Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writing a Western yet fears horses? - Author Interview with Sherri Wilson Johnson

When trusting others only leads to pain and rejection, and loving ends only in loss, what will it take to restore hope again? Shunned by the uncovered truth about her missing husband’s secret life, Cora Buchanan sets out on a road trip for home to mend her broken relationship with her parents. When her car breaks down, she’s stranded in a small Georgia town.

While staying at the struggling Southern Hope Ranch, she meets little Susie O’Reilly, who unexpectedly fills a void in Cora’s heart. But Rex, Susie’s rugged cowboy father who lost his wife a year earlier, seems to go out of his way to either confront or avoid Cora. It doesn’t help her comfort level that the news continues to report missing and murdered women in the area.

Cora has no idea just how close to home the crimes will hit…or how much the sweet sound of the meadowlark’s song at the ranch will impact her future.

Sneak peek at the first chapter!

View the book trailer here.
Sherri Wilson Johnson lives in Georgia with her husband and two children. She is represented by Les Stobbe, is a member of the ACFW, a graduate of the Christian Writers Guild writing course, an active blogger, and a former homeschooling mom.
She loves to dream of romantic places and romance in general–good, clean romance. She is a bird-watcher, loves the ocean, roller coasters, ice cream, her family and her Chihuahua, who faithfully sits by her side every day when she writes. Sherri is the author of To Dance Once More(OakTara) and Song of the Meadowlark (OakTara).
For more information about Sherri, check out her website here or severals blogs here and here. For more about her book, click here. You can also connect with her on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. 
Ten Questions for Sherri Wilson Johnson
What should readers know about your latest release? Does it differ from your past books, offer a new perspective on a familiar topic, or shed light on a unique situation?

Song of the Meadowlark is a contemporary romance set on a South Georgia ranch with an abandoned young woman and an ornery cowboy. My first novel, To Dance Once More, was a Victorian romance set in Florida. These books may be different when it comes to time period and setting, however, they are similar in many ways. They both deal with purity and waiting for the Lord’s best.

Song of the Meadowlark’s heroine, Cora Buchanan, is a married woman whose husband has abandoned her. She leaves the home they shared and decides to return to her parents who live two states away. They were against her marriage and now she needs to mend their fences, although she knows they will say, “I told you so.”

When she is stranded in a South Georgia town and begins to have feelings for Rex O’Reilly, she deals with a variety of emotions since she is still married. This was my first attempt at dealing with this kind of situation. My prayer is that I have pointed the reader to the Lord, while guiding my characters down the right path.
What was the main inspiration for the new book? Had the idea been on your mind for a while or just popped into it one day?

I had always wanted to write a cowboy story but wasn’t sure I could do it because I’m afraid of horses. I thought it might be kind of foreign to me and that my readers would pick up on it. But after I finished To Dance Once More, Song of the Meadowlark kept knocking at my mind’s door.

I originally set it in Wyoming because that’s where I thought all cowboy books had to be set. But it didn’t flow well because I’ve never been out west. I changed the setting to South Georgia and the rest is history. I wrote this book with the theme of forgiveness and starting over because those are two topics I know all too well.

The story deals with characters who have lost loved ones and who have had to learn to grieve and move on. I’ve lost both my parents and I suppose the emotions of the characters flowed naturally out of my experiences. Maybe I wrote it as a personal way of dealing with the losses and healing from them.

Why do you feel compelled to write—in your genre or at all?
I love romance! I love to make people feel “googly” inside. I think it’s awesome to be able to slip away in your mind for a bit and escape from one’s daily life. On a more serious note, I write because I want people to know the message God has placed on my heart. I have been married for almost twenty-five years.

In those twenty-five years, we’ve seen many friends experience failed marriages due to infidelity. We have two children who we raised to value their purity and to save it for the spouse God has for them. I’ve worked with youth ministry at church on and off for ten years and seen the devastation that comes when kids choose not to wait. And more recently I’ve become aware of the sex trafficking industry that plagues our world. These young people are trapped and do not have a choice in keeping their purity.

