Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Interview with novelist Joanell Serra

Today’s featured guest is novelist Joanell Serra. We’re chatting about her literary women’s fiction novel, The Vines We Planted. 

Joanell Serra, MFT lives with her growing children, husband and dogs in the lovely Sonoma Valley. After years of publishing short stories, essays and plays, The Vines We Planted is her debut novel. She can be found polishing her second novel at a coffee shop, sipping a perfect Cabernet in a Sonoma winery or at her website. 
Welcome, Joanell. Please tell us about your current release.
In the heart of the California wine country, secrets seem to grow on the vines that Uriel Macon's family has tended for generations.

Uriel, the winery's young widower, steers clear of complicated relationships. He prefers the lonely comfort of his vineyard and his horses. Until he is reminded of his love affair with Amanda Scanlon, a relationship that ended when she abruptly left the country years ago under a cloud of mystery.

When, due to a family crisis, Amanda returns to Sonoma, she tries to mend the broken relationships left behind. In addition, she seeks the truth about her parents' complicated history and her own parentage.

But Amanda's unveiling of the past has devastating consequences. In the midst of California's beautiful Sonoma Valley, the Scanlon family struggles to overcome harsh realities with dignity and grace.

Both Amanda and Uriel stretch to take care of their families, who are facing immigration issues, marital crises, and illness. While navigating these challenges, the couple must decide if they trust themselves to love again, or to finally let each other go.

A Sonoma local, author Joanell Serra's debut novel is captivating, poignant, and uplifting, demonstrating how seeds planted long ago continue to grow. Sometimes into a strangling weed, sometimes offering a bountiful harvest.

What inspired you to write this book?
We moved up to Sonoma about six years ago, after falling in love with it on visits from the SF area over the years. Always a writer, I was drawn to creating a world in my novel that reflected the beauty of the valley and the complex relationships that develop in a small town where wine making is the foundation of the economy. After years as a parent and a therapist, I am impressed with people’s resiliency on a daily basis. I wanted to tell the story of real people, diverse people, facing the challenges of life – to love, to let go, to forgive, to rise again after loss, to immigrate, or move far from home, and to create a new “home” through family. The story is told from multiple perspectives, because that is how I see the world.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am deep into the first draft of the next novel, which is also set in Sonoma. While I wouldn’t call it a sequel, a few of the characters from The Vines We Planted will cross over in the next novel. After years of rewrites on The Vines We Planted, I’m loving the process of creating a brand-new story. The next novel is a love story as well, in which the female protagonist needs to face a trauma from her past in order to free her, literally, for the present. I hope to deepen the conversation on healing after assault, whether it is through friendship, love, time with horses or facing one’s demons.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I was first published at six, when my mother snuck one of my poems to the newspaper. (Here is a piece written about that experience in case you’re curious!)

I’ve called myself a writer ever since.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write about half time. I’m also a therapist and a mother. I can find the time to write as long as I put it before most things normal people do daily – the dishes, bathing, eating regular meals. Writers have to sacrifice a bit, but it’s worth it!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
All of us get stuck in writing the same words too often. To keep things fresh, I pick up a book by an author I respect and read until I find a word I don’t normally use in my writing. Something juicy, or startling. Then I put it on the top of the page and use it somewhere in the 1000 words I write that day.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A writer and a psychologist. Never say dreams don’t come true!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Many of the chapters in my novel are based at “Esperanza” the winery and stables owned by the Macon family. It is fictional setting, inspired by real places here in Sonoma. Between the cabernets, horses and Mexican delicacies, it’s a wonderful place to spend time. I hope you pick up the book and come visit.


Thanks for visiting with me today, Joanell.

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