Julie Christine Johnson’s
(In Another Life, Sourcebooks 2016)
beautiful, haunting environmental novel
Beautifully crafted with environmental themes, a lyrical Irish setting, and a touch of magical realism, The Crows of Beara is a breathtaking novel of how the nature of place encompasses everything that we are.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie Christine Johnson
is the award-winning author of the novels
In Another Life (Sourcebooks 2016) and
The Crows of Beara (Ashland Creek Press September 2017),
as well as numerous short stories and essays.
Visit juliechristinejohnson.com for more information about her writing,
and to learn about Julie’s developmental editing and writer coaching services.
Julie Christine Johnson
A Writer’s Ireland
May 2002. My first trip to Ireland. Alone, I join a small group of strangers to hike the Beara peninsula, West Cork, and there I fall truly, madly, deeply in love. On the flight home two weeks later, I turn my face toward the window and sob. I am as if torn from a lover, forever. Ireland has changed me. Beara has given me a sense of peace and wholeness I have never before experienced.
The years pass and I return to Ireland several times, hiking the Wicklow Way, Connemara, the Dingle and Kerry peninsulas; exploring Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Kenmare, Tralee. But that first time—and Beara—remain a dream crystallized in photographs and memories.
January 2014. I set the first complete draft of my first novel aside to rest, exhausted by the effort to corral a 170,000 wordsoup into a 99,000 word manuscript. That novel becomes my debut In Another Life, which is named 2016 Gold Winner for Fantasy by FOREWORD Indies at the American Library Association Annual Conference in June 2017. I leave behind a timeslip of modern and medieval southwest France to enter the cool, scabrous beauty of southwest Ireland.
Perched on hill overlooking Ballycrovane Harbor in the remote southern end of the Beara peninsula sits a humped, ragged block of stone. One edge resembles the profile of a woman, her furrowed brow arched over a proud nose, her gaze fixed on the Atlantic Ocean. She is An Cailleach Bheara, the Hag of Beara, mother of Ireland. Her story is Ireland’s story, her survival the enduring drama of a tortured land of legendary beauty. I learn of the Hag by reading the poetry of Leanne O’Sullivan, who grew up in the Hag’s shadow, a child of West Cork, a woman of Ireland. O’Sullivan’s work whispers, sings, howls of romance and loss in this place of stone and sea. This modern poet’s magic opens the door to the legend that shapes my novel’s spirit and themes.
I create the story of a recovering alcoholic who has a marriage to repair and a career to salvage, and another of an artist who cannot forgive himself for the tragedy he caused. As my characters begin to take shape, I know the threads connecting them will be found in the presence of the Hag. Her voice filters through these characters’ pain to reveal their authentic selves.
Spring 2015. I am packing for Ireland. The Beara peninsula, specifically. The Universe is granting me the opportunity to come full circle. I’ll visit An Cailleach Bheara for the first time. I will attend my first poetry workshop, led by Leanne O’Sullivan.
June 2015. I am is in the land of poetry and legends, of An Cailleach, Clan Ó Súilleabháin, St. Caitighearn where battles were fought on gorse-cloaked mountains and warriors marked their Ogham runes on tall pillars. I am where the ruined shadows of a British Coast Guard station destroyed by the IRA in 1920 pale against the shadows of history cast by circles of ancient altars—these slabs of stone sculpted by Bronze Age hands now scratching posts for the russet and inky-black flanks of Angus and Friesian cows.
I am walking through Eyeries village where rows of houses line up like Crayons and lace curtains flutter in open windows; in MacCarthy’s Bar, Castletown-Bearhaven, enjoying the craic with new friends, laughter stealing my breath.
I am is high on a hillside peering into the green and blue infinity, sheep scattering in my wake, boots soaked through with bog, fingers wrapped around a trekking pole, pack cinched around my waist like a lover’s arms. I learn that my novel, The Crows of Beara, has been offered a publishing contract and will take flight in September 2017. I am so happy I could explode from the very fullness of my heart.