Friday, December 23, 2011

Meet Inspirational Author Sherri Wilson Johnson

I have had the great pleasure to speak with inspirational author, Sherri Wilson Johnson, about her darling romance, To Dance Once More. Sherri is a charming and talented author, whose descriptions will transport you right into the midst of her character’s lives. To Dance Once More was a story of love and growth. It was very warm and hopeful, two traits to lift your spirits and give you a wonderful journey to love. I truly enjoyed this sweet romance and recommend it to anyone who would like to escape back into 1800s Florida for a few days.
Collette: Thank you for joining me today, Sherri. Can we start with a little bit about your background? When did you start writing?

Sherri: I was born, raised, and still live in Georgia, northwest of Atlanta. So I am Southern down to my very core. Writing has been a hobby of mine since I was a little girl. As a young adult, I read a lot of romance novels. After feeling the need to write books that were suitable for young readers, I began writing Inspirational Romances, which quickly became my favorite pastime and grew into a calling. I wrote my first novel when I was about eighteen during slow times at work. I took the writers course through the Christian Writers Guild, learned a lot about how to write well, and have never looked back.

Collette: Where do you get your ideas?
Sherri: I have two young adult children in my home so I don't have to look far to find ideas for novels. I also have lots of single adult girlfriends who keep my ears full with their dating stories. I read a lot and watch movies, too. I'm a sucker for romance.

Collette: Were you inspired by someone/something to write the genres you’re writing in?
Sherri: I write Inspirational Romance because I feel the need to help single people in their quest to find true, pure love. I want to encourage my readers to wait for the best. I have worked with teens at my church and seen the heartbreak they go through while looking for love at such a young age. They have inspired me to write something for them.

Collette: What is your writing process?
Sherri: My writing process seems to change with the wind. I used to write at night because I homeschooled during the day. Now that I am through with homeschooling, I write in the mornings. But I am a night owl by nature and often wake in the middle of the night to write. When that happens, I use a spiral notebook and pen to write. In the mornings, I type everything in and begin again. These days, I do a lot of marketing too so that takes up a good bit of my writing time. When starting a new novel, I usually write an outline/timeline and often find pictures in magazines or on stock photo sites to represent my characters. I draw up a character description sheet with mannerisms and physical characteristics. I usually write a few chapters and then go back and edit and then start writing again until I'm through.

Collette: Do you write full-time now?
Sherri: I have a part time job, working from home for a friend. Other than that, I work full-time at writing.

Collette: Tell me a little bit about To Dance Once More.

Sherri: My debut novel, To Dance Once More (OakTara), is set in Victorian-era Florida, bringing the romance of the beach, Victorian times, and debutante balls together (some of my favorite things).

April 1886 -- Debutante Lydia Jane Barrington lives a carefree, protected existence on Live Oaks Plantation in Florida. But while her sisters happily learn the traditional tasks of women and talk of courting, Lydia dreams of adventure and independence. Even her friendship with handsome Hamilton Scarbrough isn’t enough to hold her back. Then one day Hamilton opens Lydia’s eyes and her heart to love. But before they can receive permission to court, Lydia overhears a secret conversation about an unscrupulous business deal. Worse, it has everything to do with her and her future. Now she’s faced with the biggest decision of her life—to concede or to fight. Either choice will require great sacrifice…and, perhaps, countless rewards.

I hope to prove that true love still exists and that it is worth the wait. I never shy away from speaking candidly of the purity of not only the heroine but of the hero, as well, because I believe in today's world, we need to encourage both men and women to live pure lives. I believe that writing is so much a part of who I am that I must use it to share what I am passionate about. I desire to point others to Jesus through my words.

Collette: How long did it take you to complete?
Sherri: I began writing To Dance Once More in 1993 while on a trip to Panama City Beach, Florida with my family. It took me about a year to write and about ten years to perfect. Then another five years of marketing before it found a home with OakTara.

Collette: Your settings and descriptions were very detailed. Can you describe your research into your subject?
Sherri: I grew up going to the beach. I love, love, love the beach. If I don't get to take at least one trip a year, I feel drought-stricken. I also love Victorian times. In addition to using personal experience, I do a lot of Internet research, watch videos, and read lots of library books in an effort to be historically and geographically accurate.

