College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Academics > English > Faculty > Rebecca Johns Trissler

Rebecca Johns Trissler

  • Associate Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in Writing and Publishing
  • MFA

  • English
  • Faculty
  • Literary Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Magazine Writing and Editing

  • 773-325-1762
  • Arts and Letters Hall 312-28

Rebecca Johns's first novel, ICEBERGS, was a finalist for the 2007 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for first fiction and a recipient of a Michener-Copernicus Award. A multigenerational story of love, war, and fate that spans WWII to the present, ICEBERGS tells the stories of Walt Dunmore and Al Clark, the only members of their bomber crew to survive a plane wreck on Newfoundland's Labrador coast. They must fight injuries and cold in the sub-zero wilderness to survive. On the home front, in a small Canadian farming community, Walt's young wife Dottie struggles with her own battles: loneliness, worry, and an attraction to an itinerant farm worker. Only one man comes home alive from Labrador, but the lives of their two families remain forever entwined. Years later, when both families relocate to Chicago, questions of loyalty and bravery ensnare their children as they confront Vietnam and their own desires. One of them is left with a choice: revenge or sacrifice. The novel follows the characters into old age, when decades-old secrets illuminate the present and the past. Johns expertly interweaves multiple storylines, maintaining tight narrative tension and slowly revealing the stories that bind her characters together. An ambitious, lyrical debut that explores romantic love and deceit, death and survival, war and domesticity, marriage, parenthood, and aging, Icebergs explores how tragedies narrowly averted can alter the course of lives as drastically as those met head-on.

Rebecca Johns's second novel, THE COUNTESS--a fictionalization of the life of Elizabeth Bathory, the "Blood Countess"--was published in October 2010 from Crown Books and subsequently around the world. It begins in 1611, when Countess Erzsébet Báthory, a powerful Hungarian noblewoman, stood helpless as masons walled her inside her castle tower, dooming her to spend her final years in solitary confinement. Her crime—the gruesome murders of dozens of female servants, mostly young girls tortured to death for displeasing their ruthless mistress. Her opponents painted her as a bloodthirsty škrata—a witch—a portrayal that would expand to grotesque proportions through the centuries. What emerges is not only a disturbing, unflinching portrait of the deeds that gave Báthory the moniker “Blood Countess,” but an intimate look at the woman who became a monster.

Prof. Johns-Trissler's fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, StoryQuarterly, the Mississippi Review, Printer's Row Journal, and American Way magazines, and her journalism in Narrative, the Chicago Tribune, Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, Ladies' Home Journal, Self, and Seventeen, among others. She has worked as a writer and editor for LIFE magazine, Highlights for Children, and Woman's Day, and once held a position as a copywriter in the Penguin Academic Marketing Department, where she wrote copy for Penguin Books.

She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the Missouri School of Journalism.