Tell me a about yourself. What got you started in writing?
All my adult life, I've always written, not always fiction, but always something. It was a common thread through my college work and a theme underlying all of my career moves. No matter what I did, I found ways to write. Newsletters, memos, technical manuals, websites, I've always loved language. The choice to dedicate myself completely to the craft of fiction happened when the opportunity presented itself and I grabbed onto the theme of my life and have held on ever since.
My handwriting is illegible most of the time. It was bad to begin with and then I learned shorthand in high school. That killed it. I write on a Macintosh computer laptop which is an extension of myself. I can’t live without. I use Scrivener and Pages. I hate Microsoft Word with a burning passion that could smelt the one ring to molten magma. I keep a notepad next to my bed at night with a lighted pen and I’m never without a notebook in my pocket. I jot down ideas as they come and hope later to be able to decipher them.
What's your favorite part about writing? Your least favorite part about writing?
I love it when my characters take over the story and I just take dictation. That’s cool. Also, the final moment when I know I have the story is a rush equal to any drug I've ever tried. That’s amazing. Holding a book in your hands can only be compared to holding a child and having people talk to me about my story is like visiting with old friends. All wonderful perks.
The rejection is the worst part of writing. For now at least, I’m my own agent and every day is another round of rejections. I have many stories I’m shopping in many different genres and the net is wide and the catch poor. The rejections can and do erode one’s enthusiasm for the craft.
How do you come up with your characters? Why would readers want to get to know them?
My characters are the center of my stories. My working titles are invariably the character’s name. The story and the character are like co-orbiting stars in my mind each dependent upon the other for existence. They form together and will live and die together. When I get a story idea the character is born simultaneously.
I’d like to think that readers would like to get to my characters because they’re interesting and realistic. My characters all have faults, some bigger than others. They struggle with the same problems we all work through in our lives. I exaggerate the troubles and intensify the situations, but at the heart of my characters and my stories are real complicated questions and thematic challenges we can all related to.
What types of marketing do you do to promote your writing?
Whatever I can. I’m active on social media and I’ll never turn down any opportunity to talk to writers, readers, bums, serial killers, anybody. I’m naturally outgoing and usually find a way to mention my books. That’s the most effective way I've found to market, one on one. I've used publicists and they've done some work for me with blog tours and book signings, those are cool. Book signings are good when people are waiting for your book, but I’m not quite that big yet. What they turn into for me is a chance for a one on one conversation. My enthusiasm for my books is contagious. I spread the disease as far as I can. Also, I adore writers and try never to miss a conference or symposium. I love presenting and I love learning and I love talking. That’s a bit of networking which might be a kind of marketing, but it’s mostly just fun. When it’s fun, I don’t think of it as work, which marketing undoubtedly is.
How do you schedule your writing time? When do you write?
My most productive writing happens in a dark little coffee shop near my house. It’s good to get away from distractions, but more often than not, I’m on my couch, in my office, or outside. Dark rooms, low or no music works best. Early morning is productive but usually spent with marketing, so I usually write in the nighttime. It varies depending on where in the story I am and what commitments I have. However, I write every day. Every day. Every single day. No exceptions.
What are you currently working on? Do you have a new book out?
This will a big year for me. I have three books coming out – a hat trick. In May I have THE BRAND DEMAND coming from Cherokee McGhee. It’s a political mystery in the vein of Edward Abbey’s MONKEY WRENCH GANG. In July, Eleanor’s story continues with CELESTE. Fans of the first book are in for a wild time in the second installments of THE UNSEEN TRILOGY. Then, in the Fall, I’m releasing THE FINGER TRAP, a very adult comic noire which puts detective fiction on its head with the introduction of my slacker every-man detective Tony Flaner.
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In the meantime, I’m writing new things. I just finished my twelfth novel, a literary young adult adventure I’m calling ANDI KENDRICK: THINGS BEQUEATHED. I think of her as Eleanor’s plucky younger spiritual sister. I’m also shopping a horror, WHAT IMMORTAL HAND, a dark literary road trip into madness and dark gods. In an homage to the late great Elmore Leonard, I have a fun gritty crime thriller called A BLIND SQUIRREL which I’m selectively shopping to agents as we speak.
Do you have a project on the back burner? Tell me about it.
After my edits of ANDI KENDRICK: THINGS BEQUEATHED, I’m mulling over several possible projects. I've been enthralled with the story of Roanoke and have several angles to approach the major themes I saw in that tragedy. One’s an historical fiction, the other a science fiction. I've never written hard sci-fi before so I’m attracted to that. I also have a black comedy in mind that my kids want me to follow and another young adult mystery with less paranormal and more paranoia. I’ll let you know in February which one I pick up.
|Short story collection|
What would you tell a beginning writer who wants to publish but doesn't believe he/she has enough talent?
Practice practice practice and lie to yourself. If you think about the odds, you’ll never pick up a pen. Pick it up believing you will be published, but knowing that every word, sentence, paragraph and story you write will make you better and bring you closer to your goal.
Learn more about Johnny and his books below: