Author Merida Johns joins me today to chat about her women’s romance, Blackhorse Road.
During her virtual book tour, Merida will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky, randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops, and enter there, too!
Welcome, Merida. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
For three decades, I was a university professor who taught classes and wrote textbooks on “nerdy” subjects centering on computer systems in healthcare.
But a decade ago, informed by my experience in a male-dominated area, I started my practice as a leadership coach to help women break the glass ceiling and fulfill their leadership and economic potential. Consequently, during the past ten years, I transitioned from writing textbooks to motivational books on creating environments where people flourish through better leadership.
About a year ago, I was on a conference call discussing concepts of what makes a fulfilling life with fellow life coaches. Bang! Like a thunderclap, I had an insight. What would it be like to help people understand the concepts of a flourishing life in a story instead of through a motivational book or text? After all, I thought, storytelling has been the most compelling form of communication for thousands of years. As far as I could recall, none of the great prophets fed up learning objectives and multiple-choice questions to their followers. No! They got their message across through stories.
Motivational books and textbooks give frameworks, theories, and ideas, but they don’t immerse us in the human experience. They don’t show us how others face challenges, embrace their passions, overcome sorrow, celebrate achievement, quash self-doubts, develop positive emotions and relationships, handle betrayal, or act on aspirations.
Storytelling ignites our imagination and emotion. We experience being part of the story rather than being served up a platter of facts, exercises, and information.
This eye-opener was enough for me to take on the challenge of novel writing. My passion is to help people catapult beyond concepts and theories and jump into the wonderment of imagination in designing a flourishing life for themselves. Storytelling does this best.
Happily, as a fiction writer, I have jettisoned learning objectives and test questions. Ah…the freedom makes me feel as light as a balloon on a summer breeze.
Please share a little bit about your current release.
Blackhorse Road is a compelling story of emotional maturation, coming-of-age, romance, and womanhood that chronicles family conflict, a generational clash of beliefs, and the transforming power of choice, gratitude, and forgiveness.
It’s the turbulent mid-1960s, and Luci, an eighteen-year-old Southern California girl, is on the quest for self-determination and new beginnings. Three powerful forces influence her values: the grit of her Irish great-grandmother, Lucinda McCormick; the philosophy of choice of her father, Sam; and the 1960s ideals of equity and altruism. But potent foes thwart Luci at every turn. Her budding romance with a handsome United States Air Force Academy cadet sets the stage for conflict and deception that last for two decades. A betrayal set into motion by someone she should have been able to trust plunges her into despair. When Luci discovers how her autonomy and her love affair were hijacked, she struggles with anger and bitterness. But from a surprising source, she finds a forgiveness path that restores her well-being and hope and, in the end, faith in herself.
What inspired you to write this book?
After I retired from academia, I started my practice as a leadership coach to focus on helping women break the glass ceiling and fulfill their leadership and economic potential. During the past ten years, I transitioned from writing textbooks to motivational books on creating environments where people flourish through better leadership.
About three years ago, I was on a conference call with fellow life coaches, and we were discussing concepts of what makes a fulfilling life. Bang! Like a thunderclap, I had an insight. What would it be like to help people understand the concepts of a flourishing life in a story instead of through a motivational book or text? After all, I thought, storytelling has been the most compelling form of communication for thousands of years. As far as I could recall, none of the great Profits fed up learning objectives and multiple-choice questions to their followers. No! They got their message across through stories.
I was tired of writing motivational books and textbooks that give frameworks, theories, and ideas but don’t immerse readers in the human experience. Since I was ten-years-old, I had wanted to write fiction, but my professional career steered me in another direction.
Now, I saw an opportunity to follow the dream I had had as a child and write stories showing how ordinary people tackle challenges, live through sorrow and betrayal, struggle with doubt and act on their aspirations to achieve flourishing lives. There is nothing more satisfying to an author to receive feedback from readers describing how they have connected with the characters and become one with the story.
Excerpts from Blackhorse Road:Values, beliefs, and life philosophy form the backbone of Blackhorse Road characters. Book reviewer, Gayle Scroggs, suggests that “The exceptional self-awareness that the characters show is what stands out in Blackhorse Road.” The following excerpts give a hint about some of these.
