From feminist to banker to novelist

A.G.S. Johnson went through a 15-year process to turn a few paragraphs into a court-room drama and character study. She is signing books in H.B., Costa Mesa, Newport.

November 14, 2012|By Jeremiah Dobruck
  • A.G.S. Johnson is the author of "The Sausage Maker's Daughters," a mystery-courtroom drama set in the Vietnam War era.
A.G.S. Johnson is the author of "The Sausage Maker's… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

For first-time novelist A.G.S. Johnson, inspiration struck like lightning and immediately slowed to a crawl.

"I was awakened one night, maybe 15 years ago, by this cocky female voice that was so intriguing to me that I jumped out of bed, literally, and I wrote as fast as I could," Johnson said, talking about the would-be foundation for her debut novel.

"It was a couple of paragraphs of what this voice was saying … So I carried this stupid piece of writing around for probably a few years. I'd take it to my writing groups, and I took it to women in writing classes I was taking at the time, and everyone said, 'Yeah, well it's interesting, but what is it?' And that was the big question, what is it?"

The answer was 24-year-old Kip Czermanski, who wears combat boots and recalls Bob Dylan lyrics in the opening passages of "The Sausage Maker's Daughters," which Johnson calls a character-driven murder mystery and courtroom drama.


"It's about real life," Johnson said.

On Monday, the Los Angeles resident visited Costa Mesa to sign copies of her book. In the Barnes & Noble at Metro Pointe, she talked about her journey to create Kip and the character's journey through Vietnam War-era Wisconsin.

The author will soon visit the Barnes & Noble stores at Bella Terra in Huntington Beach and at Fashion Island in Newport Beach to sign the stores' stock of books.

Johnson, a Chicago native, grew up in Wisconsin and still considers it home. But the Badger State and a feminist bent are two of the few things the author and her protagonist have in common.

A baby boomer just like her protagonist, Johnson lived through the '60s but says she was too young to quite grasp the antiwar movement that plays prominently in her novel.

It was a different movement that helped define her in the early parts of her life.

"I came out of college just as feminism was going mainstream," Johnson said. "I didn't take traditional family relationships very seriously at first. And when I look back that is probably my biggest embarrassing regret."

That's part of what turned her to a 20-year career in corporate banking.

"I was going to be this big powerful woman that proved a woman could do anything, and then one day I really got sick to death of the game of it. I just knew one day it was over," Johnson said. "I couldn't play the game any more."

Her exit from the industry, though, provided the opportunity to bring Kip into focus.

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