Friday, August 10, 2012

Jesus and Mama Always Loved Me by Julie L. Cannon

Writers will sometimes use music to help set the mood of the scene they’re working on. I grew up enjoying a variety of music styles, but didn't come to appreciate country until a few years ago. This Fortifying Friday, author Julie L. Cannon shares how her own love of country music influenced her writing and journey to publication. Enjoy!   
~ Dawn

Jesus and Mama Always Loved Me
by Julie L. Cannon

Even when the devil took control – Confederate Railroad. I love stories and I love country music because it tells stories, and if I had to pick a theme song for my stories, it would be that one. When I was in Nashville doing research for my novel, Twang, I read a quote by Conway Twitty that said, “A good country song takes a page out of someone’s life, and puts it to music.” I believe the same is true for a good novel.

Don’t ask me why I put “Jesus and Mama Always Loved Me” on my I-pod, because neighbors probably think I’ve got a screw loose as they watch me walking along Dogwood Hill, literally sloshing through puddles of my own tears. I’ve listened to this song (story) a zillion times and it never fails to come alive for me in vivid Technicolor every single time I hear it. As the song begins, the protagonist may be a male teenager, but I am him. I feel his yearnings, his lust, his pain and his subsequent remorse, then his wonder that someone could still love him despite everything. My heart knows the veracity lacing those lyrics, especially the chorus. He and I both strayed, and yet, when more than the usual feeble human love was needed, there came a surge of supranormal love—the kind you get only from Jesus and Mama.

I burst out into this world in 1962, and I grew up down South, a land of red clay where it’s not uncommon to see roadside signs reading ‘Jesus and Tomatoes Coming Soon.’ My folks carried me to church every time the doors were open, but I’m afraid the gospel did not take a hold. I did not follow the narrow path. I went from fun to fun, not caring about a thing in this world but Julie. I didn’t steal a car like the fellow in the song did, but boy did I walk the wide road, and it took great tragedy, several in fact, for me to hit that proverbial rock bottom (you can read about this in more detail on my website under Blogs). When I did, it was a transcendent love that lifted me. A love I endeavor to write about in each of my novels.

I think the key to making a story come alive is being willing to rip a page from your own life. Donald Maass, writing guru, puts it like this; “These novels change us because their authors are willing to draw upon their deepest selves without flinching. They hold nothing back.”

When I began writing Twang, I wanted to show how a wounded country music diva can use her pain to create powerful songs that touch others’ lives. Not only do they change Jenny Cloud’s audience, but they change her as well. I wanted to show how God can redeem the seemingly unredeemable—the way He did in my life. If you like spiritually daring stories, I hope you’ll check out Twang.

Click to reach Amazon.
Julie L. Cannon is the author of the award-winning Homegrown series, published by Simon & Schuster and described as ‘Southern-fried soul food.’ Her novel I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Summerside Press, Sept. ‘10, made the CBA Bestseller List as well as Nielsen’s Top 50 Inspirational Titles. Abingdon Press will release Twang in August 2012, and Scarlett Says in October 2013. When she isn’t busy tending her tomato patch, Julie can be found listening to country music or teaching memoir-writing workshops. She lives in Watkinsville, Georgia. Visit her website at and connect with her on Facebook at and on Twitter at JulieLCannon. 


  1. My toes are stained with the Southern red clay and country music always comes alive for me, too. You're so right, baring your own wounds and foibles to the folks you want most to impress is the hardest part of writing. But, like Paul Gallico said, we have to "open [our] veins and bleed onto the page." Thanks for doing that for us this morning.

    I'm going to check out your blog now. Love your voice!

    1. Thank you, Angie! There is power in words and your sweet comment buoys me up as I prepare for my firts 'literary talk' about TWANG for this Sunday.
      God bless you.

  2. Country music is so often true life. The song that came to mind when reading your story was Josh Turner's Long, Black Train.

    1. Sandra - That is another song that greatly influenced me as I wrote TWANG. In fact, my son-in-law is putting it on a cd for a book talk I'm giving on Sunday! It's very moving.


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