Kerry Johnson writes contemporary romance/fiction and recently completed her first novel, Born, Again. A relative newcomer to the wide world of blogging, she is blessed to use her gifting of words for God’s glory. She’s been published in on-line devotionals and will be published this spring in a Tampa Bay faith-based publication, Overflow Magazine.
Kerry grew up exploring the Connecticut woods. Now transplanted to sunny Tampa, she is a grateful wife to her patient engineer hubby and mommy to their two laughing, tree-climbing young boys.
Kerry earned her Bachelor of Science in English Education from USF and was one of those writing nerds who got excited when assigned an essay in lit class. She taught middle school reading and drama after graduating but soon ran with tail tucked under to her college job at WUSF Public Broadcasting. Kerry finagled her way through membership software and pledge drives until the birth of her older son. Her 6+ years as a stay-at-home-mom have been a busy, blessed time she wouldn’t trade for all the Chai tea in Starbucks.
When she’s not writing, wrestling, and reading with small children, being dragged along by her squirrel-obsessed dog, hugging her hubby, or cleaning her house, Kerry loves being outside enjoying God’s beautiful creation. Her favorite things to do are forget to cook dinner because she’s reading a good book, watch movies with her hubby, go to the YMCA to work-out, and spend time with family and friends. She teaches 2nd and 3rd grade Sunday school at their church and blogs as often as she can about her faith, parenting two “monkeys,” and occasionally turtles.
Kerry’s Journey Begins
When did you first experience the desire to write a romance novel? Was it while strolling down a moonlit beach with your hubby by your side, after having watched a romantic movie that set your heart aflutter, or when you read a story that moved you?
My biggest source of writing inspiration comes after reading a good romance. I read a variety of books, from parenting books to Frank Peretti, Randy Alcorn to CS Lewis to Charles Swindoll, but my favorite pastime is reading an engaging, chemistry-crackling romance. Escapist? Sure, and I believe that’s the point. Nothing compares to the sweet optimism of two characters you’ve come to care about falling in love and beginning their happily-ever-after.
I was 13 when I got my hands on one of my mom’s Lavyrle Spencer romances. I adored the push and pull tension of two people falling in love, but it was much later, after college when I had the thought. You know that thought? The I think I could write this, too, thought.
One of the first milestones a writer experiences is reaching The End. You’ve done that. How did it feel? What did you learn while creating the story?
Oh, I cried! I was visiting my parents’ house the weekend I finished. It was 12:30am and I was on a writers’ adrenaline rush because I was submitting Born to a contest and had to finish quickly. But that moment of knowing the story is basically done – wow! It’s a delicious emotional smoothie of shock, glee, amazement, with just a touch of sadness.
Born is such a special story for me, on many levels. On a basic level – I actually wrote and finished a book! But it wasn’t me – God brought me through. I could not have finished without His leading. On an emotional level – my heart and soul went into writing this story. I fell in love with my characters and their faith journey, and I still miss them. On a spiritual level, Born represents a Memorial Stone-experience for me. Like He did with the Israelites when He took them across the Jordan, God sanctified me through this process and brought me closer to Him and His heart.
Kerry’s High Points
Although you’re not quite ready to submit your romance novel, you’ve already seen your name in print. Congrats! Please tell us about your published works.
Thank you! 2011 has been an amazing year so far. In February my essay on marriage, Reaching, was published in Sanctified Together, an on-line Christian publication for women. In March I had two short devotionals, “Weeds” and Seasons, published in Granola Bar Devotionals, an on-line Christian devotional site.
I’m working with another writer friend on a third article I’ve written, to be published on-line in May. Finally, the yummy maraschino cherry on top came when I was contacted by Overflow Magazine, a Christian magazine based in Tampa Bay, about a piece I’d submitted to them four months ago that they would like to use this spring! There was much squealing in my house that night. This will be extra special because it will be my first article published in a magazine.
I also recently began reviewing books on my blog. I strongly felt God’s leading with this area of my reading and writing. I pray I’m able to be an encouragement to other Christian writers. I have a page on my blog with my book reviews, “My Thoughts on Their Words,” and I review books as I’m able.
Kerry’s Sources of Inspiration
What sparked the idea for Born, Again? Did you begin with a name? Did scenes start playing in your mind? Or perhaps your characters began chatting?
Born, Again is a collection of perfectly God-placed pieces. In 2008 I read an article about partial-birth abortion. I was sitting in bed sobbing. My husband understandably asked, “Why don’t you stop reading it?” It was nearly unbearable, but I forced myself to finish the article. I’ve always been an advocate for life, but something in my soul shifted that day. I felt an overwhelming need to do something. But what could I do?
A few weeks later, during worship in church, my main character Corder Hutchens was born. He popped into my imagination with that exact name. I remember shaking my head at the thought of an abortionist as a main character! No way, Lord. How about a cowboy? Or a police officer? I’ll even go for a dentist! But Hutch wouldn’t go away, and neither would that thought – God’s grace is sufficient for everyone who willingly lays their life at the foot of the Cross, even an abortionist who changes his mind.
Wow! Abortion is a heavy topic. What led you to tackle such a sensitive subject in your first story? How did you go about getting into the minds of those who deal with it on a regular basis?
It is heavy. Soul-heavy, heart-heavy. The blessing was that I KNEW this was from the Lord. I would never have chosen to write about an abortionist on my own. That realization gave me the strength to keep going. It was difficult, painful research, although I don’t go into great detail in the story. Though Born is purely fiction, I wanted the book’s setting, medical terminology, and office procedures, etc… to be as true-to-life as possible.
