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Show: A Conversation with Rhonda Denise Johnson
HAROLD: Hi and welcome to this edition of Rush Street. Today, we have the
pleasure of talking with Rhonda Denise Johnson. She's an established author.
She has a new book,
The Crossroads of Time
. I've prepared some questions that I
hope will give you some insight, not only into her writing and into her book,
but if you happen to be an aspiring writer, or even a writer who isn't
aspiiring but alreaady writing, might even get some tips becuase I found her
writing style and her writing regimen and discipline to be amazing. How are
you doing today, Ms. Johnson?
RHONDA: Hello, Mr. Rush. I'm doing very well today.
HAROLD: Okay, well the first thing let's talk a little bit about The Crossroads of Time, your latest novel. The first thing I want to know is why did you call it The Crossroads of Time .
RHONDA: I called it the Crossroads of Time because as a major theme, you know, it involves time travel...
HAROLD: Ah, first clue.
RHONDA: ..It involves the Orisha from West Africa, the Orisha and we have Eshu, the Orisha called Eshu or Esu. And he is the owner of the crossroads. You know crossroads, that's a place where you have to make a decision.
HAROLD: Right Okay. Okay.
RHONDA: That's central to the story.
HAROLD: Okay, now your main character in The Crossroads of Time is Chloe. Tell me a little about Chloe.
RHONDA: Well, Chloe is a twenty something college student in 21 st century Los Angeles. She goes to California State University in Los Angeles. And she's, you know, she's kinda upset about her family because they all want her to go to school and it seems their only purpose for her going to school is so she can get a good job working for someone else...
RHONDA: ...and she just feels that she was born to do more than that.
HAROLD: I can understand that. Ah, it sounds a little bit like it may be related to your own personal experience. Are there some parallels?
RHONDA: Oh, I suppose you could say that, because being a writer, you know, it kind of...people a lot of times when they think of a writer, they think of a starving artist, you know. There's not a lot of money involved. It's not a practical occupation.
HAROLD: Right right. You know like, why don't you get a real job.
RHONDA: Yeah yeah, unhuh. Get a real job.
HAROLD: Okay, now also there's a character named Ayodele.
RHONDA: She's, oh, the secondary main character. She's an African from a West African village. She's stolen by slave traders and taken into slavery on a tobaco plantation in Virginia. And part of Chloe's experience and part of her time travel, she travels back to the 19 th century, where Ayodele lives, and experiences slavery through her, through her ancestor. Ayodele is Chloe's ancestor.
HAROLD: Ohhh okay. Now it just happens that there's quite a bit of attention in the main media right about now about slavery and about African American experiences in earlier times. But now you actually published your book in February of 2013. So were you anticipating this resugence of interest in African American slave history?
RHONDA: I don't think I was writing with that in mind. I was just writing from my own interest, from what I wanted to write about. I didn't get in line with them. They got in line with me. HAROLD: They got in line with you.
HAROLD: The Crossroads of Time you said deals with time travel. So what would you call the genre of your novel?
RHONDA: Well, I didn't really stick to any particular genre. In fact, I see three genres at work here. Fantasy, historical and paranormal. I see that. You know like I said, we've got the time travel where Chloe goes back to her ancestor in the 19 th century. Then Ayodele meets Chloe at the crossroads of time. You know, that's her descendant, and that becomes an imprtant element of the storyline. And then we've got the Orisha. They're coming in. They're making strange things happen in the life of Chloe. So that's your paranormal.
HAROLD: Okay mw, some people may want to say oh it's just Black science fiction, but you're saying it's much more than that.
RHONDA: Yes, it's much more than that.
HAROLD: When you started out,you know, what sparked the idea? Did you receive the idea or was it something in your history or something going on in the world that sparked the idea itself?
