Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Interview with Myra Johnson, author of The Sweetest Rain

Today it's a privilege to introduce you to fellow author Myra Johnson. This award-winning author writes emotionally gripping stories about love, life, and faith. Her historical romance
When the Clouds Roll By won the 2014 Christian Retailing’s Best award for historical fiction. Myra is also a two-time finalist for the ACFW Carol Award and winner of the 2005 RWA Golden Heart. Married since 1972, Myra and her husband have two beautiful daughters and seven grandchildren. They reside in beautiful North Carolina near four of their grandchildren, but as a native Texan Myra sorely misses real Texas barbecue and those gorgeous bluebonnets every spring! The Johnsons share their home with two pampered rescue dogs.



Welcome to PASTimes! Thanks for joining us and sharing a bit about your writing world. Congratulations on the release of your new book, The Sweetest Rain. Tell us a bit about it.

The story is set in central Arkansas and begins in 1930 during one of the area’s worst droughts on record. Bryony Linwood’s parents are both dead, and as the eldest of three girls, she feels a strong responsibility for her sisters’ wellbeing. But times are tough on their grandfather’s struggling tenant farm in tiny Eden, Arkansas, and Bryony will do whatever it takes to ensure her family’s survival.
            Michael Heath barely survived the war, and twelve years later all he wants to do is forget. A virtual recluse, his one passion is botanical illustration. Lost in the diversity of nature’s beauty, he finds escape from a troubled past and from his wealthy father’s continual pressure to take an interest in the family plantation.
            Bryony accepts employment at the Heath mansion in hopes of helping her family survive until the drought ends, but her heart remains as dry and despairing as the scorched earth . . . until she discovers Michael Heath and his beautiful botanical illustrations. Their friendship soon blossoms into healing for wounded souls and a love that can’t be denied.



What drew you to write The Sweetest Rain?
            Characters are almost always my first doorway into a story. Once I’d settled on the three sisters who would each become the heroine of their own book in my Flowers of Eden series, next came the challenge of figuring out what kind of hero each one would fall for. Since I had recently completed my post-World War I series, I was interested in developing another character who had survived the Great War. Michael Heath, the hero of The Sweetest Rain, struggles with the aftermath of both the trauma of war and his recovery from mustard gas while dealing with mounting family issues.

How did you get the idea for The Sweetest Rain?
            The 1930s and the era of the Great Depression seemed like a natural progression from my stories about post-World War I, and I was also very interested in continuing with an Arkansas setting because of its familiarity both from research and many years of vacationing there. I began by reading Arkansans’ survivor stories from the Depression to get a sense of what life was like back then, and soon character and plot ideas began to develop.

What was the greatest challenge in writing The Sweetest Rain?
            The Depression was, well, depressing. So it was definitely a challenge to write a love story that expressed hope and joy in the face of all the problems America faced during that time. I had to find a way to create a believable love story between the granddaughter of a struggling tenant farmer and the privileged son of the family’s landlord. 

What did you learn as you wrote The Sweetest Rain?
            I honestly admit that history was not my favorite subject in school. I wasn’t very fond of research papers, either! But it’s altogether different to study an era through the eyes of real people who lived through it. Personal accounts have become my favorite research source, because I’m getting not just the dry facts but the physical and emotional reality of those times and places. For this novel, I learned about the lingering effects of mustard gas and the awful toll it could take on the long-term health of victims. I learned about tenant farming and sharecropping and how these systems were an outgrowth of the end of slavery, when plantation owners had to find new ways to farm their massive land holdings. I also learned that Herbert Hoover didn’t do so great a job of easing the nation’s economic struggles and how ready Americans were for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal.”

Myra is giving away a copy of The Sweetest Rain, so be sure to use this form to enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

24 comments:

janet smart said...

Congratulations on the release of your book. I love historical fiction and this sounds like a good book. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

KayM said...

The only place of any historical significance that I've visited recently is Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minnesota. It is very sobering to walk through the pathways and see thousands upon thousands of military tombstones. My father, who fought in the Pacific in WWII is buried there.
may_dayzee(at)yahoo(dot)com

Myra Johnson said...

Hi, Janet! Nice to meet another fan of historical fiction! Do you have a favorite era you like to read about?

Myra Johnson said...

