The Miracle of Mercy LandThe Miracle of Mercy Land
River Jordan
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In 1938, nothing exciting is happening in sleepy Bay City---until newspaper editor Doc Philips and his go-to girl Mercy Land stumble across a book that reveals a person's past and how his choices affect his future. But can they overcome the evil that threatens to steal the mysterious volume---erasing Bay City in the process? 352 pages, softcover from Waterbrook.
     

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River Jordan is a critically acclaimed novelist and playwright. Her previous works include Saints In Limbo and The Messenger of Magnolia Street.  She speaks around the country on the “Power of Story” and produces and hosts the radio series, Clearstory from Nashville, Tennessee where she makes her home.

Favorite Verse: Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning . . . “. It lets me know that a great story is about to be told about all of creation from the beginning of time.


 

 Our Interview with River Jordan


 

What is your favorite Bible verse?

Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning . . . “. It lets me know that a great story is about to be told about all of creation from the beginning of time.
 
Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I was raised in the deep south, both in the back woods and on the Gulf Coast. That is one of the greatest influences of my writing. My professional training came from studying for years with Dr. Yolanda Reed in Pensacola. That put substantial substance to my words.
 
What inspired the concept for writing The Miracle of Mercy Land?

I usually get one quick image of a story before I write it. In this case it was a man standing in an empty street with pages blowing all around him. That is really significant in the story but its where it took off in my mind.
 
How did you choose the setting for your story?

Just my love of the Gulf Coast, small towns, the newspaper business – and the time period. It all came together in one place in this novel.
 
Is any part of The Miracle of Mercy Land factual?
 
Only the things that we were very careful about regarding world and national events for 1938.
 
How closely is The Miracle of Mercy Land based on your real life experiences?
 
Not very much except for the love of family, the knowledge of what the real back woods like those of Bittersweet Creek are like, and kind of growing up in a sleepy town along the Bay.
 
How long did The Miracle of Mercy Land take you to complete?
 
My funny answer is – All of my life. I think writers are like sponges and everything we observe and take in from childhood echo’s back on the page eventually. In that respect whether I work on a novel for ten years or one focused year in has actually absorbed a lifetime of experiences, and many years of training, before it touches the page.
 
What is the symbolism for the title The Miracle of Mercy Land?

I believe that all individuals are miracles. This amazing thing called independent lives that make up the glorious whole of mankind. But many people, maybe most people, don’t realize how important they are in the big picture. Our society puts a lot of importance now on a certain kind of beauty, money, or popularity that can really demoralize a generation of incredible people. I think when Mercy Land recognizes her own worthiness, when she really embraces it, she steps into a place where she wield the right influence to affect the story.

 

Do you have a favorite character in The Miracle of Mercy Land? Why?

All my characters are always my favorites. My sons have spent years asking me which one is the favorite and I just laugh and say – both of you are! And I mean it. My favorite character is the one I’m holding up and looking at in that moment.
 
How much research did The Miracle of Mercy Land take?
 
My writing is related to such genres as Historical fiction, detective fiction, or crime/medical related kinds of things. The research for this particular novel was making certain the references for the time period were correct.
 
What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing The Miracle of Mercy Land?

That I was a very determined woman when it came to meeting my deadlines. I had retreated to a cabin in the woods offered by a wonderful friend. It was a great place to be secluded and concentrate completely on just the novel. The only problem was that it became infested with scorpions. I kid you not. I practically sleep in shoes and socks, pull the bed to the middle of the room, killed scorpions day and night and kept on writing. I wouldn't pack up and run away - but boy, I sure wanted to!

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
 
One of my greatest is that my work defies categorizing. It’s so much easier to say yes, yes, - this is a romance novel. But it isn’t. Although I think The Miracle of Mercy Land is a great romantic story. It’s southern but not your typical, wonderful, southern novel. It has a touch of mystical that lends it to the genre of magical realism (not to be confused with books on or about magic!) but it doesn’t really fit that category either because the realism is so down to earth touchable.
The other greatest challenge is just shutting the door to distractions and things I need to do and writing instead.
 
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

Losing myself completely in a new story that is finding it’s way to the page. It’s as if I’m stepping into another world. Totally original and engrossing. Which I guess is the reason I don’t write about people I don’t like or places I don’t want to be.


 

What writing clubs or organizations do you belong to?

The Authors Guild, and the National Women’s Book Association.
 
What were your favorite books as a child?

Tom Sawyer which my parents took turns reading to me, chapter by chapter. The Nancy Drew books when I was a little older and the The Lord of the Rings Trilogy when I was in high school.
 
What is your writing style?   (Do you outline? Write “by-the-seat-of-your-pants?   Or somewhere in-between?)

I’m pretty organic as a writer. I think much more like a painter starting with a blank canvas. I don’t really outline but as a story takes shape I have a sense of where it’s going. Sometimes I know the ending long before I arrive so then I have a sense of what I am writing myself toward.
 
Do your characters begin to take on a life of their own as you write?

Absolutely. They make me laugh and cry unexpectedly. It’s quite an adventure.
 
What other new projects do you have on the horizon?
 
Praying for Strangers, a non-fiction work based on a resolution I had will be published by Penguin in spring of 2011. I have three other novels in early development. Now I have to just choose which one to commit to and complete it.
 
Who was the person who influenced you the most with your writing?

I’d have to say from the beginning my mother because she passed on to me such a wonderful love of books and reading. She read to me a lot as a child. I think that is so greatly important for children whether they grow up to be writers or not.
 
What message would you like your readers to take from The Miracle of Mercy Land?

That every person’s story matters greatly and that all of our stories are ultimately connected.
 
What is your greatest achievement?

Being a very, cool Zaza (my grandmother name to the adorable—my grandchildren), getting older with a kind of grace that appreciates little things and golden moments.
 
What is your goal or mission as a writer?

To celebrate story in all it’s glory. I hope to have respected the great writers and traditions  of the past while still telling stories in newly, original ways. To help people connect to the meaningful quiet places in their souls and with each other. I hope they walk away with a richer life after turning the last page.
 
What do you do to get away from it all?

I either go for a drive where my mind works in a different kind of way or I go to the movies where I lose myself in a story that I’m not responsible for writing

Is there any additional information that you’d like your readers to know?

For them to know that their personal real-life story is just as important, no, more important, than all than all those of characters on the written page throughout all time.

 


 
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