RHONDA: Well, actually there were two germs. There was one idea for Ayodele and one for Chloe. The one for Ayodele is the idea that, you know, the hurricanes that come across the Atlantic they follow the same path as the slave ships and the myth is that hurricans are the ghosts of slaves...I mean the ghosts of Africans who jumped shp rather than being taken into slavery. Probably actually, it's just that the slave ships because they were driven by the wind, they would naturally go the same way hurricanes go. But there's always, you know, some kind of myth or something like that. And the idea for Chloe was that, you know, the observation that White people send their kids to school to learn how to rule the world, while we send our kids to school so they can get good jobs working for White people.
HAROLD: What do you think was the hardest part about writing Crossroads? Because you mix several different genres. You mix several diffeent formulas and time travel. What would you say was the most difficult?
RHONDA: The most difficult part was sitting down that first time and looking at that blank screen and what in the world am I supposed to do with his.
RHONDA' As a writer, I get a million dollar idea everday. Taking that idea and turning it into a story, that's what makes writing a craft. And taking the characters, putting them into my plot. I already have an idea of what I want to happen in the story and how I want it to end. At the same time, I have to make the characters believable and let them feel their own feelings. So, in a way, I'm taking the polemic of freewill and predestination and I'm crafting a story that makes them work together.
HAROLD: Now you deal with he area of the Orisha. For those who are not familiar, how would you describe the Orisha?
RHONDA: The Orisha, they're like angels. You know, we are talking about the religion of the Yoruba in West Africa. Their god, their supreme being is Olodumare, and under him there are the Orisha. They're his creation. They are angels. They're like angels, you know.
HAROLD: Okay. So, did you get into this area as a way to educate those of us who are not familiar. by putting it in novel form, that it might spark our curiosity?
RHONDA: You could say that. Yes
HAROLD: That may have been one of your goals in terms of this novel, but what would you say are your primary goals as a writer overall?
RHONDA: My primary goal is to have my book read by college students 500 years from now...
HAROLD: Oh Wow!
rHONDA: ...Somebody will think enough of my work to transcribe it into whatever reading technology they may have at that time. You know, it's just like today we still read Beowuld and the Canterbury Tales and all that from way back. That's my goal.
HAROLD: From what I've read, I think that, yes, 500 years from now it will be very interesting. Will there be a sequel to The Crossroads of Time ?
RHONDA: Yes. I'm working on a sequel now. It's tentatively called Where in the Whirl . You're going to see some of the same characters—some of the same people. But this time Ayodele will be the main character.
HAROLD: What would you say if someone were interested in taking your novel and turning it into a movie?
RHONDA: Well, we'd have to work on the deal. If it's a good deal then we'd be able to work something out..
HAROLD: well, what about the...a lot of times what happens when a person takes a novel and the movie results are a lot different from the novel. How would you fell about that?
RHONDA: As an artist, I'd have to respect the idea, the vision of the other artist. As long as it's not something I would object to, you knolw. Let them have their freedom, you know.
HAROLD: That's interesting, and that's a good point, because I've heard some authors say "Oh no, I don't want them to take my story and change it ." They want it to be done as a movie, but they're not willing to be the director and the producer. They want the money, but they want it to stay the same. That's a very good, I think, a very honest way of looking at it. We're talking to Rhonda Denise Johnson, author of The Crossroads of time , a fiction novel published in February of 2013. What would be the simplest way, the easiest way for someone to get your book?
RHONDA: The simplest way would be to go to my website and from there go to Crossroads. You get there by going to rhondadenisejohnson.com/crossroads.
HAROLD: So is rhondadenisejohnson one word?
RHONDA: Yes, one word.
HAROLD: Okay, your last question is this: If I were to buy your book and read it, what would you say would be the biggest surprise—the thing that I would find most Surprising about your book?
RHONDA: Most surprising, I think probably, you would notice how you can get into the characters, even if it's a character you're not used to. Like if you're a male and you may read about a female. You will notice that you can get into the character and understand what the character is experiencing. As one of my readers told me, I paint a picture using the words, because I find that I write very precisely.
HAROLD: Rhonda Denise Johnson, thank you. Again, the website is