years reading about the Middle East; Bedouin tribes and their history, culture, food, and goat hair tents. I own one very *thick* book that has 200 pages just about camels.

I did a lot of reading about the roots of belly dance and what an important part of the women’s world the dance was for childbirth, betrothals, marriage, and death. The dance was a huge part of the goddess temples and religion. Those clashing cultures and worship beliefs were a ready-made contrast.

Last year I made my dream trip: I got to visit Jordan and the world wonder of Petra (a very important and romantic chapter takes place in Petra!) although it belonged to the Edomite tribe in 1750s BC. Breath-taking scenery, friendly people, great food; it was a fabulous, awe-inspiring and spiritually uplifting trip as we also spent 10 days in Israel.

Pinterest (I have a Board with fabulous pictures of Petra’s stunning landscape and the Bedouins who live there—and Bedouin-decorated camels! Plus Middle Eastern and Belly Dance boards!)

2. I love the way the romance grows between Jayden and Kadesh. How did you come up with these two characters? Did they come to you easily, or did you have to create one to complement the other?

Who doesn’t love a mysterious, dark and handsome stranger?! I started dreaming about this book 11 years ago . . . the characters came to me fairly easily after all the research because I knew I wanted to write a story about a character who was a true girl of the desert and how much her home and family meant to her, but I was also researching the mysterious frankincense lands far to the south along the Arabian Sea (the modern country of Oman) so creating her love interest in a boy from those secret lands made for a perfect contrast.

3. I loved all the complex layers you created for Jayden. She had to deal with not just the struggle of her unwanted betrothal but also multiple family issues and tribal politics. Did you have all of those layers in mind when you began the story, or did some come into play later?

The tribal politics was developed more fully during later drafts. I wanted to raise the stakes with every draft, and the character’s complexities and motivations grew and refined. It just seems to take time, right? And sometimes it also takes brainstorming with your trusted crit friend or a son who is a bookworm and brilliant at story structure. 🙂 I’m lucky!

4. Ok, fun question! Dancing is such an integral part of Jayden’s tribe and her own identity. Did you learn some belly-dancing yourself to get into her character?

Absolutely! It was the original spark, actually. And, um, I performed once! Scary, but fun, too!

For years the idea of belly dance was intriguing to me; mystical, sensuous, and yet so beautiful and mesmerizing to watch. How they move their muscles and hands is incredible! I also love this ancient dance because any women of any age or any size can dance this style—and they all look beautiful.

5. I’m fascinated by how different this book is from your others. You switched not only categories, but also genres, jumping from contemporary middle grade with a hint of magic to historical young adult. How did you adjust your mindset to such a different style of writing?

It’s funny because I’ve been simultaneously writing both MG and YA books for 15 years. It just took longer to publish the YA historical trilogy.

During the decade of the 2000’s everything was vampires, werewolves, fairies, and boys in wizard school. 🙂 Historical fiction definitely took a back seat, but it’s coming baaack! Book genres are cyclical. For instance, during the decade of the 2000’s contemporary YA was also dead, and now it’s being published by the millions and getting made into movies. Contemporary YA is the hot *new* genre. Well, tell that to someone like Richard Peck who wrote fantastic contemp YA during the 1990s!

My other historical fiction: In 2002 I published a book with Random House called The Last Snake Runner. It’s time travel and based on the true story of a New Mexico tribe who lives in a village on top of a 400-foot mesa. It’s a war story with Spanish conquistadors who came through the Southwest in 1599 and waged a 3-day war with the local tribe, eventually burning the village and taking them into slavery. Cannons and guns versus stones and slings! There are snakes and a girl in the past and heart-breaking consequences. Many middle schools use this book because there are no other MG/YA books about the history of the Southwest—that both boys and girls really enjoy. I brought it back into a print book and Kindle edition this past spring. AMAZON LINK

Thank you so much for having me, Michelle!

Thank you, Kimberley! And here’s where you can find her:


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