To celebrate her latest release, Myra is giving away one (1) copy of "The Sweetest Rain" (hard copy - US ONLY). To enter, go to the Rafflecopter box at the end of this post. The last day to enter is September 30, 2015. If you are the randomly chosen winner, I will contact you and then pass your information along to Myra. Good luck!
Inspiration behind the story…
After I completed my post-WWI romance series, Till We Meet Again, my editor suggested a new series set in the 1930s. I picked up several books about the era, including one with personal accounts of survivors of the Great Depression in Arkansas. Ideas started percolating, especially as I read about the devastating drought of 1930-31. I imagined three sisters living on a struggling tenant farm and the hopes and dreams they might hold dear. I chose the name Eden for the community where they lived because of the sharp contrast between the searing heat of that Arkansas summer and the lush beauty of the biblical Eden. Then it seemed only natural to give the three girls flower names—Bryony, Larkspur, and Rose—reminders of something pretty, green, and growing, and the hope of better days to come.
As it turned out, the publishing house I had been working with changed course, so for a while I wondered if I’d have the opportunity to see these stories in print. I was thrilled when my agent found another home for them with Franciscan Media!
Bryony Linwood dreams of a different life. Instead, her reality includes raising her sisters on their grandfather’s struggling tenant farm in Arkansas during the middle of a drought. Food is scarce and their money is about gone. Bryony devises a plan which she hopes will help them keep their farm. Unfortunately, it involves working as a housemaid for Sebastian Heath, their strict landlord who is seemingly without compassion.
Michael Heath is trying to forget the war he barely survived, all the while struggling with shell shock and damage from mustard gas. The one thing that brings him any solace is drawing, particularly botanical illustrations. His father, however, is pressuring him to join in the family business of overseeing the plantation, which Michael vows not to do.
Days are long for Bryony, as she spends all day working at the mansion and then goes home to care for her sisters. She begins to develop feelings for Michael, which is something that could only lead to problems for both of them if his father were to find out. However, the heart wants what the heart wants. Is it possible for them to move beyond their positions and have a future together? Or will Michael bow to his father’s wishes to protect all he holds dear?
There is so much to say about this book, starting with the wonderful cover that is closely linked to the main character, Bryony, who has a beautiful name. She is a strong, independent heroine who is willing to do whatever it takes to hold her family together. Some scenes have a bit of a Gone with the Wind feel to them, particularly in the discussions of plantations. Johnson educates the reader along the way on various topics, such as the harsh realities during the Great Depression, racial division, Alzheimer’s disease, and the England Food Riot of 1931. The characters also demonstrate sacrificial love, which may remind the reader of what God did for us through Jesus. This book was different from what I normally read, but I found it to be extremely engaging. I told myself, “Just one more chapter.” on more than one occasion! I look forward to reading the second book in the series.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Q & A with Myra…
Q: What are your thoughts on the publishing industry, particularly in relation to self-publishing?
A: There are certainly a lot more options for getting published these days, and the stigma of self-publishing isn’t what it once was. Unfortunately, there are still a few companies out there ready to lock uninformed writers into expensive self-publishing deals and then give them nothing for their money except a garage full of books they then have to sell themselves.
Personally, I’m happy to be a hybrid author, both traditionally and independently published. Having your book contracted by a reputable publishing house gives an air of credibility and (usually) the assurance of skilled editing and at least some level of in-house marketing and promotion. Independent publishing, on the other hand, gives the author full control over content, design, and production, and also can be a viable alternative when the story doesn’t easily fit into a single marketable genre—true of my novel Pearl of Great Price.
However, I can’t help but be concerned about the growing number of self-published books now available on Amazon and through other independent sources. Authors who invest in quality editing and attractively designed covers have an edge that I hope won’t be undercut by those who are just throwing their books out there without the benefit of professional input.
Q: What would you be doing if you were not an author?