KayM, I can understand why the Fort Snelling National Cemetery is a very special place to you. So sorry you lost your father in the war. It really is sobering to visit any of the military cemeteries across the U.S. and see row upon row of white tombstones, and to know that each one represents a brave soldier and a life given in defense of freedom. May we never forget their sacrifice.

Kim Amundsen said...

Been to Rock Island Between Iowa and Illinois was a fort at one time. Most of the building built in the middle 1800's are still standing and are maintain by the federal government there is also 2 cemeteries one union and one confederate.

Caryl Kane said...

Congratulations Myra on your release of THE SWEETEST RAIN! I grew up near the Texas Gulf Coast. There is a lot of history in this area.

psalm103and138 at gmail dot com

Myra Johnson said...

Kim, Rock Island sounds interesting! It's always fun to visit historical sites like that, especially if they've been restored or maintained as they used to be. That's one reason we enjoy vacationing in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where my previous historical series is set. So much history there.

Myra Johnson said...

Caryl, another South Texas girl! I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley. My husband spent most of his childhood in San Antonio, and it's definitely filled with history. Although I'm not so sure the recent TV series about Texas was very historically accurate. :-/

Bonnie Roof said...

I enjoyed your post and learning more of the background for 'The Sweetest Rain', Myra - thank you!! As with you, I didn't enjoy history in school - for me, it was just dates to memorize for tests. However, I really enjoy picking up tidbits of history through the Christian Fiction books I now read.

The last historical site I visited was the Yorktown, Va. area - this past May, with Carrie Fancett Pagels. It rained hard that day I was passing through, however, we did a car tour of the area and had lunch in a quaint restaurant overlooking the river. It was interesting to see the sites involved in the Revolutionary War, and some of the historic buildings.

I love the storyline and dysfunction of some of the characters in 'The Sweetest Rain' - so looking forward to reading it!! Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

bonnieroof60(at)yahoo(dot)com

Bonnie Roof said...

P.S. Shared post!!

bonnieroof60(at)yahoo(dot)com

Patty said...

I was recently inAugusta, GA for the weekend. Didn't have time to do much, but in looking around online I discovered the Boyhood home of President Woodrow Wilson.
I did a little research because I seemed to remember visiting the birthplace of Wilson in Staunton, VA a few years ago. Turns out he was born in Staunton, but his father was a minister and they spent 10 years in Augusta while he was growing up...

pattymh2000(at)yahoo(dot)com

Terri Wangard said...

I enjoyed When Clouds Roll By and this sounds like Michael and Byrony could be friends with Annemarie and Samuel.
I've never been to a WWI cemetery, but the Normandy and Luxembourg military cemeteries really stirred feelings of awe and pride in my country.

traveler said...

Visiting historical sites is fascinating and gives me insight into the lives and places. A road trip to Leadville, Colo. was extremely interesting, the main street and the old opera house and we were fortunate to watch a performance. Memorable and very unforgettable experience. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Mama Cat said...

I read and enjoyed Myra's "Pearl of Great Price" and it was very, very good! I would love to read this, even through Depression era, as she makes people and backgrounds come to life. jeaniedannheim (at) ymail (dot) com

Merry said...

I'm hoping for a trip to Duluth, MN soon. :) It was a hub for shipping and railroads at the turn of the century and had a glamorous past.
worthy2bpraised at gmail dot com

Myra Johnson said...

Bonnie, isn't it so much easier to learn a little history through an entertaining novel? I've certainly become much more appreciative of history during our vacation travels, too. Historical societies and local museums are treasure troves!

Myra Johnson said...

Interesting, Patty! I'm glad history buffs make the effort to preserve historic places like presidents' birthplaces or where they grew up.

Myra Johnson said...

Terri, thank you--so glad you enjoyed When the Clouds Roll By. Yes, there's a very strong possibility Samuel and Annemarie will make an appearance in this next series. ;-D

Myra Johnson said...

Traveler, I agree--there's a TON of history in Colorado! Leadville sounds like a fun place to visit!

Myra Johnson said...

Mama Cat, thank you for your sweet words, and I'm thrilled you enjoyed Pearl of Great Price! That story remains one of my personal favorites. And, of course, it's set in Arkansas like my historical series. ;)

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