Author Interview with Joy Johnson
My guest this week is Author Joy Johnson. A former Marine, Joy now spends her time writing fiction.
I hope you enjoy our interview as she shares a little with us about her writing and personal life.
About Writing/Books/Being an Author
SJJ: Do you remember the first book you read that had an impact on you - in what way and what was the name of that book?
JJ: Well, that is a good question to start. I would have to say that it was the Bible – but not only for the traditional religious reasons. I believe I was around seven or eight when my Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Carnello decided to introduce the class to the book of Revelations. For those who do not know this is the final chapter, so to speak, of the Bible. It is the part of the Bible that describes the end of the Earth. It was also the first story I had ever heard that did not bear the light hearted hallmarks of all children’s tales. It was my first time hearing a truly dark, suspenseful story. The images that blossomed in my imaginative, childish mind that day as she read it to us born in me the first roots of my love for Apocalyptic tales. From that day forward, all of my stories have had a kind of dark twist that pays homage to the memory of that first reading of Revelations.
SJJ: When did you first realize you wanted to write?
JJ: I must have been around three years old. I didn’t even know how to write a single word. I just scribbled across notepads my mother would give me, telling her the story as I pretended to write. Those times are precious to me because in the coming years my mother would become mentally ill, and they are now my only memories of a time when my mother was truly my mother.
SJJ: Who are your favourite authors?
JJ: Oh! There are so, so many. I would have to say that the top five would have to be (and in this order): C.S. Lewis, Octavia E. Butler, Terry Goodkind, Dave Ramsey, and Carrie Ryan
SJJ: What is your favourite thing about writing? What is your least favourite thing about writing?
JJ: I love that writing gives me a safe space to experiment with ideas, feelings, and in some cases re-live memories but change their endings. It allows me to create alien worlds; befriend creatures that are wild and wonderful, and fall in love again and again. As a writer, I spend a great deal of time crafting and cultivating my books to exactly reflect the world that they are in and what they re going through. However, the down side is that after all that time is spent and I have created something that I am truly proud of; I must unveil it before the world of people who don’t care. Now days, even if you have a publisher, a writer must learn how to sell. It isn’t enough to announce to your family and friends anymore that you’ve been published. You have to help your publisher sell your book on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Goodreads, Pinterest, Bookbub… and on into infinity. By the end of each and everyday, your beautiful book that you spent so much time creating has been torn in half, ripped into infinity, and then thrown back in your face by every person who only sees you as yet another person pushing something on them. They don’t care if the story is good, they don’t care if every detail has been carefully placed; they only care if it’s popular. Which, lets be honest, it won’t be for quite some time if ever.
SJJ: I can sympathize with that as can all authors. It’s not an easy undertaking in any way, shape, or form
Where do your ideas come from?
JJ: Some of my ideas come from dreams. Others I have had after listening to debates on major political issues, and a number have come from intensely personal experiences in life.
SJJ: I’ve often found that creative people have more than one talent, what is yours?
JJ: Well, aside from writing, I enjoy caring for fresh water fish and gardening. I love it when one of my yellow Cobra Guppies, who have live births of up to thirty at a time by the way, has her brood. They are so, so very tiny. They don’t tend to get their spots until they are a month old or so. I use the fish waste to fertilize my house plants which are Orchids, Christmas Cactus plants, and Amaryllis. You can’t imagine the wonders that fish water will do for plants!
SJJ: I have heard of that and have used fish water in the past on my plants.
If you could jump inside a book for one day (as an observer) what book would it be?
JJ: Well, I would love to jump into any one of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books. I think it would have to be his last one though, I would love to go running in Aslan’s Father’s country with the Pevencie children.
SJJ: When you create characters, are they completely made up or do they resemble or remind you of people you know?
JJ: All of my characters do tend to lean toward people that I know and love, have met in passing, or revile. I feel that the best protagonists as well as villains are more well rounded when I write them based on an existing person or persons. Obviously, I will always change that character enough to obscure the true identity of the real person, but it is something that I have always done.
SJJ: Have you ever created a character “out of thin air” only to run into someone in real life that reminds you of that character either in personality or their features?
JJ: I remember once that I had pooled some characteristics from different people in my life to create a character for my short story, The Choice. It was a story about a failed attempt at suicide and the blessing that a second chance at life can be. Around a month later, when the story had been circulating for a little while, a young girl in another country found my story, read it, then contacted me. She told me about some suicidal thoughts that she was having, and about how similar her situation was to my character’s story. When she told me of her intentions to attempt taking her life again, I took steps to keep her safe. After the authorities got involved, I never heard from her again. I pray for her.
SJJ: How do you come up with titles for your books?
JJ: Usually the theme of the book tends to become the title. I have a short story called, The Tandem Mind. It is a story that takes you through the mind set of a mentally ill woman who is plagued by a male alter ego. I love it when the title shows itself to me so to speak because it means the story is really beginning to have a strong theme.
SJJ: What are you working on now and can you tell us about it?
JJ: Right now, I am writing a new book that is tentatively being called, Children of the Narlow. It is a Science Fiction book about two warring alien species who are at the end of their planet’s environmental resources, and are struggling to figure out what to do to save their children’s future. The Narlow are a race that are bent on consumption. They take without measure from their own planet’s core. They steal slaves from other planets to serve them in the mines. They have declared war upon the Gragoren; a species who are naturally peaceful, and whose only interest is in saving their home, the world that they must share with the Narlow. Then, we will find that a human woman torn from Earth early in the story discovers that she and a little boy could be the key to peace and progress between the two species. I am only half way done with the book but it is already turning into an amazing tale about environmental decline and attempted heroism. I love it!