I emailed Abby Johnson (she wrote Unplanned, which I also reviewed on my blog) with a couple important, specific questions last year, and she was very gracious to get back to me quickly. I also interviewed someone at a local crisis pregnancy center to bring in details for the second half of Born (Please do infer here that there is a happy ending! ).
But the most important research came from a book called The Hand of God: A Journey from Death to Life by the Abortion Doctor Who Changed His Mind, by Dr. Bernard Nathanson. He recently passed away, actually. Through his book I was able to get inside an abortionist’s head, what drives him, the many justifications, and ultimately what broke through his soul to change his mind about his career. Dr. Nathanson’s book was invaluable research for my main character.
My secondary main, Kyla, didn’t require as much research. She’s an LPN in his office and her journey is in finding the childhood faith she lost. At some point in the writing process I realized the love story in Born, Again is as much between God and His creation as it is between Hutch and Kyla.
Kerry’s Writing Process
What is the most thrilling aspect of the writing process for you?
The beautiful, creative flow of words that happens when the house is quiet, the kids are tucked into bed, and I’m able to bond with my laptop. I adore the creative process of turning thoughts into words, words into scenes, and watching characters begin to take shape and drive the scenes which in turn creates more pages!
I’m not very creative in other areas of my life, so writing brings me a lot of joy.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
Perseverance. Sticking with it even when I don’t feel like writing, or when I feel like I’m writing hooey. I’m learning to push past those negative emotions and plug on, one word at a time. You (Keli) wrote a great post about it – those writer insecurities that drag us down. I learned to trust God in His leading with this book, and to stick with it. Perseverance pays off!
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Right now, I have 120 glorious minutes from 9-11am each weekday. Cole is in 1st grade and Chase is in preschool this year. I’m incredibly thankful for that special quiet time. I walk or jog a couple miles with my dog then I spend time in God’s word and prayer, followed by housework or errands. I try to make myself sit for an hour each morning to write something.
Later, after the boys are in bed, I try to write again. My best writing hours seem to be 9pm – 11pm. I do my reading during the day while the boys are outside playing. My hubby and I are notoriously bad about staying up too late – he doing engineering, me writing. We’re definitely night owls. Whooo hooo.
Kerry’s Journey Continues
You’ll soon have your edits complete and be ready to move on. What captivating new ideas are swirling in your creative mind? Have new characters begun chattering away?
Yes! When my older son was a toddler and I was pregnant with my younger son, I started writing a book called Waves. It’s also a contemporary romance, beginning in the 80s then picking up present day. It starts with a teenage boy, a lifeguard, rescuing a pre-teen girl from the local community pool. They become friends, he teaches her to swim and she joins the swim team, childhood crushes abound, and as they get older, romance blossoms…but can she save his life as he once saved hers?
I started swimming competitively when I was 11 up through high school and then swam on a Masters’ team into my 20s. I have great affection for the watery world of Speedos, caps, 5 am practices, chlorine-fried green-blonde hair, starting blocks, and goggles.
Let’s Learn a Little More About Kerry
What is one thing you said you would never do but you did it any way?
I don’t think I actually said I would never do a triathlon, but I certainly thought it! Although I enjoy swimming, running, and riding my bike, I do NOT swim in lakes or ponds, especially in Florida. Hello, strange bacteria, slimy green algae and GATORS! But in 2009 a good friend talked me into doing a Disney triathlon with her. It was a ½ mile swim, a 12-mile bike, and a 5k run (3.2 miles). I survived!
It was an awesome accomplishment, but I don’t see myself doing another. I’m just glad to have the medal and photographic evidence that I really did it.
Which month of the year would best describe your personality, and why?
I’ll say June, not because it’s my birthday month but because it’s a month that represents being outside, traveling and family. I feel closest to God when I’m outside walking in the sunshine, watching the twinkling stars, or standing on the lanai feeling the thunder rumble the ground and watching bright flashes of lightning. His creation is amazing and I love being in it!
June is also the month many people travel and visit family, both of which I love to do. I have the best cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, and often we see them in June. June also represents no school and sleeping in, which I am famous for. I am definitely NOT a morning person.
Of all the pets you’ve ever had, which is/was your favorite?
My sweet Ebony. She was a lab mix I rescued when I was 18. She was my running/walking partner, traveling companion and loyal shadow for 14 years. She was my only little girl, and when she passed in 2009 it was heart-wrenching. I’ve always been touched by the unconditional love dogs show humans. They forgive and forget so easily.
We have a sweet, crazy one-year old pointer/boxer named Jedi, and I love him to pieces, but Ebony was my girl.
What’s your most memorable mom moment?
There are so many! It’s hard to pinpoint one in particular. For Cole, I’d say when he asked Jesus into his heart last year. What a sweet experience. I adore seeing firsthand his simple, pure faith that we adults tend to lose touch with. For Chase, last week he said, “I give you flowers because you’re my mom and I love you.” Talk about melting my heart. Words of love and affection from my kids turn me into a gooey puddle of melted chocolate. They’re both such unique, amazing blessings from God.
Hamburger, hot dog, burrito, pizza, or . . .?
I like all of the above, but I’ll go with Hamburger. I’m definitely a carnivore. Or as my brother-in-law would tease, I’d take a free-range, hormone and antibiotic free, grass-fed organic beef hamburger. (We’re mostly organic at our house.)
Kerry’s Question for You
Which novel have you reread the most, and why?
Kerry has generously offered to give away a $15 Starbucks gift card.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Kerry by midnight Monday, April 11th (Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process.
On Tuesday, April 12th I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address.
Congratulations to Alisa, winner of the gift card.
Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.
Learn More About Kerry
Visit her personal blog ~ A Lamp, a Light, and a Writer
Friend her on Facebook ~ Kerry Johnson