Collette: Let us talk a little bit about Lydia, a young woman who wants so very much to taste freedom and be free of restrictions. Can you tell us about her inner motivation?
Sherri: Lydia has been told what to do and when to do it since birth. She has watched the women in her family sit home and raise children with very little social respect. She has also watched the former slaves that live on her plantation suffer because of their race. She wants to do something to change the world for women. She does not want to fall into the trap of marriage until she has had a chance to make a difference in the world. She views love and marriage as a form of slavery. Of course, as the book moves along, Lydia matures and sees that love isn't all bad. She has failed to see the many benefits of being loved by someone. It is when she discovers a secret about her future that she battles with her choices and must make great sacrifice.

Collette: Are any of your characters based on real-life friends or acquaintances?
Sherri: Some of my characters have sprinklings of people I know in them. After all, aren't we all characters in this big story called Life?

Collette: Do you ever incorporate yourself into your characters?
Sherri: I do incorporate myself into my characters. I'm a little feisty like Lydia. I'm also stubborn like Hamilton. And as a parent, I find myself playing the part of Lydia's mother and father at times.

Collette: Lydia struck me as quite the groundbreaker for her day. Without giving away too much of your story, can you touch on the message in your story?
Sherri: As I said before, To Dance Once More is a book in which the theme of purity runs through it. However, there is a lot more to it than that. Lydia is an independent young woman. You're right, she is a groundbreaker for her day. (Wait till you see what she gets into in the sequel). She has in mind what she wants her life to be like once she is old enough to leave her father's plantation. But there are many obstacles and it seems that the harder she tries to get away, the stronger the pull is to keep her at home. She is faced with the decision of whether to submit to her father's will or to rebel. Her rebellion has the potential to affect her entire family, yet the sacrifice would cost her greatly. Decisions, decisions.

Collette: Are you still writing? If so, what will your future projects entail?
Sherri: Oh, yes, I am still writing. My next book, Song of the Meadowlark (OakTara), will be out in May 2012 and the sequel to To Dance Once More should be out by the end of 2012. I just finished a third novel, After the Raging Storm, and also have a legal mystery and a sequel to Song of the Meadowlark in the works. In addition to fiction, I also write homeschool resources and Bible studies, which I self-published, and are available on my secondary website . I guess you could say that there will be plenty of books to read in the future and I would be honored if people chose them for their libraries.

Collette: Does your reading inspire you?
Sherri: Yes, reading inspires me. I love to read a variety of writers, both male and female, and learn from their techniques and plot lines.

Collette: Where can we find you online?
Book trailer:

Collette: Where are your books available for purchase?

Collette: What formats are your books available in?
Sherri: To Dance Once More is available in print and Kindle format.

Thank you so much, Sherri! I wish you all the best with your writing projects and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

And here is my review of To Dance Once More:

What a delightful read! From the very first page, I was caught up in 1800s Florida plantation life, from the smell of the flowers to the sounds of nature. Ms. Wilson Johnson captured the setting to perfection, casting me back over 100 years as I watched the charming Miss Lydia Barrington come of age. As a young, idealistic teen, Lydia has high hopes of travel and freedom. However, society’s restrictions and a sneaky business deal threaten to steal it all away. Caught between duty and hope, Lydia is a tormented soul, struggling to determine which path she should take and how she must face it all while presenting herself with charm and grace. As she grows, she feels heartbreak and joy, love and pain, and ultimately learns that life is what you make of it. But the Lord works in mysterious ways, and in the end Lydia is able to find love and happiness in this charming, historical story that will warm you to your toes.


Laurie B. said...

Great Interview! Sounds like an awesome read. :)

Collette said...

Laurie, thank you so much for your comment. I must say that it was truly a wonderful read, beautiful. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Happy New Year!

Sherri Wilson Johnson said...

Thank you for sharing my book with your readers.

Ashley Barron said...

Great interview, Collette and Sherri! It is so helpful to read about the journey of another writer - especially a fellow night owl. :) Blessings to both of you in the New Year.

Sherri Wilson Johnson said...

Thanks, Ashley! Happy New Year!

Kathy Robbins said...

Great interview! Thank you for introducing this writer!

Collette said...

Thank you Kathy and Ashley for stopping by! I think you both will enjoy Sherri's stories. They are truly heartwarming, and she's such a wonderful lady. Just so sweet inside and out. Happy New Year to all! I look forward to profiling many more authors in the coming months. :)

Sherri Wilson Johnson said...

I am so blessed to hear how everyone likes the interview!