Bio: Johnnie Alexander writes inspiring stories that linger in the heart. Where Treasure Hides, her debut novel, won the ACFW Genesis Contest (2011) and Golden Leaf Award (2014). Her first contemporary romance, Where She Belongs (Misty Willow Series; Revell), releases in January, and her first novella, The Healing Promise (Courageous Bride Collection; Barbour), releases in July.
She also has won Best Novel and Best Writer awards (Florida Christian Writers Conferences), and Bronze Medalist (My Book Therapy Frasier Contest). She volunteers as a category coordinator for the ACFW Genesis Contest, judges various contests, and serves as marketing director for the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference.
A graduate of
College ( Orlando) with a Master of Liberal Studies
degree, Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, road trips, and
stacks of books. She lives in the Memphis area with
a small herd of alpacas and Rugby, the
princely papillon who trees raccoons.
Welcome back, Johnnie. Why do you write the kind of books you do?
These are the stories God gives me to tell. I don’t know how else to explain it. An idea tugs at my heart, and I live with it, think about it, imagine it. Especially with the historicals, I also spend time in research. Eventually the words come.
Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
Most of my days are happy days, even the ones that aren’t. I’m an optimistic, glass half-full and getting fuller gal. Babies being born, red-letter celebrations, accomplishments, trips, holidays—these are especially happy days.
I’m going to share a bittersweet day from my teen years. My 4-H project one year was to raise a puppy for Pilot Dogs, Inc. in
This organization provides guide dogs for the blind. My puppy, Neil, was a
smart, loving, absolutely terrific cream-colored Labrador retriever. One of the
most difficult days of my life was the day I had to give him back. Columbus, Ohio
A couple of months later, my parents and I were invited to the company’s headquarters to meet Roy, my Lab’s new owner. As the adults chatted, Neil paced between Roy and me as if he wanted to be with both of us at the same time. Later we walked behind
as Neil led him around a busy city block. I was so proud of Neil, and I was
proud of me, too. This remains one of the most significant achievements of my
How has being published changed your life?
It scares me to have a story contracted that’s not been written. When a publisher buys a finished manuscript, you know they like it. I pray all the time that they’ll like the story they bought sight unseen just as much. (So far, so good!)
Because of deadlines, I’m a more focused writer. Words have to be written no matter how many other things need my attention or whether or not I feel like writing. When I’m overwhelmed, I remind myself that I dreamed of this for a long time. And I thank God for His blessing and His provision.
What are you reading right now?
Believe it or not, I’m reading The Wizard of Oz. My mom and I recently watched Oz, the Great and Powerful, and I felt compelled to read the original story. I’m also reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (taking my time to let the words sink in) and Hollow: An Unpolished Tale by Jena Morrow.
What is your current work in progress?
I’m writing the third book in the Misty Willow Series. It’s not been titled yet so I refer to it as Amy and Gabe’s Story. Amy appears as a secondary character in the first two Misty Willow novels. She’s the cousin of the hero in Where She Belongs and the sister of the hero in When Love Arrives. In those stories, she wasn’t a nice person, so it’s fun (and challenging) to give her a voice in the series.
What would be your dream vacation?
Since it’s a dream vacation, that means anything is possible. So I’ll take a literary trip through time and visit Misselthwaite Manor (The Secret Garden), Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables), Middle-Earth (The Lord of the Rings), Pemberly (Pride and Prejudice), and, just to see what the future really holds, I’ll hop aboard H. G. Welles’ The Time Machine. Let’s add Downton Abbey to the itinerary even though it’s a television show and not a book.
My husband and I both love the Downton Abbey series. I discovered the series late in the first season. I’ve ordered all the DVDs, and we’ve watched each season in a marathon. How do you choose your settings for each book?
The setting for my debut novel, Where Treasure Hides, was determined by the story’s events. A major theme involves the protection of art from the Nazis. With
Holland’s rich artistic history, it was the
perfect place for my heroine’s ancestral legacy. However, the story also takes
the reader to England, France, Germany,
The novels in the Misty Willow Series take place in a fictionalized county based on the county where I grew up in central
Ohio. Though I haven’t
lived there in decades, it’s still home.
