Sandy Johnson – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

The Thirteenth Moon: A Journey into the Heart of Healing. The trajectory of my story does not simply reject traditional medicine, but accepts and incorporates it into a larger whole, with a metaphysical component that takes the patient where no conventional doctor can go. Facing my own mortality, I sought out both healers and mainstream scientists. They helped me understand that the source of all healing lies within us, but that each person must find his or her own path. I found mine through heartfelt faith and the help of some amazing individuals – some of whom are leaders in mainstream medicine, and others whom western medicine would characterize as crackpots.

Tell us something about yourself.

I attended the University of Pennsylvania, CIDOC in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and the New School for Social Research in New York City. She studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York and at the Lee Strasberg Studio in Los Angeles.

As an actress, I appeared in numerous regional stage productions, various TV episodes, soap operas and appearances in feature films Ash Wednesday and Two-Minute Warning.

In 1989, I joined the faculty of Washington College in Chestertown, MD, as a creative writer instructor.

My first novel, THE CUPPI (Delacorte/Dell), a fictionalized account of a twelve-year-old runaway, THE CUPPI (a police acronym for Circumstances Undetermined Pending Police Investigation) was the first book to deal with the rising epidemic of teen-aged children taking to the streets. Because of the extensive research involving interviews with dozens of runaways, I was called upon to lecture to parent-teacher groups, and law enforcement and social agencies, and made numerous TV appearances: Washington and Philadelphia morning shows, Good Morning America, The Mike Douglas Show, among them.

As a result of my personal crusade, sections of the book were read into the Congressional Record, and twelve crisis shelters opened in major cities. Stories appeared in newspapers and magazines around the country, including a four-page spread in People Magazine. Features ran in Newsday, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, Liz Smith’s column, and received rave reviews in The New York Times, Publishers Weekly and the Wall Street Journal. The Library Journal featured my photograph on its cover.

My second novel, WALK A WINTER BEACH (Delacorte/Dell 1982), was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

AGAINST THE LAW (Bantam 1986), a non-fiction account of the Knoxville, Tennessee attorney Mary Evans who fell in love with her convict-client and aided his escape from prison.
THE BOOK OF ELDERS: The Life Stories & Wisdom of Great American Indians (HarperSanFrancisco 1994).
THE BOOK OF TIBETAN ELDERS (Riverhead 1996) with a foreword by His Holiness the Dali Lama.
THE BRAZILIAN HEALER WITH A KITCHEN KNIFE and Other Stories of Mystics, Shamans and Miracle-Makers (Rodale 2003).
I am currently working on a novel, Day of Yemanja.

What inspired you to write this book?

My own journey beginning with a dire, frightening stage IV cancer diagnosis through first conventional treatment (chemo, surgery) to alternative treatments that included energy healers, and finally to a cure. I found my own answers to the root cause of my illness and how to make a complete recovery.

How did you publish this book? Why did you decide on that publisher (or to self-publish)?

This is the first book I’ve ever self-published; because of the personal nature of the book, I decided I wanted to have complete control over the material.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I can’t remember a time I didn’t love to write. As a child, it was my escape into a world of my making; as an adult, writing became my passion. I did not find acting was a sufficient outlet for my creative stirrings.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

The hardest part is always for me the beginning; how to shape the story, finding the voice to tell it in. The characters come first though; they pretty much dictate the plot.

How do you do research for your books?

By travel, mostly. I need the first-hand sense of smell, taste, sounds and my own personal view of the people and places I’m writing about.

Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?

I learned the meaning of true healing, that it can be triggered by many varied methodologies. In the end, I believe all healing is self-healing. In the words of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, “Each patient carries his own doctor inside him. They come to us not knowing that truth. We are at our best when we give the doctor who resides within each patient a chance to work.”

What are you reading now?

I am reading Evolve Your Brain; The Science of Changing Your Mind by Joe Dispenza, D.C. It is a wonderful study of how we are addicted to our emotions and how by breaking these patterns we can begin to heal our psyches and our bodies.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

For fiction, I seem to keep going back to British writers like Penelope Fitzgerald, Patricia Highsmith, Margaret Drabble, Ian McEwan. I’m also a great admirer of our own Jane Smiley, Annie Proulx, Joan Didion. For non-fiction, I enjoy biographies and books on the mind-body-spirit connection.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

It’s a novel entitled, Day of Yemaja, set in Brazil against the backdrop of their mysticism and magic and an American couple who get caught up in it.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

The world of publishing has changed so dramatically that unless you are a brand name you pretty much have to make it up as you go along. For writers, I have but one word: courage.

What are you doing to promote your latest book?

I’ve just begun. A good deal of promotion can be done on the Internet – blog, newsletters, and keeping in touch with my readers. I’m also doing a fair amount of radio, and in the future, TV interviews.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

On my website, www.thirteenthmoonbook.com.