Writer's Notes

Fans and Flowers: Birthing a Book

VInesWePlanted_CVR (2).jpgBy Joanell Serra

If an author has one fan he has an inherent responsibility. – Nonnie Jules.

I’m thrilled to jump in with this guest post and follow Nonnie’s theme of “fans and flowers.”   As a debut novelist whose novel is literally launching this week on Amazon, it’s new for me to have “fans”. Folks who love my writing? Yes, I’ve been writing long enough to know I have a dedicated base of people who will read my blog posts, buy a lit journal, pay me to write something for their website, etc.

But a fan is different. A fan is someone who likes your book so much it saddens them to finish it. A fan is someone who sends a message about when the next book will be out, and by the way, will Amanda be in that one too? A fan is the person you’re writing the next book for.

Publishing your first novel means that after years of toiling in relative obscurity, your work is “out there.”   Once I signed with Wido Publishing to publish The Vines We Planted, I started to hear from published authors about the pains of “book birth.”

“It’s like having a baby,” I heard repeatedly.

I admit, I wasn’t sure I agreed. I’ve had babies, I’ve adopted babies, raised older children and counseled hundreds. Books and children are not the same, I thought.

But as of this week, I the youngest child in our “tribe,” on the edge of turning eighteen, another one graduates college next week. One just moved across the country last month, and another is planning her wedding. All are leaping into a world I cannot control and venturing into physical and metaphorical places where I cannot protect them. All I can do is pray they find a soft landing, a place where they aren’t judged too harshly, and people who see their brilliance.  Fans.

Aha, I see the connection.

Although it is pre-release, at least one hundred of my novels are now in the hands of readers. Folks who ordered early, reviewers, friends who purchased from the publisher. This is startling and exciting at once.  One hundred people reading my book! (Or using it as a coaster?)

Of course the obvious question for any writer is – Do they like it?

So far, the answer is yes.  I’ve received enthusiastic text messages, five-star reviews, Facebook posts from around the world, and emails from strangers. Bookstores and wineries who are having events to welcome the “baby” to the community.

“I loved it! Is there a sequel?”  Is now my favorite question.

I’m not writing a sequel, but I am writing another book in the same setting with many overlapping characters. I’ve built a world – a place of vineyards, horse stables, multicultural characters, and flawed but love-able people. I can’t walk away now! One of my favorite writers has mastered the art of keeping the reader in a world, even as the characters change.  Louise Erdrich brings us generations of families, on and off the reservations in North Dakota and other windy and cold parts of the Midwest. She is fluid with time and perspective, and it takes a skilled and avid reader to follow the blood lines from family to family, book to book. Ultimately, it is the settings, cultures and themes that tie all her books together for me.

This is what inspires me to write multiple books in Sonoma with both evolving and new characters. The protagonists will shift, the stories will stand separately, but hopefully my readers will enjoy seeing the characters grow in a setting that feels like home. They will “taste” the wine, smell the grapes, and understand more about the various cultures in our little valley. They’ll want to come for another book – or another visit.

It’s time to get book two of the Sonoma novels out the door to an editor.  Time to solve that plot problem in chapter twelve, to bolster the resolve of my protagonist and choose the best Zinfandel for the last dinner scene (I love that research). Time to fatten up another baby.

Thank goodness there are fans waiting for this one!

Serra Head Shot_O3A1021Joanell Serra MFT lives and writes in Northern California with her large family and the two dogs who rescued her (or vice versa?)  Joanell combines her interest in psychology and family relationships with her love of wine, food and horses in her literary debut, The Vines We Planted (Wido, 2018).  When she’s not writing or sipping a new Cabernet, she can be found at
For the NorCal local crowd– Here are my upcoming readings:
May 17, 6:30, Diesel Bookstore, Larkspur.
June 14, 6:30, Readers’ Books Sonoma.




In the heart of the California wine country, secrets seem to grow on the vines that Uriel Macon’s family have tended for generations.

Uriel, the winery’s young widower, steers clear of complicated relationships. He prefers the lonely comfort of his vineyard and his horses, until he is reminded of his love affair with Amanda Scanlon; a relationship that ended when she abruptly left the country years ago under a cloud of mystery.

When Amanda returns to Sonoma because of a family crisis, she tries to mend the broken relationships she left behind. In addition, she seeks the truth about her parents’ complicated history and her own parentage.

But Amanda’s unveiling of the past has devastating consequences. In the midst of California’s beautiful Sonoma Valley, the Scanlon family struggles to overcome harsh realities with dignity and grace.

Both Amanda and Uriel stretch to take care of their families, which are facing immigration issues, marital crises, and loss. While navigating these challenges, the couple must decide if they trust themselves to love again, or to finally let each other go.

A Sonoma local, author Joanell Serra’s debut novel is captivating, poignant, and uplifting, demonstrating how seeds planted long ago continue to grow. Sometimes into a strangling weed, sometimes offering a bountiful harvest.

Genre: Fiction Print Price: $16.95 Page count: 285 ISBN: 9781947966024

WiDo Publishing is an independent book publisher headquartered in Salt Lake City. WiDo is a proud member of the Independent Book Publishers Association. You can find us on Facebook at: Follow us on Twitter @widopublishing. For more information contact us at


By Thonie Hevron

Mysteries to keep you reading through the night.

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