A: It would probably be something animal-related, like fostering rescue dogs or volunteering at an animal shelter. Several years ago, before my writing career began to take so much time, my husband and I volunteered several hours a week at a therapeutic horseback riding center. I’d probably still be doing that if we hadn’t moved from the area and the writing life hadn’t gotten so busy.
Q: What advice do you have for new authors?
A: First, naturally, I’d invite them to visit Seekerville, my group blog devoted to teaching and encouraging others along the writing journey. The archives are filled with instructional and motivational posts about writing. I’d also recommend joining a writers group and connecting with a critique partner whose opinions and skills you respect. And read! Read lots and lots and lots of books in your chosen genre. Not only will you get a feel for what editors are publishing and readers are buying, but you’ll learn which publishing houses would be the best fit for your stories.
Q: What is the next project you are working on?
A: I just turned in book two in my “Flowers of Eden” series and am ready to start writing the third book, which will feature Rose, the youngest of the three Linwood sisters. Set on the family tenant farm in 1933-34, this book will tell the love story of Rose and her longtime best friend, Caleb Wieland, both of whom were first introduced in The Sweetest Rain.
Q: What is your favorite writing-related book?
A: Probably the most helpful instructional book I’ve ever read is Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. If I had to recommend just one book to an aspiring writer, that would be the one. A close second is Dr. Stanley Williams’s The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue & Vice for Box Office Success. Stan’s teachings have helped me tremendously to identify the single universal truth at the heart of each story and make sure this truth is reflected in each character’s growth and plot development.
Q:PC or Mac?
A: Mac, definitely! I’ve been an Apple convert since 2007!
Q: City or country?
A: A little of each, preferably. I like being near the city for shopping, restaurants, etc., but I prefer a “country” feel—a little space between us and the neighbors, lots of trees, birds and wildlife in abundance (except the creepy-crawly kind!).
Q: Cat or dog?
A: I love them both! For several years, though, we’ve just had dogs (two rescue pooches these days). A grandson was severely allergic to cats, so since our last cat went to kitty heaven, we haven’t gotten another.
Q: Introvert or extrovert?
A: Terribly, incurably introverted!
Q: Tea or coffee?
A: Earl Grey every morning, the occasional decaf after dinner or with a yummy slice of pie.
Q: Mountains or ocean?
A: I love the beach! Mountains make me a little claustrophobic.
Q: Winter or summer?
A: Definitely summer. Give me a warm, sunny day anytime! Snow is pretty to look at once or twice a year, but I despise being cold.
Q: Casual or dressy?
A: Um, all I can say is, I’m glad you can’t see what I’m wearing right now! (And I guarantee it isn’t dressy!)
Q: Twitter or Facebook?
A: Both, for different reasons. But keeping up can be so hard!
Q: Mexican food or Italian food?
A: Both, just not at the same time—LOL! And make mine Tex-Mex since I grew up in the Texas Rio Grande Valley!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Myra. I'm sure my readers will enjoy getting to know you a bit better :) And, I totally agree with you about creepy-crawly bugs and being a casually dressed introvert!
Award-winning author Myra Johnson writes emotionally gripping stories about love, life, and faith. Her historical romance When the Clouds Roll By won the 2014 Christian Retailing’s Best award for historical fiction. Myra is also a two-time finalist for the ACFW Carol Award and winner of the 2005 RWA Golden Heart. Married since 1972, Myra and her husband have two beautiful daughters and seven grandchildren. They reside in beautiful North Carolina near four of their grandchildren, but as a native Texan Myra sorely misses real Texas barbecue and those gorgeous bluebonnets every spring! The Johnsons share their home with two pampered rescue dogs.
Readers can keep up with the latest by subscribing to my e-newsletter (http://myrajohnson.com/newsletter-signup/) or visiting me online at the links below:
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/MyraJohnsonAuthor
Twitter: @MyraJohnson and @TheGrammarQueen
The Seekers blog: http://seekerville.blogspot.com/
Amazon link for purchase...
a Rafflecopter giveaway