Today, I have the great pleasure of spotlighting a writer I’ve known for (wait for it…) 32 years. When we met, we were two curly-headed tweens attending summer theatre camp in upstate, New York. Like a moth to a flame, I was instantly drawn to this feisty, funny, creative spirit, who had a gift for inhabiting the characters she played on stage with a depth and fullness beyond her years.
It is no surprise (but a sheer delight), that all these years later, Johannah (JD) Spero is bringing her formidable storytelling talents and knack for creating engaging characters, to a new YA urban fantasy series: Forte.
Her latest, Concerto, released yesterday.
Want to read it right now? There’s a special introductory .99 rate for the Kindle edition through the end of the week: http://amzn.to/2o5qDc2 .
Samantha McGovern sacrificed her magic to save her hometown. Finally, after more than two years, stirrings within her whisper of a reawakening. However, nothing can offset the misery of parting with her boyfriend. How can she keep Jason when he’s moved on to college life, but she’s still trapped in high school for another year?
In Boston, Sami’s new friends help her rediscover her power, and, reunited with an old crush, he now seems into her. Sami struggles to ignore the intoxicating charms of Miles Eichen, but with Jason’s increasing distance, it feels like a losing battle.
When her strange visions begin to come true, Sami discovers a new purpose to her magic—magic stronger than she could ever imagine. Millions of lives are in danger, and only she has the power to foil a great evil. However, it will take a different kind of magic to repair the rift between her and Jason.
What inspired you to write Concerto?
When I wrote Forte, I never considered it being the first in a series. But reader reactions bring inspiration. Lots of readers wanted to hear more about Lauren and Miles—her two friends from NYC that broke her heart when they became romantically involved. Their backstory started brewing soon after Forte was released. And then, there was this (excerpt from my author’s word):
Years ago I watched a documentary about polar bears that made me cry. With their habitat melting away, the problem seems insurmountable. And that’s just one example. Climate change. Global warming. Beyond these buzz words in the political arena, when I think about the kind of environmental problems we are passing on to the next generation, my mama-tiger claws come out. But then, despair hits. What can I, a writer, possibly do?
Write this book.
So, is this a climate change book?
No. This book is not a political statement per se. As the book evolved, the magic created an otherworldly twist that really can’t translate to what’s happening in our environment. Sami, my main character, is charged with fighting extreme “natural” disasters and the evil force behind it. However, considering all the crazy extreme weather happening in the world lately, it seems timely. Wouldn’t it be cool if music could magically affect the weather?
Some people might be surprised that you—as a mom of three boys—write from the perspective of a teenage girl. Have you ever written anything from a young boy’s POV?
I’m still my teen self at heart and will probably always be. Sami’s voice comes so naturally that sometimes I forget I’m in my forties. Much of what Sami goes through is similar to experiences in my teens. The magic element is fun but, for me, does not nearly come as naturally in the creative process.
And yes! I’ve completed a novel from the perspective of a young boy, his teen brother, and their single mom. The young boy (Hen) goes out to catch a hedgehog in the middle of the night (a fruitless endeavor), only to witness a horrible crime next door. Turns out, his big brother was involved in that crime—and now Hen is the only one who knows. It deals with the concepts of truth and family obligation and blind love and mental illness. It’s one of my favorite accomplishments. I’m still looking for a publisher for that one.
You say a lot of your own experiences show up in the Forte series. Can you give an example?
Well, in Forte, Sami starts out to be a pretty awful volleyball player. That was me. Ha! The complex team/group of friends dynamic—at times thrilling, at other times hurtful—mirrors my high school experience. For better or worse.
In Concerto, there’s a juicy love triangle. I’ll spare you details, but there was some of that in my youth as well—although I didn’t handle it nearly as maturely as Sami does. There’s one scene in particular that is almost autobiographical—and has stayed with me so acutely for so long, it’s actually appeared in two of my manuscripts (the first is unpublished, obviously). As I grow older, it’s interesting to note what stays with you, and what you let go of.
Mythology plays a big part in the series. How did that come about?
As a high school English teacher, I taught mythology in my Freshman World Literature classes for several years, so I’m pretty well versed in the antics of Greek gods. Honestly, though, I was uncomfortable creating a magical world from scratch like some SciFi authors do. So, I set my books in the real world, and the magic stems from something I can point to—something accepted and familiar to people. It kind of legitimizes the fantasy element of my books.
So what’s next? Will there be more to the Forte series?
Yes! At the end of Concerto, you’ll find a teaser chapter for book three—currently titled Cadence. It’s Lauren’s story—Sami’s childhood friend from NYC who “stole” Miles from her back in 8th grade. A musician herself, her power stems from the Greek god Chronos, god of time. It’s going to be a good one. I can’t wait to dig in. Stay tuned!
Johannah Davies Spero, award-winning author of Forte and Catcher’s Keeper, has pursued her love of narrative through degrees in English, Russian, and teaching. In winters, she splits her time between her writing studio and the yoga studio. In summers, she splits her time between Lake George, New York and Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts. She met her husband while living in the great city of Boston — where Concerto takes place — and two of her three sons were born on the North Shore. Visit her at www.jdspero.com.