Tuesday, February 9, 2016

IN ANOTHER LIFE, by author, JULIE CHRISTINE JOHNSON ~ debuted February 2nd!

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.

What readers are saying . . .

“Delicate and haunting, romantic and mystical, IN ANOTHER LIFE is a novel with an extraordinary sense of place. Fans swept away by Diana Gabaldon’s 18th-century Scotland will want to explore Julie Christine Johnson’s 13th-century Languedoc.”
Greer Macallister, author of The Magician's Lie

“In this lovely novel, Johnson shows us the redemptive power of love and second chances through the ages. Evocative of Outlander, In Another Life is a thrilling combination of romance, adventure, and history.”
— Margaret Dilloway, author of Sisters Of Heart And Snow and How To Be An American Housewife

“Johnson’s heartbroken researcher wends through the lush landscape and historical religious intrigue of southern France seeking the distraction of arcane fact-but instead, like the reader, is transformed by the moving echo of emotional truth. An imaginative, unforgettable tale.”
Kathryn Craft, author of The Art Of Falling and The Far End Of Happy
About the Author

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.

Some Q & A with Julie:

1.             Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you started writing.

I grew up in the rainshadow of the Olympic Mountains, on a slice of paradise that is Washington state’s northwest corner: the Olympic Peninsula. Thirty-five years after my parents’ divorce started an avalanche of life changes and I left in middle school, I returned with my husband to write full-time, surrounded by the mountains and water which shaped me.
 In between, wanderlust carried me across the country and around the world. But it wasn’t until reaching Seattle in the late 2000s that I began writing. I took a workshop at Seattle’s superlative Richard Hugo House in the Fall of 2010, then another. I wrote a short story, it was accepted for publication, so I wrote another. And another. In July of 2012, I wrote the first words to In Another Life and I kept going until it was done.

2.             What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
I’m outdoors as much as possible: I run, hike, bike, swim. I attended culinary school and I’m a certified wine educator; a love for cooking, good food and wine, carries through in how I relax and share time with others.

3.             Do you have a ‘day job’ as well?
When my husband and I moved to the Olympic Peninsula in 2013, we downsized and simplified our lives enough that I was able to plan about eighteen months of writing without an income. I left a job I adored: wine buyer for a natural foods retailer in Seattle, but I never looked back. Seventeen months after making the decision to try my luck as a novelist, I signed with an agent and was offered a publishing contract for In Another Life on the same day. Now I work longer, harder than I have at any traditional day job. There are times when I look back wistfully at a steady paycheck, health benefits, days off, vacation, a workplace outside my home, colleagues, the water cooler chats . . . but only in fleeting moments. I feel incredibly fortunate to be a full-time writer.

4.             Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere! A snippet of overheard conversation, a news headline, a place I’ve traveled, stories overheard, a line of poetry, something someone says I wish I could forget, but can’t, so it becomes a story.

5.             Is there a particular author or book that influenced or inspired your writing or decision to write?
I read Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy when I was six and decided then and there that I would become a writer. It just took me thirty-five more years to get started. But Pricilla Long’s The Writer’s Portable Mentor was what finally pushed me into a regular writing practice, and that led me to believing I could write a novel.

6.             Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
This is where I ‘fess my Cinderella story. But it’s proof that not every writer has a long and terrible road ahead. I ended September 2014 with a draft of In Another Life that I felt was ready to query. I’d spent the summer researching literary agents, compiling a spreadsheet, and months and months of drafting and redrafting my query letter. Before I sent out any query letters, however, I decided to give in-person pitching a go. I attended the Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference in October, and there I met the two women who would, a few weeks later, become my agent (Shannon Hassan of Marsal Lyon Literary, and the editor of In Another Life, (Anna Michels, Sourcebooks).

7.             If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you’d change?
I started writing In Another Life without a plan. I had the beginning, but no idea how I’d get to a middle, much less to the end. Before I was two-thirds of the way through a first draft, I had 137,000 words, scenes written out of order. At that point, I stopped where I was and began revising from the beginning. By the time I had something resembling a first draft, I’d written 170,000+ words.
Although I am a pantser by nature, I’ve learned how to channel my energy into discovering my characters and themes before I begin writing the story. What I learn about and develop in my characters guides the narrative arc. In later drafts, as I close in on the story, I work loosely with Michael Hague’s excellent Six Stage Plot Structure to give me a sense of how my protagonist’s journey progresses from beginning to end.
8.             How do you market your work?

