I am pleased to host author Joszann St. John as part of her fifteen-day Virtual Book Tour. Here is the transcript of my conversation with Joszann as she shares her journey, her latest historical fiction novel Sonnets in Waking Moments, and her message for women.[audio:http://www.savvyvirtuals.co/bookmarketing/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Interview%20with%20Joszann%20for%20VBT%20final%20-%2014%20March%202014.mp3]
Today I have with me Joszann St. John, who is a prolific author and blogger, and she’s joining us today as part of her virtual book tour. Joszann,
welcome, it is an honor to be speaking with you today.
Hi, Eunice, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be with you today, also.
Joszann, I know you’ve written across many genres, you describe yourself as a prolific blogger. Tell me, how did you begin writing?
My writing came about organically. I had experienced some difficulties and crises in my own personal life and it was during this period that I decided to follow the urging of my heart. As a kid, and growing up all through the years, the urge to write, the voice to write, has been inside of me – urging me to write books. For a long time I did nothing about it and I felt I couldn’t do anything about it; but it was going through the difficulties and the different challenges – going through a divorce and separation and all of those things – that I finally got the urge and the momentum and the empowerment really to go through, and start to write. So poetry started flowing out of me. I told people I was pregnant with poetry. My first book, Wounded Bird No More, came from the intense time of struggles and adversity in 2009.
So now that you’ve written a number of books, you’ve written poetry, you’ve written fiction, women’s fiction, historical fiction; do you have any advice for would-be writers?
Certainly. I tell people, if there’s a desire in your heart, just go for it. Many times we say, “Well, I want to start a project, I want to do this,” but we feel we can’t do it. Most times when we do it, that’s when all the resources and the help and the people come. People are really wonderful, if they see you have a dream and you begin the process; beginning is really the most difficult stage of any project, so once you begin, just realize that. The momentum will happen and things will begin to happen and so just go for it. If you have a desire, get it done, accomplish it, because you’ll feel happy knowing that you have accomplished that thing you set out to do.
There are many writers in society and in all walks of life, but we just have to get that motivation and that knowledge deep in us that we can do it, as long as the desire is there, it does mean we can accomplish it.
Great advice. Joszann, the title of your latest book is Sonnets in Waking Moments. Please tell us, why did you choose that title?
Well, sonnets by definition, is love poetry. And as you go through life there are many different moments, and so I think life is defined by the moments we experience. We experience joy, we experience pain, we go through suffering and there’s still beauty in every emotion. I wanted to capture the whole essence of life and the poetry of life, and so I came up with this idea of love and poetic love and love in motion, because it’s also a love story. And so what better way, better title or better caption than Sonnets in Waking Moments, because it’s when we are awake and aware, that we experience love; and that’s one of the most beautiful and highest attainment of living and also of emotions. I wanted to capture the essence of living and loving, going through difficult times, because the Great Depression was a very difficult time in modern history.
Yes, your book is set in the Great Depression period. What do you think defined that period?
I think there were many moments and so I won’t say there was one moment, because the whole Depression was a time of intense struggle for many people. There were some people who had a good life, others struggled and had difficulties. Some lost their jobs – employment, people’s lives were scattered and fractured, they had to depend on soup kitchens sometimes for food, or handouts from neighbors and different sources. It was a very difficult time.
The Great Depression was brought on economic difficulties, but I think that the people who experienced the Depression, for them there were so many things that were impacting them at the moment, so being able to live and endure was a defining moment in itself. Human relationships and human societies are often characterized by boom and bust cycles; and so going through that period, people endured and they came out on the other side stronger for their experiences. Also, the Depression sometimes went in waves, especially in America and Canada, and so there were moments during the years, during the 10 years of the ‘30’s, where things had improved slightly and then it went back down again.
One of the greatest moments in Canadian history was the visit of the Queen, the Royal Monarch from Britain in 1938, 1939. So for the visit to Canada and also North America, people got ready. It was a time of intense festivities and people were happy to just experience all the pomp and pageantry, especially going through the difficulties they had. It was a time where the visit of the King and Queen lifted people’s spirits and made them feel good about life again.
In the book, Anna had to deal with an unfortunate situation with regard to her husband. I don’t want you to tell us what it was, persons can read that for themselves. What helps Anna deal with this life-changing incident?
I think she had to rely on her strength and at one point she shut down and she just had to go from day to day. During the Depression, one of the most enduring qualities was the coming together of people, the cooperation of people, and so she had to rely on her friends for support in many
different ways. They helped her to survive that period in her life. Society and just the different institutions in society helped her to carry on, because at that point, she didn’t want to go on herself, it was a shock to her, what had happened to her husband. She had to really just stop where she was at that point in time and let life continue around her; and so she had to rely on the people and the support systems she already had in place to help her during that period in her life.
So what lessons are there for us to learn from this story of life during that period?
There are many lessons and as human beings we tend to go through adversity, and we can overcome. All the different characters and the different personalities in the novel, they have experienced life and loss and pain and suffering and so as human beings, we must be strong going through crises and adversity because we can overcome. This is one of the most enduring messages of the novel.
We also need support in many ways and as John Donne said, “No man is an island,” and so every one of us, we need the support of people around us. There’s a popular saying that
‘one hand can’t clap.’ As a kid, my mom, Irma Prince St. John would tell me, “Two hands make work light,” so we have to really draw on the support of others and love other people. Mingle with them and just rally around others when they go through difficulties because it will change us as human beings, it will make us more understanding about life and people, but it also speaks to the human spirit of cooperation of love, of wanting to help and being there for someone else.
