Saturday, 18 August 2012

When Characters Collide By Gretchen Johnson

            I am a MinnTexan, a woman who spent her first twenty-three years living in Minnesota and the last nine in Texas. Being a MinnTexan means I have lived on the edges of both extremes – from snow to sweat, from liberal to conservative, from mild to spicy, from alternative rock to country western, from Pepsi to Coke, and from environmentalism to pollution. These extremes have taught me countless lessons about the complex connections (and often disconnections) between people, and it is this duality of experiencing life in two very different regions that has served as an inspiration for much of my writing.

           My book, The Joy of Deception and Other Stories, uses these extremes often. I enjoy crafting stories in which characters who are opposites come together. Some of the most authentic and interesting moments of my life have occurred when I struggled against someone who was fundamentally different from me, and some of the most challenging phases of my life happened when I was forced to decide which of my own desires to satisfy. My book’s title story deals with this kind of internal struggle. It features a young woman trying to decide if she wants to stay with a dependable but somewhat predictable fiancé or leave him for an exciting but emotionally dangerous man. Just like most of us, she struggles with her own dual desires, the desire to settle down and have security versus the desire to embrace the temporariness of life and live for the now.

The sometimes explosive but often subtle interactions that occur between people from different backgrounds and viewpoints have always entertained me most. I loved the first few seasons of The Real World (before the show became more about what happens to attractive young people when they are given an unlimited supply of alcohol). Even though the situation of living with strangers from around the nation and having one’s life videotaped and broadcast to a national audience wasn’t real, there were authentic moments in the show. Through conversations and conflicts, people were learning things about themselves, and the audience was there to witness that.

I love coffee shops for writing ideas because intimate conversations happen there, and people will speak as though they are in their living rooms because they feel a sense of anonymity when surrounded by a sea of strangers. As an eavesdropper, I am able to see clashing personalities and awkward attempts at conversation. I once witnessed an engaged couple debating about what they expected in their marriage. This overheard conversation eventually led to the idea for the last story in my book.

            Because of my fascination with extremes, The Joy of Deception and Other Stories will take you from Minnesota to Texas, from heartbreak to joy, from arguments to moments of intense calm, and from frustrations to resolutions. You will travel to a world where imagination and reality intersect and where the flaws and the beauty of humanity are illuminated. 

About the Author:

Gretchen Johnson lives in Beaumont, Texas, and works as an English Instructor at Lamar University. Her short stories and poems have appeared in The Blue Bear Review, The Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Poetry Harbor, Spout Press, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and others. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Southwest Minnesota State University and her MFA in Creative Writing from Texas State University. Her first book, The Joy of Deception and Other Stories, was published by Lamar University Press in 2012.


  1. Congrats on your book publication! I've had a similar background, moving from Wisconsin where I was born, to Mississippi, to Massachusetts where I currently live. It's amazing to me how myopic folks in every place have been, assuming that because they, their families, and their neighbors feel one way about something, that everybody must.

  2. @As the Crowe Flies and Reads

    I know, right? I have had the same experience, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's great to meet different kinds of people and have varied experiences.



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