I’ve worked over several years to build relationships with writers and readers via my blog (ChalktheSun.org), Goodreads, and Twitter, long before I knew I’d be a novelist. It was less about marketing or even building an author platform than it was about sharing my writing, my voice, playing with different styles, challenging myself with regular, focused writing through blog posts and book reviews. When I began publishing stories and essays, social media became a way to reach out: if people connected with my voice and the things I had to share, perhaps they’d go on to connect with my work.

Now that I have an actual novel to promote, having a focused presence on reader blogs, doing author events, reaching out to book clubs for in-person or virtual discussions, attending conferences, networking with other writers, reaching out to libraries, pitching to book festivals, keeping up with my blog, my website, seeking targeted advertising opportunities, and still submitting work for publication—there are so many ways to market and promote one’s work, and I’m still learning what’s most effective. I want to spend my time and energy connecting with readers who will stay with me for the long haul, rather than seeking sales for my books.

9.             What are you working on now?
Last September my second novel, The Crow of Beara, sold to Ashland Creek Press, with a publication date of September 2017. Right now, I’m working with my editor, Midge Raymond, on revisions. Crows is set in contemporary Ireland with an element of magical realism woven through. My agent is reading my third novel, tentatively titled Tui, set in contemporary New Zealand; it’s the first time I’ve featured a young child as a main character. So, I’ll soon have those revisions to sort through. And I’m researching a possible sequel to In Another Life.

10.          Is anything in your book based on real life experiences?
The historical basis of In Another Life is taken straight from French history: Pierre de Castelnau was murdered near St. Gilles in January of 1208 and his murder launched the Cathar Crusade. I wanted to weave in threads of history to make the tapestry of fantasy that much more vivid. Lia, the protagonist, and I share a terror of small, confined spaces and a passion for wine. The roads Lia travels throughout Languedoc, the streets she wanders in Paris, even her Paris hotel—the very room where she stays—are places I’ve haunted during my travels in France.

11.          Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
Ooh, I have to be careful with spoilers! I love the midwinter meal at Rose and Domenec Hivert’s. Everything—the food, the wine, the love and fellowship present around the table—makes me feel warm and peaceful and captures the very essence of France’s joie de vivre. Then there is the frisson of heartstrings Lia is feeling for the man sitting beside her. . .

12.          Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read. Read widely and deeply. Every day. Write every day. Get into the habit so that writing becomes as natural and necessary as breathing. Seek out mentors! Writers are incredibly generous with their time and we get so excited when we find writing we love. We shout it from the rooftops. I’m astonished at the love and support I’ve received from other writers, and this is from someone who has a hard time reaching out and asking for help. 

13.          What are the downfalls of your writing career? The best parts?
Many writers are introverted souls like me. To borrow Amy Nathan’s phrase, I’m a “friendly introvert”.  That works fine when you are huddled in your office or working in a cafĂ© with earbuds shutting out the world. But to find readers, no matter how you publish, you must be prepared to open yourself to the world. It’s something that is both the best and the worst of being an author, because it can fill you with energy and it can zap you, in the same day, in the same moment.

The best parts of writing are the writing itself‑—falling in love with your characters, the a-ha moments of finding your way into the plot, the sheer joy of losing yourself on the page, day in, day out—and the community, virtual and real, of writers and readers who come together out of a shared passion for storytelling.

14.          Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you. Thank you for reading, for supporting writers by buying our books or requesting them from the library, by sharing our work with your friends and family, for writing reviews. Storytelling, as a reader and as a writer, has saved my life and I know it’s brought so many out of their darkness into the light of hope and belief. Whether you read to escape or to learn, to explore or to find comfort, the simple act of reading means that the world goes on, one page at a time.

I’m very serious about this sequel to In Another Life; I’ve got my ideas, but I’d treasure knowing which characters you’d love to see again.

Thank you Jill, for sharing In Another Life with your readers! 

Website:         juliechristinejohnson.com
Facebook:     facebook.com/juliechristinejohnson
Twitter:           @JulieChristineJ
Publicity Contact:    Suzy Missirlian  Suzy4PR@gmail.com

Thank you, Julie, for taking the time to share a bit about your book and writing life!