SJJ: This sounds like an interesting story.
Have you won any awards for your writing/books and if so what?
JJ: I began writing a long time ago in college. I was published right away in my college anthology, then again by two different publishers over the years, but I really haven’t had the time to both write and apply for awards. I may do so in the future, but for now I would much rather focus on the writing.
A Little More Personal
SJJ: What is one thing you haven’t done but would like to do?
JJ: I would love to charter a boat to take me out to the middle of the deep ocean so that I could really SEE the stars… And then of course, I would have to have some paper with me to write about the experience.
SJJ: Sounds like this could be an amazing experience.
Can you tell us about an embarrassing/funny moment?
JJ: Well, it doesn’t have anything to do with writing, but – insert blush – it is funny. About a month after our first child was born, when the sleep deprivation was really starting to kick in, I awoke to a loud, gurgling scream. I bolted out of my bed and flew to the crib, thinking our daughter was in trouble. My heart was hammering as I leaned over her little crib to peer wide eyed at her. She was completely asleep and peaceful for the first time in a long time, so I was absolutely puzzled. Had I heard it in my dreams? Was I losing my mind? Then I
glimpsed the bathroom light on and meandered over to see if my husband had decided to get some water. As I opened the door, there he was; tears streaming down his face, toothbrush in hand, scrubbing his gums to the point of bleeding. When I asked him what on earth was wrong, he let out the noise that had awoken me and pointed to the counter. It was then that I realized that one of us, in our exhausted state of mind, had left the bottle of Desitin beside the bottle of toothpaste. He cried out, “I can still taste the omega 3’s!”
SJJ: Oooo, yuck! That would not be nice.
Have you ever experienced something weird you could not explain?
JJ: Yes. As a child I believe I once saw an angel. It was standing on an over pass. It glowed in an unnatural way that looked like it was glowing from within. It held its arms out wide as our car zipped down the road underneath it.
SJJ: Are you superstitious? Do you have any rituals for good luck?
JJ: I am not superstitious, but I do pray on a regular basis and believe that there is a God.
SJJ: What is the strangest thing you have ever eaten?
JJ: When I lived in California many years ago, there was a farmer’s market that would come to town on the weekends in the summer. This farmer’s market had everything; hand made peta bread, fresh avocados, homemade apple butter, etc. We loved that farmer’s market. Well, one day at this farmer’s market we came upon some one selling Greek food. This was fresh Greek food. Not like the kind you get from an Americanized Greek fast food place, but the real stuff, made by hand. Before that day I had never had Greek food. I had no idea that you could eat grape leaves, let alone that there was a process to soak them in spicy olive oil and use them as a wrap for some of the most exotically spiced rice stuffing, I’ve ever had.
SJJ: Do you have a favourite vacation spot? Where?
JJ: I absolutely love the beach. Any. Beach. Nags head where the wild ponies run is a favorite though.
SJJ: Can you tell us about one of your favourite childhood memories?
JJ: I remember one year my parents didn’t have the money to celebrate my birthday. My mother had called my father at work and had an argument with him about it. I remember her asking him if we could even afford to buy some cake mix for her to make me a cake and he had said no. She had hung up, and had to explain to me my first lesson about money that day; that there would never be enough, ever. She had privately tried not to show me her tears as she pulled out some scissors and began teaching me how to cut snowflake shapes in them as her only means to celebrate with me. That night, very late, my father came home. He called my mother, me, and my older sister into the living room. Out of his suitcase he pulled a bundle of suckers from the Dollar Tree. He handed them to me and told me I could do whatever I wanted with them. I counted them like diamonds! I was so excited because I had thought all day that I wasn’t going to get a thing, but here they were; a delicious rare treat. I remember looking up from them, and seeing the looks of longing on my sister’s and my mother’s face. In that one moment I realized I could spend the rest of my life holding those suckers, keeping them to myself, or I could share and feel what wonder lay on the other side of giving instead of keeping. As I handed each of them one of my delicious suckers, I felt the deepest sense of happiness. My parents inadvertently had given me the biggest birthday gift of all that day, they had cultivated in me a heart of a giver.
SJJ: What a lovely story. There really is a deep sense of joy when you give freely without expecting anything in return.
What makes you happy?
JJ: Writing makes me very happy, but I think my family makes me the happiest. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not thankful to have my parents, my husband, and my two children.
SJJ: If you aren’t writing (or doing anything associated with writing), what are you doing?
JJ: Finding a way to spread kindness, and caring for my family.
SJJ: Can you tell us three interesting facts about you?
1. I have experience in catching bats. Yes, bats.
2. I have created an original alien language for some of my characters.
3. Because my son has Treacher Collins syndrome and is trach dependant, I know how to care for a trach dependant person better than most licensed nurses.
My name is Joy Johnson. I have traveled all over the United States as both an active duty United States Marine and now as a Veteran. In my small amount of time on this earth (I think I've seen the number twenty-five on my cake more times than I care to count...;) ), I have found that stories can come from all around. Characters can be developed from friends, family, strangers, and all of their many combinations. My deepest love is to develop stories that utilize both my environment and my passion for the people I meet in life who leave a profound impact upon my soul, for the better or worse. If you are here today to view one of my stories, I would absolutely adore it if you wrote me a review. Reviews are the life blood of an author's page on Amazon, so it would mean a great deal if you took the time to write me one. All of that being said, it is my supreme hope that my characters find their way into the world and provide readers with the same kind of wonder that they have provided me with these past years. I couldn't ask for a better audience here and on Amazon, or a better group of family and friends to help me see my dreams come to fruition. Take care, and I hope you have fun reading my stories! Joy Johnson