Desert Gift, Side Roads Series #2Desert Gift, Side Roads Series #2
Sally John
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What does a nationally known marriage expert do when her own marriage falls apart? Just as Jillian Galloway sets out for a publicity tour to promote her new book, her husband drops a bombshell: He wants a divorce. Jill flees to her parents' home in the California desert, wondering whether everything she's built her career on-indeed, everything she's built her life around-is a sham. Navigating this "side road" of life is an uphill climb that leads to new understandings about herself, her marriage, and her relationship with the One who created marriage.

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Sally John

Sally John is a three-time finalist for the Christy Award and now an author of more than fifteen novels, Sally writes stories that reflect contemporary life.  she also teaches writing workshops. Her books include the Safe Harbor series (coauthored with Gary Smalley), The Other Way Home series, The Beach House series, and In a Heartbeat series. Many of her stories are set in her favorite places of San Diego, Chicago, and small-town Illinois. She and her husband currently live in southern California.

Favorite Bible verse: Zephaniah 3:17Yahweh your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you…”  (This version is from The Jerusalem Bible.)



 Our Interview with Sally John


What inspired the concept for Desert Gift?

In my fiction I seem to go back often to the questions: what makes a marriage tick and what makes it go silent?  Desert Gift was one of those stories that probably stemmed from seeing firsthand marriages dissolve after 20 years or more.

Because the church is not immune, I wanted to explore a Christian marriage, one devoted to following solid principles.

I always want to emphasize that my stories do not offer solutions nor preach “right and wrong” ideology. They simply portray make-believe people in a situation that in some ways may reflect real life. As in real life, they make choices we may disagree with. The universal truth I try to incorporate is that God loves us and therein lies hope.

How many more books will be in Side Roads Series?

We have #3 in the works.
Can each of the books be read as a stand-alone or must they be read in order?

These are stand-alones with no recurring characters. The theme of a “side road” is what ties the stories together, how a couple hits a roadblock and goes through a difficult time that will either make or break their marriage.

Do you have a favorite character in Desert Gift? Why?

Viv surprised me. She’s a solid, fun-loving, down-to-earth, hard-working, funny woman. She is honest about her past mistakes but has obviously learned and grown from them. They have given her compassion for others.

How much research did Desert Gift take?
There was a wide variety of research: podiatry, radio, minibus, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, auto mechanics, and marriage counseling. I took advantage of friends’ knowledge, books, online sources, and personal experience.

Jack is a podiatrist, a field I chose simply because I adored the podiatrist who helped my feet feel better. He was a nice guy and so is Jack. Jill is an energetic, passionate go-getter who needed a big audience; so I put her in radio. For research I delved into personal experience, some of it based on what a friend taught me at a local radio station where she worked (and interviewed me). Viv owns a tour agency because I wanted to involve the sisters in an interesting business. How fun would that be to take people on vacations (well, aside from the headaches)!

Extra-fun research were trips to Hollywood and the Anza-Borrego desert (both within easy driving distance from my home), two settings that play significant roles in the story.

What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing Desert Gift?

The first movie shown at Grauman’s (a.k.a. Mann’s) Chinese Theatre was The King of Kings in 1927.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?


I lose touch with family and friends, especially during the “heavy duty” months of writing, when the story consumes my thoughts and emotions. Unfortunately this is unavoidable. If I do not “live” with the characters, I do not write well.

What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy so much getting to know readers and editors, mostly via emails. They are a blessing to me.  Some have been with me since 1998 when my first book was released.
I get to spend long hours playing with words and ideas.

What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?

Online groups like ACFW, Novel Journey, and Christian Fiction Online Magazine are a wealth of helpful information.

What were your favorite books as a child?

Trixie Belden mysteries; Nancy Drew mysteries; Louisa May Alcott’s books.

What do you do to keep your writing fresh and improve on it each time you write a book?

I listen to editors, read books about how to write fiction, and I read a variety of fiction. I mentor young writers; in talking about the process of writing fiction I am reminded over and over again of what has or hasn’t worked for me.

I listen to readers’ reactions; when they tell me what most speaks to their hearts, I cherish that insight. In short, I remain open. There is always room for improvement.

Are there any other new projects on the horizon?

Always!  At this stage, they are “out there,” not yet in the realm of verbal description. For me, characters and story lines usually do not flesh themselves out until I need them.

I hope to someday write a nonfiction book, probably a collection of essays based on personal experiences about my faith journey.

What message would you like your readers to take from reading Desert Gift?

It is a given that we will go through desert times. Life is difficult, perhaps unbearable, perhaps meaningless at these times. When a marriage hits a season like this, the husband and wife are in deep pain. Things will never again be the same between them. And yet God is in their midst and He is faithful to work healing in their hearts.

What is your greatest achievement?

Figuring out Facebook.  Ha, ha. Seriously, I turn 60 in March and I know I haven’t achieved a thing. Everything has been a gift from my Abba. All I do is open one after another.

What do you do to get away from it all?

I read fiction, go to a movie, take walks, ride the commuter train.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Favorite Bible verse: Zephaniah 3:17 “Yahweh your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you…”  (This version is from The Jerusalem Bible.)
Thank you!




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