Nancy LaRonda Johnson
Having only one crayon with which to color may seem limiting — but it didn’t to Nancy LaRonda Johnson.
As a child, Johnson loved the children’s book “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” The beloved children’s book tells the tale of a little boy who uses his purple crayon to create a variety of worlds and adventures. Johnson, a San Mateo County probation officer, believes in transformation. She thinks people can change and enjoys watching and even creating those stories. While Johnson can’t control those with whom she works, she can create a welcomed ending in her own stories.
“My faith is strong and I do believe that anyone alive can change,” she said.
Johnson, who lives in Hayward, recently published her first novel, “Anticipation of the Penitent.” The book tells the story of Thomas, a serial killer who targets little girls, and his mother Alezea. It’s not just about the actions of Thomas but also how he grew up and his mother’s attempt to save her son.
Johnson enjoys stories of ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances. In this book, she said, there are tests of both faith and humanity.
Johnson grew up with plans not to write but to be an attorney working for the District Attorney’s Office. As a little girl in Berkeley, she was heavily influenced by the movie “And Justice for All” staring Al Pacino. Johnson envisioned herself in the courtroom being a part of that fight. She attended the University of California at Santa Cruz and the University of San Francisco School of Law.
Once she got a taste of working in the District Attorney’s Office, Johnson realized it wasn’t for her. However, she instead found a niche creating pretrial reports for probation. Johnson’s work required her to really get to know defendants and their backgrounds. As a result, Johnson could often see the connections to their circumstances and the negative path the individuals chose to take.
Although she wasn’t planning to write a book at the time, the work provided solid training in character development. Johnson actually has been a natural writer for years, penning poems and journal entries. She even considered a creative writing minor in college but instead decided to study abroad in Italy.
About 12 years ago, she switched from writing the pretrial reports to working in probation to take advantage of more traditional workday hours. Writing a book became a hobby for her though it took a lot of time. Johnson really needed to teach herself about the writing process. There were lots of revisions and writing on a laptop while taking the train to work.
Johnson’s book explores the idea that things aren’t black and white. There are evil people, she acknowledged, but not everyone who does something bad is evil. Johnson noted that the first bit of feedback she’s received included her book starting a bit darker than she thought. However, Johnson knows how it ends, so she doesn’t see it that way.
“If you like books [that] go deep into who people are,” then this book will be enjoyable, she said.
Johnson is already working on the sequel, which she hopes will be completed more quickly than the first. When not writing, Johnson enjoys tennis and traveling. In fact, vacation is her favorite word.
To learn more about Johnson, or to read her blog, visit www.nancylarondajohnson.com.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105