Johanna Garth, Interview
Michelle M. Pillow, www.michellepillow.com
Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy author Johanna Garth is a lawyer turned writer, lover of social media and chief boo-boo kisser to Child 1 and 2 who make regular appearances on her blog, Losing Sanity. She lives in Portland, Oregon and can assure you that every episode of Portlandia is based on fact. Her first novel Losing Beauty released May 2011, and the second Losing Hope released May 2012. Both are in ebook and print at Amazon, Barnes & Noble.
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Q: In your book, Losing Beauty, you delve into the world of Greek Mythology. Persephone compels everyone she meets to confess their darkest secrets. What inspired you to create such a character?
Johanna: As a lawyer, I’ve always found the concept of confession fascinating. What compels people to set aside self-interest and admit to something like murder or robbery?
Of course, not everyone admits to their darkest deeds. This made me wonder what it would be like to meet a person who could extract the kinds of secrets people don’t usually volunteer, a sort of human truth serum. In the context of my heroine, Persephone, I wondered how she would interact with Haden, who is the lord of the Underworld and, as such, has many dark secrets.
Q: When world building, did you base your story off of known myths throughout history?
Johanna: Losing Beauty is set in present day and is a modern take on the myth of Hades and Persephone, written from Persephone’s perspective. I wanted Persey to be relatable, the kind of heroine who experiences great emotional growth throughout the series.
Her world starts out the same as yours and mine. It isn’t until late in the book that she visits the Underworld. Her struggle is to find the right balance between the two worlds. She desperately wants to stay in the world of the living with the man she loves but she’s terrified of what might happen to her loved ones in the Underworld if she doesn’t succumb to Haden’s demands.
Q: What myths or legends inspire you?
Johanna: I love Greek mythology and it gave me a jumping off point for Losing Beauty. In general, the myths and legends that hold the most fascination for me are ones with strong characters and personal conflicts.
The character piece, what makes people (or creatures) tick is almost, if not more interesting than their individual skills. I think most of us are fascinated by inner conflict. When a human turns into a vampire, do they mourn their loss of humanity? When Persephone discovers what she must do, will she accept her responsibilities or reject them?
Q: Why do you think readers, and society in general, are fascinated by the paranormal?
Johanna: In a world where any sports score, song lyric, movie title or quote can be fact-checked with a few clicks of a mouse, paranormal offers up something unique.
We can debate it, think about it and are drawn to it because paranormal elements and creatures aren’t cold hard facts. They live at the edges of every culture and call to our imagination and curiosity.
Q: What are your favorite paranormal movies and books?
Johanna: This is one of those questions that I’ll answer and then, as soon as I do, I’ll remember my all-time favorite that was inevitably omitted. Instead of giving you my favorites, I’ll give you my recents.
The last paranormal book I read was The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I love, love, loved it!
The last paranormal movie I saw was Ghostbusters with my kids. Good times with the Keymaster and Pillsbury Dough Boy.
Q: Do you believe in the supernatural?
Johanna: I believe inexplicable things happen. Maybe the explanations for why those things happen are scientific and we don’t know enough to understand what we see. Or maybe the explanations are supernatural and we refuse to believe what the hairs on the back of our neck tell us.
Until someone proves the truth of one explanation over the other, I’ll keep an open mind.
Q: Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
Johanna: Just once, and it was when I was a baby. My mother’s favorite aunt died three days before I was born. After my mother took me home from the hospital she felt compelled, almost called, to return to the old farm house where my aunt lived.
One afternoon my mother drove out to the house, which was situated by itself in the country. When she pulled up in the driveway she could see lights on upstairs. She assumed children were playing inside and went in to investigate.
At this point in the story I always used to ask her, “But weren’t you scared? And why did you leave me alone in the car?”
She always said it never occurred to her to be frightened and I was asleep so what would be the point of waking me up.
Inside the house she could hear noises upstairs. But when she went upstairs, the noises sounded like they were coming from the basement. She went to the basement and the noises sounded like they were coming from somewhere else. Eventually, she remembered she’d left her infant (me) alone in the car and ran back outside.
I was still asleep when she found me, except someone had pulled away the swaddling blankets so my entire face and body were visible. My mother said she felt a presence nearby, as though someone was watching her. She believes the spirit of my great-aunt called her back to the house. My great-aunt loved babies. Maybe she needed to meet the newest addition to the family before she could be at peace. Or maybe, I just wriggled my way out of the tightly wrapped blankets.
It’s hard to know for sure. The one thing we do know is that after that day, my mother never felt the need to return to the old farm house again.
Q: What kind of paranormal creatures do you wish you could meet?
Johanna: I’m too superstitious to put something like that in writing. What if they do exist? And what if one of them read this article and decides to grant my wish? I think this is exactly the kind of information I need to keep to myself. *smile*
Q: If given the chance, would you become a mythological figure?
Johanna: I think I’d be Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. Not because I love to hunt but because she has a bow and arrow. I’ve never been a natural athlete but when it comes to archery, I can almost always hit a bull’s eye. And, if you’re going to be a mythological figure, you should probably focus on your strengths! Those gods can play rough!!
Q: How would you react if you came face to face with the lord of the Underworld?
Johanna: In Losing Beauty, Haden is more than just the lord of the Underworld. He tells Persey that every culture, every time, every religion has its name for him—Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, the Dark Lord, the Grim Reaper. He walks through our world and most people never know his true identity.
The point is, maybe I’ve already come face to face with the lord of the Underworld and I just didn’t know it. Maybe, you have too.
Q: What does the future hold for Persephone?
Johanna: One of my beta readers compares the Persephone Campbell series to Star Wars. She says that the next book, Losing Hope is the Empire Strikes Back of the series. That means Persey is going to come to terms with who she is and what is expected of her. She will have to make choices and those choices will become increasingly difficult.
The good news is Persey is quietly discovering her inner strength. Even though the second book takes her to a very dark place, it also gives her the depth of character she will need to find her way in the final book.
The overwhelming feedback I receive from readers of Losing Beauty is they relate to Persey. I think this is because Persey is all alone and searching for her place in the world. At its core, Losing Beauty is a coming of age story. We all know what it feels like to search for our place in the world and the difficulties that journey can present.
Q: Have you ever been to a psychic and/or a past life regression? What did they predict for you?
Johanna: I have a friend who does tarot card readings. She refuses to read my cards because she worries about seeing something bad. She doesn’t want to have to deliver bad news to a good friend. I take my cues from her. If I’m going to be hit by a bus tomorrow, I’d prefer not to know about it today.
Q: Have you ever been abducted by aliens?
Johanna: If I have, they’ve completely erased my memory of the experience.
Q: Why do you write paranormal romance?
Johanna: I write for the same reason I breathe. It’s not a choice, it’s a physical need.
There may come a time when I feel like I’ve said everything I have to say about paranormal and move on to another genre. Although, given the breadth of material and my ongoing fascination with the subject, I’d say the chances of that happening are slim.
To read more about Johanna Garth and her books, visit www.johannagarth.com
Interview by Michelle M. Pillow, www.michellepillow.com