Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Q&A with Sara Read




Sara Read is the author of the new novel Johanna Porter Is Not Sorry. She is also a nurse, and is the cofounder of #momswritersclub. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Q: What inspired you to write Johanna Porter Is Not Sorry, and how did you create your character Johanna?


A: Johanna sort of came to me whole, like Athena from the head of Zeus. I immediately saw a woman who, on the one hand was a total train wreck, but on the other hand had this fierce drive to finally—after 20 years—reclaim her creative life.


The story went about a million directions before it came to its current form. I knew it was about creativity, love, and work, but sometimes that was all I knew so I just kept trying and trying. This became the book that taught me to write. I felt like I had to do justice to this character, and I wouldn’t be done until I got her story right.


Q: The writer Jen Devon said of the book, “Johanna Porter is Not Sorry is a story of one woman’s excavation of identity, and the inevitable mess before the beauty happens.” What do you think of that description, and what do you think the novel says about the concept of identity?


A: I love this description. The “excavation of identity” is such a marvelous and true way to describe what this character goes through as a woman in her 40s who has raised a daughter, gone through a marriage and divorce.


She has basically piled on the layers and layers of stuff which we all wind up shouldering as we get older, and now she must dig down through it all to get back to her core.


Johanna’s identity is captured in the portrait which her older, more powerful lover paints of her when she is young. So much so, that when Johanna sees it 20 years later, she instantly bonds with this representation of her former self, and the immense loss she felt when her lover sabotaged her career comes flooding back.


Great art can do that. It can capture a moment and a feeling—even an identity—and transmit it back years and years later in all its emotional power. Her bond with the girl in the painting drives her to become her true self.


Q: Why did you decide to focus on the art world in the book, and how would you describe Johanna’s relationship to that world?


A: I was most interested in delving into the creative process, which artists, writers, musicians, and all creatives understand. I wanted to explore the raw, challenging place where a person must go to really grow in their creative work.


But I didn’t want to write about a writer. Painting is an art form that moves me as a viewer. And I’m fortunate to have an amazing professional painter as a stepdaughter, Mae Read, so I could go to her with painting and art-world questions.


At the beginning of the book, Johanna is an outsider in the elite art world. A nobody. But she feels the pull toward the world of art and artists where she once thrived. In order to recover her true power as an artist, she has to learn to be big, take up space, take risks, and be fully herself.


Part of what helps her do this is her romantic relationship with Mitchell. He is a person who is not threatened by her passion and talent, and who respects her work ethic. Their relationship gives her the buoyancy she needs at a critical time when she is really struggling. 


What Johanna really wants is to get to the flow state and create work that does justice to her talent. For all her off-the-rails chaos, Johanna is a proud and pragmatic woman. She’s not going to go begging to be let back in by the gatekeepers of the art world, but she still needs to pay the rent. And she still has a score to settle.


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The title was a collaborative process between me, my editor, and my agent. We went through many lists of possible titles, and we even had a slightly different one that it turned out had been used a little too recently by someone else. So we went back to the drawing board and came out with the best title of all: Johanna Porter is Not Sorry.


I love it. Sometimes you have to break the rules to get where you need to go. And sometimes those rules deserve to be broken. This title represents a woman who is not sorry about being who she really is.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: My second book is with my editor right now, so now I’m working on a new novel, set in Los Angeles of all places (I’ve never lived there), and instead of the world of high art, this one involves the world of high finance.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Not really. I’d love for your readers to read Johanna Porter is Not Sorry. And I’d love to hear what they think! Either through reviews, or on Twitter or Instagram @sarareadauthor.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment