Monday, May 21, 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
The real stuff is how Tom Wolfe best used his write stuff

The real stuff is how Tom Wolfe best used his write stuff

om Wolfe’s best writing lifted real people into legend: car designers and astronauts and disciples of LSD. With that writing, Wolfe lifted himself into legend as well.The author of 16 books, including such bestsellers as The Right Stuff and The Bonfi...
Published: 05/18/18
Review: In Stephen King’s ‘The Outsider,’ evil can’t be true but must be true

Review: In Stephen King’s ‘The Outsider,’ evil can’t be true but must be true

On a July day, Terry Maitland, one of the most popular men in Flint City, Okla. — high school English teacher, Little League coach, husband and father, recently named the town’s man of the year — attends a teachers convention in a city over an hour’s...
Published: 05/17/18

Events: Gilbert King to discuss ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’ at Inkwood in Tampa

Book TalkCutter Wood (Love and Death in the Sunshine State: The Story of a Crime) will discuss and sign his nonfiction book about a murder on Anna Maria Island at 6 p.m. May 14 at Bookstore1, 12 S Palm Ave., Sarasota.The Gulfport Historical Society p...
Published: 05/11/18
Notable: As Mother’s Day nears, these new books are timely

Notable: As Mother’s Day nears, these new books are timely

NotableMore about mothersFor Mother’s Day, three new books offer a range of takes on motherhood.Beauty in the Broken Places: A Memoir of Love, Faith, and Resilience (Random House) by Allison Pataki is a memoir by a novelist whose 30-year-old husband ...
Published: 05/11/18
Review: A criminal’s confession is just the beginning in Michael Koryta’s compelling ‘How It Happened’

Review: A criminal’s confession is just the beginning in Michael Koryta’s compelling ‘How It Happened’

It’s what every investigator hopes for: a tough case finally solved when one of the criminals confesses, providing solid details and even describing where the bodies are buried.Or, in Michael Koryta’s compelling new psychological thriller How It Happ...
Published: 05/10/18
Anthony Award nominees include Tampa’s Michael Connelly, Down & Out Books

Anthony Award nominees include Tampa’s Michael Connelly, Down & Out Books

When the World Mystery Convention, a.k.a. Bouchercon, takes place in St. Petersburg in September and hands out its coveted Anthony Awards, the Tampa Bay Area will be well represented among the nominees.The award nominees, announced May 9, include Tam...
Published: 05/09/18
Updated: 05/10/18
Review: In Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Barracoon,’ the voice of slavery’s history speaks

Review: In Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Barracoon,’ the voice of slavery’s history speaks

It has taken Zora Neale Hurston’s book Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" 87 years to see print. But maybe it happened at just the right time.Just a week before the book’s May 8 publication date, rapper Kanye West opined in a TMZ intervie...
Published: 05/09/18
Review: Rick Bragg’s ‘The Best Cook in the World’ a loving food memoir about his mother

Review: Rick Bragg’s ‘The Best Cook in the World’ a loving food memoir about his mother

When Rick Bragg told his mother that his new book about her would be titled The Best Cook in the World, Margaret Bragg protested: "I wasn’t even the best cook that lived on our road." Bragg writes, "I told her we couldn’t call it The Thi...
Published: 05/09/18
Review: Ace Atkins takes an artful turn with Spenser in ‘Old Black Magic’

Review: Ace Atkins takes an artful turn with Spenser in ‘Old Black Magic’

Art can bring us joy, enlarge our perspective, even enlighten us. Sometimes, though, it can make us behave badly.In Ace Atkins’ new novel, Old Black Magic, art makes people behave very badly indeed.Three works of art, to be specific. A Picasso sketch...
Updated one month ago
Events: Gilbert King to discuss ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’ in Sarasota

Events: Gilbert King to discuss ‘Beneath a Ruthless Sun’ in Sarasota

Book Talk Writing coach Roy Peter Clark (Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer) will hold a 90-minute workshop on finding your voice at 2 p.m. May 6 at the Oxford Exchange, 420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. Registration $5 at bit.ly/2J9b...
Updated one month ago