Monday, May 14, 2012

In the Spotlight with Jude J

Today’s In the Spotlight interview is with a great lady. Someone I would consider a friend, Jude Johnson.

Jude Johnson has been a history enthusiast since childhood and has lectured about her historical research at the Sierra Vista Historical Society, the Welsh League of Arizona, and the West Coast Eisteddfod in Los Angeles.

She is the author of the Dragon & Hawk series of historical novels set in the Arizona Territory that follow three fictional brothers from Wales from the copper mines of Bisbee to the gambling halls of Tombstone and the growing community of Tucson. Four years of historical research preceded the completion of the first novel. Dragon & Hawk, Out of Forgotten Ashes and soon to be released Dragon’s Legacy are published by Champagne Books.

Please join me in welcoming Jude. Good morning Jude grab a handful of whatever suits your fancy and let us begin.

Wow, thank you for such nice words, Cathy. I’m honored to be your friend. Let’s see, yep, there’s my big mug of coffee. Ready!

Okay than tell us a little something about you, what makes Jude Johnson tic? Your likes, pet peeves and such.

Chocolate and red wine are my Prozac. Chianti, zinfandel, or malbec--as long as it’s red; the chocolate should be Belgian or British Cadbury, preferably dark. My nickname as a kid was “Cutty-Pasty” since I loved making crafts out of anything and glue. I still enjoy making things, though at the moment I’m using a shovel, pick, and paving stones…

Pet Peeves? Oooh, drivers who camp in the passing lane going ten mph below the speed limit. Also self-centered and inconsiderate shallow people disturb my calm and make me think I need to research murder methods--to write mysteries, mind you.

Okay, Jude, breath . . . calm. Now tell us something we’ve never heard before. What’s hidden beneath the surface?

Ever see the TV series “V” or those Hulu commercials?

Naw, just kidding… Hidden somewhere in there is a little kid who wants to see the world, go to places she’s only read about, and do as much as possible before it all goes dark.

I find you to be a very involved lady, can you tell us about some of the other projects that require your attention?

I’m a Gemini, sign of the Twins, but my twin personalities have multiple facets. My day job is that of a chiropractic physician, and I’ve been in full-time solo practice for thirty years here in Tucson. I was told this year I’m “semi-retired” but I think that was a faerie story because I seem to be seeing more patients than ever. I’m a mom to a great son who’s majoring in journalism and history with an eye on law school, wife to a crazy sports nut, and indentured servant to two deranged cats. Two Works in Progress are bubbling in the brainpan in the late evenings when everyone’s gone to bed. And I’m taking my stress out on the backyard with the aforementioned pick and shovel.

Tell us something about your books Dragon & Hawk, Out of Forgotten Ashes and the third in the trilogy Dragon’s Legacy that would bring us to buy them. (I already have the first two for the record, it was the cover of Out of Forgotten Ashes that caught my attention.)

Thank you for your purchase! Dragon & Hawk was my first novel and truly a labor of love. It’s a family saga of the Jones brothers, immigrants from Wales to the hostile desert of the Southern Arizona Territory of the 1880s. It’s a tale full of action, adventure, heartache, and redemption that’s based on four years of historical research. Much of the action in the book actually happened, and the fictional Jones brothers interact with real people of the period and area. I wrote it on a dare for friends who had never been to Southern Arizona as well as for my local friends who knew nothing of Wales or the many Welsh immigrants who came here in the 1880s.

Book Two, Out of Forgotten Ashes continues a couple of years after Dragon & Hawk ends, and explores how a relationship can suffer when a husband and wife don’t communicate honestly. Back in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, certain subjects were never openly discussed, even between spouses, and such taboos often made lives miserable. Add tragedy and some unresolved problems of the past coming back to bite one of the characters, and not only is the marriage threatened, their lives are as well.

Book Three, Dragon’s Legacy, is the last of the trilogy (so far) and is scheduled to be released in July. Suffice it to say the sins of the fathers are visited upon the next generation.

You also have a nonfiction book Cactus Cymry can you tell us what lead you to write this book?

This is a compilation of the research I did on the real Welsh immigrants and their impact on not only the Arizona Territory but throughout the U.S. (Cymry, pronounced COME-ree, means “Welshmen.”) For instance, one family was instrumental in developing a smelter that could be built in very remote areas which opened the West to mining and development. The sons went on to help form one of the most productive mining corporations in North America that ultimately supplied almost a third of the U.S. copper ore in the twentieth century. I also recount the story of one of Tucson’s major developers--who married an eleven-year-old girl and looked like Lucky the Leprechaun on meth. Yes, there are historical photos included.

Though you have claimed no Welsh heritage in your lineage you seem to have a passion for the Welsh people, what inspired this passion?

That’s the million dollar question. To be honest, I have to say it started with watching Hornblower on A&E. I heard an interview with the young Welsh lead in his native tongue and decided the language would be something unique to learn. When a free class started up in Tucson, I figured it was destiny. But somehow I became seriously hooked studying the culture, the ancient legends such as those of Rhiannon and Arthur in The Mabinogion, and the determination of the people to maintain their separate identity and language through 800 years of English occupation. Now I have wonderful friendships forged on both sides of The Pond who keep my interest going. And rugby, too. Love those little shorts and big thighs and wide shoulders and--uh, what were we talking about?

When did you first realize you were destined to be a writer?

I think deep down I always knew I would write. Maybe not publish, but at least write. But it was that dare from my friends to come up with a “Welsh-tern”--a Welsh Western--that made me dare to submit a manuscript. That and turning forty. I figured if I truly meant to write a novel, it was now or never. I could get hit by a bus, you know.

What brought you to Champagne Books?

I met J. Ellen Smith at a writing conference here in Tucson. My friend, Carol Costa, was already published with Champagne, so I gave Ellen a CD of my manuscripts. I was gobsmacked, as they say, when she sent me a contract.

Can you tell us in your own words why we should read your books?

Other than I need the money to fund my goal of watching rugby in Cardiff? Well, how about because I tried to write stories that would not only grab your imagination and take you back in time but tug at your emotions as well? And the real history woven into these tales will entertain and surprise you.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you for this lovely interview, Cathy. We need to break bread somewhere and some time soon!

You can visit my website:

and of course my books are available from Champagne Books:

[As well as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, et al.]



Twitter: @JudeJohnsonAZ

Thank you Jude, it was a pleasure, most defiantly on the breaking bread.


Rosemary Gemmell (Ros) said...

Great interview, everyone - and I'm with you on the red wine and good chocolate, Jude! I can certainly recommend Dragon & Hawk - I just need to catch up on the next one now!

Jude Johnson said...

Thank you so much, Romy--and thank you Cathy for putting me In The Spotlight!

Allison Knight said...

Great interview. I can sure relate to the deranged cats. My three insist on helping at all the wrong times. And I'm with your on the dark chocolate and wine. In fact, I think I'll have a piece of chocolate now.

Jude Johnson said...

Chocolate for lunch sounds like a great plan, Allison!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

I second the red wine and chocolate, all the major food groups!

Great interview and intelligent questions.

Cathy Coburn said...

I don't so much like wine but a good strawberry Margarita with chocolate would be great. Thanks all of you for joining Jude, be sure and come back next week where the one and only Rosemary will be featured.

Angelica Hart and Zi said...

Wonderful interview. What can we say, you had us at wine and chocolate.

Jude Johnson said...

Ooh strawberry margaritas go with chocolate nicely, Cathy...
I agree, these were fun questions to answer. And you can be certain I'll be back to read about Rosemary--she's my favorite Scot! ;-)