…and experience a fire drill at the same time.
by Shirley Gilbert
A fire drill in the Fremont Main Library didn’t dampen the enthusiasm we all felt when we met three outstanding local authors at our branch’s Meet the Authors event on Monday, May 5th at 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. In fact it only served to fire up our imaginations.
The three authors talked about their dreams of writing and publishing their novels and how they each realized those dreams.
For Marjorie Bicknell Johnson, who has always been excited about ancient cultures, it was writing a story about a girl who cracked the Mayan writing code. “I’ve always been amazed at how advanced the Mayan civilization was,” she said. “They developed their own writing — sort of like Egyptian hieroglyphics — with 700 symbols that meant they could express everything they wanted to communicate. So I created a princess who is a descendent of a Mayan king. And she’s a strong central character in my novel Jaguar Princess.”
Author Nancy Curteman is a mystery writer who has always loved to write. Her books have a geographical twist — she writes them as a result of all the trips she takes. She calls them global mysteries. Her latest book, Murder Casts a Spell, came about from her visit to Cape Town, South Africa. Her forever protagonist, Lysi Weston, who is always a thorn in the side of the local police, solves a murder that takes place in one of city’s poor townships. Nancy creates strong women in her mysteries. “But,” she continued, “I also create men who realize they don’t know everything and are willing to listen.” Writing, for Nancy, is a continual mystery in its own right. “I love to run upstairs and see what my characters are going to do next.” She is quick to point out that her murder mysteries are not explicit. “They are,” she says with a Mona Lisa smile, “full of innuendo.”
“Libraries,” said final speaker Jana McBurney-Lin, “are places of dreams and my books are the realization of those dreams.” Her first dream centered around China. Chairman Mao has said that women hold up half the sky. And her book entitled My Half of the Sky takes place in China and Singapore and brings to life powerful women who are torn between tradition and modern life. Her second dream takes place in South Korea and features a Korean family who, during World War II, live under the terrifying occupation of the Japanese. Hence the title Blossoms and Bayonets. Her inspiration for the book came from a South Korean gentleman, Mr. Chai, whose life story is loosely modeled after the journey of the family in the book.
In the Q&A period the three writers were asked how they found an agent. Jana was lucky enough to meet Jean Auel (creator of the Earth’s Children’s Series) who consented to be her agent; Nancy went directly to a publisher and Marjorie self-published her novel.
The women were asked what they were working on now. Marjorie is continuing her fascination with the Mayans. She’s writing a novel about the search for jade — an all encompassing Mayan passion. Nancy’s next mystery takes place in a city she recently visited: Paris. And Jana is writing a sequel to My Half of the Sky.
Speaking for all three authors, Jana thanked Kathy Garfinkle who organized the get-together of the authors in the library and the audience who stayed despite the fire drill. “It’s you who make our dreams come true. Thank you so much.”