Sally John ~ Heaven Help Heidi

SJ-2Sally John is the best-selling author of twenty novels, including the Safe Harbor series, coauthored with Gary Smalley; The Other Way Home series; The Beach House series; and In a Heartbeat series.

An ACFW Carol Award winner and three-time Christy Award finalist, she writes stories that explore marriage, family, and friendship in today’s world.

Sally and her husband live in southern California.

What started you on your writing path?

Reading fiction as a child first sparked the dream to write a book. A few lifetimes later, my husband thought I could write a software manual which he and his business associate needed. The project reawakened the old dream. My husband—a mainstay in my writing journey—noticed an article about a free adult writing class. My youngest went off to kindergarten and I went off to learn how to get published in magazines. Second semester the teacher covered fiction and I was a goner. Within the year I had sent three chapters to an agent who took me on because she really liked my writing. Several more years passed before a publisher (Crossway Books) released my first book.

Just as all good novels include a plot twist, the Author and Creator of our lives often writes in a twist, ultimately blessing us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?

So true! I’ve often thought I could title several of my books simply Detour. Many of them are about “original plans” not happening. I tried to capture this theme with series titles like Side Roads and The Other Way Home. “Divine Detour” is a great title for your work here.

One of my original plans was to be a wife, a mother of six, and live my entire life in the Midwest in a two-story with a yard surrounded by a white-picket fence and have those six kids visiting their childhood home. WELL! Except for the wife part, none of that happened.

What happened was I had two children who have added two in-laws and three grandchildren. I’m up to seven “kiddos!”

And that one house? My husband and I have moved a lot in our forty-one years together, twice back and forth between Illinois and California. For yard extras I’ve had oak trees, a creek, cacti, my grandmother’s iris offspring, a stone wall around a tiny dirt patio. No white picket fence in sight, but I’ve loved each one. Except for that last one, I’ve had to leave them behind for a variety of reasons.

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After the children were grown, one of those reasons was a biggie: it came in the shape of a wildfire. That great loss makes me hasten to add that I no longer have precise answers for why detours happen. I don’t believe God zapped us with tragedy because it was good for us.

Much, I think, rests in our response to the detours that will always come our way. Tears and whining and anger (my kids can’t visit their childhood home; I have no mementoes…)—these reactions are expected and allowed. But whenever I get through that fussy phase and into “okay, Abba, we can work with this; what do You have in mind,” I soften a little, grow a little, and receive huge doses of faith and joy and deep knowledge that I am loved. I think therein lies the ultimate blessing.

Heaven-Help-Heidi-(2)Let’s talk about Heaven Help Heidi (Harvest House, February 2015). Please tell us about it.

The setting is the same as in Between Us Girls. In a fictional San Diego neighborhood, the Casa de Vida (House of Life) is home for a dozen or so people. In the first book we meet Liv, the owner, and her tenants. They all make appearances in this story that revolves around Piper and Heidi. The stories are separate, however, so it’s not necessary to read them in order.

In Heaven Help Heidi, Heidi is the newcomer, a real-estate agent at the top of her game until a car accident—a detour!—rearranges her entire life. She is acquainted with Piper, who brings her into the Casa fold. Piper is emerging from the difficult years following her fiancé’s death. She takes hesitant baby steps to reconnect with people. And so… we have two women traveling detours, both in need of family to welcome them “home” and to help them decipher those pesky signs with the arrows.

Although Liv is the older wise mentor/grandmother figure, she faces a detour of her own, an example of God never being finished with healing us and creating new in our lives.

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What was the inspiration behind this story—and the series?

I remember sewing one day, something for my daughter, and thinking about her high school days. The idea of a woman character (a mother of a teenager) who had lost everything came to mind. How could she start over with no job, no family, no friends helpful in her current situation?

She would need a wise woman to love on her. Liv introduced herself to me. : )  She owned a slice of heaven complete with cottages for rent, tenants who resembled angels (how else do we explain Keagan?), and a gorgeous garden.

Eventually Jasmyn was born. I gave her a new home that she totally could not have imagined (okay, this is starting to sound biographical… ). And no, she’s not the original character who set this all in motion. : )

Jasmyn needed a friend. Samantha, the most unlikely one to become involved, was the ideal choice.

Once the Casa and its people were in place, it was easy to imagine another hurting woman to stumble into that loving embrace and become close to one tenant in particular. I was curious about Piper and so I paired her with Heidi.

I like to explore relationships in my stories. After all the ones about romance and marriage, I wanted to focus on women’s friendship. As some readers have picked up on, this series is about family that happens within community, that family of the heart, those people who are not relatives.

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A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

LOL! Comfort food works both ways, doesn’t it!

Potato chips. They satisfy all the senses. Stick your nose in a bag and the earthy smell of vegetables that grow hidden away strikes. It’s absolutely grounding. The rough texture delights the fingertips. The fascinating, endless variety of shapes are a curiosity for the eyes. The crunch of each bite echoes reassuringly. The salt on the tongue tingles. All that and it’s just really easy to open a bag. No cooking. You don’t even have to open the fridge. They’re sold at gas stations, for goodness sakes, and in motel vending machines.

What’s the name of the last great book you read?

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. It’s historical fiction, about a woman’s discovery of fossils in 19th Century England, the friendship between two women, the struggle for women’s voices to be heard, and the church’s difficulty figuring out what to do with fossils. Where were they in the Bible?

I loved the writing. Although historically it was a not a pleasant time, I loved that the story reminded me of how amazing God’s creation is and of how our faith is challenged and stretched when things don’t fit inside our box.

What Bible passage or story best describes your journey of faith?

Zephaniah 3:17-18 (NJB) “Yahweh your God is there with you, the warrior-Saviour. He will rejoice over you with happy song, He will renew you by His love, He will dance with shouts of joy for you, as on a day of festival.”

The constant in my journey has been the trust that God is here with me. Here. With. Me. Right now, in this moment. I was blessed with a sense of this before I had the words to describe it. Imagining song, dance, and renewal by love is a space to spend time in on a regular basis. Thanks be to God.

In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?

The little girl trying to walk in high heels. : )  Wanting to get it right, stumbling, not giving up…

I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.

I enjoy my grand-cats, Tobi and Shasta, and grand-dog Aspen. They’re cuddly and funny and I don’t have to clean up after them. : )

Thanks, Sally! It’s great to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.

Thank you, Kathy. It was lovely to be here.

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For more information about Sally, visit her website.

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2017-10-03T18:59:04+00:00 February 27th, 2015|Literary|3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. […] Sally John ~ Heaven Help Heidi […]

  2. Elaine Stock March 1, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    What an inspiring interview, Sally and Kathy. Thanks for kick-jumping my day in the right direction! Blessings.

  3. Kathy Harris March 3, 2015 at 1:42 am

    Elaine, it’s always so nice to see you here. And thank you for the Tweet!

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