So there’s something in the novel for everyone, and I want people to go away knowing that crises come, and things happen that we sometimes have no control over, but it’s what we do when going through these situations that makes living worthwhile.
Joszann, I can hear the passion as you speak. You also describe yourself as an advocate for non-secular issues and there are a number of real issues raised in Sonnets. How do you see yourself reaching out to others in your community who face similar issues?
I think in the community, we have so many people of many different faiths, but as we go through life and we go through experiences – sometimes good and sometimes bad – we have to know that our spiritual core is connected to a divine source. In contemporary society, often we say, “Well, I’m too busy, I don’t have time to focus on that,” but one thing I’ve found even going from my experiences, once crisis hits we find the time to look for a solution. What would happen if we were already connected to the source? What would happen if we were cognizant of our spirituality and of God, and then so when things happen, we would not be looking for a quick fix or we would not be looking for a fix, but we would know deep down in our core that he is there and that he is in control and that things will get better. So we go through seasons in life and we are not alone, we are never alone, but we feel that way because of the nature of society and the things we are taught even as children and becoming an adult.
Our focus tends to be on the material side of things and so because I experienced all these different emotions and I had to find a solution to my crises and my challenges and it was going through these challenges that made me turn to God to get to know him for myself. So when we go through these experiences, it makes us stronger and when we become stronger, I do believe when we overcome, it is our duty to help others overcome.
This is my mission, to help other women to recognize who they are and the greatness that lies inside of them and to bring that to the fore, because I do believe when women are healthy, society will be healthy and we won’t have to be trying to tear each other down or do any of those things, but we will just make the right decision, in a sense.
No doubt you have been influenced by some strong women in your life, because you write your stories, your poetry, about women. Tell us about the book though, who do you see as being interested in this new book, Sonnets in Waking Moments.
There’ve been many women in my life. My mom, my grandma, my teachers at school, just women in society, some of the women novelists I’ve read, including women poets, Maya Angelou, my grandma had gone through difficulties herself, Ruth Vigo and so the different teachers, as I said, and different women. I’ve met so many different women as I walk through this journey, as I go through this journey, that you must be—when you meet these people – you must be impacted.
As a writer, you have all these ideas and stories that present themselves and so to formulate a novel it’s quite easy in a sense, because you have the positive experiences to draw on; and also the negative, because life is a combination of all the different things we experience.
Women in general will be drawn to the novel and women going through difficulties, women in love, women with children, grandma and the older women folk, too, but I think it’s a universal story because the story talks shares and draws upon the economics of the time, it talks about the history of the time, it talks about social situations and people. It’s a multitude of different moments and people and history and bringing that together; it’s really about all of us in society and all of us as humankind, really. So I don’t like to exempt anyone from reading the book, I like to say everyone is welcome because there is something in there for everyone, whether it be a male figure or a woman or a child, there is something in there for everyone.
Almost like a family story then?
It is a family saga and all the different moments, as I said, that make up life, make up living, make up our stories and they also define us, so it’s really about the defining moments of living, during the period. Most of my work tends to be the reflection of women in society, about history and society and so I like to draw on these periods that we’ve experienced not necessarily directly – because it has affected our grandparents and our forefathers – but it has relevance still because we are products of these people and I think as a society, we never really shake the image of who we are. We cannot shake the stories, we cannot shake our history, they are a part of us, whether we can see them but it’s so embedded into the genome, really, into our DNA. It’s important that we draw on that, as we journey through our life.
Thank you, Joszann. Any projects on the horizon? Are you working on any books or anything that you’d like to share with us today?
Certainly. There are many different projects that I’m working on and also directly related to Sonnets in Waking Moments. I want to market the book, but also to get in touch and interact with many women and different people in society as I do this work, because I’m so excited for the next phase of my life, as I do this work. I just want to build on the things I’ve done before and so I want to be better at my poetry, better at my writing, and better with people, because really, this work is not for me, it’s for the people who are impacted by my work.
Writers are speaking and we have a voice; for a long time my voice was buried and I couldn’t really express myself, I didn’t even know I had a voice, so that’s what this writing has done, what my books have done, what my work is doing, – giving me the voice. I am hoping that my voice and my work will help to change the course of society and also women’s lives, because that’s what I’m very passionate about.
It’s good to have you on the virtual book tour, Joszann, I wish you all the best in sharing of your message with your various audiences as you go on tour and I wish you all the best in your writing. Thank you so much for joining us today, I look forward to chatting with you another time.
Thank you for having me, it was a pleasure also.
This interview is presented as part of a virtual book tour celebrating my book Sonnets in Waking Moments. Enjoy the celebration by following me on the tour to fifteen (15) blogs in honour of Sonnets. Access the virtual book tour schedule and a link to the book on Amazon, below. Thank you and enjoy!
Joszann St. John writes across many genres and has published multiple titles. Her newest novel, Sonnets in Waking Moments is a women’s fiction story about life during The Great Depression.
Visit her blog and check out the full schedule for the virtual book tour celebrating this historical fiction love story. Follow the heroine Anna Agnelli, an Italian immigrant to Canada during the 1900’s and her daughter Viola. Other major characters include Ralph, Frank, Jimmy, Louise and Mark Ackerly.
A new and unique voice, Joszann is dedicated to inspiring and empowering others through her extensive body of work. She credits faith as the major influence in overcoming some of her previous challenges. She is the mother of two beautiful children whom she considers wonderful motivators in her life.