Friday, February 05, 2016

Review & Guest Post: In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson

Title: In Another Life
Author: Julie Christine Johnson
Published: February 2016, Sourcebooks Landmark
Format: ARC E-copy, 368 pages
Source: Netgalley via publicist

Historian Lia Carrer has finally returned to southern France, determined to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. But instead of finding solace in the region's quiet hills and medieval ruins, she falls in love with Raoul, a man whose very existence challenges everything she knows about life--and about her husband's death. As Raoul reveals the story of his past to Lia, she becomes entangled in the echoes of an ancient murder, resulting in a haunting and suspenseful journey that reminds Lia that the dead may not be as far from us as we think.

Steeped in the rich history and romantic landscape of rural France, In Another Life is a story of love that conquers time and the lost loves that haunt us all.

My thoughts: This is Julie Christine Johnson's debut novel and I really enjoyed it. I will say I typically shy away from any books that have to do with time travel, but something called to me when reading the description of this book and I'm so glad I gave it a chance - I was mesmerized by it and really found myself immersed in Lia's story and wanting to know more.

What I loved about this book is that there was such a good balance between the past and present and I never once felt that the past was too bogged down with historical details. She gives us just enough to keep us intrigued and interested without being overbearing. I knew nothing of Cathar history, yet now I kind of want to find out a little more...

I also felt she created richly drawn characters, characters you just wanted to know more about, both in the present and the past. It was so hard to know who was good and who was up to no good - these characters were crafted so well. And even the setting was so vividly drawn that it became a character. 

The suspense that this book had kept me glued to the pages, wanting - no needing, to know how everything would play out. It starts out with Lia dealing with her grief and becomes so much more than that. It is definitely one of those of books that I won't be forgetting any time soon and I will certainly be keeping an eye out for what comes next from Julie Christine Johnson!

About the author: Julie Christine Johnson is the author of the novels In Another Life (February 2016, Sourcebooks Landmark) and The Crows of Beara (September 2017, Ashland Creek Press). Her short stories and essays have appeared in several journals, including Emerge Literary Journal; Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt; River Poets Journal, in the print anthologies Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss, and featured on the flash fiction podcast No Extra Words. She holds undergraduate degrees in French and Psychology and a Master’s in International Affairs. Julie leads writing workshops and seminars and offers story/developmental editing and writer coaching services.

A runner, yogi, and wine geek, Julie makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington state with her husband. In Another Life is her first novel. 

Authors Links: 
Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook 
|   Goodreads


True Story
by Julie Christine Johnson

In October 2013, a year and four months after beginning the first draft of In Another Life, I turned to my husband and said, "I will finish writing this novel because finishing is the right thing to do. I will finish it because I need to know I can. Once it is finished, it will go the way of most first novels: buried at the bottom of a drawer. It will be a learning experience. But it will never see the light of day."

I did indeed finish what I'd started, but I fudged a bit on the bottom-of-the-drawer part. I couldn't extinguish the light on a story that had brought me so much joy and hair-yanking aggravation to write. I asked others to give me honest feedback on its potential, and in their critiques I found the courage to rewrite. The same spirit that compelled me to finish the novel pushed me to see if I could find someone to champion its publication. 

Early summer 2014, I assembled a spreadsheet of literary agents to query. Narrowing a thousand possible agents who represented upmarket commercial fiction to a first-tier group of 105 was agonizing, tedious work.

But I knew the true agony would be in the trickling out of my query letter, wondering with each rejection, is it really worth it? Everyone says first novels are learning curves, but mostly they're crap and should be buried. Was I setting myself up for certain heartbreak?

Still, I wrote in my day planner on the fourth Monday of October 2014: Send first 5 query letters. As if I would forget. Really, I just wanted to satisfaction of effacing the command with a black Sharpie. 

First though, I set sail from my peninsula to a writers' conference on a nearby island. The week preceding the conference had been...challenging. Within a twenty-four hour period my husband's job was upended, my hard-drive curled up in a corner to die, and a bout with the flu had me wanting to do the same.

As the ferry chugged through the bay, I thought, "Only car trouble is left." The ferry docked, I turned on the ignition, and--I kid you not--a fire-engine red service indicator illuminated.

Just get me to the conference. Please. On the car seat beside me was paper proof I'd reserved a pitch spot with an agent months ago.

I arrived at the conference, but the agent I was scheduled to meet did not. I crashed the pitch sessions anyway, determined to tell someone my story. I pitched to four literary agents and two editors. 

Six pitches. Six manuscript requests. Come Monday morning--that fourth Monday of October--I e-mailed six copies of my novel. And then I drew a thick black line through that to-do item in my calendar. My lovely agent-query spreadsheet, over which I'd so labored, would just have to wait.

Between breakfast and lunch two weeks to the day I pitched my heart, two voices on the telephone--one belonging to my now-agent, the other to the eventual editor of In Another Life said--"We love your story. Let us share it with the world."

My novel found its way into the hands of those who believed in its potential. And now, three years, seven months and ten days after I wrote the first words, it is in readers' hands.

True Story.

***Thank you Julie for sharing this with us...and congratulations on the publication of your debut novel!!! 


  1. Kristin, thank you thank you for the beautiful review and for featuring me and In Another Life on your wonderful blog. I'm so honored and delighted! xoxo Julie

  2. Wait, didn't mean to be anonymous! Here I am! :)

  3. What a wonderful true story! I loved it and I've loved the cover of this book ever since I saw it on another blog a while back. It sounds great! Will put it on my list for this spring.

  4. The cover drew me to read your review. I love to give debut books a try. Her story is amazing.


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