Melora Johnson Tour
What inspired you to write this novel?
Well, there’s the big picture and then the little picture. I’ve always been fascinated by angels and demons. I know I’d already read Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens and that had a big influence on me, as well as a host of other paranormal and supernatural books. So, several years ago, National Novel Writing Month was coming up and I decided to write “Something About Demons.” (Seriously. That was the title I gave the book in my NaNoWriMo dashboard.)
The other big influence was this image in my head of a man in khaki shorts and a button down short-sleeved shirt, pretty much like Steve Irwin, the zookeeper, jumping down off a large boulder. The sunlight is behind him, strong but filtered through a high canopy of green leaves. His golden hair is a halo. That is where the story started and it was where Ally and Matthew met for the first time. However, that image did not stay in the book.
What does the title mean?
Earthbound has a couple of meanings that become clearer as the story progresses. (I don’t want to give too much away.) A lot of people believe that we are souls inhabiting bodies on Earth for a period of time, however long that is. For Ally and Matt, that is definitely true. They didn’t start out here on Earth. They came here from somewhere else and that journey brought them to Earth for a very special purpose, so you could say they were bound FOR Earth. Now, they are bound or tied TO the Earth for however long they are, shall we say, stationed here.
Can you tell me about the book?
Ally is a veterinarian and raptor rehabilitator with an extra spark for healing in her hands. There is one scary and sad incident in her childhood that has made her hide what she can do from everyone else all her life. Now, along comes Matt, and he seems to know Ally better than she knows herself, but she isn’t sure she can trust him. She has a long standing practice of not trusting people and he seems to be holding back with some secrets of his own. But, it would be really nice to put that burden down and trust someone. Pretty soon, it may be necessary for her to trust someone because things are about to escalate beyond her experience and ability to handle on her own.
Earthbound is a paranormal romance. It actually started out as an urban fantasy but the romance kept creeping in, there is a LOT of chemistry between Ally and Matt, so I went with it. Because it is that kind of urban fantasy /paranormal romance there is a lot of fast-paced action that keeps the story moving along. There are also a lot of characters that have very strong connections to one another so relationships are very important in this book, both male and female and also just friendships, new and old. There’s a little bit of a mystery to the story, and there are things that Ally doesn’t remember or know that she discovers as the story goes along. Those memories are often triggered by old friends. In a lot of ways, it is the old story of good versus evil but also a story of a woman gaining confidence and coming into her own as she learns just how much power she holds.
What did you learn writing this book?
One of the aspects that is most outside my experience in this book is that of veterinary science and wildlife rehabilitation. I’ve always had animals so I’ve met a fair number of veterinarians but, really, it was the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that sparked my imagination in this respect. Also, a number of news articles over the years about raptor rehabilitation in our area.
As I started researching that aspect of the story, I learned about the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Hospital at Cornell University where they take care of wild animals that have been hurt. I never got to see the inside of the animal hospital, except in pictures on their web page, so I had to imagine that, but I learned about all the different animals that they care for there and the different reasons animals are brought there to be treated.
I had never thought about the fact that wild birds which eat rodents could suffer from rodenticide poisoning because of the poison that people put out to control mice in their cellars and attics, or in barns. Apparently this is a big problem for raptors.
Were the characters inspired by real people?
As a writer I pull elements of people that I know and recombine them with elements from characters that I’ve read about and things I imagine. I really love working with the Meyer’s Briggs Traits to define a character. So all of my characters are both inspired by people I’ve met in real life and in my reading, but there is no one person that Ally or Matt are patterned after. I do tend to imagine a person, usually an actor or a musician, to help me describe physical appearance. For this book, there was one actress for Ally, but about three different actors or public figures that my brain assigned to Matt throughout the course of the book.
Are you a fan of the supernatural genre?
