Friday, December 09, 2016

A Closer Examination of Herald Angels

On the surface, Herald Angels is a romance that has rural Virginia competing with New York City as the heroine struggles with her past, future, and various family issues. Chief among those issues are ones with her sister.

The differences between the two cities are pronounced. Manhattan is famous for its holiday decorations. After visiting during the Christmas season, I knew I would use its d├ęcor in a novel one day: the tree in Rockefeller Center, toy soldiers marching across Radio City Music Hall’s marquee, the over-sized bulbs and balls grouped in busy complexes, the window displays along 5th Avenue.

My favorite turned out to be the staircase leading to and from Rockefeller Center where white-wire angels herald the season with trumpets aloft. At its base is a simple bench which seemed to be overlooked by most passersby. From that vantage point, I could see 5th Avenue above, or the enormous tree being reflected in the ice skating rink below.

For a more simple setting I chose rural southwestern Virginia’s small town of Bland. Named for Virginia Statesman Richard Bland—a cousin to Thomas Jefferson—it borders The Jefferson National Forest. There are no stop lights in this small town, which makes the night sky inky dark and perfect for stargazing.

The majority of income in Bland, Virginia is derived from farming, and most holiday decorations are quite simple and lovely in a sparse nature. My favorite of these are the evergreen wreaths with red bows attaching them to cattle gates, weathered barns, front doors on log cabins.

Big, oversized light displays are necessary when the backdrop is dotted with skyscrapers, but would overpower the rolling hills and green meadows dotted with cattle. Though totally different, both towns have their own intrinsic beauty.

The same can be said for people. Some of us are more like New York City—vibrant, active, always on the move. Others might be natured more like Bland—quiet, reserved, peaceful, and happy to stay at home. This doesn’t mean one is right and the other wrong, just that we are all a little different.

While writing this novel, I juxtaposed the relationship of two sisters and that of two cities in much the same way. The real lesson lies in learning not to judge, but to accept each as they are.

Of course, a budding romance is driving the story. At its helm is the conflicted heroine who is also being taught a few lesson in overcoming her tendency to judge by occupation as well. Will she fall in love with a minister? Career choices, family relationships, New York’s homeless population, forgiving others and asking for it in return; complete the backstory.

Whether you prefer simple country celebrations, or flashy and bright Christmas in the city, this is the novel for you. I hope you enjoy it and the holidays!

Renee Canter Johnson

Renee Johnson is the author of Herald Angels, Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray. She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of travel and foreign food. She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her husband, Tony Johnson, and two very spoiled German shepherds named Hansel and Gretel.


Anonymous said...

It was fascinating to read about your inspiration for the novel Renee. I love the fact that the story sprang out of the contrasts of the places and the people. Good luck with the book!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Andrea. As Henry James advised: "Try to be one on whom nothing is lost." I think we both write with this in mind.