Lucinda—Chapter 1: What defines a person are not one’s financial or physical attributes or beliefs. Instead, it’s the choices that one makes in surmounting life’s challenges.
Luci—Chapter 1: Conformity may make life seem more comfortable. But blind obedience, in time, frustrates and disappoints us. It is conformity that robs us of our hope and deprives us of improving ourselves and creating a better and fairer world.
Sam—Chapter 13: Life’s a journey,” Sam told his children. “You get to pick the highway, the destination, and transportation. You choose the provisions available on the way. You make the decisions. In the end, you are answerable for your actions, looking out for your best interests, and completing the journey.”
Geneviève—Chapter 19: Because some group or government bans a book, dear, doesn’t mean its material has nothing valuable to teach us. Make no mistake, Ma Bichette, governments and narrow-minded groups ban books because they challenge and teach people something important. Banned books are bold and provocative and confront issues that certain segments of the population want to sweep under the carpet.
Barry—Chapter 19: Being “in love” is a passion like the flames of a blistering fire that race across the prairie. It’s fierce and red, self-serving, and out of control. It feeds upon itself until there is nothing left. “To love,” though, is a passion like the embers of a flickering fire that lingers within the hearth. It’s gentle and glowing, crackles with surprise, and permeates the senses. It’s warm and steady. It rekindles itself, and it endures.
What exciting story are you working on next?
I am working on a women’s fiction novel tentatively titled Suzanna that begins in Columbus, Ohio, in the mid-1980s. Suzanna has her whole life in front of her like an open freeway or so she believes . . . The story is packed with challenges and hard decisions, as Suzanna strives to follow her North Star. The ending, like Blackhorse Road, has a surprising twist—this one, though, might raise the reader’s curiosity just enough to wonder if coincidences that edge on the paranormal might be real. Stay tuned!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
My first recollection of writing fiction was when I was about ten years old. What inspired that effort was a picture that hung in the dining room of my parents’ home. It was a moon-lit lake scene that screamed out that mystery lurked among the shadows cast from the trees on the shoreline. At the time, like most young girls in the 1950s, I was into Nancy Drew books. So, my first attempt at fiction involved some type of scary adventure along the shores of a secluded lake. Although I had minor attempts at writing short stories in high school, my fiction writing career was interrupted by authoring nonfiction works related to my career in health information systems and leadership.
As I mentioned earlier, about three years ago, I got back on the fiction writing track during a conference call in late 2017 with a group of fellow life coaches. As we were talking about what makes a flourishing life, I blurted out, “What would it be like to help women and men achieve a flourishing life through storytelling instead of another self-help book?”
After that phone call, I got started answering that question. Almost three years later, the result is my debut novel Blackhorse Road, a compelling story of womanhood and the power of choice, gratitude, and forgiveness.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I’m still connected with my previous profession, have coaching clients and help women develop in their leadership, but I consider writing women’s fiction my full-time profession. I spend at least eight hours a day on some aspect related to my fiction writing. When I’m in full swing into a story, I can devote sixteen hours or more a day to writing. I get immersed with my characters and their challenges and time stands still.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Music! When I was writing Blackhorse Road, the Four Seasons, the Everly Brothers, the Beach Boys, Dick Dale, Peter, Paul, and Mary and others put me in the 1960s mood and gave me inspiration. Now, writing my next novel, Suzanna, that is set in the early and mid-1980s, Neil Diamond, Phil Collins, and Elton John provide the necessary background that inspires me.
The Mindful Minute. Every hour I indulge in a mindful minute to elevate my awareness and keep me in the present. I take sixty seconds, sit in my chair and close my eyes and just listen to the sounds around me. I don’t judge the sounds but accept them with curiosity. When extraneous thoughts come into my mind, I acknowledge them and gently push them away and continue listening. That short mindful minute is a remarkable remedy for anxiety or worry.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?I hope that my stories raise readers’ awareness and curiosity and transport them to the most unexpected places within themselves. If Blackhorse Road achieves that, then I am grateful.
Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
Thank you for this opportunity to share Blackhorse Road with your readers.
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