All of these things combined, plus knowing the Lord commands us to value our purity and to stay faithful to the one we marry, makes me passionate about doing whatever I can do to help others see the value in having sexual integrity whether they are single or married. Right now, writing Christian Romance and blogging on marriage is one way I accomplish that mission.

How has travel been involved in your writing and/or research? What’s been your most memorable research experience?
When I started my first novel, To Dance Once More, I knew I wanted it to be set at the beach because the beach is my favorite place to be. It is set in the Victorian era and my mind imagined long flowing gowns and walking on the sand with parasols in hand.

We took a trip to Panama City Beach, Florida that summer and I visited the few historical places I could find there, collected brochures, and really just daydreamed. When I came home and began writing, I could still smell the salt air and feel the surf crashing on my legs and the wind in my hair. It made the book real to me. Although I’ve traveled elsewhere since then, that trip brought me the most memorable research experience.
Who has inspired you the most on your writing journey—a loved one, fellow author, favorite teacher?

Oh, man, how much space do you have? Seriously, I have had so much encouragement throughout this journey it’s so hard to narrow it down. My husband has always been my greatest supporter. Of course, he dreams of the day when we can own a big farm and he can drive around on a tractor all day just for the heck of it, haha, so he wants me to keep writing until I get that best seller.
All of my family and friends have always encouraged me to never give up. Norm Rohrer, who was my writing instructor with the Christian Writers Guild when I took their writing course, encouraged me and corrected my errors but did it lovingly and kept telling me I had what it took to be a published writer. More recently my friend Brenda Lott, aka Maggie Brendan, has been a great encourager to me, as well as my agent, Les Stobbe, Jack Cavanaugh and Julie Lessman.

What surprised you the most about the writer’s journey—publication, representation, platform building, the writing itself?
I think it has all surprised me. Being published has opened many doors but not as many as I would have thought. Being represented by an agent has allowed me to walk through doors I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to. Building a platform is exhausting and no matter what you do, there seems to be something you could have done better or something that was a complete waste of time.

All of these things have surprised me. Something else that has surprised me is the reaction from so many non-writer friends that now that I have “achieved my goals” I should be happy and ready to move on to another “dream”. If you’re a writer, you know that you’re never finished. You’re never satisfied. You’re always on the quest to write the next great novel.
What has surprised me about the writing itself is that it always grows as I grow. Just when I think I can’t find a new way to express an emotion, God allows me to walk through a journey that brings a fresh perspective and gives me just the right thing to say.

If you could rewind time to when you began your pursuit of publication, what would you tell yourself?
I would tell myself to work hard on the query and proposal process as much as on writing the novel. Naiveté and a lack of knowledge about the industry can halt all of your efforts and cause you to want to give up. You can get lost in the writing and never get around to the marketing and you need to do both simultaneously or at least in short recurring cycles.

Now to have some fun with travel
What’s your favorite place you have visited?
As you know by now, I love the beach. I’m not really a sun-bunny though. I love to sit out in the mornings or evenings and drool over the ocean and the breezes. I do love to jump and play in the waves but my children say I’m too old and “mature” for that now.

This past summer my husband and I took our first ever week-long trip without the kids. We went to a place called Cedar Key, Florida. It was a quiet little town where everybody knows everybody and visitors are considered as residents. There wasn’t much to do there but for me to write and Dan to fish. We loved it!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be? Or would you return to somewhere you’ve already been?
I would love to go to Italy. I have seen it on travel shows and on HGTV relocation shows and would love to visit there. It looks so romantic! Of course, it may be a while before we can go somewhere that far away so I would cherish returning to Cedar Key or to Panama City Beach.

And now a fun tidbit—if there was one special travel destination just for writers and you were the founder of it, what would the name be and would it be located?
I think you may have guessed it would be at the beach…  :)

Let’s see, I can’t use Catch the Wave because that title already belongs to the Christian Authors Guild conference they hold in Atlanta each year. Maybe something like “Writing with the Tides”?

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