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
I thought of several people, but none really “stuck” until I thought of Sarah Young, the author of such devotionals as Jesus Calling and Jesus Lives. I read a devotion almost every day, and so often it seems especially written for me. I’d love to visit with this gifted and insightful woman.
I’ve read her devotional books more than one time. Even on a second pass through, each day’s devotion applies to my day. What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
I start projects I don’t finish. Cross-stitch projects, a latch hook rug, a long string of crocheted yarn, scrapbooking—someday, I tell myself, someday! I recently joined the adult coloring book craze, though, and enjoy that activity. It’s one I can finish.
I always had several needlework projects going at once, so I could pick up the one I felt like working on. My husband urged me to start finishing them, one at a time. When I did, I almost felt panic when I didn’t have something to pick up, so I didn’t do that again. And I first started the adult coloring projects when I took some color pages, markers, and color pencils to rehab when I had my second knee replacement in August. Now I own several adult coloring books and color crayons as well. I even have some coloring books that are historical clothing designs. What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
Just getting started. I thought—and prayed—about the opening to my latest novel for weeks. Nothing felt right. Then early one Sunday morning, I drifted awake with words floating through my mind. I sleepily played with more words then realized this was it! I needed to get these nebulous words on paper. I turned on the light and looked at the clock.
I grabbed my novel notebook, turned to a blank page, and wrote four messy pages that I later turned into, in my opinion, an engaging start to this story.
Been there. Done that. What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Three things: join a writers group to give and receive critiques, attend conferences to learn and network with your peers, and enter contests to receive impartial feedback (and perhaps win!).
Tell us about the featured book.
Where She Belongs, the first novel in the Misty Willow Series, is a story of my heart. It’s not autobiographical, but it is inspired by my yearning to restore a large brick house, built in the mid-1800s, I lived in as a teen.
In the novel, Shelby Kincaid dreams of recreating her own golden childhood for her daughters, but years ago her grandparents’ home was lost to an unscrupulous businessman. AJ Sullivan inherited the deteriorating house from his grandfather as a punishment so he’s glad for
Shelby to take it off his hands. But he also
wants Shelby to
let him into her heart.
The story explores how past events resonate into the present. Long ago decisions and heartaches, a few made before they were even born, affect Shelby and AJ’s relationship.
Please give us the first page of the book.
In an upstairs room as neglected as all the others, AJ Sullivan flicked the grime from a broad fireplace mantel, then rubbed his fingers on his jeans. Mahogany. Whoever built this place had used the best materials. But more than 150 years later, no one cared.
Except some woman who was about to free him from this millstone.
Pulling her letter from his pocket, he walked across the pitted wood floor to the bay windows. Sunlight filtered through tall, narrow shutters hanging askew on their hinges. He gingerly opened one, and a spider scooted across the marble sill. Through the unwashed glass, dust motes danced in the sun’s beam.
He didn’t need the light to read the letter. Shelby Kincaid’s emotional plea to buy the house scraped an ache he’d thought was buried. When he’d shown the letter to his grandmother, her agitated response had plucked at his heart as desperately as her arthritic fingers had plucked at his shirt sleeve.
He scratched his arm, barely aware of the gesture as Gran’s words echoed in his mind. Find a way. Bring peace to the past.
Tires crunched on gravel, and a motor accelerated a few seconds then idled. He peered through the angled bay window. A slender woman stood by a beige sedan near the end of the drive. Though she was too far away to make out her features, there was something pensive about the way she stared at the house. Chestnut hair blew across her cheek, and she gracefully tucked it behind her ear.
She had to be Shelby Kincaid—the woman who so desperately wanted this forsaken place.
Sounds very interesting. How can readers find you on the Internet?
Please visit me at http://www.johnnie-alexander.com.
I also love to engage with readers on both my author and personal Facebook pages:
Facebook Author Page
Where She Belongs buy links:Christian Book Distributors (ChristianBook.com)
Thank you, Johnnie for sharing your life and this new book with us. I know my readers are as eager to read this story as I am.
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