Ransomed Dreams, Side Roads Series #1Ransomed Dreams, Side Roads Series #1
Sally John
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Sheridan Montgomery leads a charmed life as the wife of Eliot, U.S. ambassador to Venezuela. But an attack on their lives cripples Eliot, and they retreat to a remote Mexican village. As Sheridan quietly cares for her husband, she sees her dreams slipping away. Luke Traynor shatters their reverie when he arrives to tell Sheridan of her father's heart attack and the evidence implicating him in a conspiracy. Sheridan returns to Chicago to untangle the web of her father's past and is forced to confront her feelings for Luke, a trail of deceit, and the truth about her marriage.

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Sally John is the author of more than ten books, including the popular Other Way Home series and In A Heartbeat series. Illinois natives, Sally and her husband, Tim, live in Southern California. The Johns have two grown children, a daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters. 

 Favorite Verse: Philippians 4:6,7 I especially like the Jerusalem Bible translation: There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus.


 Our Interview with Sally John


Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a typical 50-something: wife, mom, grandma, I was a teacher.   Tim and I have been married for 36 years. We have a son, daughter-in-law, daughter, almost-son-in-law, and the two most wonderful granddaughters in the world. I am an Illinois native and now live in southern California (which actually is typical for people here).

How did you get started as a Christian fiction writer? 

In the late 1980s I was writing fiction, trying to incorporate Jesus into my stories without mentioning His name, trying to get published. My friend Jere told me to look into Christian fiction, which was in its early stages. Hallelujah! Characters talked about faith!

In 1996 I sent my work to Crossway Books. In those days much depended on who read unsolicited mail. Jill Carter read mine, liked it, gave it to editor Ted Griffin. In the Shadow of Love was published in 1998.

How did you come up with the concept for Ransomed Dreams?

In 2007 we lost our house in a San Diego wildfire. At 6 a.m. that day I had keepsakes to pass on to my grandchildren and my first-ever new desk.  By 9 a.m., I had the clothes on my back, my grandmother’s Swedish Bible, my kids’ high school graduation photos, and my laptop.  Whew! I figured there was a story in it, but then remembered I’d already written it! Six months before I had turned in A Time to Mend (the story includes a wildfire and loss of things).

A few months later as I thought about a new series, I realized the story in my experience wasn’t the fire, but how life can change in the blink of an eye, how we can be thrown onto a side road we did not plan on taking yet have no choice but to follow. “Normal” is redefined.

And so the concept for the series came first.  From there I listed possible scenarios of how life can be split instantly into before and after.  For Sheridan and Eliot in Ransomed Dreams it was his being injured so severely they cannot return to “normal” life.

What is significant about Ransomed Dreams?

When life splits into a before and after, we respond, we change, and of course relationships are affected. Sheridan and Eliot (as well as the other married couples in the series) come to a grim realization about their relationship: “This marriage is not what I signed up for.”

I think many married couples face this in some sense or another, at some point in their journey. The story is about the characters’ response to this new awareness.

Is any part of Ransomed Dreams factual?

I always like to include factual. Most often my settings are based on real places. In this book we’re in Chicago and Copala, Mexico (my fictional name for this village is “Topala”); I drew extensively on my personal knowledge of both places. 
The history of diamond smuggling I gleaned from research. The descriptions of Hull House in Chicago and its history are taken from personal visits and research. (Jane Addams’ book, Twenty Years at Hull-House, gives a fascinating look into late 19th/early 20th century community.)

What is the most interesting tidbit that you learned while writing Ransomed Dreams?

Fiestaware originated – not by that name – at Hull House! Mexican immigrants designed and produced it in kilns there into the 1930s.


How many books will be in the Side Road series?


Do you have a favorite character from Ransomed Dreams?

Yes! Padre Miguel. Every time he showed up I smiled. I never had a clue what was going to come of out of his mouth. All I knew was that Eliot needed to be prodded in his faith and this wise old priest was the one to do it.

What other projects do you have on the horizon?

My daughter’s spring wedding.    Right now I’m working on Book 2; Book 3 will follow. Although Side Roads is a series, each story is a stand-alone with a completely different set of characters. What ties them together is a married couple facing that moment, “This isn’t what I signed up for.”

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

Balance is the biggie. I live with characters for at least nine months. At times their lives are more real than mine. I put relationships on hold. I am always grateful for understanding family and friends.

Who was the person who most influenced you in your writing journey?

Oh my. Just one? I’ve been at this for such a long time.

I go back to those three people I mentioned above, Jere, Jill, Ted.

Then there are three teachers who gave me the basics. After sixteen books I still use notes I took in classes by Irene Frank, Robert McKee, and Davis Bunn.

I can’t leave out my agent Chip MacGregor who got my early books out there. And I can’t leave out my agent Lee Hough who not only gets my books out there but understands fiction like nobody’s business and makes mine better.

I could list every editor who has had a hand in my work as a major influence.  I could list a host of favorite novelists whose techniques I soak up and use.

And then last but not least is my husband. Without Tim’s support I wouldn’t be doing this.

What message would you like your readers to take from Ransomed Dreams?

When life knocks us onto a side road, God is not taken by surprise. He still knows the way home. Our response is our choice. Like Sheridan and Eliot, we decide whether to check out or to turn to Him and trust Him with our journey.

What is your goal or mission as a writer?

As always my prayer is that my stories show the reality of God’s unconditional love, His joy in us, His desire for our best, His forgiveness, that He is in every breath we take and He’s not going away.

What do you do to get away from it all?

I go to movies. I read legal and suspense novels that are nothing like what I write. I walk on the ocean pier. I go to a nearby abbey and listen to the monks chant vespers.


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