As part of her blog tour for The Sausage Maker’s Daughters, I have AGS Johnson here to answer a few questions.
The story follows a young woman who reluctantly returns to her small hometown only to become embroiled in a murder mystery that results in a courtroom drama with the darkest secrets of her self-obsessed family. That’s the story in brief. What the book is about, now that’s a longer answer!
Almost every kind. Though I lived through this period a bit behind the curve of the story’s timing, I had to go back to check what the clothing and hair styles were, the well as the entire counterculture movement, how a criminal trial plays out and many points
You grew up in a Midwestern family of five girls and no boys, and therefore decided to embark on a career in the corporate world so you could explore why men were treated differently than women. What did you find, and how did this influence your writing?
I was entering the workforce just as feminism was seeping into the mainstream in this country, Gloria Steinem, Ms. Magazine, which it influenced me no question. But it was when my dad came home every night and the atmosphere in our home changed precipitously, that sparked my curiousity originally. Of course, no big surprises rules the roost, or at least him- or her- self. How it has affected my writing is quite surprising, even to me. The institutionalized sexism that we grew up with seems to be everywhere in my writing: the Catholic church, the home, the working world, schooling, norms and assumptions.
As Dad said, ”Timing is everything,” I quote from an unused prologue that became an epilogue to the novel before I just cut it. I frankly lost interest in my career, partly because it was going nowhere, and partly because of the hierarchial structure that seemed to encourage a gamesmanship I simply could not relate to. It bored me. And my living situation changed – I moved to L.A., I married, and the opportunity to try to realize a dream was dumped into my lap. And I grabbed it. I sat down and churned out a novel in six months and only when I went out into the world with it did I realize how little I knew about the business of writing and publishing. Thus my return to USC for my Masters.
Thank you but Kip Czermanski seemed to create herself in a way. I was awakened brash and cocky, it clearly had to be compensating for something. It intrigued me for months, maybe years, before my first fiction-writing class at USC. When I began that program, I decided to put aside my first novel to see if that voice could be developed into another one. And twelve short years later, voila!
I’ve enjoyed Grisham, like Clancy, and his way of grabbing you and not letting go. I’m a very eclectic reader though, no one genre, no one author. I’ve loved Herman Wouk, who for me demonstrated a sort of unconditional loving of each character, flaws and all, which is almost God-like. Michner’s Hawaii is the first fat book I read, absorbed really, in my early teens that wasn’t required reading in school, and it demonstrated that same quality – a non-judgmental acceptance of human flaws. I love the integrity of Kingsolver’s works, the foreign and feminine worlds of Lisa See, most historical fiction, and I also love a good biography that does what good historical fiction does: brings a time and place to life through one person’s life. I’m thinking Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography of the Roosevelts for one. Beryl Markham’s memoir, West with the Night, inspired me way back when, as did the novels of Ayn Rand even earlier. I also love Dan Brown for his spiritual questing. And I love new-age physics, when I can understand it.
I’m also on the board of the Council of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, so books and libraries and reading and being carried through time and space to unimagined places is my ”thing,” I guess. Since books so inspired me, how could it not be? To answer your question: The World is Just a Book Away is a young but quite successful charity that builds libraries for children in developing countries. In just a few years, it’s built nearly 50 libraries in two devastated areas of Indonesia. Honestly, the film clips of these beautiful Muslim children, the girls with their hair covered, waving American flags at these libraries’ openings and rushing to get inside, moves me to tears. That’s why a portion of the proceeds from my novel will go to fund this continuing effort to bring the inspiration of books to all children in the world. Books change lives.
My second novel, which as I explained was actually written before The Sausage Maker’s Daughters, is a medical murder mystery based upon a true story of a doctor and they never have fully come to light to this day. I can’t wait to get back to it! A young woman inadvertantly discovers that her father’s untimely death might actually have been a murder, long covered up by even those closest to her. The odyssey of her search for the truth reveals not just her father’s medical discoveries, but the fact that her own life may be in jeopardy the closer to that truth she comes. It’s also very much the personal journey of a woman finding her strength in a world she has shrunk from previously.
About AGS Johnson:
AGS Johnson always intended to be a writer. But raised in a Midwestern family of five girls and no boys, she embarked on a career in the corporate world that would allow her to explore why men were treated differently than women. Armed with a business degree, for over 20 years she was a banker, most often working with international currencies.
Still, writing remained a dream, so she returned to school, earned a masters degree in fiction writing from the University of Southern California and proceeded to pursue her lifelong ambition. Her debut novel The Sausage Maker’s Daughters, 12 years in the making, releases Feb. 7, 2012.
In addition to her passion for reading, traveling and all things French, Johnson serves on the Board of the Council of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, and is a founding board member of The World is Just a Book Away. Proceeds from The Sausage Maker’s Daughters benefit this relatively young charity that builds libraries in developing countries.
Since the late 70’s Johnson has made her home first in Northern California, now in Los Angeles, where the author lives with her husband of 20 years and their menagerie of cats and dogs. She is currently working on her second novel, a medical murder mystery based on a true story of discovery and deceit.
The Sausage Maker’s Daughters by AGS Johnson
The sausage maker’s youngest daughter is heading for the fight of her battle-scarred life. It’s the era of the counterculture and Vietnam. But twenty-four-year-old Kip Czermanksi is nowhere near her home in California. She’s in a jail cell in her hometown in Wisconsin awaiting a court appearance in the mysterious death of her ex-lover, who happened to be her brother-in-law. Given her father is the small town’s leading citizen; Kip isn’t overly worried, at first. But the personal grudge the DA holds for all the Czermanskis is about to find a foil Kip. What follows is a wild ride through Kip’s present predicament and her past. She’ll come to regret leaving her life in LA, regardless of the good reason for which she returned, when family dynamics and sibling rivalries, magnified by her counterculture attitudes and feminist beliefs, lay Kip’s life bare before the courtroom. Distrusting her legal team, her rebellious history well known, things both personal and legal spiral out-of-control. It doesn’t look good for Kip Czermanski.