"Careful, or you'll end up in my novel," says novelist Joy Johnson's T-shirt.
That's an apt expression for Johnson, author of The BOOB (Burned Out Old Broads) Series who entertained a packed house at the Estherville Public Library Community Room Wednesday afternoon.
The Boob Girls have regaled readers through four novels - and a fifth, on which Johnson is working currently.
Author Joy Johnson signed books for Jan Greig as Belva Henrickson looked on.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann
The series is in a way an extension of the mission Johnson and her husband, Dr. Marvin Johnson, began with the company they founded, Centering Corporation, North America's largest bereavement resource center, and Ted E. Bear Hollow, Omaha's center for grieving children. Johnson has written or edited 100 books on grief, most for children.
Johnson has also found a niche market for her fiction - women 50, 60, 70 and beyond who feel life is still worth living.
And my, how her characters live it.
As her T-shirt says, any person she meets can become a character. As she talks, her characters walk off the page, coquettishly engaging the audience in an intriguing cocktail of inspiration, pathos and hilarity.
As Johnson began her talk Wednesday, it was easy to see why she sees public libraries as a great venue for her readings. "A library has changed my life," said Johnson, recalling the role of the local public library in her own development.
The transition from reader to writer of fiction seemed only natural.
"If I write the book, I will be who I want to be," said Johnson.
And a lot of readers - particularly mature women - are going along for the ride.
"Women have a different kind of bonding and friendship," said Johnson. "When you meet a woman you know right away if they're going to be a friend or not."
So does creating a character mean she's a marionette controlled by strings - or the plot?
In the case of Mary Rose McGill, whom Johnson initially conceived as a shy, retiring character, that wasn't the case at all. In fact, said Johnson, Mary Rose "Took control and took over everything. Through the love and support of other women who saw what she could be, they made her what she could be."
"Older women are physically beautiful," Johnson maintains. "Our society doesn't always see that."
Johnson told of her cancer diagnosis 10 years ago and the inspiration she drew from drafting her own survival story.
"When we hold out our hands and tell and share, it's filled with sweetness and comfort."