Sunday, July 22, 2018
Books

What's Susan Wolf Johnson reading?

Nightstand

Susan Wolf Johnson

Wolf Johnson, 62, first watched the Gasparilla festivities as a new resident of Tampa more than 20 years ago. "Gasparilla was held on a Monday back then, and since all the schools were closed, we took the kids to see it. I was so fascinated with the pageantry of the entire event," she said. A few years later, as she worked on her master's in creative writing at Vermont College, she said, "The character, King Daniel, just showed up in my narrative. He pulled up a chair and started telling me his story."

Fast-forward to 2017. After raising her family and spending 15 years teaching fiction and composition at the University of South Florida, Wolf Johnson has published King Daniel: Gasparilla King of the Pirates. "I never forgot about the character Daniel or the members of his family, who also came in to tell me their stories," she said. Set in the 1970s, the novel opens during the Queen's Party, a formal Gasparilla ball, inside the Tampa Yacht Club. The story centers around Daniel Westcott's family, an affluent bunch who must come together when Daniel disappears.

What's on your nightstand?

I'm reading again The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. It's one of the books I pick up when I'm starting to write. The book is Campbell's fascination with the world of mythology and how it centers around the hero's journey. According to Campbell, at the beginning, the hero experiences a change. In my novel, a main character has to come home, but she doesn't want to. She comes home because her grandfather was missing, and then a force greater than herself compels her to stay. With Campbell, he explains how as the myth unfolds, the hero encounters a supernatural being that offers protection and guidance. With me, (the character's) guidance comes within her. There's no other supernatural being, no Merlin, but she's guided by an interior voice she hears. When she doesn't follow the voice, challenges present themselves to the point she surrenders to the voice within her.

So as you wrote, were you thinking of Campbell as an influence on your writing?

No, not until towards the end, actually.

As you wrote, did you want to include anything about writing or art from that period?

More than books, it was the political and social aspects going on at the time. In the very first chapter you'll see it. It takes place in the summer. Washington, D.C., was in upheaval. It was just before (men directed by the staff of) Nixon broke into Watergate. The character doesn't want to come home because she's pregnant. Abortion was just legalized in New York City. This is more what I was concentrating on, more political, social aspects. But, I would say the music of the 1970s is a part of it. I actually named a chapter "I'm Your Captain,'' after the Grand Funk Railroad song, and there's also a chapter, "Ch-Ch-Ch Changes,'' for David Bowie.

Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.

Comments
Review: Kent Wascom's 'New Inheritors' a novel of love, power on the gulf coast

Review: Kent Wascom's 'New Inheritors' a novel of love, power on the gulf coast

When a woman looks at the hands of the toddler who will become the main character of The New Inheritors, she sees "written in the lines of his palms a bird’s vision of the rivers and creeks that fanned across the region of his birth, the upper ...
Published: 07/20/18
After writing ‘Squeezed,’ about the economy, Alissa Quart reads poetry

After writing ‘Squeezed,’ about the economy, Alissa Quart reads poetry

Alissa QuartYou might find brand-new information in Quart’s book, Squeezed; however, you might also find she is providing a simple answer to your question: No, you are not crazy. Even with your college degree and full-time job, it is extremely diffic...
Published: 07/19/18
Review: Ace Atkins’ ‘The Sinners’ a bloody, and funny, trip to the altar

Review: Ace Atkins’ ‘The Sinners’ a bloody, and funny, trip to the altar

There’s always so much to deal with in the weeks before your wedding. For Quinn Colson, there’s his mother’s threat to sing Elvis karaoke if he doesn’t hire a band, the question of whether his long-gone stuntman daddy will show up at all, his bride-t...
Published: 07/18/18
Tampa Bay Rowdies player Hunter Gorskie is reading about better nights and mornings

Tampa Bay Rowdies player Hunter Gorskie is reading about better nights and mornings

Hunter GorskieBecause soccer fans around the world will be watching the FIFA World Cup’s crowning game today, we decided to touch base with one of our own soccer players: Hunter Gorskie, the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ No. 27. Gorskie, a defender who played c...
Published: 07/13/18
Lori Roy’s novel ‘The Disappearing’ draws from Florida’s Dozier and Ted Bundy

Lori Roy’s novel ‘The Disappearing’ draws from Florida’s Dozier and Ted Bundy

TIERRA VERDEAuthor Lori Roy has lived in Florida since 1996, but it wasn’t until her fourth novel that she wrote a story set in the state. "I just wrote an essay for CrimeReads on the intersection of Southern Gothic and crime fiction," Roy says. "You...
Published: 07/12/18
Review: St. Petersburg author Gale Massey deals a winning debut with ‘Girl From Blind River’

Review: St. Petersburg author Gale Massey deals a winning debut with ‘Girl From Blind River’

Life has dealt Jamie Elders a lousy hand. The 19-year-old wants nothing more than to get as far away as possible from her hometown, a bleak little corner of New York state called Blind River. But she’s stuck there. In the opening chapters of ...
Updated one month ago
‘Barracoon’ editor Deborah Plant on discovering Zora Neale Hurston, reading Alice Walker

‘Barracoon’ editor Deborah Plant on discovering Zora Neale Hurston, reading Alice Walker

Deborah PlantWe caught up with Plant, the editor of Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo," a newly published book by Zora Neale Hurston, after her recent appearance at the Sulphur Springs Museum and Heritage Center. The book is based on Hurs...
Updated one month ago

Book events: John Cinchett to discuss ‘Historic Tampa Churches’

Book TalkJohn Cinchett (Historic Tampa Churches) will discuss and sign his book at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Oxford Exchange, 420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.Teacher and author Rob Sanders reads from his new children’s book, Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and...
Updated one month ago
Poet Donald Hall’s ‘A Carnival of Losses,’ to be published after his death, offers essays on his life

Poet Donald Hall’s ‘A Carnival of Losses,’ to be published after his death, offers essays on his life

Donald Hall, a former U.S. poet laureate, died on June 23 at his home in Wilmot, N.H. He was 89. An influential poet for more than 60 years, the prolific Hall published more than 20 poetry collections as well as memoirs, fiction, essays, biographies,...
Updated one month ago
Review: Tommy Orange’s ‘There There’ a powerful portrait of urban Indian life

Review: Tommy Orange’s ‘There There’ a powerful portrait of urban Indian life

Every American is a child of immigrants.The only difference is how long ago your forebears came here from another land, by sail or steam, on foot or by jet engine, by choice or by enslavement.The clear winners of that contest, of course, are Native A...
Updated one month ago