Miracles and faith figure in ‘Someone Else’s Love Story’ by Joshilyn Jackson


“Someone Else’s Love Story”

Joshilyn Jackson

William Morrow/HarperCollins

300 pages, $26.99


Joshilyn Jackson speaks and sign books at three locations: 7 p.m. Nov. 21, First Baptist Church, 308 Clairemont Ave., Decatur; 6:30 p.m. Nov. 26, Fox Tale Book Shoppe, 105 E. Main St., Woodstock; 7 p.m. Dec. 12, Books-a-Million, 258 City Circle, Peachtree City. www.joshilynjackson.com

Characters can roll around in New York Times best-selling author Joshilyn Jackson’s head for years before she gives them a plot to act out. Take William Ashe, a main player in Jackson’s sixth novel, “Someone Else’s Love Story,” which comes out Nov. 19.

“I had the character of William with me for 10 years before I did anything with him,” Jackson says over a café au lait one recent afternoon at a bustling coffee hangout in Decatur, where she lives with her husband Scott and their two kids. “I so wanted to write William into a story, but while he was this great-looking, powerful guy, he was just too sad. How could I make a book people would like that was about someone so terribly sad?”

Tall, strong, handsome and fair, William can remind a girl of the Norse god Thor. He’s also a deep introvert and a brilliant scientist whose life has been devastated by the worst sort of heartbreak. By the time we meet him – at gunpoint during a hostage situation, in a Circle K just north of Atlanta – it’s clear that the tragedy continues to influence William’s every thought, impulse, action – or lack of action.

The novel’s heroine, a 21-year-old Georgia State senior named Shandi, is also trapped at gunpoint at that Circle K, along with her little boy.

“When I started this book I knew one thing: That it would be about a miracle, about miracles coming into our lives,” Jackson says. “So I started writing about Shandi and her having a miracle birth.”

Asked if she believes in miracles, Jackson is vehement: “Absolutely,” she says. But William? “He doesn’t necessarily believe in miracles. So as I was writing about Shandi, I thought, oh my! I can put William in this story and put these different ideas out. So I needed their paths to cross in a way that was completely random, yet huge. So that’s how I got the idea for a holdup at a Circle K.”

With books such as “Gods in Alabama” and “The Girl Who Stopped Swimming,” Jackson has already earned stacks of glowing reviews for her Southern-flavored storytelling, memorable characters in search of truths and redemption, and her briskly paced, multi-layered plots.

“Someone Else’s Love Story” is more of the same, and those who lose themselves in it should be glad to hear that Jackson does not intend to be done with these folks anytime soon. She originally envisioned a trilogy, but at least one more book is likely, she says.

“I know my characters very well,” says Jackson. “I gather them and I blow up their lives, then I watch what they do. I let them loose to explore any question that I’m wrestling with. This is a book about faith.”

In her conversation, as in her work, faith is a touchstone that she returns to over and over again.

“I have a strong faith and that guides a lot of what I do,” she says. “In fact, I feel as if I write Christian fiction, which is pretty funny because no Christian press would touch me with a 10-foot pole!”

Indeed. Jackson doesn’t shy away from writing about unsavory subjects or even gritty sex scenes.

“That’s the hardest thing,” she says, “to give myself permission to not always be so nice sometimes, because I was raised to be a nice girl.” She also believes she can “get away with it” because she makes it funny.

“I can go to some really dark place because there’s a buoyancy,” she says. “The humor provides a sort of path out of the darker places.”

In addition to her faith, Jackson relies on exercise – chiefly regular dog walks and hot yoga three or four times a week – to “help stay sane.”

“I live right here, crouching and fretting at the back of my brain,” she says, touching her head. “Yoga makes me breathe and just … be.”