October 30, 2019

The Intimacy Between the Reader and the Novel

By Johnnie Bernhard

There is an intimacy between a reader and a novel an author prays she creates.  This intimacy evolves from the author’s imagination or subconscious.  A voice or image I have hidden in the recesses of the past often resurfaces in a character or bit of dialogue.  The character Jonas in A Good Girl is a blending of the Spanish-American War foot soldier, South Texas geography, and a mother's heart for a lost son. Leona of How We Came to Be is created from a WWII memorial in Budapest, Hungry and conversations with WWII survivors.  Leona is the embodiment of a woman who has lost everything but her faith.

My third novel, Sisters of the Undertow debuts February 27, 2020.  Every day I wonder how readers will respond to the characters, Kathy Renee and Kimberly Ann, sisters who are as different as two planets orbiting around the sun, never understanding each other, despite their years of circling.  The idea for Sisters of the Undertow comes from viewing the rescue of a little girl who was struggling to keep her head above water when she ventured out into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico in Grand Isle, Louisiana.  I witnessed that dramatic rescue over twenty-five years ago and have never forgotten it.           

Nothing pleases me more as an author than to have a reader discuss a character as if he or she is a living, breathing human being.  I’ve done my job – the character evoked an emotion with the reader. The intimacy between the two begins.
Johnnie Bernhard is an award-winning author of Upmarket Fiction.  Both A Good Girl and How We Came to Be were shortlisted for Fiction of the Year by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters.  A Good Girl was shortlisted for the 2017 Kindle Book Award for Literary Fiction and a nominee for the 2018 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize.  How We Came to Be is a recipient of the Summerlee Book Prize, HM by the Center for History and Culture at Lamar University. As an author, Johnnie enjoys speaking to book clubs as well as attending state book festivals and writing conferences as a presenter and panelist.  Sisters of the Undertow will be featured in a panel at the AWP in March 2020.  She is a proud member of the international Pulpwood Queens Book Club founded by author and literacy advocate, Kathy L. Murphy.  Visit Johnnie on the web at  Her books are available at retail bookstores and on Amazon. 

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