Writing means something different to everyone. For Ginger Johnson, it’s a form of therapy.
“I meandered down different career paths — dance, art, teaching composition,” Ginger told Cracking the Cover. “While each of these things provided me with a creative path, writing provided me a way home.”
In college, Ginger took a writing class from Louise and Tom Plummer called “Memoir and the Imagination.” She began to immerse herself in the assignments and lose track of time. It was then that she realized writing gave her “a sort of therapeutic zen. I dipped into that zen occasionally, writing some creative nonfiction, but it wasn’t until I began writing fiction for children that I really found my place.
Ginger’s debut novel, The Splintered Light, is a middle-grade fantasy that follows a young boy from a world of black-and-white to one of stunning color.
After his brother’s disappearance and his father’s tragic death, eleven-year-old Ishmael lives a monotonous and grief-filled existence on his family’s meager farm. In a world without color, the only break in his sorrow is a strange light that pierces a pane of glass in the barn and splinters Ishmael’s world into a spectrum of color he never knew existed. But even that can’t lift Ishmael’s heavy burden. When the worries become too great for him to bear, Ishmael sets out to find his older brother Luc and bring him home. His search takes him to the Commons, where he discovers a place of wonder and beauty that intrigues him and calls to his heart. —Synopsis provided by Ginger Johnson
The Splintered Light was born, in part, from new motherhood, Ginger said. When her oldest son was a baby, the author read a collection of essays about physics, cosmology, astronomy, etc., called Mind Over Matter: Conversations with the Cosmos by the science writer K.C. Cole. Ginger pondered these essays a lot while on daily walks through the neighborhood with her son.
“I had a few lucid moments during those sleep-deprived walks when my thoughts about the cosmos collided with the world around me, and in those moments, I was completely taken with the elegance of our world,” Ginger said. “I began seeing everything around me in a new way. Really, why was the sky blue? Why was the earth brown? Why were plants green? I decided that I needed to tell that story.”
Ginger was most likely destined to write a story of this nature. She adores color, and began college as an art major. She “reveled” in mixing oil paints into rich colors then, and she still does now.
“From the beginning, this story was always about color,” Ginger said. “In fact, its original title was Spectrum. It wasn’t until later that I realized that this story was much larger than I had originally intended, and that if this were truly a story about creating and creation, it would, of necessity, require other aspects of creation.”
Ginger began to consider what other halls (building blocks) would need to exist alongside the Hall of Hue. She studied movement, sculpture, smell, taste, biology, and sound, but they weren’t all suited to the most basic units of creating.
So Ginger went back to the beginning. “I asked myself, if I were to create something, how would I go about it? I would first have to design it. Thus came the Hall of Shape. Someone would need to build what was designed. My husband mentioned the word Manufactory, which was perfect — pragmatic, but not artsy. Once I had something designed and built, it would need to move, hence the Hall of Motion. Those three halls were the basic building blocks. From there, came the elements of beauty: Hue, Sound, Scent, and Gustation.”
The Splintered Light is the culmination of a lot of research — the science of light and color; the psychology of color; and the meanings of color were just the beginning.
“When I noted that there were seven colors in a spectrum and there were seven musical notes, I wondered if there could be seven delineations in the other halls,” Ginger said. “I researched each of them, looking for seven basic building blocks for each hall. Surprisingly, most had seven or else they came close. Seven dimensions (Shape). Seven simple machines (Manufactory). Seven types of movement. Seven scents. Seven flavor profiles. I did use a bit of artistic license in formulating some of these groupings, but I tried to stick to science as much as possible to lend an element of believability.”
Ginger is currently working on a companion novel to The Splintered Light that isn’t set directly in the Commons, but there is reference to the Hall of Scent and to the Commons in general. The book is about scent, which, Ginger said, “is really hard to write about. I dare you to try describing a scent without using another scent as comparison.”
Learn more about Ginger Johnson and The Splintered Light, including which hall the author would join and how the book evolved, by reading the complete transcript of her interview with Cracking the Cover.
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