Author Interview with Joszann St. John


What is you latest book about?

My novel, Sonnets in Waking Moments recounts the period of the Great Depression in Canada and New York City. The story revolves around the lives of Anna and Viola Agnelli and a cast of other characters.  The Great Depression presents unique challenges for the Agnelli family. When tragedy strikes, the family is devastated and changed forever. Viola grows up in a convent in New York City; she eventually returns to Toronto and finds love. Her journey captures the passage from childhood to womanhood and the angst of understanding the human condition. The novel captures the essence of social and intimate relationships. Mark and Viola’s love will eventually triumph over adversity and setbacks.

What I the inspiration behind your book?

 I’ve always been a lifelong student of history, and also very passionate about women issues. Elements of these are uppermost in my mind when I create. My first novel, McKenna of Dreams and Substance chronicled elements of the colonial and post colonial history of the Caribbean, while featuring the coming of age story of McKenna. For my next project, I wanted to challenge myself, developing a story outside of my previous writing repertoire. From adolescence, I have sought to understand the romantic workings of human relationships. So my work is a mixture of all these components. I think every woman, and man wants to find lasting love. Most of us want to belong to someone. As I do these human interest stories, a theme I would like to continue to expound upon is the love angle.

What’s your favorite scene in your book? Can you describe the scene?

Viola Agnelli spends an afternoon with Mark Ackerly, her future husband. Mark has enjoyed a privileged upbringing, as the eldest son of a wealthy family. The grounds of Doyenne Estate Marks family home, is awash in the beauty of fall colors, when Viola sits for a painting. Mark begins sketching the innocent Viola but quickly realizes that something special is developing between them, as sparks begin to fly. By the time the session ends, his passionate error sends Viola running.

Imagine you are trapped on a deserted island. Which character would you prefer to be stuck with, and why?

Interesting, tough call! I don’t like seconds, Mark is taken. I think I would choose Anna Agnelli. She has been through it all. Anna is tough woman, and would be most helpful, serving me well in every situation. She is a comforting presence, someone dependable. I think I would be most concerned about survival in this situation.

What makes your book stand out from all the others on the market?

Historical fiction is a niche genre, and readers are looking to learn about the period as they interact with the characters and the story. I tried to develop characters that readers can relate to. The human condition and the basic challenges are the same for every generation. We are always looking for ways to provide food, shelter, and protection for our families. While most societies have experienced periods of boom and bust, the Great Depression was a significant time in world history, and influenced many aspects of present society. Themes of love, history, politics, war, romance, family, wealth, immigration and the church are some of the numerous categories presented.  Diversity is a huge part of cultures all across the globe, and so my novel is at times a reflection of the world we occupy.

What do you want to resonate with readers when they read “The End”?

I want people to go away with optimism. The Depression was a difficult period; and poverty affected many. People oftentimes survived because of the benevolence of others. Though many suffered, individuals found novel ways to cope. A spirit of community was fostered during that time, as people worked together for the common good of everyone. Many of the landmark buildings, towering sentinels in contemporary times, went up during the Depression or shortly after. So you have, certain extremes happening, which I highlighted. I tried to create a true to life story, as most of the characters triumphed in the end. Things can happen that are sometimes beyond our control, and while we can’t always make all things right, life does go on. There is a certain resiliency about life, hope still beats. As Martin Luther King Jr, says, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” I do hope readers love my story and would share with others what they liked most about Sonnets in Waking Moments.

Fun Trivia:

Coffee or chocolate? You can only choose one!

Difficult choice, I love both but chocolate is my absolute favorite. I especially love bars that are laced with nuts.

Favorite movie or TV show?

One of my favorite movies of all time is the Shawshank Redemption. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is convicted of a double murder, even though he proclaims his innocence. He’s sentenced to life at the Shawshank State Prison in Maine, where another lifer, Ellis Red Redding (Morgan Freeman), picks him as the new recruit most likely to crack under the pressure. Andy uses his banking skills to win favor with the warden and the guards. He is able to improve the prison library and bring dignity and respect back to many of the inmates, including Red.


Book that made you laugh hysterically, shed tears, or want to change the world?
I’ve always been partial to stories about coming of age. Annie John, a story by Jamaica Kincaid, captures elements of the sometime turbulent mother daughter relationship. Set largely on the Caribbean island of Antigua, it resonated with me on many levels. Young girls tend to idolize their mothers. Puberty I think removes the veil, and for the first time we begin to see our mothers in a whole new light. When we begin changing, our mothers change too, as they expect us to now be more responsible human beings. I sometimes wish human relations can be more harmonious.

If you could write in any other genre, what would it be? Why?
I have been fortunate to write across multiple genres. Namely poetry, children’s, essays and the novel form. In the future, attempting the short story would be a major accomplishment. During my time at University I read, Alice Munroe’s, Progress of Love, a book of short stories, which was a major source of inspiration. It takes considerable skill to develop and execute memorable characters in this limiting form.

 What was the first romance novel you ever read?
The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss  stands out in memory. Set at the turn of the 19th century. The heroine Heather Simmons finds herself in quite a predicament. Woodiwiss fiction captivated me, through her prose I journeyed to exciting locales across the globe.  I grew up in Wesley, a small village on the island of Dominica. During my childhood, we had a small library, in the eighties my friends and I would loan all the romance titles on the shelves. Discovering these books was like opening Pandora’s Box. I would devour them sometimes, one book in a day. I’ve always been partial to the romance, historical genre. When I read, I was transported to another time and place, which was quite a heady experience.

 What do you think is the most important element a book needs to be successful?

I think great writers are able to connect with the reader on an emotional level. When the reader is engaged, the natural progression will be to find out what comes next. A great story needs great writing, as well as rounded characters that drive a logical plot. A story is an unfolding, a revealing of many layers, that support the whole. The reader needs to be able to relate to the characters in some fashion. By the denouement, everything should make some kind of sense. Which, if the writer is good, will impact the reader in such a way that he will carry around our story, even if for a little while.

 How can readers connect with you and learn more about your writing? (Be sure to include social media links!)

 Connect with me on Social Media.

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