Take a trip with a rising star
I’m so happy to have Liz Johnson with us today! Liz just released The Red Door Inn a couple of weeks ago. I’ve had the chance to read it and can certainly recommend it to you. Such a charming and redemptive read, all set on an island that I’ve always wanted to visit. Here’s a glance at The Red Door Inn…
Marie Carrington is broke, desperate, and hoping to find sanctuary on Prince Edward Island while decorating a renovated bed-and-breakfast. Seth Sloane moved three thousand miles to help restore his uncle’s Victorian B and B–and to forget about the fiancée who broke his heart. He wasn’t expecting to have to babysit a woman with a taste for expensive antiques and a bewildering habit of jumping every time he brushes past her.
The only thing Marie and Seth agree on is that getting the Red Door Inn ready to open in just two months will take everything they’ve got–and they have to find a way to work together. In the process, they may find something infinitely sweeter than they ever imagined on this island of dreams.
If you’re like me and grew up with Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables books then you’ll love what Liz has to share with us today. And oh, the beautiful pictures she sent along! Let’s find out why she was so drawn to Prince Edward Island and how the idea of The Red Door Inn was developed.
My love for Prince Edward Island is entirely my mom’s fault. How could it not be? After all she’s the one who first introduced me to Anne of Green Gables when I was twelve. We must have watched the classic TV mini-series a thousand times on our VHS tapes recorded from WonderWorks—even though my dad accidently recorded over the end of the second part of the first series and the third part always got a little grainy when Anne’s friends think she’s drowning. None of that could diminish my love for Anne and the island she adored.
But I didn’t get around to reading Anne’s books until I was in college. At nineteen I decided I was in need of a grand adventure. My sister had just gotten married, and I had an extremely Anne-esque meltdown, complete with a weeping version of, “She was the bride of my dreams.” That was Anne’s lament to Marilla after her best friend was married. Like Anne, I felt everyone else was moving on, and I couldn’t stand to be left behind.
So I packed a suitcase and moved to Orlando, Florida, to work at Walt Disney World. I expected adventures and excitement. I just never expected to be so lonely. While I had wonderful roommates and great coworkers, I spent every lunch break in the employee cafeteria. Alone. So I called my mom and begged for a friend. “Send me some books,” I said. She asked what I wanted. It didn’t matter. A week later a box arrived. The Anne of Green Gables series—the same ones that had been on my mom’s shelf for as long as I could remember. They were both a cornerstone of home and a bridge to my dreams.
I devoured them right along with my chicken salad sandwiches. I tucked them into my lunch bag and stowed them in my locker and snuck them during my breaks. Anne was always within reach. She was a friend I learned to trust, a friend who challenged to me to be fearless, to embrace all the new experiences of this adventure I’d so craved.
Something about Anne’s world was like a fairy tale. Not just because cherry blossoms were in full bloom, but because Anne saw in a simple lane “the white way of delight.” Not just because she found a pond, but because she deemed it “the lake of shining waters.” Every trail took on a personality all its own because Anne believed it to be so.
I wanted desperately to be there, to explore the enchanted island that became her home and the fabled red roads of the north shore. Was it possible that the same charm could exist a century after L.M. Montgomery first introduced the world to her red-headed orphan? Could I find in the towering trees and white-steepled churches the same dreams that Anne found? I needed answers.
So I decided a trip was in order. And who else could I go with but my mom? In 2007 I promised her I would take her to PEI when I sold my first book. She laughed—either because she didn’t think I’d actually ever sell a book or because she didn’t think I’d spend the money on her. (I choose to think it was the latter.) Of course, no one told me I wouldn’t make any money on that first book, so I amended my offer. When I sold my second book, we’d explore Anne’s land. Mom nodded and chuckled. She still didn’t believe me. But about the time I signed that second contract in 2009, I called her up. “Start packing your suitcase. We’re going to PEI.”
Prince Edward Island is called the Gentle Island for good reason. The whole province seems to move at a slower pace, a kinder rhythm. The ocean around the island hugs the shores in a tender embrace over and over. Rather than the crashing waves of the pacific I’d known from childhood, there is a peacefulness about the island tides. And that infused every part of our trip. From stopping in the middle of a two-lane road in order to capture a perfect picture of a white church on a far hill to hiking out to a deserted beach that was entirely ours to explore. From climbing to the top of lighthouses to finding a café with an unobstructed view of too-blue water against a red shoreline.
We loved every minute of that trip, including the day we were forced to stay inside because of a hurricane. And we talked about it so much over the next year that my sister begged to join us on our next trip. We ventured farther across the island the next summer. A short jaunt from Cavendish—the town L.M. Montgomery modeled Avonlea after—we discovered North Rustico, a tiny fishing village that boasted a two-kilometer boardwalk along the harbor. As I walked those worn boards the first time, I let the clapping water and salty air lull me into a daydream.
A woman running the same wooden planks I was strolling, craving the peace I felt in that moment. A man trying to forget his past. An inn that brought them together.
There was a book idea there. I was sure of it. And the longer I walked, the more real the characters became in that setting. I wandered past an ice cream shack, peeked into a tourist gift shop, and found my way to a rock jetty. And then we visited a little bakery at the corner of a funny little three-way stop. They served what had to be heaven-sent brownies, and I knew the bakery was going to play a key role in the story too.
I couldn’t wait to begin writing about this place and these characters, who were quickly taking over my imagination, so I pulled out a pen as soon as we returned to our room and scribbled pages of notes. It’s taken five years and many rewrites for the whole story to emerge, and all of that effort was worth it. I’m delighted to share my love of the island and the peace I find there in The Red Door Inn.
I’ve been back to the island two more times, and I dream about returning again. It’s the place I feel most at peace, most connected to God’s incredible creation. Among the rolling green pastures peppered with giant hay bales and broken up by meandering creeks, I discovered another of Anne’s truths. “It’s not what the world holds for you, it’s what you bring to it.” Perhaps that’s true of PEI too. The land is absolutely gorgeous in and of itself, but it’s the wonder and imagination we bring to it that makes PEI truly enchanted, that turns simple ponds into shining waters.
I still blame my mom for introducing me to PEI. And I couldn’t be more thankful that she helped me fall in love with the Gentle Island.
Liz Johnson: By day Liz Johnson works as a marketing manager, and she makes time to write late at night. Liz is the author of nine novels—including her first contemporary romance, The Red Door Inn (Prince Edward Island Dreams, book 1)—and a New York Times bestselling novella. She makes her home in Nashville, where she enjoys exploring local music, theater, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her nieces and nephews. She writes stories of true love filled with heart, humor, and happily ever afters. Connect with her at www.LizJohnsonBooks.com or www.Facebook.com/LizJohnsonBooks.