When a young Chinese girl comes to study at an American university in the quaint little town of Redbud Corner, she meets an intriguing, attractive man who challenges everything she has ever believed in. He tries to persuade her that following the living God will satisfy in a way that wealth and power will never be able to do. Will she listen to him? Or will she choose the handsome, successful man back home in China?
JoHannah Reardon has set aside a little time to have a chat with me about how her journey writing her novel ‘Redbud Corner’. I’m intrigued about how the journey of the main character unfolded for you. How did the initial ideas develop?
I got this idea from a relationship I had with a young Chinese woman who came to the university near where I live. As I interacted with her, I realized how different her life was from mine and how challenging coming to a completely different country can be.
How did you tackle making sure you really showed the complexity of such a situation? Was research about the Chinese culture vital?
Yes, I went to China to teach English, which gave me great insight into the culture and traditions there. It was invaluable for the information I needed to write this book.
Wow, going to China would have given you a fantastic insight into challenges experienced by a foreign living abroad. Was your experience the primary one that you used in your novel?
Not only did I draw on the life experiences of the Chinese women I’ve met, but I drew on my own life experiences in many of the day-to-day details.
How did your characters form out the melange of your personal and the experiences you gathered from other Chinese women?
Once I started with the main character, the others just gathered around her. Each one made sense as they entered her life.
Can you see these characters in your mind’s eye? For example, could you already cast them if they were to make a movie or TV series out of your book today?
Good question! Jessica Chow would have just the look I imagine Ah Ni to have. Chris Pratt would be a great Travis. And Dennis Oh would nail it as Guo Feng.
Nice choices. Do you think that the characters alone without their actor alter egos would be lead to a fun cast party?
Absolutely! They would be a great bunch to hang out with. Admittedly, Ah Ni would be the least to make a party enjoyable at the beginning of the book, but by the end, everyone would want to hang with her.
I like that you’ve got the character development even throughout the party! To me it seems like you really enjoyed the journey that your main character takes. Did you find her journey rewarding?
Of all the fiction books I’ve written, this is my favorite because I feel I captured the immigrant feeling. I was thrilled when a Chinese immigrant who read it said I’d perfectly identified the emotions a person goes through.
And out of all of the aspects you captured in your novel, can you pick out the single most important thing that you want readers to take away from the story?
That success by the world’s standards is shallow, empty, and disappointing. Only as we live for something and someone greater can be find any true meaning in our lives.
Do you find that writing gives you meaning. Is that why you write?
Because I love it! And I also feel I have something worthwhile to offer readers.
I like a writer with a worthwhile offering. What is your next worthwhile writing project focused on?
I’ve just finished a book on conquering our fear, which has been a lifelong battle for me. The book is a 40-day journey in experiencing who God is so that we can move out of crippling anxiety.
As someone who’s had some issues on the fear front I like the idea of being able to take that journey away from those emotions. Your novel is really in a different vein than you new work on fear. When you approach either a fiction or non-fiction work, do you always know where you want to arrive, or does it unfold through writing?
I have a vague feeling about the end, but it usually takes quite a few turns before I wrap everything up.
How do you approach writing? Are you a tactical author who outlines and then follows your notes to the end, or do you use targets to keep yourself on track perhaps?
None of those things. I am a sporadic writer who waits for the Spirit to move me!
I can’t argue with that! Does music help you get moving?
I find music so engaging that I can’t think or do anything else when I am listening to it.
So, what happens when you’re not moved, or are stuck? How do you get past writers block?
Let it rest. After a break, I always find a way through it.
How do you go about the editing process? Do you do a large amount of editing the books yourself?
Yes, I do the content editing myself by going over and over it. However, I never do my own copyediting. I hire that done by the best.
As you go over your own work many times, do you find that you have a list of words that you constantly write which you don’t like, but still find that you use?
Yes! I mostly hate extra words that aren’t needed. For example, writers will commonly say something like, “In my life, I like to have lots of people around.” The first phrase is not needed at all and annoys me.
*Laughs* The challenge of tight writing is ever-present. Do you have any tips for anyone considering self-publishing so that they make the best out of their experience?
Seek help from someone who has done it. I tried to figure it all out by myself and it was excruciating and I made some mistakes.
Despite your mistakes you’ve still managed to make several contributions of worthwhile writing to the world. JoHannah, thanks for making these contributions and I wish you the best of luck with this promotion and your upcoming release.
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