I’m happy to welcome the years first guest to My Novel Opinion. Julie Christine Johnson is about to launch her debut novel, In Another Life, in to the wild. A novel that Greer Macallister, author of The Magician’s Lie said was, “Delicate and haunting, romantic and mystical.”
Here I leave you to learn more about the book, the author and how writing helped Julie overcome grief.
In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson
It is January 1208 and in a village on the border between Provence and Languedoc, a monk whispers a benediction over the body of a slain papal emissary. The Cathars—followers of a heretical faith—are blamed for the assassination. The Pope declares a holy war and Languedoc is forever changed.
Eight hundred years later, historian Lia Carrer returns to southern France to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. Instead of finding solace in Languedoc’s quiet hills and medieval ruins, the woman trying to heal risks love, and loss, again.
Reincarnation is familiar ground for Lia—an expert in the mystical beliefs of the ancient Cathar faith—but to reconcile the truth of that long-ago assassination, the logical researcher must accept religious fantasy as historical fact. Three lost souls enter her life, each holding a key to the murder that launched a religious crusade in the heart of Europe.
In Another Life is set amidst the medieval intrigue of thirteenth century Languedoc and Paris, intertwined with Lia’s modern quest to uncover the truth of an ancient murder and free a man haunted by ghosts from his past.
February 2nd, 2016 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Writing to Heal: How Grief Brought Me to the Page
by Julie Christine Johnson
June 2012: My first writers’ conference. I entered trembling, wondering if there was a secret handshake, if I was too young or too old, if it was written all over my face that I did not have the all-important work-in-progress. Famous Writers wandered about, a Poet Laureate or two; Literary Agents took 5-minute pitch appointments; aspiring and published authors clutched notebooks and tablet computers—their dreams penned on college-ruled pages or stored on a flash drive.
For the next three days, I learned how to seduce with a sentence and pack premise into a novel; I scribbled pages of notes on story-boarding techniques; I held my breath as a panel held court on Breathing Life into Characters. I came away from each session with concrete ideas to put into practice. I was inspired, motivated and overwhelmed.
Writing had always been a distant fantasy, one I stored high on a shelf. Fear kept me from taking it down and trying it out, because if I failed, what dreams would be left to me? It was safer to pretend I still had the option. Yet as I crested forty-one, I became less afraid of failure and more worried that my chances to begin again were shrinking.
Taking that dream down from the shelf and blowing off the dust, I began attending writing workshops in Seattle, and then experienced the joy of having stories accepted for publication. I stepped into that writers’ conference in the summer of 2012 with three ideas for a novel, hoping to find a way into one of them, to learn how to channel my thoughts into something real on the page.
I was also ten weeks’ pregnant, my heart as full of hope as my body was with life.
Just before the conference’s final session, I dashed into a bathroom to pee. Pulling down my underwear, I saw what I hadn’t felt: bright red blood. I sat on the toilet with my head between my legs as the world went gray.
This wasn’t the first loss, but I knew it would be the last. I was forty-three. After years of unexplained infertility, attempted adoptions, then the unexpected pregnancies, miscarriages, and surgeries, my body was battered and my soul couldn’t take any more. It was time to stop.
Those years of attempting to be a mother came to a definitive end at that writers’ conference. Yet something else sparked to life: a determination to find a way not only to cope with the despair, but to celebrate the life I did have, to create something beyond and greater than myself.
Two weeks after the conference, I typed the opening words to my first novel, the novel that became In Another Life. I didn’t set out to write about a woman recovering from grief, about the impermanence of death, the possibility of rebirth—of the body and the heart. In fact, I thought I had chosen the one story that would take me furthest from my own reality: a past-present adventure exploring a 13th century murder in southern France. Funny what the heart does when the head is distracted. It works to heal.
I write, because writing is how I create life.
About Julie Christine Johnson
Julie Christine Johnson’s short stories and essays have appeared in several journals, including Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt, and the anthologies Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss. She holds undergraduate degrees in French and Psychology and a Master’s in International Affairs.
Her second novel, The Crows Of Beara, a finalist in the Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature, has sold to Ashland Creek Press for publication in fall 2017. In this work of women’s fiction, a struggling American PR executive and an enigmatic Irish artist face off over the development of a copper mine in rural Ireland, finding love and redemption amid the rugged, mystical land.
A runner, hiker, and wine geek, Julie makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington State with her husband. In Another Life is her first novel.