GENRE: Women’s fiction romance
Under another hand, Blackhorse Road could all too easily have been a singular romance. Johns provides more as she follows Luci down the rabbit hole and out the other side of life experience, bringing readers into a world where . . . transgression changes everything and challenges carefully-constructed foundations of belief and values. As Luci lets go of her lifesavers and navigates obstacles to happiness, her story becomes a vivid portrait of hope and self-examination which ultimately moves into unexpected territory. Novel readers seeking a tale that closely considers deception and forgiveness, love gained and lost, and family ties will welcome the multifaceted Blackhorse Road's ability to come full circle in a satisfyingly unexpected way. - D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
It’s the turbulent mid-1960s, and Luci, an eighteen-year-old Southern California girl, is on the quest for self-determination and new beginnings. Three powerful forces influence her values: the grit of her Irish great-grandmother, Lucinda McCormick; the philosophy of choice of her father, Sam; and the 1960s ideals of equity and altruism. But potent foes thwart Luci at every turn. Her budding romance with a handsome United States Air Force Academy cadet sets the stage for conflict and deception that last for two decades. When Luci discovers how her autonomy and her love affair were hijacked, she struggles with anger and bitterness. But from a surprising source, she finds a forgiveness path that restores her well-being and hope and, in the end, faith in herself.
The cranky engine revved as the driver shifted gears, and the military bus crawled forward exiting the air force base. Along a narrow and dark roadway, the vehicle increased its speed and left the MPs at the gate standing immobile and mute in the glow of the rising moon. Drifting through the open windows, the Southern California desert air blew like pixie dust across the faces of the thirty young women headed home from the street dance. A few hours ago, they were preening and adjusting their bouffant hairdos, reapplying creamy pink lipstick, and placing the last twirls of mascara on their eyelashes to prepare for a street dance with cadets from the elite Air Force Academy. Then, the atmosphere buzzed with gossip, chatter, laughter, and anticipation. Now, the glimmering night sky created the perfect backdrop that lulled each into a contented silence to fantasize about the handsome men they had met.
“This is the beginning of my story about love and betrayal and a journey toward empathy, compassion, and forgiveness. It is also a story of choice—my choice to be inspired by the resilience of a great-grandmother, the values of a father, and the wisdom of a spouse. But in the end, it is a story of how a letter of gratitude . . . reminded me to open my heart to love and kindness.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Merida Johns takes her experience as an educator, consultant, and businesswoman and writes about the human experience. In 2018 Merida took an unlikely off-ramp from writing textbooks and motivational books to authoring women’s fiction. Her stories are learning lessons where awareness and curiosity transport readers to the most unexpected places within themselves. Merida hails from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, grew up in Southern California and has lived from coast-to-coast in the United States. Besides writing, she enjoys fabric arts, including weaving and knitting. She makes her home in the serene Midwest countryside that gives her the inspiration and space for storytelling.
For three decades, I was a university professor who taught classes and wrote textbooks on “nerdy” subjects centering on computer systems in healthcare.
But a decade ago, informed by my experience in a male-dominated area, I started my practice as a leadership coach to help women break the glass ceiling and fulfill their leadership and economic potential. Consequently, during the past ten years, I transitioned from writing textbooks to motivational books on creating environments where people flourish through better leadership.
About a year ago, I was on a conference call discussing concepts of what makes a fulfilling life with fellow life coaches. Bang! Like a thunderclap, I had an insight. What would it be like to help people understand the concepts of a flourishing life in a story instead of through a motivational book or text? After all, I thought, storytelling has been the most compelling form of communication for thousands of years. As far as I could recall, none of the great prophets fed up learning objectives and multiple-choice questions to their followers. No! They got their message across through stories.
Motivational books and textbooks give frameworks, theories, and ideas, but they don’t immerse us in the human experience. They don’t show us how others face challenges, embrace their passions, overcome sorrow, celebrate achievement, quash self-doubts, develop positive emotions and relationships, handle betrayal, or act on aspirations.
Storytelling ignites our imagination and emotion. We experience being part of the story rather than being served up a platter of facts, exercises, and information.
This eye-opener was enough for me to take on the challenge of novel writing. My passion is to help people catapult beyond concepts and theories and jump into the wonderment of imagination in designing a flourishing life for themselves. Storytelling does this best.
Happily, as a fiction writer, I have jettisoned learning objectives and test questions. Ah…the freedom makes me feel as light as a balloon on a summer breeze.
Who do you admire most? Why?
I admire women trailblazers who have dared to challenge norms to achieve their own autonomy and to promote equity and a more just world. Most of these women are not recognized as household names. But as a group, they could be represented by women who showed remarkable grit in pursuing a journey to achieve a flourishing life for themselves and others, such as Jane Addams, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Florence Nightingale.
What does your writing space look like?
My writing space is a ten-by-ten foot room with a window facing west—perfect for catching Midwest prairie breezes in spring and summer, watching Canadian geese fly south in the fall, and welcoming the silence of winter snowstorms.
I’m surrounded by photographs of special people in my life and souvenirs that invoke meaningful memories. Some of these on my desk include a dinosaur figurine given to me by my parents when I was nine years old, a desk clock I received from my students in 1994, a glass flower given to me by my husband, and a seal figurine that a colleague gave to me in 1985.
My bookcase behind my desk is filled with books that I have read and books yet to be read. But my favorite possessions on the shelves are books that evoke memories and celebrations—my old high school yearbooks, albums of family photographs that date back to the 1870s, and my great grandfather’s leather-bound books (all in French), dating back to the late 1800s.
My office is also has a whimsy side: A collection of stuffed toys—teddy bears, moose, groundhogs, rabbits. And, there is a collection of photographs of the dogs who have been part of my life that make me smile with happy recollections each time I look at them.
What is your must have while writing?
Music! When I was writing Blackhorse Road, the Four Seasons, the Everly Brothers, the Beach Boys, Dick Dale, Peter, Paul, and Mary and others put me in the 1960s mood and gave me inspiration. Now, writing my next novel, Suzanna, that is set in the early and mid-1980s, Neil Diamond, Phil Collins, and Elton John provide the necessary background that inspires me.
What advice do you have for an aspiring writer?
When I started writing fiction, I took two pieces of advice before pounding the keyboard—write about what you know and know what you write. Blackhorse Road blossoms from my imagination and is influenced by my experience, perspectives, and observations to give the story authenticity and sensitivity, helping readers connect with the characters and feel their joy, disappointment, sorrow, and happiness.
But Blackhorse Road is enriched by the backstories that set the context for the characters and events in the story—historical incidents, politics, economics, philosophy, religion, and psychology that influence the values of the characters and ultimately the consequences of their actions. I uncover these backstories from usual fact-checking and readily available historical references to know about what I write. The sources that I like best to enhance the pallet of my novel are diaries and letters and mementos from special events such as graduations, weddings, funerals. These provide a personal perspective to the context that help form a relationship with the reader.
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