I’m happy to introduce you to a new author, Johanna Rojas Vann, this week. Johanna writes Contemporary Women’s Fiction and is sharing about her debut novel, An American Immigrant.
She’s giving away a paperback to a US winner OR an ebook or audiobook to an International winner. To enter, simply scroll to the bottom of this page and leave a comment by November 7.
Welcome, Johanna! Please tell us a little about yourself and your family.
Hi! My name is Johanna Vann, and I’m a new author from Nashville, TN. I’ve been married to my husband for almost 7 years and we have two toddlers—a little girl who is 14 months old and a little boy who is almost three. I’ve been a writer my whole life—everything from journalism to copywriting. When my son was born, I thought it would be fun to try a whole new style of writing: fiction! I’m so glad I went for it because it’s been so much fun!
Writing fiction is definitely fun! As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I spent a lot of my youth dreaming about being a news reporter. My dad watched the news a lot, so I guess I did also. I thought the women I saw on T.V. were beautiful and smart, and it just looked like a fun job.
In high school, I was a part of our school paper and even made it to editor in chief as a senior. Then, in college, I studied broadcast journalism really hoping to make that dream a reality. As a senior, I was named top student news anchor in the country by the Broadcast Education Association.
My college flew me to Las Vegas to receive the award and everything. But ultimately, two and half years in the broadcast business after college was all I needed to know I definitely did not want to work in T.V. long term. I didn’t enjoy the constant hustle and bustle and inability to unplug (because news doesn’t stop). Thankfully, I discovered many other ways to put my journalism degree to good use!
Wow, you have some exciting experience under your belt. What a great foundation. How and when did you start writing fiction?
While I’ve always been a writer, I didn’t start writing fiction until my first child was born in 2021. I left corporate America—where I worked as a copywriter—to stay home with my newborn baby. I figured I would pick up a few freelance clients and work from home, but working under deadline with a new baby proved to be very difficult.
After a few months of this, my husband encouraged me to let my freelance business go and to instead work on the book I’ve always wanted to write.
He knew all about the stories my mother had shared with me, and he thought my own upbringing to be very interesting (as a daughter of two immigrants). Not only that, he thought there wouldn’t be a better time to write this book if I was ever going to do it.
Yes, I was now in charge of a tiny baby, but there was no more office to go to every day, and if I let my business go, there’d be no clients to answer to. I could still write, but it would be on my time . . . and that sounded very appealing in that season.
Long story short, within six months of this conversation with my husband, I finished my messy first draft of what is now An American Immigrant! The rest is history.
So, An American Immigrant, is obviously inspired by true events or personal history, right?
Yes! Much of the book was inspired by true events and personal history. In fact, about 90% of the mother’s story in the book (Anita) is based on real events that happened to my mother.
The protagonist’s story (Melanie) is almost all fictional, but her story was definitely inspired by my personal journey growing up as a second-generation immigrant in the U.S. Her feelings throughout the book are real feelings I’ve felt—and that I think many second-gen people will relate to.
I had so much fun sharing my mother’s story in a creative way but also getting to infuse real life experiences into a fictional character.
Very cool. What is the setting of your novel? Is it a real location or fictional? Tell us about it.
An American Immigrant takes place in Miami, Florida and Cali, Colombia. I chose Miami because I lived there after college for a few years and really enjoyed it. I think Miami is such a unique and eccentric place that I knew from the very start that I wanted to base my debut novel there.
The other location, Cali, Colombia, was a must. It’s where my mother grew up and I knew it would be really entertaining for readers to watch my protagonist, Melanie, go there for the first time in the book.
Unfortunately, I’ve never been to Cali, Colombia, and the pandemic ruined my chances of going when I started writing my debut, but thankfully I had my mother, who grew up there and had a lot to share with me.
How great to have your mom to provide those needed details. If you wrote in a different genre than your current one, which would you choose and why?
I write Women’s Contemporary Fiction, but if I were to write something else, I think I would write young adult or middle grade fiction! I think it would be really fun to share stories with young people—kids who are in a really impressionable time of their lives—that would help them feel less anxious, less afraid, and more confident in who God created them to be.
I’d love to create characters that young people could connect with and grow up with. Characters and stories that they would remember as adults and excitedly share with their own children.
Maybe you will get to tackle those stories in the future! How do you balance writing with your other life and family obligations?
This has been a really big challenge for me. I’m a stay-at-home mom without regular childcare help, so finding time to write has always felt like a puzzle with too many pieces.
I wrote An American Immigrant when I had just one baby and then edited the book with my publisher right after giving birth to my second. Now that I have two kids, it’s twice as hard to find time to write.
They recently started napping in the same block of time, which gives me about two hours a day where I could squeeze it in if I needed to, but I also have a lot of other responsibilities at home that need attention during that time. Needless to say, I’m still figuring this out! (Let me know if you have any tips!)
All I know is that no matter how many children I have, I’ll always try to find time to write. It’s probably not going to be every single day (sorry, Stephen King, your advice just doesn’t work for me). It might happen at 5 am or 8 pm or on the occasional writer’s retreat when I can get away for a full day, but regardless, I’ll keep trying to maneuver this puzzle until more pieces fall into place.
I truly admire you young mothers who write and publish stories when you have so many responsibilities on your plate. If God is prompting you to pursue publishing, He will provide all you need to make it happen!
Thanks so much for sharing about you and your writing with us. It’s been fun “meeting” you through this interview.
Comment on Johanna Rojas Vann’s author interview by 11/7 for a chance to win her debut novel, #AnAmericanImmigrant. #amreading #giveaway #ContemporaryWomensFictionTweet
Join the conversation. Are you interested in reading this book about American immigrants? What aspects of the story appeal to you most? What questions or comments do you have for Johanna?
Be sure to comment below by November 1 for a chance to win a copy of Johanna’s book! Paperback for a US winner OR an ebook or audiobook for an international winner.
An American Immigrant by Johanna Rojas Vann
Click the book cover for Amazon purchase link
Click here for signed paperbacks.
A Colombian American journalist tries to save her career by taking an assignment somewhere she never thought she’d go—Colombia—in this heartwarming debut novel about rediscovering our family stories.
Twenty-five-year-old Melanie Carvajal, a hardworking but struggling journalist for a Miami newspaper, loves her Colombian mother but regularly ignores her phone calls, frustrated that she never quite takes the time to understand Melanie’s life. When the opportunity arises for a big assignment that might save her flagging career, Melanie follows the story to the land of her mother’s birth. She soon realizes Colombia has the potential to connect her, after all these years, to something she’s long ignored: her heritage, the love of her mother, her family, and the richest parts of herself.
Colombia offers more than a chance to make a name for herself as a writer. It is a place of untold stories.
Inspired by real-life events, An American Immigrant is a story of culture and community, of abiding commitment to family, and of embracing our culture and the generations that have come before.
Johanna Rojas Vann is a professional writer whose work can be found online and within numerous publications. She is a second-generation Colombian American, with dual citizenship, and lives with her husband and children in Nashville, Tennessee.
Her writing has appeared in Good Grit Magazine, Grit and Grace Life, and on her own blog, where you can read about her personal experience as “An Immigrant’s Daughter.”
You can also find recipes, a playlist, and a dinner discussion guide that go along with An American Immigrant on her website.
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