Sunday, December 6, 2009

One Imperfect Christmas / interview

Author: Myra Johnson
Publisher: Abingdon Press
September 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4267-0070-5
Genre: Inspirational/contemporary women’s fiction

Natalie Pierce loves Christmas, but she isn’t looking forward to her in-laws coming to visit. That means she has to clean house. And cleaning house is not on Natalie’s list of favorite things to do. Her mother calls her that morning and asks Natalie for help talking down her Christmas decorations but Natalie refuses since she has to clean house. But then her in-laws call and say they can’t come due to a snow storm, and instead of Natalie going over to help her mom, she opts instead to spend a lazy day at home, painting a snow scene.

But late that evening the phone rings and its Natalie’s dad. Her mother had suffered a severe stroke taking down the ornaments, and Natalie is crushed. Now her mother is stuck inside an uncooperative body, unable to speak, and it is, of course, all Natalie’s fault for not being there. Now, Natalie has vowed to never pick up a paint brush until her mom is well. In fact, she has to be begged to even leave her mother’s side. And her marriage with football coach, Daniel, and her willful preteen daughter, Lissa, is also suffering from the lack of attention. What will it take for Natalie to mend the broken pieces of their lives?

ONE IMPERFECT CHRISTMAS is the debut novel by Ms. Johnson, but I’m sure it won’t be the last. The book is written in third person with several points of view, including the point of view of the stroke victim. I found that point of view the hardest to read, though it was probably quite realistic—it just made me want to cry. My own mother suffered a severe stroke like the mother in this book, and while the circumstances of the care of the stroke varied widely from the story, I still feel that Ms. Johnson did her research to discover what might be done for this circumstance.

The story did read a bit choppily, but it would be hard to write this story with the scenes flowing seamlessly, since time goes by between them. While I found this story quite hard to read, it is still a well-told story, and very true-to-life. Natalie’s guilt is especially realistic. ONE IMPERFECT CHRISTMAS is a story of faith, hope, and love for this holiday season. Discussion questions are included at the end of the book. $13.99. 275 pages.

Can you tell me about your book?

About One Imperfect Christmas: Christmas is the season of miracles, but when blame and guilt keep people apart, a miracle needs a helping hand. Natalie Pearce loves Christmas so much she’d gladly make it a year-round celebration—until her mother suffers a massive stroke while taking down the decorations. Natalie’s guilt over not being there to help her mom soon builds a wall that separates her from the rest of her family, including her husband, Daniel, and their teenage daughter. As the next December approaches, the last thing Natalie wants to be reminded of is another Christmas season. Only her family’s tenacious love and an unexpected Christmas gift from her mother can help Natalie mend the broken pieces of their lives.

Sounds interesting. What are you working on now?

Most recently I’ve been finalizing the third of my Missouri contemporary romances coming out from Heartsong Presents. The first novel, Autumn Rains, is due out in mid-October, to be followed next year by Romance by the Book and Where the Dogwoods Bloom.

What are some of your hobbies, besides writing?

Mainly I just enjoy spending time with my husband and our two lovable “lap dogs”—a 95-pound half-Lab and a 50-pound border collie something-or-other. And yes, they do love to climb onto my lap for some snuggling! I also try to stay in touch with our kids and grandkids, which isn’t so easy right now while they’re living so far away. Thank goodness for the Internet and cell phones!

Who or what inspired you to write?

I can barely remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. Even as a very young child, I loved to make up stories and poems. In high school, when I’d finish a class assignment before the bell rang, I always had my writing notebook with me and would add a few lines to my story-in-progress—a few of which never seemed to come to an end! My best friends were always pestering me to read the next installment.

What is your favorite verse, and why?

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” —Exodus 14:13a NIV

This verse first jumped out at me when we were browsing through a shop in Tiberius, Israel. It was printed in calligraphy across the bottom of a gorgeous, modernistic painting of Moses parting the Red Sea. The verse reminds me that I don’t have to struggle or strive or fear, but simply stand firm in the faith that my Strong Deliverer is always with me.

How can reading your book have an impact on the reader’s life?

Christians are not immune to guilt, depression, or marital problems, and I hope my book will help readers see that it’s okay to face our feelings, admit our problems, and seek help. I also hope my story conveys a sense of hope and a reminder that God is always with us, even when we’re unaware of His presence. He cares, He loves us, and He is always working things out for our very best if only we will trust Him.

How has your book been received from its readers?

I have been so pleased with the early response to my book. Reviewers seem to have made a connection with my heroine and her emotional struggles, which is what I’d hoped for. They have been able to look beyond her moodiness and irritability to the heart of a woman who is lost and confused, and to follow her journey to healing and hope.

What is your favorite vending machine item?

That would have to be peanut M&Ms and a Diet Caffeine-Free Dr Pepper!

How can our readers purchase your book?

My book is available through any major bookstore, including Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble. Also, since Cokesbury Bookstores is the retail arm of my publisher, Abingdon Press, they have been offering the best discount prices, both in stores and online.

Bio: Myra Johnson’s roots go deep into Texas soil, but she’s proud to be a new Oklahoman. Empty-nesters now, she and her husband share their home with two loveable dogs and a snobby parakeet. Her debut novel, One Imperfect Christmas, is a September 2009 release from Abingdon Press. She also writes for Barbour Publishing’s Heartsong Presents line. Autumn Rains, winner of the 2005 RWA Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript, releases October 2009, soon to be followed by Romance by the Book and Where the Dogwoods Bloom. Myra and her husband have been married since 1972. The Johnsons have two married daughters and five grandchildren

Thank you Myra Johnson for providing a copy of this book for review.


Myra Johnson said...

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, and especially for the insightful review. So very sorry about your mother's stroke. It truly is devastating, both for the victim and the family.

Mary Connealy said...

Diet Caffeine-Free Dr. Pepper? Seriously Myra, all that wild living, it's a wonder you've survived.


Loved the book. Guilt is my middle name. Mary "I'm Sorry" Connealy.

I wonder what my parents were thinking when they named me that....

Cara Lynn James said...

I loved One Imperfect Christmas. I especially liked the heroine because she wasn't perfect--guess I could relate.

Myra, I had a half border collie half English shepard named named. She was a wonderful dog although she chewed woodwork during thunderstorms. She lived to almost 15.

Missy Tippens said...

Oh by, a fellow Diet Dr. Pepper lover!! :) that's what I drink all day long. :)

I'm so exited to read your book, Myra! It's sitting there calling my name. But I can't get to it until the parties at my house are over this week. :)

Missy Tippens said...

That was supposed to say oh, boy, not oh, by. :)

Anonymous said...

Myra I didn't know you sold a third book. WE COULD HAVE BEEN PARTYING AND DANCING!!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Myra Johnson said...

Thanks for visiting, ladies! Oh, yes, I'm a DP fan from way back! Nothing goes better with those peanut M&Ms! (And the diet part makes up for the M&M calories, right?)

So, Cara, you had a dog named "named"? Our doggies are not happy with thunderstorms or fireworks. They usually just go hide somewhere, though.

Yes, Tina, I've got two more books coming out some time next year from Heartsong, all part of the contemporary Missouri romance deal. I need to get the third book revisions turned in pretty quick, too!

Audra Harders said...

I actually see a hole in my schedule and can't wait to sit down and read One Imperfect Christmas. Don't you just love Christmas books? They're the best!

I LOVE Diet Dr Pepper! It became my favortie after Pepsi started dinking with their Diet Pepsi.
See? That'll show them not to mess with a good thing!!!!

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