Justine Johnston Hemmestad has earned a BLS through The University of Iowa and is currently working on a Master's Degree in literature through Northern Arizona University. Her first novella, Truth be Told, is the story of an insightful knight who helps a Lady save herself with the help of her true love, Jesus.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I sustained a severe brain injury in a car accident when I was 19, and writing was my physical, emotional, and spiritual therapy. Because I couldn’t do much (I was also paralyzed for months and very tired for years, having woken up from a coma), the frustration with me was intense and writing was cathartic; I was also dealing with PTSD. Journals quickly became books.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Since writing is therapy for me, I don’t rush myself and I’ve always have several projects going at once. I wrote Truth be Told in the span of 15 years, which includes putting it down for a year or two and then picking it up again to edit or rewrite.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I have seven children, though three of them are now adults. I also have a BLS from The University of Iowa and I’m working on my Master’s Degree in English Literature through Northern Arizona University. My most productive writing times are early in the morning or late at night, or when I’m out I bring a computer or a notebook (writing is a ‘safe’ place for me to be when I’m out because I don’t recognize people due to my injury unless I’m in familiar surroundings that I can associate them with, and people often get offended by me because of it).
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Since I write as therapy, each of the characters in Truth be Told represents certain aspects of my own recovery from brain injury. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books? Historical sources, spiritual sources like the Bible (though not necessarily in the canon), Rumi, and Kabbalah; ancient philosophies. Nothing is more interesting than Truth.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I was in my car accident when I was 19 and began writing seriously when I was 20 (right after my husband and I had our first baby).
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I’m either with my kids, half of which are grown now, or I’m studying and learning.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Different aspects of history and different philosophies, and the inclusiveness of the world as a whole.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
Biblical writing, Rumi, as well as Emily Bronte are all very influential in my work.
What do you think makes a good story?
Conflict (like war and/or core beliefs), struggle and overcoming negative circumstances, and love.
Thank you so much for spending some time with us, answering questions. It was great getting to know you a little more. Read more about her book below.
Learn More about the Book Truth Be Told:
Truth be Told is the story of an 11th Century knight who helps a Lady realize who she truly is, how capable she is, and how much she's needed. My intention was to write this story in the same vein as C.S. Lewis, heavily laden with symbolism that represents my recovery from a brain injury sustained in my 1990 car accident (The lead characters symbolize different aspects of myself and the stages of my recovery). As Virginia Woolf said, "The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two [sides of the brain] live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating. If one is a man, still the woman part of his brain must have effect... Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous." The format of writing about recovery in more than one person also came to the author from Aristophanes' speech in Plato's Symposium, as well as a theory that Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights) may have not only modeled Catherine on herself, but Heathcliff as well.
Links to purchase this book: Amazon