Surrender by Joan Johnston is a romantic western. The main characters, Brian and Taylor have a history, they dated in high school. Playing on the Hatfield/McCoy feud, Johnston has the fathers
hate each other. The plot begins with the protagonists forced to land the plane in the middle of a wild fire. With disaster looming, they must struggle to survive. Injured and starving, the threat of imminent death reignites something
deep and powerful between them. Feelings they thought long dead rise from the ashes, suddenly making them more than just allies in a life-or-death struggle against nature’s fury. A still greater challenge awaits after they are rescued and puts their
rekindled love to its ultimate test. This book is all about second chances
Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for Surrender?
Joan Johnston: I've been working on a series of King's Brats books (SINFUL SHAMELESS,SURRENDER, and my current work, SULLIVAN'S PROMISE), all part of my ongoing Bitter Creek series. Two wealthy families, the Grayhawks and
the Flynns, are feuding, fighting, and marrying. Taylor Grayhawk and Brian Flynn were lost in the middle of araging forest fire--she was flying the plane that
went down, and he was asmoke jumper on the plane. They're presumed dead, but their antagonisticfamilies agree to join forces to search for them. That
gave me the starting point to figure out: What happened to Taylor and Brian? How did they survive? What are the consequences of their adventure in the wild?
In your dedication you gave a shout out to wildland firefighters. What
JJ: The dedication was a suggestion from one of the several firefighters and
smoke jumpers I spoke with during my research for this story in Jackson
Hole, Wyoming. Having done so much research, I have a great respect for
the danger these courageous men and women face when they go out to fight
EC: Tell us more about your research on smoke jumping.
I spent a week in Jackson Hole talking with the local fire chief. I was
surprised and delighted to learn the chief was a woman, Kathy Clark. I also spoke
a couple of smoke jumpers she recommended to me. The smoke jumpers
(who both work for the U.S. Forest Service) acted as a continuous resource
me as I worked through the novel. I know you can find out a lot of
things on the Internet, but I prefer going directly to the source.
How did you make the smoke jumping scene so realistic?
JJ: I'm a good writer! Okay, so here's the skinny. The smoke jumpers
recommended several good resource books to me. Anyone who wants to know
what smoke jumping is really like should read Jumping Fire, by Murray A.
Taylor. A lot of what I know about the dangers of smoke jumping, and its
addictiveness to those who do it, came from this book.
EC: What prompted you to choose the title, Surrender?
JJ: Both characters, at some point, have to surrender their very lives to
control of the other individual. That part is easy. It's the emotional
surrender, the willingness to love and be loved, that turns out to
difficult for them.
EC: What is the theme of this novel?
JJ: Someone pointed out to me at about book 25 (I'm on book 61) that the theme
of everything I write is ‘abandoned and neglected children . . . healed by
love.’ In this case, Taylor and Brian are two people who knew each other
as teenagers, and then find themselves lost together in the wilderness as
adults. Both of them were ‘abandoned and neglected children’ who are
finding their way to happiness through love as adults.
EC: What characters will be back in your next book, Sullivan’s Promise?
JJ: There's a great teaser in the back of
Surrender that gives you some idea
what happens between Victoria Grayhawk and Ryan Sullivan. Of course,
there's a secret baby, but he's
the one who ends up with the baby, and
she's the one who's trying to become a part of her son's life. Just a
little twist on a very old meme.
EC: Anything you'd like to add?
JJ: I love to hear from readers,
both their questions and their suggestions for
new books. Readers can find out more about me at my website,
www.joanjohnston.com, contact me on Facebook at
facebook.com/joanjohnstonauthor or Tweet me @joanjohnston. Anyone who
would like to receive my monthly newsletter, which often features the
dinner table settings for the monthly dinner-for-eight I host for friends
and informs readers when books will be available, can sign up at my website.