I am a HUGE fan of the supernatural genre. When I was a kid, we had this old album with stories on it, including The Woman with the Golden Arm. I remembering being freaked out by that story and yet playing it over and over again. Later on, I looked for ghost stories everywhere. A couple of my favorite books in the middle grade years were The Mystery of the Crimson Ghost by Phyllis Whitney and The Ghost Belonged to Me by Richard Peck. Then, when I got into my high school, and my English degree in college, I fell in love with the stories by Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, and all of those wonderful writers. As an adult, I discovered writers like Jim Butcher, with his Dresden Files, and Neil Gaiman with his literary but fantastical tales, like The Graveyard Book. I could listen to his books on audio in the car over and over again, but I keep seeking out new stories and I just love things with a supernatural element to them.
Her healing touch could start a fire.
Ally Reynolds is a veterinarian specializing in raptor rehabilitation in New Hampshire. Other than one horrific incident in her childhood and a little extra “spark” for healing in her hands, both of which she has kept secret from even her best friend, her life has been singularly boring. It has also been extremely lonely. Ally longs for someone to share her life with, but how can she trust anyone with her secret?
Matthew Blake, an ornithologist at Cornell University, calls Ally, asking for her help with an injured raptor. Matthew grew up in New Zealand and has lived around the world. He has read about Ally’s high success rates in raptor rehabilitation and suspects there is more to it than is generally known.
Matthew has some secrets of his own; he is a demon hunter. He suspects Ally’s healing powers could benefit him. He wants her to join him and thinks they’d make a great team.
Can Ally trust him or is he just using her? Matthew definitely has more secrets, and some of them are about Ally.
As the car crested the hill and its sound receded into the distance, I began to feel foolish. Had I really just hid from someone who might have come to my house for help? I sighed and stepped out of the bushes onto the packed dirt of the road then walked around the back side of the house. Shanda joined me, scrabbling and then leaping down from an apple tree. I didn’t see any note when I got to the side door.
She preceded me inside. In the kitchen, I was assaulted by a strange smell, like rotten eggs. “What the hell?” Shanda had already turned around and started scratching to be let out again as if she’d forgotten something important she had to do. Had whoever it was been inside? I let her out, then opened the rest of the windows to air the place out.
The smell was most pronounced in the kitchen, but there was no spot of concentration. It hung in the air, like pipe smoke. I didn’t find anything out of place as I inspected my home, so I made sure the doors were all locked. Somebody had come into my home, somebody who had smelled distinctly odd, and not left a note.
The smell reminded me of something which set off alarm bells throughout my body, yet I couldn’t remember what. There was a wall between me and the memory that I couldn’t see over. I kept searching for it, like a word on the tip of my tongue. I finally put it out of my mind, knowing when I concentrated on something else, it would come.
For better or worse, the memory returned that night. As I lay in bed, my mind free to wander, I realized where I had smelled that distinctive scent before. My eyes popped open. It had been as a child, the day the man had come to the door, pushed his way in, then grabbed me. The smell had remained even after I killed him.
I turned on the lamp and sat up in bed, hugging my knees to my chest. I hadn’t thought of this stuff for so long, pushing the memory away to please my parents. It was like Matt’s validation of my story had made it okay for me to remember. The phone on my nightstand beckoned. I could call Jen. Or I
could call Matt. The number was still stored in the history of my phone.
Somehow, I had the feeling he wouldn’t mind if I called, no matter the time.
I jumped as Shanda padded into the room. When she leaped onto the bed, I pulled her into my lap, finding a measure of comfort in the soft gray of her fur. I laid down with her next to me, but it was a long while before I got back to sleep.
Melora Johnson is a poet and novelist living in Upstate New York with her husband, daughter, a black cat, and quite a few chickens. Her most recent published work includes A Sanctuary Built of Words: Poems of Peace, Grief, and Passion, and publication in The Sexuality Poems from Foothills Publishing. She also runs a large and thriving writer's group for adults. Of course, into every life a little rain must fall as well as the occasional tornado, but you'll find that amply covered in her writing. Find out more about Melora and her writing -