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Henry resident chases dream with new book

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

Wendy McLean, of Locust Grove, says her imagination often got her into trouble in her younger days. Now, she has drawn upon her imagination and recollections to become a published author.

McLean, 47, has released her first book, titled, "My Stepfather Sold Me to Save His Farm."

The author says she "dabbled" in writing for years, before making the decision to write the book. "I didn't really think it would go anywhere," says McLean. "Then one day, I said I'm going to do it, just to see what would happen."

McLean had been writing a story about her family, prior to working on the book. She says once she made the leap to the tale in her mind, ideas "kept flowing and flowing."

The book tells the story of a young girl, named Angela, whose mother remarries after a divorce and moves to a farm. The change, says McLean, forces Angela into a journey filled with uncertainty.

"She had to move away from everything she had ever known, to a different culture," says McLean. "She adjusted OK, and as she grew up, things just changed. She lost her mother in the process, and stayed with her stepfather."

The story takes a sad turn when Angela's stepfather falls into debt. According to McLean, the rest of the book chronicles Angela's struggle to keep a promise she had made to her mother, not to allow the family to lose the farm.

McLean's daughter, Marie Gambrell, 24, calls the book a "dramatic" story, to which she hopes readers will relate. Gambrell, who also lives in Locust Grove, is "proud" of her mother's accomplishment.

"I was completely speechless when I read it," says Gambrell. "We've always talked about it, and I've read some of the other stuff that she has written. She started giving me the chapters and I was like, this is really good. I was immediately proud of her, because she was really putting herself into it."

The book is dedicated to McLean's late son, Stephen Johnson, who died in 1999 at the age of 19. McLean wrote the book under a pseudonym, Joanna Grayson, which is drawn from her middle name and her maiden name.

Her reasons for choosing an alternate identity, she adds, stem from a secret she kept during the writing process. "At first, nobody but my daughter knew I was doing this," says McLean. "I didn't want people to know it was me, because I didn't know where I was going to go with it. I didn't know if it was something I would finish, or if I would send it off [to be published]."

For McLean, who works as a field administrator for a construction company, the book proved to be a challenge. Still, she has already begun working on a sequel.

"This book turned out to be a lot more than what I had bargained for," says McLean. "The second one, as far as the writing goes, is coming along a little bit slower, but as far as how everything lines up, it's a little bit easier. It could end up going ... to an actual series. It depends on how the second book goes."

The book is currently available at publishamerica.com and amazon.com, as well as online bookstores for Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.

According to McLean, the book is expected to arrive in stores May 30.