Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Guest Post by Julie Christine Johnson

Good morning, readers! I've been quiet this week - I've had my agent hat on preparing for an upcoming conference and reading through manuscripts. But today I have a treat for you - two posts, starting with a guest post from Julie Christine Johnson, whose latest book, The Crows of Beara, released this week.

Before I hand things over to Julie, here's a bit about the book from Goodreads:

When Annie Crowe travels from Seattle to a small Irish village to promote a new copper mine, her public relations career is hanging in the balance. Struggling to overcome her troubled past and a failing marriage, Annie is eager for a chance to rebuild her life.

Yet when she arrives on the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie learns that the mine would encroach on the nesting ground of an endangered bird, the Red-billed Chough, and many in the community are fiercely protective of this wild place. Among them is Daniel Savage, a local artist battling demons of his own, who has been recruited to help block the mine.

Despite their differences, Annie and Daniel find themselves drawn toward each other, and, inexplicably, they begin to hear the same voice--a strange, distant whisper of Gaelic, like sorrow blowing in the wind.

Guided by ancient mythology and challenged by modern problems, Annie must confront the half-truths she has been sent to spread and the lies she has been telling herself. Most of all, she must open her heart to the healing power of this rugged land and its people.

Beautifully crafted with environmental themes, a lyrical Irish setting, and a touch of magical realism, The Crows of Beara is a breathtaking novel of how the nature of place encompasses everything that we are.

And now, over to Julie!

A Writer’s Ireland

May 2002. My first trip to Ireland. Alone, I join a small group of strangers to hike the Beara peninsula, West Cork. I fall deeply in love with a land of impossible greens, peaches-and-cream sunrises and salmon-flesh sunsets, lashing rain and wind, always wind.

On the flight home two weeks later, I turn my face to the window, sobbing. I am as if torn from a lover, forever. Ireland has changed me. Beara has given me a sense of peace and wholeness I have never before experienced.

The years pass and I return to Ireland several times, hiking the Wicklow Way, Connemara, the Dingle and Kerry peninsulas; exploring Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Kenmare, Tralee. But Beara remains a dream crystallized in photographs and memories.

I dream of a land of poetry and legends, of An Cailleach, Clan Ó Súilleabháin, St. Caitighearn; a land of sky and water where battles were fought on gorse-cloaked mountains and warriors marked their Ogham runes on tall pillars. Where the ruined shadows of famine houses pale against the shadows of history cast by circles of ancient altars—slabs of stone sculpted by Bronze Age hands now scratching posts for the russet and inky-black flanks of Angus and Friesian.

I dream of villages where rows of Crayon-bright houses march up narrow streets, lace curtains fluttering in open windows. Where breath-stealing laughter falls from open pub doors, chased by heart-stealing songs.

I dream of a hiker high on the Slieve Miskish, peering into the green and blue infinity, boots soaked through with bog, fingers wrapped around a trekking pole, pack cinched around her waist like a lover's arms. She is so happy she could explode from the very fullness of her heart.

I dream of a humped, ragged block of stone perched on hill overlooking Ballycrovane Harbor. One edge resembles the profile of a woman, her furrowed brow arched over a proud nose, her gaze fixed on the Atlantic Ocean. She is An Cailleach Bheara, the Hag of Beara, mother of Ireland. Her story is Ireland's story, her survival the enduring drama of a tortured land of legendary beauty.

January 2014. I set the first draft of my first novel aside to rest, exhausted by the effort to corral a 170,000-wordsoup into a 99,000-word manuscript. That novel becomes my 2016 debut In Another Life, recently awarded Gold Winner for Fantasy by FOREWORD Indies at the American Library Association Annual Conference in June 2017. I leave behind a timeslip of modern and medieval southwest France to enter the cool, scabrous beauty of southwest Ireland.

I create the story of a recovering alcoholic who has a marriage to repair and a career to salvage, and another of an artist who cannot forgive himself for the tragedy he caused. As my characters begin to take shape, I know the threads connecting them will be found in the presence of the Hag. Her voice filters through these characters’ pain to reveal their authentic selves.

June 2015. Thirteen years after that first trip to the Beara peninsula, I'm in a blue room at an artist’s retreat center outside Eyeries. Tucked in bed, I watch the sun sink behind distant hills until suddenly it is morning. And I set forth to revisit the land of my dreams, discovering it anew.

September 2017. Fifteen years after that first trip to the Beara peninsula, I celebrate the release of my second novel, The Crows of Beara, a work shaped by this place of incomparable beauty and spirit.

About the author:  Julie Christine Johnson is the author of In Another Life (Sourcebooks, 2016). Her short stories and essays have appeared in many journals and anthologies, and she lives and writes in the seaside village of Port Townsend, Washington.  

Huge, huge thanks to Julie for being on the blog today! For more on Julie and her work, be sure to head over to her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

The Crows of Beara is on shelves now, so run out and buy a copy! And be sure to check back here for my review of The Crows of Beara (psst, I'll also be giving away a copy to one of you lucky readers!)

1 comment:

Julie Christine Johnson said...

Thank you for featuring me and THE CROWS OF BEARA, Becky!